‘It makes me cry with laughter!’: readers recommend 15 fabulous Christmas films

Scrooge (1951)

Alastair Sim in Scrooge.
Alastair Sim in Scrooge. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

The original Ebenezer is, of course, Alastair Sim. Ideally, I like to watch this on an old videotape with the early 1980s BBC logo and announcer before the film starts. Every Christmas, we would watch Mr Sim transform from a hard, cold, pastry-faced man into a very huggable uncle. Just thinking about it makes my eyes well. I sit down with my kids to watch Scrooge as often as I can get away with it, and I’m always moved by this wonderful film.
Cait Hurley, trainee Alexander technique teacher and domiciliary carer, Mitcham

Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.
Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library Ltd./Alamy

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

I first fell in love with this film age 14, while staying at my cousin’s house for the Christmas holidays. One scene that comes to mind is Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) decorating the Christmas tree in the window of her bookstore and mentioning the Joni Mitchell song, River. I watch You’ve Got Mail every year, but it was only last Christmas, in the furrows of heartbreak and missing a loved one deeply, that I listened to what Kathleen actually says in this scene, as she talks of how she “misses her mother so much she almost can’t breathe”. I paused the film to listen to River, as tears streamed down my face. It soothed my heart through Christmas and well into the new year.
Mustafa Ahmed, web designer, Manchester

Jaroslav Dusek and Eva Holubova in Pelišky.
Jaroslav Dusek and Eva Holubova in Jan Hrebejk’s Pelišky. Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

Pelišky (Cosy Dens, 1999)

This is a Czech film about families living in a flat in 1967 in Prague. It is set around the Christmas holidays and presents generational conflicts with both humour and sadness. I watch it every year with my mother, who is originally from Slovakia. We are the only family members who live in the United States, and it helps to connect us to our culture every Christmas.
Maya Kavulicova, student, North Carolina, US

Serendipity (2001)

For my wife and I, this film starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale is the one that heralds the festive season. It’s a hugely underrated film with a big heart, brilliant soundtrack and sparky dialogue. We watch it every year during the last weekend in November and our bottom lips always tremble when Nick Drake’s exquisite Northern Sky begins to play over the film’s final moments. It was also the music we chose to play when we walked down the aisle.
James Tuck, Thirsk

Bernard and the Genie (1991)

Bernard and the Genie is a BBC movie from the 90s. My mum taped it off the TV and my brothers and I just loved it. Lenny Henry plays a genie (who was friends with Jesus). He discovers the modern world and how enjoyable Christmas is. Rowan Atkinson plays the bad guy, and Alan Cumming is a man who’s down on his luck before finding the lamp. It’s full of Christmas cheer – everybody should watch it at this time of year. Angelo Virciglio, assistant operations manager at a GP practice, Waltham Cross

A Christmas Story (1983)

I have a weakness for A Christmas Story. It was filmed in Toronto, and although it’s set in the 40s in Cleveland, it reminds me of home. In some scenes, you can see the old Red Rocket streetcars that I used to take to university in the 80s. The film’s snow and night sky look just like what we experience in Canada. I can also relate to getting bundled up by your mum before braving the cold outside – the scene where Randy can’t lower his arms is accurate.
Adrienne Matte, artist, North Vancouver BC Canada

The Snowman.
Snow business like … The Snowman. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

The Snowman (1982)

The Snowman always brings a tear to my eye. I watch it with my mum every Christmas Eve without fail, followed by The Bear (1998) – at which point she goes off to wrap presents while I continue to watch, like a child. The scene where the little boy and the snowman turn to hug each other and say their final goodbyes gets me every time. A beautiful Christmas classic.
Anna Edgell, graphic designer and illustrator, Leeds

Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Photograph: AA Film Archive/Alamy

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

To me, a Christmas film is the kind of movie you can watch whenever it happens to be on – no matter if it’s just beginning, halfway through, or nearing the end. In that sense, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a great Christmas movie: it’s one of the best films starring the great John Candy; it is very funny and touching; and it never gets old. That the movie is actually about Thanksgiving is no problem for non-Americans – it’s still about time spent with family.
Aris Tekelenburg, the Netherlands

