The aim of this research was to evaluate the effects of lemon essential oil (LO, at 0.5%, 1%, 2% v/v film-forming solutions) and surfactants (Tween 80 and Span 80 at 0.1% v/v film-forming solutions) on physical, optical and structural properties of chitosan (CH) films. The films were formed by casting method. Results showed that the incorporation of LO provoked a decrease in water content, water vapour permeability (WVP) and mechanical properties. Less transparency and higher total colour difference were observed in CH–LO composite films. The addition of surfactants significantly increased WVP and solubility in water of CH–LO films. The film containing Tween 80 showed lower mechanical strength and higher transparency. The morphology was different depending on the LO contents and surfactant types used. Tween 80 improved the stability of LO in the film, whereas Span 80 promoted the movement of oil droplets to the film surface.