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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It Happened One Christmas

Author: mmallon4 from United Kingdom
22 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Why yes, I do cry like a baby over It's a Wonderful Life, every time. That ending is such a huge release after such as a dark and depressing alternative reality. I'm always left shaken up by it and need a break before I can watch another movie, as well as making me want to make amends with loved ones. I'm sure everyone who watched It's a Wonderful Life thinks to themselves what the world would be like if they were never born. The struggle of George Bailey is relatable to a wide spectrum, and I know for myself it really hits home. Being stuck in a dead end town and feeling you will bust if you don't get away from it; having your life not going the way you intended it to while your siblings appear to be doing so much better than you. But in at the end George Bailey realises what he's got when it's all gone, above it all, God's greatest gift. It's a Wonderful Life takes placed in a world in which God exists (and can focus his time on this one person over the rest of the world, but I digress). I've never felt however for It's a Wonderful Life to have a religious agenda, it's merely just a plot device for the film's fantasy elements.

Lionel Barrymore's performance as Henry F. Potter I feel is a tie between his brother John's role in Twentieth Century as the best performance from the Barrymore clan. Potter is one of the biggest douche bags in movie history; the archetype evil business mogul and ripe for comparisons with real life figures. In 2012 it was Mitt Romney, in 2016 it's Donald Trump. Not only has he no charitable side, he directly steals money in order to destroy his competition. Unlike other screen villains, Potter does not get any comeuppance as the end of the film, although you could say he's destiny as a sick, frustrated and lonely man who hates anyone that has anything he can't have is punishment enough. Potter isn't a total caricature though, he is more three dimensional than that. He's a man who knows how to conduct and run a business and understands that high ideals without common sense could ruin a town. But George Bailey is no fool, he is a natural born leader, even if he doesn't realise it. He stands up to Potter without giving it a second thought, runs a building and loan which is a real estate empire itself; even his father states to him that he was born older than his brother.

Moments like the make shift honeymoon suite in the broken down house which they later make their own or the recurring gag with the mantle at the end of the stairway represents the kind of writing which elevates It's a Wonderful Life above the majority of other movies. Like the greatest of films you notice something new on every viewing. Likewise nobody can do moments of intimacy like Frank Capra, the movie is full of scenes in which it is simply two actors talking with no background music, yet creates raw human emotional like no other. Take a scene such as George and Mary walking through a neighbourhood at night while George talks about his ambitions for the future, the rest of the world ceases to exist. Many will be quick to put down Capra's work as so called "Capracorn" or as Potter puts it, sentimental hogwash. Get off your high horse and stop thinking you're above such emotion; cinema is about the manipulation of emotions.

It's hard not to feel sentimental for the representation of small town America on display. Bedford Falls itself is a town full of interesting and unique characters. It actually reminds me of The Simpsons; Potter himself is essentially the town's own Mr Burns in The Simpsons the people of Springfield hate Burns but are dependent on him for their energy needs. Likewise the people of Bedford Falls hate Potter and would be dependent on him for their housing, if it wasn't for the competition of the Bailey Building & Loan.

Due to its public domain status the film was shown on some TV networks in 24 hour marathons. I'd happily watch one of those network as I can't stop watching It's a Wonderful Life no matter what point in the movie I begin. Could you get a more perfect marriage between actor and director than James Stewart and Frank Capra? Collaborating on a perfect trilogy of films, with each one better than the last. It's a Wonderful Life? It sure is.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One Of The Best Movie Ever Made

Author: the-fearless-america from United States
24 April 2016

Absolutely, It's A Wonderful Life is in my top 5 movies of all time. Frank Capra also in my top 5 directors of all generation. Yet, James Stewart is one of my favorite actor. This was the best formation ever. Indisputably, Capra, without any serious contemplation, exalted as one of the most talented drama-director ever borne in this world. He was a master of film-maker. Any movies he touch, will always persist as classic for the next generation. It's A Wonderful Life, Casablanca, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was the prove. They were all masterpiece.

The performance by two leads was Hollywood's's classic. Yet the plot was magnificent, i know this movie will be something since i watch the prologue (the bell ringing and narration). This plot style is one of the best, wide and depth but simple in complexity. Then it is bonded with strong drama-background. A man regret his life because of the problems within him. This film has very high moral impact to the audience. Maybe this is one of the most influential movie ever. This movie is about thanking your life to god.

To be honest, this film was one of the most inspirational for me. This was one of movies that shaped my character. One of my good character and habits comes from this film. It shaped my moral. It taught me so many lessons in my life. How to struggle in the hard times, how to enjoy and share the happiness with others, how to become a good ones, how to diminish my bad feelings to others, and the most important thing is, how to always thanking my life, because without it, i wouldn't meet the person i truly love now, i don't know what is it to love and to be loved by someone you truly care, i wouldn't know of these feelings. Of course in our life, we will face the hard times sometimes, maybe for some people most of their live is hard times. But always remember, if you ever regret your life and choose not to live, you wouldn't feel the joy anymore. And don't forget, a small happiness can erase the whole pain you got before. Life is wonderfully beautiful.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Don't read reviews about this film. Just watch it.

