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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 247,669 users  
Reviews: 673 user | 197 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 250 Movies #25 | Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 7 wins. 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


James Stewart and Donna Reed in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. 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
See  »

Did You Know?


After the film was finished, it was broadcast coast to coast by CBS and in other parts of the world by the US State Department. It premiered at the Globe Theatre in New York, for the benefit of the Boys Club. Many people loved it and watched it over and over; although it was not a box-office success, it became immensely popular over time and a Christmas classic. See more »


As George and Mary prepare to drive Martini's family to their new home, Mary (in a close up) is holding the goat's horn/antler. The scene cuts to an extreme long shot in which her hand is nowhere near the goat. 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 Scrooged (1988) See more »


Buffalo Gal (Won't You Come Out Tonight)
Written by William Cool White
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Great Influence...
4 March 1999 | by (Marietta, OH) – See all my reviews

No movie ever made has influenced me more than this classic. I had the honor of doing a play version of it about 5 years ago. I had seen the film thousands of times, had loved it, but I never really knew what it meant. During the course of the production, I suddenly felt alive. I felt that I wasn't having enough fun. I felt that I wasn't doing enough in my life. Crazy things, like kissing my mother or my father. I hadn't really hugged one of them in a while. It makes you think. It's more of a thinking person's film than a mere Christmas film. If you think it's just a Christmas film, I insist you watch it again and again, until you get the message.

Stewart gives the finest performance of his career, in one of the most difficult characters ever portrayed. A character all of us are familiar with...a person looking to find himself/herself. It's the great struggle for finding what it is in life you really want to do. George Bailey teaches us so lessons throughout the film and in the end he teaches us the most important lesson of all, that life, although a long and winding road, truly is (for lack of a better word) wonderful...

244 of 278 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Potter made it home scot-free. In 1946, how is that possible? dollvalley
a cynical alternate ending might be like.... thoth-ibis-1
Who would Potter leave his money to? magickemerald
Original card written by Philip Van Doren Stern kellyjcrosby
Would Potter return the $8,000? Barney-Robel
Donna reed The-Robert-Jordan
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