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Reviews & Ratings for
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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Best movie to this date!

Author: luvlife01 from United States
2 July 2000

This movie brings tears to my eyes each and every time watching it! We watch it not only during the holidays, but when I am feeling down. It makes you realize that every person touchs peoples lives in one way or another. This did not get the publicity it deserved when it came out, and thank the Lord that it is around today! I recommend this especially if you are feeling low about your life, it is a real soul booster. James Stewart is one of the better actors to this day, even though he is not with us. At least we have his great movies captured on film. Thanks and God Bless

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

it IS as good as they said.

Author: Jay Alan from Columbus, Oh
8 April 1999

I kept putting this movie off, every year cursing it for being on the TV, didn't watch it front to back til this past Christmas. I'd seen bits and pieces of it and thought it pretty predictable, but to watch the whole really made me think. I'm glad I finally watched it.

9 out of 10

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Well, didn't see that coming!

Author: Zombie-Kermit from Australia
31 March 2009

I never expected to love this movie as much as I did! I basically bought the movie because I found it real cheap and was curious, and because I'm trying to get every movie on the Top 250. I didn't expect to get much out of it, since it didn't really seem like my kind of movie. After watching it, I realised how wrong I was. It was an absolutely beautiful movie, and really pulled at my heartstrings (although, as I've said in one of my other reviews, I'm an absolute sucker for emotional stuff like this). I won't go into too much detail about the plot, in case you don't know what it is, since it's a great experience going in not knowing about the plot. I'll simply say that it is a great portrayal of what one man can do without even realising it. Jimmy Stewart is in the starring role as the lovable George Bailey, a role that he is charming in. Some of the movie may seem a little corny by today's standards, but don't let that turn you off! It is also probably one of the most thought provoking movies I've ever seen as well. After watching it, I found myself thinking of what effect my own life has had on others, whether I could make a difference in anyone's life. It's the sort of movie that makes you want to be a better person. The movie is brilliant, and I'm glad I gave it a chance. It currently tops my Top 50 movies list, which is funny, considering how it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of them. I've even been accused of faking my love for the movie! This is definitely a movie that needs to be seen. I've never seen anything else like it.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

2008 needs this film

Author: elgronko from United Kingdom
10 February 2009

Like many people, I go to the cinema every year at Christmas to watch this film. This film is over sixty years old. The cinema's packed every time. It gets a standing ovation every single time. Enough said.

This year I took my dad with me. This year, like every year, I left the theatre walking on air. But this year I wandered to a pub near Trafalgar Square, had a drink with my dad and looked around at the other punters, wondering how many would be facing financial problems in the coming recession - and if I would be one of them.

This film is not far-fetched. People kill themselves over money all the time. In fact this film has never been more relevant. To top it all off, it's very, very funny.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Perennial favorite has worn well with time...

Author: MrGKB from Ohio
10 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and remains one of the few film classics that absolutely, in my mind, should never, ever be remade. The reader may wonder why I don't rate it higher than "8" if I feel that way, but I have reasons.

One, the story relies on various conceits to make its point about George's importance to the people around him. Take, for instance, the opening sequence in which George saves his little brother, Harry, from drowning. Later, we learn that Harry grows up to become a WWII hero, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor by saving a troop transport from a kamikaze attack. In Pottersville, however, George's non-existence translates to an unsaved Harry and a transport load of troops sent to Davey Jones' locker. All well and good, but this scenario ignores two things: someone else might well have saved Harry's life, and even more significantly, without George, Harry might well have never fallen into the icy pond in the first place. Similar arguments can be made for virtually every other character whose future in Pottersville is radically altered by George's non-being.

Two, the film is rife with a certain nostalgic myopia, painting a vision of American life that really never existed outside of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Three, it overtly reinforces supernaturalism and irrationality, depending on heavenly intervention to remedy human error. This is, however, no surprise given the tenor of the times in which it was produced, as well as the very human tendency toward superstition that has been with us since longer than we've been able to write, let alone make movies.

However, none of these flaws can overly tarnish what Frank Capra himself identified as his favorite movie that he made. "It's a Wonderful Life" remains a rare gem in the treasury of American film-making, an unabashedly sentimental fable about the worth of the individual and the value of hearth and home, family and friends. It is a fairy tale meant for adults, yet accessible to children. Its language is sweet and simple, based primarily on the vocabulary of love and friendship. Its technical aspects are noteworthy (the fake snow, the elaborate Bedford Falls set, the superb use of Dmitri Tiomkin's score and other music, the fine camera-work), the casting is impeccable (can you possibly imagine anyone besides Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey?), and of course, the direction is top grade.

Scene after scene burns itself into the viewer's consciousness: Mr. Gower's gut-wrenching realization that George has saved him from poisoning an innocent; a grown-up Violet sashaying past George and the boys; George and Mary's first date, and a number of years later, their first kiss (perhaps one of the greatest screen kisses ever consummated); George's breakdown, both at home and at Martini's pub; a callous Nick in Pottersville, banging on the cash register and cackling, "Get me, I'm handing out wings!" The list goes on and on, and no doubt every viewer has his or her own favorites. Myself, I'm still partial to "Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?" followed by "Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people!"

It's incredibly rare to see such a film rated highly by the IMDb crowd, young and male as it is. 50k+ voters and a 42% "10" rating. Astounding! Even the usual gang of pessimists, cynics, and naysayers couldn't rack up better than 5% poor ("1," "2," or "3") votes. Amazing! The one anomaly that intrigues me is the relatively low vote of the sub-18 female cohort. I can only speculate that they had a hard time identifying with Mary, the one character they perhaps recognize as having had more direct impact on George's "failures" than any other. Could it be they are somewhat embarrassed by the machinations of their own gender?

All in all, "It's a Wonderful Life" works because we want it to work. It embodies a timeless appeal to humankind's better side, the side that wants to do the right thing regardless of the cost. For that it will always remain a top-rank film to be enjoyed year after year.

One small side note: I recently completed a two-month stint in a musical version of "It's a Wonderful Life" in which Clarence getting his wings takes on far too much import. The cast almost unanimously disliked the script we had to perform, primarily because the songs, although pretty enough, failed by and large to advance the plot, reducing the story to its bare bones, discarding or horribly distorting scene after favorite scene, and reducing many characters to barely recognizable caricatures. I won't say which musical version it is (there are several), but I will advise you to avoid it at all costs if you are any sort of purist about the film. You won't be glad you saw it, no matter how well it's performed.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Tears in laughs

Author: kevin shi ( from ShangHai, China
9 October 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

George saved his younger brother when he was a child. The incident led to the loss of hearing for his left ear. When he grew up, he planed to leave the town but failed. He inherited the job in bank from his father. He turned down the attractive offer from the local tycoon and served for the poor. One day his bank lost 8000 dollars. That was a big number of money at that time. He was in despair. Everything changed.

Although George was talkative and quick-tempered, he was a kind and generous person. He did not realize his worth until an angel helped him. The most touching scene was his reunion with his family. The following donation from the people transformed my tears into laughs.

Sometimes we cannot see clearly ourselves. If we can change the angle and think, the situation will be different.

A touching comedian classic. 9/10

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Man, this works!

Author: BadWebDiver from Perth, Australia
26 September 2004

This is absolutely top class story telling at a magnificent level.

I get the impression that the attitude in the 20s-50s wasn't that much different that the general attitude today. People were rather cynical about cute fantasy, were out trying to earn a quick dollar, and pined for the simpler times of "the good old days", without quite knowing how to achieve it.

There's an old public speaker saying that a good communicator need to "reach people where they're at in order to lead them to where he wants them to go". Frank Capra seems to have developed this knack to an admirable degree. His style of so-called "Capracorn", has this amazing ability to present a strong emotional idea without going **too** over-the-top. Just when you think that a film is starting to get very sentimental, maudlin or "corny"; then up pops a good comic relief moment, or a bit of sharp drama - just to ease the schmaltz back to an acceptable level. It's a real shame that most film directors haven't managed to quite get the knack of knowing when to say an idea, and knowing when to NOT say an idea. When to state the theme, and when to infer it.

This technique really works to best example in Capra's top three masterpieces; MEET JOHN DOE, MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, and this movie - IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Anyone who dismisses this story as pure cornball holiday sentimentality really needs to play close attention to how the story actually operates.

Lionel Barrymore has for a long time been one of my favorite character actors from the classic Hollywood period, and here he plays the main antagonist with just the right mixture of spite and comedy. And quite frankly, the scene where James Stewart's George Bailey loses it in front of his family is actually quite gut-wrenching stuff; almost on par with the standard hard-hitting scenes of modern dramas. It's just the right amount of dramatic force to stop the story from getting "too cute".

Of course there is also the scenes that have now become classics, which occur mainly in the climactic third act. George losing his identity, seeing a new and different Bedford Falls - or "Pottersville" - then regaining his identity and finally wishing everyone a "Merry Xmas". (I was actually quite amazed that most of the film is actually a narrative back story, leading up to the memorable classic moments; and it does in fact work very well in that way.) Combine this with the great fun gym/pool dance sequence and the subsequent bush scene, and you've got the makings of a top-notch storyline; that totally deserves its current status as a perennial classic.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The other side to this film...

Author: Frank Taylor (behind_a_mirror) from Oregon
16 December 2003

Coming from an era of post World War the world was happy. People needed a `positive' reminder to love themselves. Around comes a flick to inspire this intrinsically need for happiness. Directed by Frank Capra is a movie focused to tough the heart at the average white Christian American.

The film in retrospect is about a man George Bailey (James Stewart) going through a really bad time, and chances of going south arise. In the opening scene their was a panel shots of houses with people saying a pray for George. Resulting from this was a shot of two cluster of stars representing two biblical characters, who call for an angel without wings Clarence (Henry Travers). From here most of the movie is shown about George's life and what led him to the now.

I felt the movie was great on the acting, sound, and directing. However, I detest the subliminal propaganda conveyed in the story. The movie was definitely intended for the Christian audience by all the good that it brings, when times are hard. The message was good in the interpretation of that one person can effect a great number of people in life, and should be humble, when times get you down. The bad message was that if not for Christianity people in hard times would just die and have no guidance.

Now comes my decent. Most people would quickly say this film is the best; I would have to disagree. On the sense that the directing was down rather well. I can't get over how exaggerated it was imposing on Christianity being good. There was no truth except for the simple message purposely link together to mislead the common people. I would never watch this film again, and hope that whomever reads my review sees another side to not just this movie, but the U.S. society. The U.S. has two parts: The majorities opinion on what it should be like, and the minorities opinion on the realities. Though, I will admit that the world is not black and white. There is a lot of shades of gray on both sides, and the majority wins out in the end.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Was it a wonderful life?

Author: Christina (Cwoods04)
15 December 2003

"It's a wonderful life" is about a man that had good things for him

growing up for the most part. When George Bailey (James

Stewart) he did some heroic things, he saves his little brother from

drowning, saved Mr. Gower (H.B Wamer) from poisoning children,

took over his dad's business when he died, and saved the

business when it was into trouble with George and his new wife's

honneymoon money. Later in the story the company get's into

trouble again when Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) goes to the bank

and Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) took the money that Uncle Billy

was going to deposit and when he was looking for it Mr. Potter

never gave it back so now the company is out eight thousand

dollars. That's when George was sucidal and didn't know what to

do because he was going to jail. His Gardian Angel, Clearnce

(Henry Travers) wanted to get his wings and if he saved and

helped George then he would get his wings, came in to his world

and saved him George still didn't know what was going on. When

Clearnce told life he wished his he was never born so his wish

came true and realized that so many bad things would have

happened. Does Clearnce get his Wings? Does George get his

life back?

