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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Family, Fantasy  |  7 January 1947 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 252,164 users  
Reviews: 673 user | 198 critic

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 4 more credits »
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Top Rated Movies #25 | Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Todd Karns ...
Samuel S. Hinds ...
Mary Treen ...
Virginia Patton ...


George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He has always longed to travel but never had the opportunity in order to prevent rich skinflint Mr. Potter from taking over the entire town. All that prevents him from doing so is George's modest building and loan company, which was founded by his generous father. But on Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Billy loses the business's $8,000 while intending to deposit it in the bank. Potter finds the misplaced money and hides it from Billy. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage later that night, George realizes that he will be held responsible and sent to jail and the company will collapse, finally allowing Potter to take over the town. Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George, with the promise of earning his ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Wonderful news...about wonderful people!...in a wonderful picture! It's a wonderful love! It's a wonderful laugh! See more »


Drama | Family | Fantasy


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 January 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Greatest Gift  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,180,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£49,845 (UK) (19 December 2008)


£682,222 (UK) (24 December 2010)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD edition)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


After the war Frank Capra set up Liberty Films with George Stevens and William Wyler to make more serious, soul-searching films. This and State of the Union (1948) were Liberty's only productions. See more »


During the run inside the Building & Loan, the hat changes position on the coat stand outside George's office. See more »


[first lines]
Mr. Emil Gower: I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, dear Father.
Giuseppe Martini: Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.
Ma Bailey: Help my son, George, tonight.
Bert: He never thinks about himself, God, that's why he's in trouble.
Ernie Bishop: George is a good guy. Give him a break, God.
Mary: I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight.
Janie Bailey: Please, God, something's the matter with Daddy.
Zuzu Bailey: Please bring Daddy back.
See more »

Crazy Credits

A ringing facsimile of the Liberty Bell (without the crack) forms the backdrop for the studio logo, which is Liberty Films, and the opening credits are in a scrapbook with Christmas decorations. The bell reappears before the end credits, and the end credits have a Christmas card picture as a backdrop. See more »


Referenced in The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) See more »


King Porter Stomp
Written by Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

5 November 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I am so glad Frank Capra had a vision to make "It's A Wonderful Life". I'm glad he chose Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey. There are some little gems in life that help make life pleasant. It is not officially the Christmas season without watching this little gem. The supporting cast is perfectly matched. Donna Reed is wonderful as well as all the characters of the town. This would be a great movie, even if it were not in a Christmas setting. The holiday flavor makes it even more charming and memorable. A angel trying to get his wings is a little far-fetched, but Capra pulls it off. The impact of living a good life cannot be underestimated. What would life be like for your family if you had never been born? Our actions do speak loudly. In an age of 9-11, we need this movie more than ever. The values of "It's A Wonderful Life" still hold true today. Yes, I'll say it, it's a wonderful movie.

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Donna reed RJ-loves-films
Colorized or Black and White? trailmarker3-2
Potter made it home scot-free. In 1946, how is that possible? dollvalley
Who would Potter leave his money to? magickemerald
Would Potter return the $8,000? Barney-Robel
a cynical alternate ending might be like.... thoth-ibis-1
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