HomeCultureFilm & TV

10 Greatest Christmas film scenes

Ian Chaddock

BY Ian Chaddock

20th Dec 2022 Film & TV

10 Greatest Christmas film scenes

Featuring Muppets, comedy, heart-warming moments and John McClane

Gremlins (1984), “I just call him Gizmo”

Perhaps one of the greatest Christmas gifts ever given (but also one of the most dangerous?), Billy’s father returns from a business trip and gives his son a mysterious early Christmas gift, wrapped in a box. As the boy opens it, he discovers a very cute, furry creature. His father tells Billy that it is a “mogwai”, but “I just call him Gizmo, he seems to like it.”

Despite his father explaining strict rules about not exposing Gizmo to sunlight or water, or most importantly not to feed him after midnight, it’s not long before these rules are broken and the little pet has accidentally spawned some vicious gremlins!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), “Look at the lights!”

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is determined to have a “fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas,” and that lofty goal is represented by no less than 25,000 glowing lights on the outside of the house.

Unfortunately, as with everything else over Clark’s dysfunctional family festivities, it doesn’t go to plan at first, with a hilarious electrics mix-up that means the lights are on one minute and off the next. It’s all worth it in the end though, with his mother telling him the power grid-draining light show is “so lovely”, although Clark’s long-suffering neighbours would disagree.

White Christmas (1954), “White Christmas”

A feel-good, classic musical, nothing sums up the positivity of the season quite like a sing-along to a Christmas song. This finale sees Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) in red Christmas costumes, performing a perfect rendition of “White Christmas” in a show for hotel guests.

If that wasn’t enough, during the performance Bob and Betty get engaged, and Phil and Judy decide to go through with their own engagement. Finally, a heavy snowfall blankets Vermont and the audience join in with the festive song. Merry Christmas!


Scrooged (1988), “It’s a miracle”

This fresh and darkly humorous take on A Christmas Carol sees Billy Murray on top form as the mean-spirited TV executive, Frank Cross, who treats his staff terribly, even at Christmas. But that all changes when he's visited by three ghosts, of course.

In his final speech on live TV on Christmas Eve, the dishevelled and passionate Frank explains that “for a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are who we always hoped we would be. It’s a miracle.” His spirited rant about the miracle of Christmas and giving to the less fortunate is equally hilarious and moving.


Die Hard (1988), “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho!”

A Christmas party at NYPD Detective John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) estranged wife’s workplace, a skyscraper in LA, goes very wrong when terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) take everyone hostage. Thankfully, they hadn’t accounted for McClane, who takes them on almost single-handedly.

"Alan Rickman finds the body and reads the classic message out loud. Hans Gruber is definitely on the naughty list"

McClane shows a little festive spirit after killing one of the terrorists by using the lift to send down the body to the captors. With the terrorist’s body wearing a Santa hat and with words scrawled on his top, Rickman finds him and reads the classic message out loud. Hans is definitely on the naughty list.


Miracle on 34th Street (1947), “The one and only Santa Claus”

At a New York sanity hearing for Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), who claims to be the real Santa, the judge (Gene Lockhart) asks for further exhibits to be put on his desk. Lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne) tells the postal workers to bring them in, before they empty bags of letters on the judge’s desk, as Kringle’s face glows.

Gailey reasons that the US Post Office delivers these letters addressed to Santa Claus to Kringle, recognising him as “the one and only Santa Claus”. The court does not dispute Gailey’s claim and the case is dismissed!


Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!”

Yes, the 1990 original is the better film, but the sequel delivers with one of the most legendary and enduring lines. In the first film it’s “keep the change, ya filthy animal,” not this classic version, which now adorns Christmas jumpers.

"In the first film it’s 'keep the change, ya filthy animal,' not this classic version, which now adorns Christmas jumpers"

The Plaza Hotel concierge (Tim Curry) and other members of staff storm into lone child Kevin McCallister’s hotel room to confront him. However, from another room Kevin uses the dialogue of a film character to accuse the concierge of “smooching with everybody” (even Cliff!). Then the character’s tommy gun sound has the staff all diving for cover. Finally, Kevin lip syncs the line, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal… and a Happy New Year.”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), “I want to live again”

After being shown by his guardian angel what things would have been like had he never been born, desperate and suicidal businessman George Bailey (James Stewart) rediscovers his love of life and he pleads to live again.

His wish is granted, as a policeman can actually see him and asks George what he’s doing. Running through the snowy streets of Bedford Falls, George celebrates life and wishes people and buildings alike a Merry Christmas. Even his legal issues disappear with the help of the kind townspeople.

Elf (2003), “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee”

One of the most enjoyable and hilarious Christmas comedies ever made, Elf is timeless because of the big, smiling human Buddy (Will Ferrell) who was raised by Santa’s elves. With the elf suit-wearing Buddy heading to New York City to find his biological father, it’s perfect fish-out-of-water comedy.

"With the elf suit-wearing Buddy heading to New York City to find his biological father, it’s perfect fish-out-of-water comedy."

The heart-warming montage sees Buddy congratulating a coffee shop on their sign saying “World’s best cup of coffee”, approaching a man in red crossing the road that he initially thinks is Santa and even eating the chewing gum off the railings by the subway!


The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), “It Feels Like Christmas"

It’s a fact that The Muppet Christmas Carol is the most enjoyable and family-friendly version of A Christmas Carol ever made, and nothing less than a festive classic, thanks to songs like “Thankful Heart” and “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas.”

But the best song and scene in the film, for me, is the catchy “It Feels Like Christmas”, with the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present describing in song the sights and sounds of the season to Scrooge (Michael Caine) and comparing them to feelings of love. After all, “wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas”. 


Banner credit: Die Hard (20th Century Fox)

Read more: The best animated Christmas films 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter


This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...