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An absolute, no doubt about it, great movie!!!!

Author: Sarah Bright (Blondeatheart56) from troutdale, OR
15 December 2003

"It's A Wonderful LIfe" has to be one of the best movies ever made!

In fact, it could be the best. Some teenagers say that it is a boring

movie, that it's too long, or that they just don't like it, but not this

teenager! This teenager loves this movie! This is one of those

movies that can and should be watched over and over again.

Every time it is seen it gives the viewer the feeling of christmas and

hopefully, it helps them to realize that they should be thankful for

what they have and just be happy with their life.

The acting in this movie is actually really good considering the

time when it was made. It doesn't come off as cheesy or corny at

all. It's believable and it's like you almost can't tell that it's just

acting. The casting director picked some great actors/actresses

for this movie.

Jimmy Stewart is absolutely great as George Bailey. "It's A

Wonderful Life" wouldn't be as good as it is without Stewart playing

the main character. Stewart can portray all kinds of emotions and

actually make the viewer believe that that is what he is feeling. He

can be enthusiastic, sad, happy, or really mad and the viewer won't

even know he is acting.

Donna Reed made a wonderful Mary Bailey. She plays one of

those wives that sticks by her man no matter what. And she

makes a really believable mother.

Stewart and Reed together make a great acting pair and they are

part of the reason that "It's A Wonderful Life" is as great as it is.

The setting in this movie was all the little town of Bedford Falls.

There was no fake backgrounds, everything was real, real

buildings, real cars, real trees etc. The only wierd thing that wasn't

real was at the beginning of the movie when the angels are like

galaxies up in the sky. That whole scene wasn't very realistic and

it was kind of odd, but despite it's oddness this movie is still great!

The music was all background except for when the characters in

the movie sing. The music was nice and it really adds to the


"It's A Wonderful Life" is a great film and this reviewer will never be

convinced that it isn't. It is a classic and it is one that should never

be forgotten.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A sentimental masterpiece

Author: RadicalTintin from Glasgow, Scotland
1 February 2003

Post-war America may not have been ready for Capra's delightful

feel-good epic, but the history books will record this seasonal gem

as one of the best movies ever made. James Stewart could do

very little wrong, but this performance is simply compelling as the

small town guy with a worldly outlook. The film tests the strength of

the human spirit, and revels in sentimentality, that is not at all out

of place. Barrymore is excellent as the cold-hearted Potter, oozing

contempt and bitterness. Travers is faultless as the heavenly

scene-stealer Clarence. This is not a film about religion, it is a film

about hope, truth and the depth of the human heart. Expect a stray

tear to blur the sight. A masterpiece.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Christmas Favorite

Author: maxndano ( from Millbrook, Alabama
7 December 2002

It's a Wonderful Life ranks at the top of Christmas favorites along with Christmas Carol, Holiday Inn and Miracle on 34th Street. A movie the whole family can enjoy together each and every Christmas. A movie made from the old Hollywood Americana. A movie I enjoyed growing up and continue to enjoy with my family.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's a family tradition

Author: JanuaryRain
5 December 2002

This movie is one of the most endearing portrayals of the human spirit and the good in all of us. Of course, some of it is is a fantasy film. But, the message it sends is pure and good hearted for all ages.

Out family watches this film every Christmas Eve and we never tire of it. You can't help but fall in love with George, Mary and Clarence!

And although it may seem a little sappy at times, isn't that what makes us feel good and wish we could asertain even SOME of that goodness in our lives?

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's a wonderful movie!

Author: econchie from Ontario, Canada
4 December 2002

A true classic. The best movie ever made, in my opinion. Even after innumerable viewings, the final scene still brings a lump to my throat. If you can watch this movie and not be moved by better check to see if you still have a pulse.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the best movies ever made

Author: zapdude from Calgary, Canada
18 November 2002

It's incredible to me that this movie was panned by critics when it was first released. Apparently, all the junk that was rated higher has NOT stood the test of time.

This is a squeaky-clean story about a man who has given up. Maybe the source of his turnaround is a little cheesy, but he turns it around anyway.

If you don't get a little choked up while watching this, then you have NO CLUE what life is about. Life is about these moments.

When I was younger, I didn't like this movie because I thought it was stupid. An old black and white movie with old-fashioned ideals and values. Now, however, I watch the colorized version every year at Christmas time, and I get a tear in my eye.

I have made it a life goal to try to be half the man that this character turned out to be.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

My mothers favorite movie!

Author: Kiki (myalynn) from Washington State
30 October 2002

This is the movie my mom will not stop talking about until you say something like "You need to shut up now" no kiddin. Every Christmas we sit down and watch this movie at least once together as a family. It's a great story and has a wonderful lesson. I actually got to meet the lady that played Zuzu at a mother daughter lunchion my mother dragged me to when I was 15. She was also in The Bishop's Wife, which is my father's favorite movie, so it was such a big deal to her. Now that I am older I have taken to heart the great meaning of this story and I think it keeps people alive even today around the stressful holidays.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Should be compulsory to watch.

Author: Cissy-Fairfax from London, England
1 February 2002

Most of the IMDB Top 30 I disagree with. The majority I find either a)awful or more often b)Good, but certainly not great. After an hour or so, I started mentally making notes to classify this as the latter. It was good but sort of plodded along with no great direction. Suddenly, the last third of the film arrives, and everything that went on before fell into place brilliantly. I've never before come across a film where the ending added so many extra marks on, thus making the whole film amazing. Only this & the Great Escape I can truly say have evoked every emotion possible in me from high to low, and I dare I say don't even like James Stewart that much either, but he's brilliant & suited here unlike Vertigo.

Everyone in the World should watch this film.

Not quite a 10/10 but a very very high 9.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Too much politics

Author: ivan-22 from Los Angeles
29 December 2001

What bothers me about Capra is that seemingly all his movies have the same vague political message, vehemently delivered, a kind of New Deal digest: thin cats of the world unite! The fat cats are giving you a bad case of Great Depression. That's too simplistic! Think about it: if the powerful are invariably evil, maybe there's something wrong with the system. This movie could be seen as nothing but political allegory disguised as sentimentality. But it succeeds despite itself. The cinematography is stunning, the acting inspired, and it has one of the most wrenching scenes on film: when Stewart meets his wife in the street, a spinster who never met him and who runs away in horror. Overwrought? Perhaps. But also effective. At least two Capra films mention suicide, a most unusual topic in films. The unrealistic happy ending isn't really unwelcome. Who cares about realism? Movies tell us how things should be, not only how they are.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

My all-time favorite!

Author: Seattle_Slew from Yakima, Wa. U.S.A.
17 December 2001

I love this movie and it's a Christmas tradition to watch it with as many of my five kids as I can get together. It has helped me through some pretty tough times.

As a young boy in the 50s and 60s I grew up watching old movies on television with my mother. Jimmy Stewart has always been my favorite actor, not in any small measure because of this movie. It was my mother's fondness for him that initially led me to this great discovery. Having my own roots in a small community of western Pennsylvania, only 60 miles from Jimmy's hometown, helped to cement my affinity for him as well. I'm such a big fan of both him and this work that a copy of an original poster for this film hangs in my living room.

One of my greatest regrets is that, despite my exposure to what were even then "old" movies during my youth, I hadn't yet seen "It's a Wonderful Life" when I had the opportunity of meeting both director Frank Capra AND actor Jimmy Stewart on separate occasions while in college. I would have liked to have told them how much the movie meant to me. (As if they hadn't heard that before!) I found great pleasure in later learning that both Capra and Stewart said of all their movies, this one was their favorite.

Moving and inspiring the film is a human drama that touches my funny bone and my innermost senses in ways few movies ever do. It's an all-American classic with a message of personal struggle and hope. In all it's simplicity it is simply great entertainment while at the same time leaving us no doubt as to the essential truth of what's *really* important in life.

Yes it's a bit sappy, certainly sentimental. Yes it's in black and white (unless you happen to see the "colorized " version) and granted it's an "oldie," but if you don't like this movie I can only have pity for you.

We all matter. We all have purpose. Despite what we might think at times, it IS a wonderful life and we have much to be thankful for.

"Each man's life touches so many other lives. If he wasn't around, it would leave an awful hole." -- Clarence

At least that's the way we should all live and hope it shall be.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A marvelous and uplifting film

Author: jeremy-96 from Marshfield, England
5 December 2001

When your parents tell you "they don't make 'em like this anymore", this is the film they are talking about. IAWL combines a simple story told around a character made for James Stewart. A great script and near faultless direction make this a benchmark for timeless classic movies.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

I love It!!!!!!

Author: TwinkleLtleStar
30 November 2001

I think that this is my all time favorite Christmas movie...It's so good. I think that Jimmy Stewart was great in it and it's such a touching film. Every year I have to watch this movie along with The Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Rudolph, and Frosty.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

I'd like to give it 20 stars out of 10 - it's a 200 per cent Wonderful Film!

Author: Olga Levina from Moscow, Russia
2 November 2001

It has been one of my best-loved films for years. It never fails to move me, I'm never tired of it, I want to watch it every Christmas (and oftener)! For the first time I saw the film (only the part of it) by mere accident: I just switched on TV, and there was some old black-and-white movie. I always was unusually fond of black-and-white cinematography, so I became interested. At the moment George was about jumping into the water, but Clarence jumped in advance, and George came to rescue instead of committing suicide. The twist intrigued me. And when Clarence explained that he was a `second-class angel', who haven't got the wings, I actually lost my breath. The very idea of that absurd guardian angel seemed amazing. By the end of the film I absolutely loved it (and James Stewart)! Later I saw (and not once, of course) the whole movie and appreciated it better. It's so fascinating, nice and charming! The plot is very clever, combining drama and humour, tension and fun, reality and fairy-tale. Cinematography and music are beautiful. The cast is splendid. Everyone is convincing, but James Stuart is best of all. I can't help considering him and Gregory Peck as the GREATEST American actors EVER (sorry, all the other…). I'm really grateful to Frank Capra for the film. It teaches us true values without being preachy, boring or sentimental. It makes us understand and admire what is really good and worthy. After all, it explains that ordinary everyday Life Is WONDERFUL!

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

...and a wonderful movie with some wonderful quotes

Author: Jeff in Fort Worth
28 December 2000

First, not sure what Becca37's problem is but she has some issues that need to be dealt with - by a professional.

With that said,this movie is perfect for Christmas. What made it so unique was during the 80's when the copyright to the movie expired and it was shown 24/7 by every channel in the area. Now NBC shows it once a year but even then, I will sit and watch it. We'll often just throw the tape into the VCR and have it playing in the background.

I can only echo the positive comments made by other viewers. No matter how many times I watch it, I still get teary-eyed when Harry toasts his brother - the richest man in town. Also, I can't sing "Hark the Harold Angels" without first saying "Mr. Martini, how 'bout some wine?" That raises a few eyebrows in church.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

why its not a classic to me

Author: jdmxrain from United States
10 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So the premise is that one person's life affects dozens of people, far more than we could ever imagine and that all of us have value and purpose, and there are some religious aspects thrown in. I do agree that we affect people even when we don't think we do and even when we don't even want to.