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Remember the Night.
Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Remember the Night. Photograph: United Archives GmbH/Alamy

Remember the Night (1940)

This is a film that rarely makes Christmas film lists – but it should. It was written by Preston Sturges and was the film that convinced him that directing his own work was the way forward – leading to some of the great screwball comedies, such as The Lady Eve (1941) and Sullivan’s Travels (1941). But Remember the Night is a brilliant, and brilliantly melancholic piece of Hollywood studio-era counter-holiday programming. It’s the first, and best, of the four films pairing Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. If saccharine holiday movies set your teeth on edge, give Remember the Night a go: it captures the sorrows and joys of Christmas in equal measure – and how family can be both a blessing and a curse.
Tim Palmer, university professor, Wilmington, North Carolina, US

Trading Places (1983)

I love Trading Places, because craziness on screen gives us permission to be wacky, and original in real life too. I love that, when the rich character played by Dan Aykroyd loses his money, he becomes just as desperate as we can all become on a bad day; the scene where he drunkenly eats smoked salmon on a bus while dressed as Santa is etched into my mind. Each of the actors is brilliant, every character is believable, and the moral of the tale is great – but most importantly, it is very funny. Magali Fradet, acupuncturist, Javea, Spain

Scrooged (1988)

I saw Scrooged at the cinema with my dad in 1988 and I’ve watched it most Christmases since. It’s Bill Murray’s snidest performance. He’s perfect as Frank Cross, a TV exec who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, during a live broadcast. I laugh every time I see it. It features the best comedy fall on film (when Frank slips leaving the restaurant), Karen Allen’s sweetest performance, and a lot of heart. True, it gets cheesy towards the end, but thanks to all the laughs, this film gets away with it.
James Keaton, west London

Paddington (2014)

When Paddington was released, I had been working in Australia. A hold-up at the immigration department delayed my return home, meaning I wasn’t sure I would make it back to Blighty for a family reunion. Thankfully, my visa came through and I made it back in time for a trip to the cinema to see Paddington. As we watched, my brother and I relived our youth, when we first listened to the Paddington stories on a very old, battered tape, narrated by Bernard Cribbins. We had also been big fans of the Paddington board game. There was much laughter and nostalgia – and when we got home, we made marmalade sandwiches.
Helen, secondary school teacher, Manchester

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This is a great film at any time of year, but at Christmas it has an extra piquancy. It deals with fate, memory, age, abandoned dreams and thwarted desires. It’s about the value of life. It is anchored by a range of excellent performances and, having seen it at an early age, it was so long until I saw it again that I began to think I’d dreamed it. I only had to abandon it once: it was just after my father, who passed on his love of films to me, had died. I sat down to watch it, but kept bursting into tears, so I had to stop.
Adam Kimmel, retired, London

Will Ferrell in Elf.
Will Ferrell in Elf. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

Elf (2003)

My wife and I love the slapstick, frenetic pace and gentle send-up of the Christmas tradition in this film. We also appreciate the acting, from Will Ferrell’s totally over-the-top characterisation to James Caan’s impeccably straight portrayal of the long-lost father. Bob Newhart also plays a deadpan elf, giving the film a slightly hallucinatory feel. When Buddy gets super excited about Father Christmas coming to Gimbel’s, we cry laughing. It ticks all the Christmas film boxes: humour, sentiment, snow, elves and a nicely characterised Father Christmas. As they grow older, my daughters appreciate different jokes in the film too – it will always be a family favourite.
Peter, architect, London

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

My dad took me to see this at the cinema when it first came out. We have watched it together every year since, so we both now know the entire script by heart. As a child, I loved Cindy and absolutely wanted to be her friend, but as I’ve got older, the Grinch is becoming increasingly relatable. He has some classic quotes that I use daily, to the frustration of my family. The humour is very much my taste – sometimes silly, sometimes dark, lots of jokes with hidden meanings. It is hilarious and timeless.
Anonymous, Blackburn