I used to love this movie as a kid but I don't love it anymore as an adult. I don't respect George anymore because in my honest opinion, I think there should be a balance between helping other people and following your dreams. Making yourself a martyr at the cost of your life is not altruistic. At least not to me.

Also the movie seems to imply that if the right people don't show up to encourage people that people will give up. Like George is shown that Mary would have become a spinster without him being born. I believe that we should always be our best friends, because someone can't always be there to encourage us.

We really carry ourselves through life even though we may have family and friends in our lives, but we really do carry ourselves through life and we just can't give up on ourselves and our own lives just because the right person didn't show up to encourage us. Its great when others encourage us but all of us have been through horrible periods in our lives when no one was there.

Sometimes you have to be your own best friend. I don't believe that another human can be everyone's martyr and they show that its okay with the character of George Bailey. Sure its wonderful to help people but to be a martyr? I don't think so. No way. Also its implied that rich people are evil.

Why couldn't they have shown another rich person that was nice and decent, to balance out the point of view? Its not wrong to want to be wealthy and a lot of wealthy people contribute to charities. I mean look at Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and others like them. The wealthy contribute far more to charities than any income bracket. Not all of them are evil. There are good wealthy people too.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Fantasy Americana (with a somber undercurrent)

Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
29 March 2006

Heartwarming Frank Capra film which has become (quite unintentionally, I presume) a Christmas perennial. Set in small town America, James Stewart stars as a discouraged and suicidal banker who learns a lesson about life from an angel anxious to get his wings. Fantasy with a holiday theme took many years to garner its classic status, yet it's a shrewd mixture of comedic, dramatic, and emotional elements. Capra's direction is quite sensitive, creating an evocative overview of middle America and the struggling working class. Stewart gives his usual sterling performance, and Donna Reed is a good romantic screen match for him; Henry Travers is the perfect twinkle-eyed old angel. Capra also co-adapted the screenplay based on the short story "The Greatest Gift" (which seems to have a touch of Dickens as well). Later remade as the 1977 TV movie "It Happened One Christmas", which featured Marlo Thomas in the lead. *** from ****

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Not just a Christmas movie; the best movie ever made!

Author: pnorris from Texas
28 March 2004

I just read some of the comments on this movie and I can't believe that anyone can watch this and not be emotionally moved. They need to see a shrink and to stay the hell as far away from me as possible. About 20 years ago I watched IAWL with a girl I was dating and she had no emotional response at all-- I dumped her immediately. It always makes me cry even after several dozen viewings. I don't wait until the end like apparently a lot of folks, I'm already into it in the scene where Mr. Gower hits George on his bad ear. This movie has been #1 on my personal list for as long as I can remember. Unbelievable that the critics panned it and Jimmy Stewart did not win the Oscar. Another reason I always avoid that annual Hollywood farce.This is absolutely the best movie ever made!

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

The most overrated film ever

Author: t-h-fields from Washington, DC
13 August 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This has got to be the most overrated film ever made. The plot is so corny, the dialog so trite, and the basic theme so preachy, that I cannot recommend it to anyone.

You probably know the movie's basic premise -- a banker is planning to commit suicide, proclaiming his wish that he'd never been born. An angel appears and shows him how things would be if he'd never existed.


In this alternate reality, the town is renamed Potterville, after Mr Potter, who is the villain. To be frank, I found it to be a lot better than the dull, boring town that the banker had left behind. Potterville, for a small town, has fabulous nightlife; the scene in the bar includes a really good band, and plenty of single women waiting to get picked up. I sure wish my town had a place like that. For me, that was the best part of the movie.

If you want to see a good movie about angels, see Dogma. It's far more original, more irreverent, and definitely funnier. And it's a better holiday movie.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Am I the only one in the whole world?

Author: badger-37 ( from Guadalajara, Mexico
16 December 2000

I do not like this movie, I didn't like it when I first saw it back then but I wasn't brave enough to say so! Over the years I have come to hate it, and I can't get to the TV fast enough to turn it off!

So lynch me! Well done, yes, if you like sentimental treacle!

It presents a point of view that we are all advised we should have but almost no one does. For me there is a feeling of hypocrisy about the whole thing.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

See it for what it is

Author: SlipGun from United States
24 July 2004

It's a Wonderful Life is to cinema what The Fox and the Crow is to literature.

Don't get me wrong: This is a gem of a film, definitely worth watching at least once, but it really is more of a parable or short story than anything else. Its biggest drawback (aside from its length, which could use a trimming of about 30 minutes) is its cheap sentiment, done in typical Capra style. Beyond that, though, is a very simple yet potent film that serves as a reminder that the stories that work on a simple, allegorical level are often the ones that work best. I believe that due to it being a Christmas movie, people are willing to overlook its multitude of flaws, from the hokey acting to the weak script. It's interesting to see the rather bluntly portrayed themes here still work well today, though thankfully with more subtlety and complexity, such as the childlike wonder in Amelie, alternate realities in everything from the Groundhog Day to the Matrix and of course the very obvious character arc no good story should be without (although Capra is hardly the inventor of this basic centuries-old device, as one reviewer stated).

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

meh not so great.

Author: Luciano Marzo from United States
22 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is depressing, which makes it quite inappropriate for a so- called "Christmas movie". I made the mistake of watching it on Christmas Day one year, and it turned out to be a damper on the whole holiday. Not just for me, but the whole family. The acting left a little to be desired. I will say whoever acted the angel was very good. (I think it was Frank Faylen). His character was also good. But James Stewart's character was very depressing. He just made this small mistake of saying "I wish I had never been born" and then he really was never born! He still lived in his hometown and was the same person but all of his old buddies he tried to talk to ignored him. Even his family shunned him. If you are going to watch this movie make sure it is not actually on Christmas or any holiday for that matter.

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A perfect Christmas Film that reinforces core values

Author: David Daniel Ball from Sydney, Australia
17 June 2006

It isn't shown at Christmas time in Australia on free to air anymore. This film is underrated by those who feel it is very good.

Jimmy Stewart's distinctive, whimsical voice conveys the emotions that hit viewer buttons on many levels. Loss, love and worth are examined for the viewer.

Capra has told this story simply and well, and one doesn't need to be an adult to appreciate what drives the characters.

The community is comprised of people who are basically good.

The special effects were very special for the time, and convey much that is lost by a drop of ink in milk.

I've seen angels. They come to life in this movie.

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5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Average movie

Author: Rachael James from New Zealand
20 April 2006

I think it's an average movie. It's got classical Hollywood propaganda- and politics. I think people tend to ignore the undertones of trying to get people to stay in the 'homeland' of America. There's also political messages about democracy and individualism, as well as small messages about family life and propaganda about the war. It's good in that it gets people to appreciate life, yet it seems to discourage people to aim higher. For some people having a wife and kids and friends is nice, but for some they have other goals. Seeing the world and achieving ones goals is important, we can't all accept second best. We have to be selfish in some ways if we are to get what we want. There needs to be a balance, but in this movie George lives more for others.

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5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Attaboy, Clarence!

Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
1 May 2004

One of the all-time Christmas classics, this excellent piece of work from Frank Capra focuses on George Bailey (James Stewart, in one of his career-best roles) who is stopped from jumping into the river in despair by a friendly angel called Clarence (Henry Travers). We then see in flashback what has brought George to the brink of suicide and key events from his life - saving his brother from drowning when the ice breaks; alerting his chemist boss to a fatal mix of drugs; courting and marrying his childhood sweetheart (the winsome Donna Reed); and dealing with the film's token bad guy, Mr Potter (brilliantly played by the crusty Lionel Barrymore). Clarence then shows George what the sleepy town of Bedford Falls would have been like without him and proves that you're never alone if you have friends around you and if you make a difference.

Interestingly, two direct influences from this film were on the poetry e-zine 'Zuzu's Petals' (George Bailey's little daughter, who leaves some flower petals in his jacket); and, so it is said, on the children's TV programme, Sesame Street (Bert and Ernie, the mad puppets, who are the names of the cop and the taxi driver in this).

And let us not forget, when you hear a bell ring, it means an angel has got its wings!

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7 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

It's a good movie...

Author: thefan-2 from Detroit
19 May 1999

...but not a great movie, and certainly not one of the greatest of all time. I realize you can't say that without being accused of kicking kittens and other atrocities, but that's the way I feel. Sorry.

I mean, really: "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings"?? Puh-leez. If a Robin WIlliams movie were made today with such a line -- not to mention the cartoonish characters, the sappy plot, the false sentimentality -- it would be laughed out of the theaters. Are we supposed to make allowances because this movie was made back in 1946 when they didn't know any better? Believe me, they knew better.

The only reason to go out of your way to see this movie is that Drew Barrymore's great-uncle Lionel is in it. You should always show respect for Drew Barrymore.

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16 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

The Second Most Overrated Movie Of All Time

Author: david from California, USA
26 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 1946 audience quite correctly stayed away in droves, making IAWL a box office flop. Generations later, after its initial failure, after public domain, after the not even born when it came out pseudo critics have somehow brainwashed almost everyone under 40 into believing IAWL is a Christmas classic, we must face the fact that IAWL is not only not a great movie, it's not even a good movie.

Treacly, sappy, overlong, exasperatingly predictable fairy tale with just two good scenes and a main character devoid of interest, empathy or sympathy, IAWL is an exercise in futility at every turn. To begin, this is closer to James Stewart's worst performance than his best; George Bailey is a dreamer with his thoughts in the stars, rather than focused on the very big problem at hand. He's a naive, crybaby whiner with just the right mix of stupid to make him truly annoying to one and all. And he takes forever to realize Clarence is an Angel; I mean, how many miracles does it take?

This turkey comes to life only twice - the scene between young George and the druggist, played by the always great H.B. Warner, in which George (brilliantly portrayed throughout by the underrated child actor Bobby Anderson) stops the grieving Warner - who has learned of his son's death - from dispensing a fatal dose of the wrong medication to an elderly customer; and the ending, which, while just as sugar-sweet as the rest of the movie, is so well crafted, it works wonderfully well, giving the film a 2 on the scale of 10

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1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The original feelgood Christmas film

Author: Framescourer from London, UK
20 December 2008

Let's be fairly clear here. This is a good film which unashamedly aims to lift the spirits at Christmas in the manner of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is a rather unconventional film though. The story is of a man whose fortunes force him to consider the possibility of doing away with himself, until salvation comes in the form of an angel who shows him his self-worth. Yet Capra spends more than half the two-hour running time simply showing us this life - and a wonderful one it certainly is.

The point here is that Capra has clearly set out to make the film that so many have come to love, even if they don't remember it particularly well... there's really no need for the third act, as Clarence drags Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey around a sour, alternative world in which he hasn't featured. Capra is determined to hammer the point home though.

He also takes the opportunity to leaven even this most desperate sequence with the easy humour than runs through the whole film. It's a Wonderful Life is a hectic film that careers past with episodes, exchanges and asides that builds up a mountain of character rather like the mountain of cash that crowns the denouement. Jimmy Stewart is the progenitor of all this, driving the pace of the film with his mercurial repartee and Michael J Fox-like perpetual motion acting. All the other parts, well-taken in this film, may be said to be reflected glory as this must be Stewart's defining film - he is the hero by virtue of his recurring averageness and the role sits with him very well.

An unusual movie then, familiar and lovable both despite and by itself - rather like having the relatives round at Christmas, in fact! 8/10

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1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: kevin c from HERTFORD, England
25 December 2000

The greatest Christmas film ever. It does exactly what it says on the cover. But it also is a film with a dark undertone. Something that Hitchcock would utilise to greater effect from Stewart. So many standout scenes and characters that will go down in cinematic history. The 'Pottersville' scenes are especially good. Brings a tear (or 10) to my wife's eye every December 24th.

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2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

No matter what others say, I still DON'T like sappy flicks!

Author: Becca-37 from Rochester, NY
4 February 2001

I don't like sappy, soggy lovey-dovey pro-family flicks, that's all. That's not the very end of the whole world, okay? I'm quite entitled to my own personal opinions, thanks very much. I don't think I have any real problems at all. No, real problems are all those smart-alecks who make leery suggestions that I see a professional. Okay, now I can off the soapbox, thank you.

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4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Walk On The Wild Side With Frank Capra

Author: Harv Spangle ( from Over the mountains of the moon
8 February 2005

A glance at the calendar tells me that we are now safely into February - Christmas and New Years have retreated back to wherever it is that they go to.... and the large balance of the year lies before us until they will intrude again. The smell of holiday ham and homemade pumpkin pie has been extinguished like a used up candle and the strains of Yule melodies have fled the air. Just the perfect time to take a look at "It's A Wonderful Life' from a different perspective and at an angle which is free from the traditional Christmas messages of redemption and human charity that the movie is usually seen to offer. What I am talking about here is...lechery.....lechery and lasciviousness pure and simple. I am referring to sexual degradation not only in the speculative chimera of Pottersville but also in that great American expository small-town oasis of Bedford Falls.

If Frank Capra bothered to read the reviews of "It's A Wonderful Life" at the time the picture was first released at Christmastime in 1946--there is little doubt in my mind that he would have been at least slightly disturbed by the assessments made that his new movie was nothing more than just a slight variation from his past efforts. His penchant for fashioning heartwarming films that championed the individualism and strong character of the "little man" against the vagaries and injustice of the "system" had, after all, given rise to the pejorative term "Capra-corn". By 1946, however, it appears that Capra was working hard, if not to change his modus operandi, then to at least "spice it up a bit". That is part of the reason he gave us a view into the "dark side" of American society by highlighting the filth and sordidness of Pottersville. What few people remark on, however, is that dribs and drabbles of the parallel universe represented by the cesspool of Pottersville can be whiffed every now and then in Bedford Falls itself. You don't believe me? Well let me give you an example.

Do you remember the scene in the movie where George Bailey is standing on a street corner shooting the breeze with his pals, Ernie the cab driver and Bert the cop? Yes --another nice sunny day in Bedford Falls. Then Violet Bick strolls by. She is accosted by George who has the impertinence to remark: "Say Vi that is some dress you got on there." Violet puts her hand on hip and protests: "This old thing--I only wear this when I don't care what I look like." She then shimmies across the street.... the camera following her receding wiggle for almost a good half block. Capra provides some cover for this ogling by having a middle aged bank clerk type pass by and then crank his head around to closely inspect her saunter. He, in turn, is almost flattened by an automobile that is crossing the intersection in the other direction (the sex as death ethos). But this exercise in venality is not finished. The camera then switches back to George and the boys still staring at Violet....... who at this point must be nearing the edge of the horizon. Ernie pipes up: "How would you like to.....?" George cuts him off by blurting, "Yes!" The trance is broken and Bert stumbles away commenting that he has to go home and see what his wife is doing. Sly and sick Ernie then sarcastically cracks "family man". This is a scene fraught with sexual tension, voyeurism with masochistic tendencies and it is occurring in real time in broad daylight on a street corner in Bedford Falls.

O.K.--want another example? One without that sexpot Violet Bick---who some reviewers have painted as the "Mary Magdalene" to George Bailey's suffering "Jesus". Well how about that virgins of virgins--little eighteen year old Mary Hatch? Everyone has witnessed the famous high school dance/pool scene where George and Mary end up soaking wet. The next scene shows them walking home in the dark--George is wearing an over-sized football uniform in lieu of his wet duds and Mary sports nothing more than a robe. This sweet couple gets right down to business by breaking out the windows in a neighborhood house. Then George tries to put a move on Mary at the instigation of a peeping-tom yelling from a nearby porch. Mary jumps out of her robe in the ensuing mêlée and is left shaking and naked in a nearby hydrangea bush. The use of the hydrangea represents, of course, only the most demented form of erotic symbolism. I always send my kids out of the room in anticipation of this scene.

I could go on and give more examples --but I think you get the point. Even "old Annie" the house-maid is not immune from this carnival of lust and immorality.

Please don't misunderstand me- here. I am not condemning the whole picture. I do indeed accept that "It's A Wonderful Life" is the "American Christmas Carol". It echoes the central idea of the Dicken's tale that we are all responsible for each other and it also adds to that idea the very American conception that "no man is a failure who has friends." Wonderful stuff really. But be aware when admiring the glitter of this holiday gold that it also contains the base alloy of sex and sin. Or put another way--it's o.k. to enjoy the rustic pleasures of walking across a beautiful, green farm pasture ----- just be careful to hold your nose and watch your step along the way.

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5 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Misguided celebration of self-destructive charity

Author: Ray Girvan from Devon, UK
26 December 2002

There is a folktale concerning St Martin, who as a soldier on a mission of importance, gave half of his cloak to a naked beggar he met in a snowstorm... the moral being that there are circumstances where it isn't worthy (or rational) to be charitable to the point where you can't survive yourself. It's a A Wonderful Life, however, is the story of someone who - in effect - gives all his cloak, then complains about the consequences.

There's been a deal of revisionist criticism focusing on the political subtext, but I'm more interested in the personal angle. In my view, George's suicidal state of mind is not caused by the greedy Potter or by family mishaps, but by his invariable decision to respond to such situations by throwing away all of his own wellbeing and hopes in favour of others.

His actions are not even necessarily 'good'. At every turn, George lets sentiment completely swamp reason. What if covering up for an incompetent pharmacist led to further deaths? Perhaps Uncle Billy *ought* to be in an institution? Perhaps George should have recognised a no-win situation, made a settlement with Potter and moved on, instead of selfishly saddling his family with a company he deliberately runs so unprofitably that it hasn't the capital to ride a financial setback.

Furthermore, the alternative timeline presented by Clarence is clearly fake, concocted to justify George's failure to break out of this self-created rut. There is no reason to asssume, other than because Capra wants it so, that if George hadn't existed his wife would have remained unmarried, his brother fallen through the ice, or the town's social change necessarily proved negative in the long run (Potter after all, won't live for ever).

Sorry, but I find this film deeply exasperating. This is not, as some have commented, a modern-day Book of Job, since George's problems are not inevitable fate, but so much down to his own choice to be a doormat.

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9 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Puerile nonsense

Author: CineCritic2517 from The Netherlands
29 December 2013

Stewart plays the saintly George Bailey who, on the brink of committing suicide, gets sent an angel to sort things out in order for the angel to earn his wings. Hilariously parodied by more contemporary films and series, not excluding Married With Children, the idea and execution, let's be honest here, is trite and cloying. Stagy performances and a dragging screenplay is really all that there is for the viewer to mercilessly swallow while the lengthy running time of the film brutally tests one's patience. Had the director shaved off 30 minutes or so from the excruciatingly melodramatic and repetitive second act, the movie would have been far less exhausting, though the silly what-ifs the story puts forth wouldn't have been any less clunky and witless.

Despite the technical achievement, which is impressive for its day and age, this is one of those classics the popularity of which simply lacks credibility. Perhaps Grandma and Gramps are still able to look kindly on this overblown, saccharine monstrosity, but anyone under 60 shouldn't be subjected to it.

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Limits on infinity...

Author: derekcreedon from United Kingdom
20 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I never saw it on the big screen. I was ill in bed when it first came out but like thousands of others picked up on it much later via television, which had transformed a half-forgotten curio into a Christmastime classic. A good man, worn down by vicissitudes, is rescued from the abyss and restored to self-worth when the community he's supported rallies round to bail him out of his troubles. Capra's orchestration of human joys and sorrows, of frailties, frustrations, dilemmas and temptations is extraordinarily, dazzlingly, powerfully good. But his tacked-on fantasy elements become irrelevant to a point of annoyance.

His 'hereafter' is a cosy extension of Bedford Falls, just dial a prayer to the Chief who can preside with perfect equanimity over World War II and so on but moves heaven and earth to reclaim one random individual from the (pertinently Catholic) sin of trying to do away with himself. This goes directly to the heart of all that's wrong with organised religion. It's partisan and self-serving. The world-without-George would have been better dramatised as a straightforward nightmare from which he awakes with relief to be saved by his friends. Same story, but without the guardian angel who belongs in a lighter-based film. This alternate world is like a scripting equivalent of trick-photography, a leaf through the family album from which all images of George have been carefully snipped while leaving the space around him intact. He still exists along with his memories and he can interact with other people but he's no longer RECOGNISED by his peers, even his loving mother doesn't accept him. In effect he's been blackballed from the club, his achievements stricken from the record. His ultimate oblivion is that of social exclusion, possibly reflecting the deep-seated fear of a good loyal assimilated immigrant like Capra, the American Dream turning to dust.

This fear induces conformity, the need to stand with the crowd and to view with prejudice the stranger, the outsider, those who don't fit the frame, young girls who become old maids, wear glasses and work in libraries. It's not enough for a man to be heroic he needs a medal to confirm it like little brother Harry who gets to meet the President. Everyone must shape up and show their credentials (even Clarence the trainee angel). Bert the cop and Ernie the cab-driver also went to war, we're hurriedly told, though when we see them at the end they don't really appear to have gone anyplace. The point is well taken - hilariously by some posters - that Pottersville seems more fun (dancing girls and sinful jazz music !)- a welcome relief for many from all that overbearing apple-pie surveillance (guardian angels and nosy neighbours). Paradise, like perfection, is relative. And personal. But the truly great Jim Stewart (not Jimmy, he hated that) triumphantly transcends the naffness and the gimmickry to give us an Everyman for the ages. He's the real classic here.

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: commandercool88 from United States
1 January 2009

If 'It's a Wonderful Life' were released today, it would surely be targeted for being overly cheesy and schmaltzy. And there really is no arguing with that. It is a movie rife with sentimentality and a sugary touch by the great Frank Capra. But if that's a crime, so be it. If this holiday classic doesn't pull at your heartstrings, I can't help but feel a little sorry for you. For if you let it, 'It's a Wonderful Life' will whisk you away on an unforgettable journey.

This perennial classic is often immortalized every year with an annual television special. It takes us through the life of George Bailey, from seemingly unimportant childhood events to a family man struggling in the midst of the Great Depression. It's a world where the universe is alive with angels watching over us, and each of us has their very own guardian angel. All of this will become of dire use to Bailey after his father's death leaves him in charge of a business he never intended to work for. A life full of dreams and aspirations have, quite suddenly, been extinguished.

It really is Jimmy Stewart's wonderful portrayal as Bailey that lifts this entire film. He is a respected man, a character we come to care deeply about. Bailey is compassionate, selfless, uncorrupt. But despite a beautiful wife and loving children, he is never completely satisfied with the life he's made for himself. 'It's a Wonderful Life' revolves around the historically tumultuous times of the Depression and World War II. During these troublesome years, Capra conveys the thought that it is our loved ones who remain the most important and stable part of our lives.

It runs a little long, but 'It's a Wonderful Life' builds to an ending that's as cheesy as it is powerful. When Bailey sees a world without him, and the true impact he had on the lives of others. These are touching scenes, not only for this season of giving, but it's a film we can embrace any time of the year. George Bailey was no exception to the rule, because as a certain angel tells Bailey during a highly emotional conclusion, "no man is a failure who has friends." This is a great film, one that has lived on through the years to represent a belief in hope and the power of one man's impact.

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

If you haven't seen it,what are you waiting for?

Author: SmileysWorld from United States
29 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a Wonderful Life is another one of those films that has had so many good things said of it that it leaves you not knowing where to begin a review of your own.I won't spend a lot of time pointing out this film's good qualities because you have either seen it for yourself or you have heard it countless times.I will just say that if you have not seen it,you need to.Not only because it's a great film,but it's one of the best,if not the best acting performance Jimmy Stewart ever gave.He literally took his character from one aspect of life to another with an unbelievable deftness,from the typical guy next door charm that we already knew him for to the look of horror in his eyes when none of his family,friends,or neighbors knew him or recognized him.It was one of the first,if not the first time he ever showed his amazing versatility as an actor,and this could be the one film that made Alfred Hitchcock want to work with this man so much in the years that followed.And it has a happy ending!That's something we don't see often anymore in this "Shades of gray" age we live in now.See it already!

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's A Wonderful Stewart

Author: jcholguin ( from los angeles
7 June 2003

This film is one of three Christmas time classics, with the other two, The Bishop's Wife and Miracle on 34th Street. James Stewart is at his best in showing to us a life of happiness and great desperation. As George Bailey, a man that had many dreams but sacrificed them for his many friends and family by staying in a small town. Finally, reaching a point of asking "WHY" am I even alive? Henry Travers is truly gifted as Clarence the angel that is sent to help George and appears at times so human. Poor George gets his wish, of never having been born and is given a gift of seeing just how a world "without" him would have developed. Such pain is seen in George as he sees that in life he "DID" make a difference to others. Many people were influenced in the positive because of his life and sacrifice. This is what sets this film above so many, how many of us when in a deep depression wish that we could just disappear also. Maybe an angel named Clarence could visit us also?

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's a wonderful film

Author: AKS-6 from Sweden
20 August 2000

So, I was finally able to watch this classic. Haven't been able to find it on video anywhere (not even at the library!) but just a couple of weeks ago a Swedish TV channel aired it and I taped it mainly because I have almost heard as much about this film as "Casablanca" and other classics. Also, I really like James Stewart and always appreciate him in a film.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is certainly a wonderful film! It's cleverly made and the acting is brilliant. A pure joy to watch. However, it is no masterpiece according to me because the ending is just too much, the film would have been perfect if they hadn't added so much sugar in the end. Also, I do feel that despite the fact that Stewart's character should find joy in his friends, that he does have the right to feel somewhat disappointed about his life. I mean, he has the right to wish that his dreams could come true. I hope I don't sound too cynical, but the thing about "everything is wonderful as long as you have friends" is kind of true, but not the truth, why couldn't he have friends *and* a nice career? Oh well... A brilliant film nevertheless. (8/10)

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Endearing Treasure

Author: vindog
14 January 2000

A film with the traditional values that Jerry Falwell can

only mock with the innocence that can only be portrayed by the

late great Jimmy Stewart. If any film will please the Moral

Majority and the Academy alike it's this film. I can think of no

other film that best exemplifies in a non-hypocritical way what the virtues of charity and faith actualized are. A classic in any age but a reminder in this age of gracelessness and a politically correct but civilly inept soci

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Offcorse it's a wonderful life...

Author: Alfabeta
8 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...if God himself (!) helps you in your tough moments.


This is a movie with an excellent idea and terrible execution. Instead of profound soul searching story we get a tearjerker filled with crowd-pleaser, cheap (in depth and in realism) sentiments and soapiness.

This is also the evidence of how a sentiment can make a movie "classic".

How would you measure importance of your life for your surrounding if not to see the world in which you never existed.

George has all the similarities to an Angel on Earth. He is beyond good, although it's never cleared is this because he is good in heart, or just can't say no. Like an Angel he (apparently) has no free will and takes the roles, others (or God) give him. Therefore he has a lot of dreams he never got to accomplish, although it seems to him that everyone else did. Clarence is an Angel who waits to get his wings. George is an Angel that doesn't understand that that's his role. When in the end he does (by accepting his old life), he gets the debt settled, and Clarence gets his wings (for accomplishing his job). This could explain why would God himself influence George's life directly (through Clarence).

George's town is a Heaven on Earth. A place where everyone live their lives in content. Where there is no evil people. There are few who are weak and therefore do wrong. They are helped and looked at with compassion. The only really bad man is nothing more then cartoons money-hungry villain who will (as is implied) get his in the afterlife.

In the first 78% of the movie we see whole George's life until the point he decided to end it. Then the real plot comes in front.

This movie is too serious for the children (directing, not the screenplay), and it's too cartoons for actual adult (screenplay, not directing). That's why this is a fairytale for adults (NOT adult fairytale like for instance Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World). It's a fairytale because of unrealistic depiction of George's life, not because of Angels.

When George starts to think, about the world in witch he was never born, Clarence takes him to this world. This is another fault for the movie. Instead of an objective view, that George would get, by being a part of this world, he is thrown in it, and has a shock after shock while finding out about his friends, family and job in this world. He becomes a rat in a labyrinth, instead of getting a chance to stand on the outside, like Clarence. This way he could see all the crossroads that changes in his life would make. Somewhat like Scrooge from "A Christmass Carol", a far better developed and made Christmas (and life) story classic.

This Georgeless world is Hell, where are no George (Angel(s)) to make it better. People here are wicked, angry, lustful, envious, cruel and hateful. It seems George got a small shot of the real world.

The main reason why George wants out of it is not because he hated it (he was there just a couple of minutes), but because of rat in the maze shock. He suddenly has no past, friends, family, job or I.D. Offcourse he wants home. Clarence tells him of the people's fates made by his absence, but the shock for George is too big to objectively see the whole situation and he wants home by default.

Donna Reed in this world is a lonely unmarried old librarian... This is ridicules. Donna Reed is NOT a lonely unmarried old librarian in ANY town, world, or universe...

Finally George goes back to his old life and is finally satisfied with it. So the point is that if you save people's lives, leave your dreams, so you can live your dad's dream by running the firm, and not fire your employees with alcohol problems you'll get what's most important in life, and then you'll get the knowledge of what is most important. OK. Everyone, raise your hands if you fit this common life description. Ah... Anyone?

Anyone who thinks this movie or it's writers have anything to do with socialism, should read their Byble again. Religion and fate in this movie are all over the place, symbolically and openly, however they have a subjective tendency and are used very simplistically.

George and his town represent Good, and town without him is next to a cradle of sin. There, talk about angels means you're insane, and compassion is weakness.

There is a strange feeling of flock philosophy somewhere along the movie. George is "at home" with his people, where his smile reflects in others and "out of home" without them, where George is nothing but a rambling lunatic. If he goes after his dreams, he'll end up disappointed, and "his people" "at home" will suffer. His town represents the good old days, and the own without him stands for the bad new days (cabarets and striptease in theaters for example).

Everyone who likes fairy tales, feels like a child at heart or just likes to see what Heaven on Earth could look like, try this movie, and you'll probably be satisfied.

Cast and director are well known and they do their job accordingly. That doesn't change the undeveloped plot. The movie is more interesting for analyzing then watching.

Maybe once the new generations of movie makers will make a grownup story (not remake) out of this excellent idea for soul searching movies.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

This world needs this measly, one-horse film if only to have someplace where people can come without crawling to jaded, cynical hard-heartedness and despair

Author: stephen_thanabalan_fans from Australia
7 February 2006

By Stephen Thanabalan

In a George Bailey-esquire manner of speech, I say: "This world needs this measly, one-horse film if only to have someplace where people can come without crawling to jaded, cynical hard-heartedness and despair." And that's not sentimental hogwash.

Frank Capra's 1946 initial RKO Pictures box office flop really has become a must see film, might well change one's outlook on how valuable a man's life really is, and is a wonderful story about how important our lives can be, with the blend of human tribulations, angels, and God- bringing faith, and an endearingly effervescent message of putting others beyond oneself that still resonates after exactly 60 years.

Polished as a both moving character study of one man's life story (like Citizen Kane), as well an overwhelming combination of emotional reality that will gently tug at your heartstrings, what makes this film stand the test of time and remain uplifting is that it celebrates triumphantly that 'NO MAN is a failure who has friends.' It then wraps this in a most touchingly dramatic story that at times veers into borderline 'noir' about the trials and unrequited dreams of a common man's life, with believable main characters instead of outlandish heroes, dealing with the harsh realities of giving up Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles for commitment and love, and exploring the psyche of a human's grasp of the meaning of life.

Yet, the greatest aspect of this plot about George Bailey (played by James Stewart with relish, sincerity and an emotional range of characterization that will enthrall), is that it does not drivel to get to its climax- of Heaven sending a guardian angel, Clarence (it helped that Travers seemed like a Disney fantasy character) to goad him to appreciate on reflection, his wonderful life as a result of being given the chance of looking at an alternate universe if he didn't exist (in a fantastic sci-fi twist). Instead, it takes the viewer on an enchanting journey of the protagonist's life in order to allow one to feel his pains (father's stroke, Building & Loan payouts, Mr Potter's insults); romance (with beautiful wife Donna Reed complete with Charleston dances and a humble dilapidated house); share his disappointments (contrasts with Sam Wainwright and Harry); and understand why eventually having to come to the crossroads in facing the insecurities and issues of having believed he had wasted potential, he was willing to choose oblivion rather than existence. Most effective of all, whilst weaving the tale in lovely cinematography, it crosses the various eras that audiences all identify with (Depression, War), helping it strike chords all over.

Stewart's and Capra's favorite, this film boasts some incredibly emotional scenes that linger in film history, including the best one-take embrace scene by the telephone (Rob Reiner cries watching it every time!). The Casting (even Billy & the Raven) was magnificent: the otherwise unknown Reed has a chemistry with Stewart that conveyed a love of the purest kind that really epitomized that George didn't need to build airfields to have been a hero to the ones who mattered in his life, that he'd, albeit unwontedly, already lassoed the moon.

The main qualms with the show lie mostly with people upset at its moral/religious tones due to unrescinding belief that no such good character exists, exacerbated by the fact that its rerun prior to Christmas engenders a huge misconception that it is a festive movie per se (giving it some innuendoes that are as boring to hear as the perpetrators claiming the very film supposedly is). It is cynical ignorance neither to contextualize this film nor to even bother to understand the purpose, approach and point of this film without even the slightest vestige of educating oneself about what this film stands for. Some critics have not even watched it in its entirety! A cyclical corollary of finding it boring in the first place- disconcertingly hypocritical!

Now, critiques of its kitsch over the top 'Capra-Corn' Americana or even its 'subversive' political agendas bearing the peasant class and their feudal overlords may find their cases warranted to some degree. Even so, in the end, these critics are actually forgetting the deal. Who cares if Stewart's character reeks of being a democrat? That's missing the dish!! Why? Well, to find out you've got to discover the film's purpose.

Capra wanted to blaze positivity when he released this right after traumatic WWII (using his new soul-searching company aptly called 'Liberty Films') in an upheaval climate of fear and anxiety to discuss life and meaning out of hardship. Themes of commitment, hope, ambition, depression, loneliness, loyalty, sacrifice, love, pain, despair, insecurities, hurts, and forgiveness and ultimately, redemption are the under girding basis for its purpose. The very point was to prove that life was not about mercenary gain, worldly status achievements or success by anyone's standards- it was and is about the true joys of life if we open our hearts and minds to realize what we have: contentment, and simple childlike love. It's about the greater purposes beyond our own. As for the film being depressing, only those who fail to believe in its very message will find it as such. Plus, it was not meant to be a quintessential 'feel good' Christmas movie, it was only as such because years later a network aired it seasonally- cruelly ironic in that that very gesture was a complete and injudicious affront and lack of appraisal for the film. However, again, the film doesn't need anyone's approval, ratings, or Oscars to prove its value. Anyone who can breach the cynical ignorance and enjoy its message can enjoy it because the film, albeit non-esoteric or 'film school technically gifted', was nonetheless intended for that very lot of people who got it, who understood its magic- people who could appreciate its true meaning of being a crescendo of an affirmation of life, for auld lang syne.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Where you are affects how you see a movie

Author: AEBarschall from Tarrytown, NY
31 January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Possible spoilers -- ending discussed in vague, general terms

This movie is a moralistic one with a lot of important messages, but, dominantly, that it is important to learn to take satisfaction in a life that may not seem as glamorous or as exciting as the lives that others lead.

In this movie, George Bailey (James Stewart)learns that lesson. He isn't as wealthy as some. He's never gotten to travel, BUT he has done a lot of good. He has a home. He has a family. He has lots of friends. And he has helped many, many people to live better lives. He comes to appreciate himself and appreciate what he has.

This was not a fun movie for me. My husband is in the process of suing me for divorce and breaking up our family, precisely because he has failed to learn the lesson that this movie shows George Bailey learning, the lesson that life is not perfect, but it is still a blessing, and you can learn to take joy in something that is not everything you dreamed of. I don't think this movie is going to shake him out of his dogged determination to break up our family, either. As a result, the movie seemed pretty empty to me. There is no angel coming down here to set things right. There aren't hundreds of eager friends rushing in and trying to help.

Moreover, it's a little hard to imagine a real person who has had as much positive effect on the world as George Bailey did. I mean his character is a real angel. How many people saved the lives of two others when they were just children? This just isn't very realistic.

On another topic, my son, who is 10, had a really hard time with the part of the movie where George Bailey is shown how horrible his hometown would be without him. My son found this part too upsetting and demanded that we fast forward through it to get to the happy ending. People had told me that this was a suitable movie for children, but I don't agree, based on my son's reactions. This movie lacks sex (the bedroom scenes are filmed in PJs) and has very little violence, but that doesn't mean that it is suitable for children. It's really an adult movie. It shows real, adult suffering. The period of suspense is too long for a child.

Moreover, the kinds of social interactions that are shown are much too sophisticated for a child to understand. My son just couldn't follow it without a lot of questions answered -- and that was a problem because the sound quality on the video we rented was really lousy, so we couldn't hear even with the volume turned up on max, especially when my son asked questions.

Now for some trivia

I can't help noticing in these old movies that people talk with an odd lilt. The only person who seems to talk normally is James Stewart. Does anyone know, do the other actors talk the way they do because American English has changed with time? Or do they speak the way some Hollywood acting coach taught them to speak to meet studio expectations?

Another thing that I notice about this film is that they have Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey from high school up through middle age -- and also Donna Reed playing the same range of ages. They just don't do the very young ages convincingly.

Another thing I notice about these older films is that there are a lot more roles for older actors. More modern films don't seem to show very many people with grey hair.

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2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Best Movie Ever, Period.

Author: DonutLover from United States
19 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What can be said ill of this lovely movie? This is one of my all time favorites. I love seeing all of the old things that people used to be able to do, before political correctness, and before parents threatened to sue anyone who owned a tree, or a curb, or lived on a street, if God forbid little Johnnie got hurt by not watching what he was doing. Remember the pool scene in this movie? That is such a great part, and shows old fashioned American high spirits, and fun. Nowadays, everyone would be wearing helmets, life jackets, and the pool would have barbed wire, laser beam censors around it. ( not that I'm against pool safety for children, I am completely for it! but remember this is a "high school" dance here, in the movie ). Also, the little dog barking in the house when George and his brother are all rowdy; the good humored teasing between friends throughout the movie; little touches like these remind us of what it used to be like, to live in America.

I love the Christian message, most of all. I love the scene in the graveyard, when the angel tells George, "Harry Bailey died because YOU weren't there to save Harry!" So many tearjerking, beautiful scenes like that really run this movie's message home, and it's an all around winner, for the holidays. I'm not quite so sure it's appropriate for little kids though; George's anger on Christmas Eve could be a little scary, or disturbing, for some youngsters. Frank Capra deserves to get several jewels in his crown for this one, for bringing the spirit of Christmas, and a reminder of the importance of life long friendships, to so many of us at what can be a lonely, and stressful time of year. If we watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and wish that we were part of a community like that, then we can go out and start to build that kind of life for ourselves. It's a good ideal to live up to. Basic, good people working hard, and finding the treasures of life along the way.

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0 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

I beg to disagree...

Author: buiger from Monaco
9 May 2014

Now, here is one movie where I will have to disagree with almost everybody. I do not care that this film has become a Christmas staple, and notwithstanding my love and admiration for Frank Capra and James Stewart, this movie is far from even being particularly good, let alone a masterpiece. This is a movie that somehow got hyped up with the passing of time, and now exists in a universe of its own. It is telling that at the time of its making, it did not even receive a single Oscar. Apparently, at the time, nobody thought it to be so special...

Now, if you look at this picture objectively and without the typically "small-town-America do-good pink-shaded sunglasses", you will find a very simple, obvious and at times boring story. The characters are so simplified, that most are just caricatures of real people (just look at the local villain). Technically, there is nothing to write home about either. The sound, as a matter of fact is terrible, one can barely discern the (sometimes confusing) dialog.

And then we come to (according to the masses, and not only) the most important part of the movie: the message. Here is where I have another major problem... I may be cynical or stupid, but I do not see what this all-important transcendental message is; If it is simply 'be a good person', this could have been (and has been) done much better. This movie is a mix of slapstick Hollywood 'feel good' and of political correctness '1947 style'. No wonder it fares so good in our modern times...

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Jimmy Stewart, king of the HAMMY!

Author: In_Theaters_NOW from United States
15 November 2014

ITN METER: 1*/10-STARS. I hate Jimmy Stewart, worst actor in the entire Golden Hollywood era!!! He ruined every single movie I rented and attempted to watch only to find this buffoon's face and his insufferable stuttering shtick and having to turn it off. Sure, he is ***dead***, meager consolation for not ever being able to tell him how much he sucked but that'll do. How can anyone stand to watch the crap that passed as his acting???? Like Meryl Streep, dude was a cheese-ball who couldn't act, only hammy it up in overdrive as he played the same punching bag, movie after movie. It should be illegal to own or broadcast this garbage movie ever again. Or any starring this clown. Other than that, too many loud kids in this cheese-fest!

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Too Depressing

Author: Duncan Gosseyn from Ann Arbor, Michigan
15 April 2014

A lot of people love the happy ending of the movie. When I watched it, I did too. Yeah, when Harry says "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town," I cried. I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it. But, darn it, all the happiness of the last few minutes of the movie doesn't cancel out all the misery contained in the rest of the movie.

Another reviewer here called the movie "nauseating" and that is exactly what I would call it. This movie was so depressing that I was literally nauseated by it.

At the end of the movie, I just wished George Bailey had followed his dreams and traveled around the world (and, if I remember right, become an architect). So what if Bedford Falls becomes Pottersville?

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought life insurance policies didn't cover suicide. George Bailey would never have been worth more dead than alive.

I know this is a classic but I strongly dislike it. It's okay for a drama to be sad but I hate movies that are depressing. I had the same problem with Fritz Lang's SCARLET STREET. And I'd say IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is worse because SCARLET STREET is a film noir. You expect films noir to be depressing. But I heard so much about IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE's happy ending and I just wasn't prepared for so much misery.

I think I should add that I didn't write this review to agitate or incense anyone. And I'm not denying that this movie deserves its classic status. But this is honestly how I felt about it.

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Let Him Who Retains Nothing Of The Child Cast The First Stone

Author: writers_reign from London, England
16 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's almost impossible to imagine that this movie opened to ho hum box office and didn't make a cent for anyone involved creatively - which is not the same as saying those 'creative' accounts who can prove Gone With The Wind lost money didn't ensure that some cream found its way into the coffers of RKO - and it took several years and TV to turn it into an international favourite. I saw it myself first on TV knowing very little about it other than the names Stewart, Capra, etc and I was totally blown away. I bought the DVD two or three years ago but didn't get around to watching it until now, and you know what, it STILL blew me away, me who likes to think he's streetwise and has a healthy does of cynicism in his make up and objects to being manipulated but with quality like this you just have to roll over and play dead. EVERYTHING about it works, it's like a symphony with not one bum note. What more can anyone say about the story, the writing, the direction, the acting, all beyond superlatives. Right up there with Citizen Kane though light years different. A ten going away.

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1 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Can I give this 10.5/10?????

Author: Gaurang Khetan (grkhetan) from California
20 April 2002

I feel this is going to change my life from now on.

Who does not like feeling good? And this is one of the best movies to be made in the feel-good category.

I think that everybody in the world should see this movie. All of us, 6 billion people, should see it together - on one large screen. That would be just wonderful.

Well, nuff said, if you havent watched the movie yet, make sure this is the next movie you watch.

I think they should make more of this kind of movies. These films are a lot better than the best dark ones like A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for a Dream, etc.

Should be in the IMDB top 10, I wonder why its not. Deserves higher than 10 out of 10.

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3 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A brilliantly made film about a truly disgusting character

Author: kpw-5 from Canada
19 July 2010

The James Stewart character is self-centred, obsessed with money, rude, short tempered, and regretfully drawn into his father's business, a housing and loan company favouring working class people by giving them mortgages they can manage, only because he feels obliged to do what his dead father wanted him to do (instead of racing off to Europe to play the university game). He does not manage things well, and is financially wounded (accidentally) by the villain (played by Lionel Barrymore: the dynamics are a lot like You Can't Take it With You, in that sense.)

Failing at everything, he goes to jump off a bridge, is saved from suicide by an angel (not at all clear why heaven wd want to save this dreadful person), continues insanely, declares he wishes he'd never been born, is then thrust into a sort of non-identity existence by the angelic intervenor, finally does his one good deed and is returned to humanity (gratefully, God knows why). Capra! Awful, though very well made. Gets huge approval from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. I just don't get it. Patrick Watson, Toronto.

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5 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Warning! Spoiler!

Author: ahinz2000
21 May 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*Spoiler, for the most part* While Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart did some of their best acting with the amazing telephone scene, the movie can only be deemed "classic" because of its subject matter. Frankly, this movie is puzzling, and I can see why it was a "box-office flop" upon its original release. Considering it was just after WWII, it could have done a far better job of lifting people's spirits.

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0 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

socialism gift wrapped in holiday cheer

Author: postmanwhoalwaysringstwice from usa
4 December 2006

Though only modestly received in its initial release, as "It's a Wonderful Life" has aged the film has shown itself to be one of Frank Capra's crowning achievements. It follows the life of the good natured and highly philanthropic George Bailey, who yearns for what the world offers outside the boundaries of his small town of Bedford Falls. It's a sad tale of a middle-aged man full of regret, jaded by years of disappointment and dreams that never took shape.

Told mostly through back story, much of the narrative takes place between the two world wars, and exhibits a full emotional range, as it tells its highly moralistic tale of a dreamer beat down by the demands of reality. Shot in brilliant black and white, often with film noir style lighting and composition, Capra presents a story mostly about the plight of the working class, as they struggle against the repressive forces of capitalism. The fact that such a dark human drama can succeed at being simultaneously realistic and uplifting has made "It's a Wonderful Life" such an enduring film around the winter holidays, but it's far from being just a mere holiday morsel.

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12 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Wasn't What I Expected

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
12 October 2006

I've only watched this revered classic film one time. It was okay but disappointing. I expected more after hearing of its great reputation. True, it was interesting but it had too many frustrating and annoying parts for my tastes. It was not the feel-good film I was expecting.

I admit the ending was terrific and brings a tear to one's eye with an inspiring message but much of the film deals with tough breaks that "George Bailey" (Jimmy Stewart) had to face and also featured a very mean, despicable dishonest man in "Mr. Potter" (Lionel Barrymore). A lot of those scenes were not fun to watch; more frustrating than anything else. The movie has several scenes in which Bailey isn't the best person, either, but it could be argued that everyone has their moments, so why not him, too?

Since this is so beloved a film, and such a Christmas favorite, I just expected more of a nice, lighthearted, good-natured story. Instead, I got a very dramatic movie with a number of unpleasant scenes.

Interesting that this would be a Christmas favorite when Stewart's character admits he doesn't know if God answers prayer, or if He's even there. All of this coming from a guy who's attended church for years? Well, at least he found out, and it was a good message.

The "message" was that everyone's life counts for something, that life is important and what you do with it especially important because it effects not just you but a number of other people many times in ways you could never imagine.

To its credit, the story is an involving one. I will have check this out again and perhaps, with a different outlook going into it, will learn to like this film.

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6 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

This movie is crap and I hate it!

Author: Billy_Lovelady from Uranus
25 December 2004

Wow, what a stinkeroo! The super-lame kiss between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The Charleston contest, and the retractable dance floor with a pool underneath. Dumb. Ugly Sam Wainwright. Clarence the gay guardian angel. "I want to live again!" Oh please. Donna Reed's big blank Stepford smile. "Teacher says that every time a bell rings, (a brat needs to shut the hell up)." Those are just some the things that I hate about Frank Crapra's boring and schmaltzy It's A Wonderful Life. The film did so-so business in the winter of 1946-47, and was thusly shoved down the throats of later generations and people were brainwashed into thinking that this was somehow a "bona-fide holiday classic." Pfft! Puh-leez! Die, George Bailey, DIE! Your ears get boxed in hell! Damn you, NBC, for showing it too much!

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14 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

It's a Socialist Life

Author: econman from Dallas, TX
1 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me be no doubt a lone negative voice regarding this film, for which the best thing I can say is that it is an excellent piece of propaganda.

The movie appeals to the socialist nature of one's sense of life, and was an anti-capitalist propaganda film on the virtue of altruism. For instance, people who wanted their money at the beginning of the "run" on the savings and loan were negatively painted selfish. Old Man Potter was painted as the evil banker, when in fact a much more interesting and accurate spin would be to look at the lives positively affected because Potter managed his bank so well (he had the liquidity to handle his depositor's claims). Good ol' George, presented as the epitome of the virtuous man, possesses in fact an ethics of self sacrifice. Incompetent Uncle Billy, having "lost" the banks capital in a brown paper bag, is nevertheless sympathetically presented as Potter's victim, when in fact he is merely the price of George's immoral (and anti-capitalist) practice of sacrificial nepotism.

The nonsense goes on and on until towards the end we are struck over the head with what a "lucky man" George Baily is, as he mooches upon his friends and neighbors. The audience, especially women, tear up pondering the alleged "romance" portrayed, all the while the movie advances the philosophical principles of socialism farther than Karl Marx could have ever dreamed. Capra was essentially the Dickens of film.

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2 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Did anyone read Maureen Dowd's spoof?

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
17 February 2006

Since everyone knows what happens, I'll comment on Maureen Dowd's spoof, called "A Not-So-Wonderful Life". It portrays Clarence meeting Donald Rumsfeld and showing the defense secretary how the world would be if he'd never existed. The world would be a much better place: no Iraq war and we'd have caught Osama bin Laden almost immediately.

I wrote an extension of that idea portraying that Fonzie is president and the characters from "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Bewitched", "Gilligan's Island", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Get Smart", "The Flying Nun", "The Brady Bunch", "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son" are in his cabinet.

But anyway, "It's a Wonderful Life" is worth seeing. Especially the swimming pool scene and the bathrobe scene.

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6 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Very good and very overrated

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
26 May 2005

This is a very good movie. Period. A "classic", I don't think so. This is a movie whose actual quality has been exceeded by its hype--though NOT because the producers or actors hyped it (like the typical overblown and over-hyped Hollywood film). In fact, when it was released it was not particularly successful (especially compared to other Frank Capra flicks).

No, instead it reached legendary status for TWO reasons alone. It was a public domain video (hence NO ROYALTIES REQUIRED FOR SHOWING IT) AND its setting for the movie's conclusion was the holiday season. These two factors worked together to BLITZ the American public from the 1980s to the late 90s (until its copyright status was restored). I remember these dark days, when It's A Wonderful Life was literally shown on half a dozen channels at the same time!! Not even GREAT movies should be shown that much! As a result, many began proclaiming it a classic while some others got awfully tired of seeing it--which is a shame because it's a very good film.

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9 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Atrocious propaganda

Author: lepermessiahtr from Austria
2 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Frank Capra, American propagandist and patriot. This piece of sh1t is bad beyond belief. While running unbelievable two hours long it lacks a single (!) good scene, rather accumulating one pile of steamy stink after another. During the intimidatingly dreadful end sequence one just sits with a frozen face, frozen in terror of how gullible people (Americans, obviously) were and are blinded and corrupted by this sentimental crap. If Frank Capra, hack extraordinaire, weren't dead already... well you get my point. I don't even consider this a film, it's a Christian American propaganda piece without the slightest redeeming factor. I don't even have to go into detail how bad the editing is, just like with FC's showpiece Mr. Smith goes to Propagandaville. Frank Capra, since you believed in Hell - you hopefully burn there...

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25 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

It's a wonderful reason to jump off a bridge

Author: johnno-17 from Greece
17 March 2009

Of all the male stars of Hollywood's studio-dominated 'classic' era, James Stewart was the hammiest. He almost always shouts when a whisper would do; instead of striking an impressive pose, he's always squirming about, arms flailing. He's the melodramatic version of Jerry Lewis.

His way-over-the-top performance in "It's a Wonderful Life" lingers like the taste of lettuce fried in lard atop a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on a moldy McDonalds burger roll.

But then there's the story itself. It's notable that Capra waited until the Depression was largely over before putting together this dreadful lie about it (which is what this film is really about). Apparently the banks didn't spend years foreclosing homes and farms? No one was displaced, we all held together in the small towns we grew up in? Family's weren't shattered and careers not ruined? It's wonderful baloney to serve with peanut-butter and fried lettuce.

It's deplorable that American's think of this as a "Christmas classic." Christmas should be about joy, not self-centered delusion. The truth is, the world would have been the stronger is Stewart's character had never been born. The people in it need to find real reasons for living, not Capra's pandering.

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27 out of 66 people found the following review useful:


Author: (winner55) from United States
1 July 2007

I like a lot of director Capra's films - but not this one.

This is among one of the most vile floods of slush ever to be photographed. The characters are simpering when they aren't whining. James Stewart give us the worst, most over-wrought performance of his career - high-school student do better. The camera work looks expensive - and dull. The editing is perfunctory. There's no effort to use film to tell the story.

The story itself is a banal rip-off from "The Christmas Carol" - but the worst part of it is that Stewart's character spends his every moment visiting the 'alternate universe' (that would have happened had he never been born) trying to convince everyone that he really was born, and there is no 'alternate universe' - which makes no sense whatsoever, and completely blows any chance at insightful or revelatory alternate character development, and reduces his final submission to fate to a rather cheap, histrionic "gee, I'm sorry; let's try it again, OK?"

The raw cynicism that went into the making of this film - kept alive by generations of movie-reviewers as a kind of shared in-joke ("hey, let's face it, most Amereicans are just dumb" - would be frightening if it hadn't sold so well - which is the really scaring thing about it.

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43 out of 98 people found the following review useful:

It's A Nauseating Life

Author: Qanqor from United States
10 March 2006

Count me among the proud minority who think this movie is drek.

I love old movies. And I like Jimmy Stewart a whole lot. But this thing is just awful. And the fact that we are barraged incessantly with it, and that people rush to gush over it, just makes it all the more unbearable.

My big problem with the whole thing is that I vociferously *reject* the movie's main premise, the moral premise that it is somehow good and right and wonderful to live only for others. George Bailey is a *doormat*; he never pursues the life he really wants, instead suppressing his desires in order to serve every other yahoo in town. He's a fool, and the only ending I would consider truly happy for him would be if he were to decide to close his pitiful, practically non-profit business, and go off and make something of his life. I'm sorry, but having a lot of people be grateful to you for being a willing doormat is just not making something of your life.

I'm sorry, I just can't like a movie that takes altruism so far as to say that the only value of your life is how you helped others.

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31 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

Over-rated sentimental tosh!

Author: jef-mead from United Kingdom
13 February 2008

A good reason for banning Christmas! It's not enough that saintly Jimmy Stewart hogs 90mins of screen time without once showing a genuinely human emotion ( other than the rampant self-pity of suicidal Jimmy ) but I've also got to face a blundering angel sweet enough to be everybody's favourite grandfather ( retch ), a sweet wife who should have clobbered the mad drunk with a book on coming out of the library and a lovingly inadequate drunken Uncle. I'm sure my ire wouldn't be as great if it were not for the obscenely holy reputation this film has but right now I'd cheerfully burn every copy of this 'evil' movie! Can't wait for an angel to show me what the world would be like without it, although I can't imagine that one ever hearing a bell again!

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28 out of 72 people found the following review useful:

Dated. Terrible acting, writing, directing etc.

Author: conpethan from United States
17 December 2006

People like this because it, I am forced to assume, reminds them of a time past and x-mas the way they like to think it should be. And those are good things. But those attributes have nothing to do with an honest criticism of the film.

Few here actually rate it for what it really is. And that is a collection of some of the poorest writing and acting in all of film making. Even Stewart, not a great actor but one who is often accused of being a great actor since he is endearing just like this movie is, is at his worst here.

If people really looked at this flick without the romantic viewpoint and with true objectivity they would see it for what it really is; A complete a waste of film.

Life may be wonderful, but this movie is sappy garbage.

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34 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps slightly overrated? *spoilers*

Author: (tom_riley) from Herne Bay Land, England
2 May 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like a good slushy feel good film as next as the next man, but this takes it one stage too far. The original concept is an intriguing one and needs to be more fully explored in another film, as it isn't done justice in this movie.

How often do people just give money away purely out of the goodness of their own hearts? If a bank ran out of money, or had it 'stolen' by some ridiculously over-the-top pantomime villain, people would not react in a cheery manner. EXCEPT that this is Christmas, and everybody loves each other.

The set is impressive, some of the acting is good, the children are only marginally annoying but the fairy tale ending pushes the boundaries of reality too far. You may argue that in a movie with angels and genuinely nice Americans reality has been pretty much thrown out of the window, but the fantastical plot elements detract from a story that otherwise could have been thought-provoking and morally uplifting.

Starts off good, turns bad and then gets very ugly in the final scenes. 3 out of 10. (Bah Humbug).

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9 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Close to Worst

Author: aktatmot from United States
15 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I first saw this movie when I was about 11. About 2/3 of the way through it I was hoping that George Bailey would just get it over with. The guy is an idiot and cannot seem to get the picture that it was the idiotic Uncle Billy who has (insert appropriate word)ed up so why does George want to kill himself? How happy I'd be if Mrs. Bailey had, as his widow, run away with the banker and lived happily ever after. Add to this the caricature of the greedy banker and you get such a bucket of swill that the DVD should come with a barf warning. This should have been an embarrassment to Donna Reed -- she did so much better on TV. I'd like to point out that the "Vomit" comment and other negative reviews unfairly blame their relatives for the urge to puke during this movie. It's the movie itself.

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11 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Jon Monsarrat review: showing its age, boring, too religious

Author: jonmon from United States
3 August 2002

OK, I'll admit it. I'm an action movie buff. Mostly I like it when things blow up, and typically dramas bore me. But I do like a movie with a point to make, and an intellectual theme if there's not too much melodrama.

"It's a Wonderful Life" has a passable plot, but it's showing its age and pretty boring and feels longer than its 2 hours. The plot is a straight arrow without much in the way of clever twists. The attempts at comedy with Charlie the angel are truly awful.

Most disturbing is the religious theme. This isn't a movie about a person who happens to be very religious (such as The Big Kahuna, or Contact, both of which I enjoyed). Rather, this film makes the assumption that the viewing audience will be touched by Christian metaphors such as angels. You could get away with that in a mainstream film back in the white male Christian dominated society, but it doesn't work today.

Who should see this film:

-- film buffs who can't help themselves

-- religious types looking for a Christmas story

I believe that movie ratings should reflect a movie's impact on today, not back when it came out. So although "It's a Wonderful Life" may have been a classic way back when, I am forced to give it only a 2 out of 10.

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27 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

Where to begin? (Mildly spoilerish)

Author: ur20208 from United States
19 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Seriously: Where to begin on all the problems with this movie? Doesn't matter. Let's start with the fact that you get to see God. No mortals get to see God! Not even the prophets and the disciples, with the exception of Moses. But Moses only saw him from behind, in one of the most beautiful stories in the entire bible. What's more, why is God a matte painting of a galaxy with a flash light blinking behind it with every syllable of his white male 30-year old voice? It's even stupider than Celcil B. Demille's flame throwing spiral in "The Ten Commandments".

Then there's the characters. George Bailey, no matter how well acted, is the most annoying person I have ever had the displeasure of watching. His screaming and voice are enough to make anyone jump for the earplugs. His stupidity isn't all that sympathetic either. Mary isn't well-developed, and as for Mr. Potter? Since when do brilliant Christmas stories have more cartoonish villains than Dr. Doom or "Silence of the Lamb"'s Buffalo Bill?

Then there are a lot of fundamentally disturbing messages in the film. I do grant that, though obvious, the message that every person does something in their life is worth hearing, even though it was spectacularly over done here. (I've always wondered about the brother. There must have been ten other kids around when he started drowning. Why didn't any of them save him? And why didn't anyone marry the girl, dooming her to the worst fate possible of Old maid?). First, there is no doubt that Christianity is fundamentally real. There's no need for faith, because God exists as a galaxy, and he'll send down an angel if you're a good little boy. Also, suburbia is the best thing ever. There is nothing worse than a living urban city with, oh my god, Negroes. Capitalism is evil. It is more important to be nice to a bunch of people in some tiny town than to go out and do something in the world. Dumb people are more honest than educated ones. It is horrifyingly unthinkable to be annoyed by one Christmas carol played over and over and over. Comedic relief doesn't have to be funny. Two hour films don't have to have anything interesting.

There are other things too. The writing just isn't that good. None of the stories are relevant to the plot, and even the timing is heavily off, all of the good stuff thrown into a few minutes at the very end.

Face it. As heartwarming as this film is, it's not that good.

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9 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Long and dragged on...

Author: imaqt55 from florida, US
13 December 2003

The entire first half of this movie could have been cut out, and I would have gotten the same effect. The end was good, but the movie was way too long and dragged on a lot. I could have presented everything that was in the first hour in ten minutes without leaving out anything important.

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16 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

Too much sediment

Author: andysimon82 from United States
27 May 2005

There is simply too much sediment associated with this awful film. Because "It's a Wonderful life" is looped 24 hours a day for three weeks prior and post Christmas people feel obligated to give this awful movie a high rating. Due to this films close association with Christmas I can only assume that people would feel guilty to call this film what it really is, BAD. Personally I feel that "It's a Wonderful life" has not stood up to the test of time and is a tacky film fit for the 40's and only the 40's. The acting is not incredibly impressive since the roles are practically made from character cookie cutters, the cinematography is simple and is not even creative for its time, and the plot is not creative or interesting since sci-fi had already covered time travel and "what if" situations by 1946. Therefore I feel that people should stop defending this garbage called a movie, in the name of religion and tradition. Due to situations like this not enough pressure is put on the movie industry to create decent films. This is why movies like Home alone, and the ring become large grossing movies.

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19 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Review (pan!) Pls publish this, for an alternate "take".

Author: Norm Vogel ( from S. Bound Brook, NJ
24 May 1999

I've been collecting (& watching) old films for over 20 years, and have over 700 in my collection. Call me "Ebeneezer Scrooge", but I think that "Wonderful Life" is one of THE WORST films I've ever seen!!!! (I'm not kidding).

People today are amazed that it got such lousy reviews when it premiered; I feel that audiences THEN could see what a bad film it is!

What's wrong with it? First, the pacing. The first half of the film (where all the "bad stuff" happens) is MUCH too long; it goes on FOREVER. The part after his suicide attempt is much too short, and doesn't dispel the "depressing-ness" of the beginning. Plus, the scene where the clerk hits young Stewart on the ear is an extremely brutal (& violent) scene for that era; it STILL bothers me!

If you want to see GOOD Capra, check out "Arsenic & Old Lace", "Lost Horizon", "Lady For a Day", "You can't take it with you" fact, any film BUT this one!

It may be a "Wonderful Life".....but, it's a lousy movie!

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27 out of 80 people found the following review useful:

I've always hated it, and I always will.

Author: (llihilloh)
26 December 2002

I realize that there is approximately four other people on the planet who think like I do and can agree that this film is terrible. Everybody loves it for some reason, but I have absolutely hated it ever since I watched it for the first time.

'It's a Wonderful Life' is so boring. Now I've sat through some pretty dull films before, but this is unheard of. The thing is, I can usually get into the older movies. I just can't get into this one. I first saw this film a couple of years ago in school, and have unfortunately, been forced to watch it a few more times just because everybody in the entire world thinks that it is wonderful. I wouldn't normally comment on a film that is so bad, but being that it IS bad and entirely overrated, I am forced to voice my opinion.

The cast is terrible. I've never seen James Stewart in anything else and I don't plan to. He starts off good, everything's fine, but as time progresses, he becomes so annoying that I want to jump up and turn the TV off. What can I say about Donna Reed except that she is a horrible actress who manages to contribute very little to this horrible picture. Well, that's about it for the cast, I suppose. Minor role players such as Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, and Henry Travers are equally unimpressive.

The writing and the script itself are mind-numbingly stupid. 'It's a Wonderful Life' is supposedly the tale of a depressed man who gets the chance to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. Okay, so how long exactly is it supposed to take to get to the damn point? The movie drags on and on and finally after about four hours (it seemed like that long to me), George Bailey meets Clarence, his angel, and is whisked away to the life where he doesn't exist. So, basically the film tries to make a point and, I guess, finally does.

There's a couple of people out there who think that 'It's a Wonderful Life' is NOT a Christmas movie. Well, they're right. Why is everyone under the impression that this movie is a Christmas movie? It's clearly not.

'It's a Wonderful Life', a terrible movie if there ever was one, currently appears on the Top 250 list. It's also managed to jump onto just about everyone else's favorites list, but I don't know how. Its nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director, among others, is unbelievable and ridiculous. The film is boring, slow-paced, and has no point to it for about the whole 130 minutes. Frank Capra and this movie are overrated and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Avoid at all cause.

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12 out of 52 people found the following review useful:


Author: Savannah from usa
3 February 2004

When thinking of `It's A Wonderful Life', only one word races to my mind… BORING!!! This movie is all about trauma and tribulation, and I don't know about you, but that doesn't get the average American in the Christmas Spirit.

It's all about this average family man whom one-day questions: What would life be like had I never been born? His guardian takes him on a journey through the duration of the film and grants him his wish. He begins to see the way things would be if he never existed. He had attempted suicide in the past, and the Angel begins to show him that the world would be different with out this man. The only really good part about this movie is that the Angel gets his wings for doing such a great job on his mission to show the man his value.

Overall this movie is just not that great. Christmas movies were meant to bring holiday cheer and this film does the exact opposite! I give this movie a 1 and I don't recommend that anyone watch it… ever!!! Also, it takes on stressed out person to ever question their existence, and an insecure one at that, and how is this supposed to get you into the holiday mood? It definitely doesn't cheer me up; its kin of makes me depressed actually. So don't waist your time with lame and un-happy movies such as this. Just so drink some cocoa and sit by the tree to get into the holiday spirit.

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10 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Bad film

Author: Gollum0786 from Newpaltz, New York
27 December 2005

Although my opinion is not the general consensus, I think this is a horrible film. Clarence taunts Bailey, rather than providing a supportive ear (for instance, when Clarence is in the water crying, "help, help"), and when he is in the bar also. I sat through this film once, because somebody else wanted me to watch it with them. I slept through a good portion of it as well, and it was probably better that I did. I don't feel that I missed much, by not watching the film in it's entirety. This could have been a great film if Clarence had been more empathic with Bailey, rather than mocking, laughing at, and talking moralistically to him.

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