Author: humbleradio from Tokyo, Japan
24 December 2012

Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is simply a masterpiece. A perfect film.

There's no need to take it apart scene by scene or examine its plot, its themes or do a character study of George Bailey. No need to attach more meaning than was intended, to imagine symbols where they don't exist, or to ignore the ones that do. No need at all. For if you are one of the many, the growing many who cannot watch this film without tasting tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness, then you know exactly what I am talking about - that further discussion would only serve to diminish the film's beauty.

There are few films that are in this category, that hit notes as true as this. "Casablanca" is one, "It's a Wonderful Life" is another, where everything comes together, where magic is not only seen in one scene, but in every scene, every line, every look and moment in the film. Pure magic. That's what this is, folks. Pure magic. It's the stuff dreams are made of.

And the less talk about it the better. We talk too much nowadays, anyway.

Just watch it and let it move you to joy, to tears, and tears of joy.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful film. One of best i've seen

Author: Lisa Walsh from United States
8 November 2012

This is one of my favorite movies of all time and a Christmas tradition in my household. This film is about sacrifice for the greater good. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) having big ideas of the world around him and continually puts his desires behind the good of the town. Another thing this movie shows perfectly that no matter how insignificant we feel, we are all linked to each other and play a important part in each others lives. After George looses his way and a angel shows what the world would be like without him he soon realizes how important he was to the people and town around him. This will always be considered a classic in cinema and a great movie to watch every year during Christmas. So we can all remember the good and bad of the present year and when new years comes around we try to make the next year better for others and ourselves. This is a must see for any family or fan of cinema.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Author: SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain from United Kingdom
13 September 2012

As undeniable classic in every imaginable way. It's A Wonderful Life is the feel good Christmas movie above all others, despite the fact it paints a fairly depressing picture. It tells us not to take life for granted, and that we shouldn't be so selfish as to assume our life is for our own benefit. It clearly highlights how Jimmy Stewart's life has influenced all those around him. As his life takes a nosedive and his dreams go unfulfilled he begins to lose all hope. Other than the necessary schmaltzy ending, the film is well grounded in reality and avoids insincere sentiments. Capra's wonderful handling of the material make this a surprisingly gripping film, one that may climax at Christmas, but can be watched anytime of year.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

It does not disappoint

Author: lane0065 from Australia
27 June 2011

This is possibly my second favourite movie of all time, but at Christmas it is my number one choice. I watch this film EVERY Christmas eve and will continue to do so as long as i am able.A Wonderful Life is everything a Christmas movie should be; warm, nostalgic, funny, tragic and heartfelt. One year when watching this, my dad came into the room for the ending and with tears in his eyes turned to me and said "they don't make films like that anymore". He was right. Capra is a legend because of his ability to make a lovely film which paints the world as basically good with some rough patches to be overcome. James Stewart's skill is in making this world seem realistic instead of hokey, and convincing us to care about his character with it's good soul, kind manners and bad luck.

For any person feeling glum, angry or disillusioned, this film is a direct injection of joy, love and triumph at a time when a lot of us need it most - it does not disappoint.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A classic everyone should know about.

Author: emasterslake from United States
3 June 2006

I just saw it recent;y for the first time ever.

And I'm very amazed on how well done this movie was made.

It takes place from 1910s-1946.

Jimmy Stewart portrays a man who wanted to follow his dreams but always ended up being a failure. He feels as if his life is falling apart. On X-Mas eve he thinks the world would be better off without him.

When all seemed hopeless. A man named Clarence who is said to be a guardian Angel will help him change his way of thinking.

Unlike other holiday movies, this one is one of those feel good movies and has a great moral to it. That every person who fails deserves a second chance.

I think every person should know what this movie is. If you haven't seen it yet, do so, cause this is a must see classic. And it be a perfect movie for the whole family to watch.

There's nothing too offending in the movie. No swearing, some drinking scenes, non-brutal fights, and I think it's perfectly fine for the kids to watch. Just to let you know that this movie is long and has some long scenes too.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Depressing movie

Author: poche112
29 December 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a Wonderful Life... Yea RIGHT! SPOILERS It's Christmas season and I just sat thru my 10000th viewing (or so it seems) of 'It's a Wonderful Life.' I movie that everyone but me seems to find a happy and uplifiting story that centers around the holiday season. I see it as something different, and I cannot find one small glimmer of hope in the life of the poor pathetic main character of George Bailey.

Poor George was born with but one ambition for his life, to get the hell out of Bedford Falls and to see the world. This movie is but one long look at his miserable failure. In the movie we are taken thru the life of George Bailey, introduced to his family and his freinds as we are shown what looks at first glance to be an unfortunate chain of events that keep poor George trapped in the prison of a town called Beford Falls.

He meets the love of his life, Mary, and despite his explaining his intentions of getting the dust of that small town off of his shoes; she traps him into marriage. This is due in no small part to his rivalry with childhood friend Sam Wainwright. None the less, he and Mary save and plan for their eventual departure from Bedford Falls, and once again George is crushed. His dream nearly within his grasp, a failure of the family buisness (The Building and Loan,) caused by the incompetence of his familt to run the buisness and the economy (manipulated by his arch nemmissis Mr. Potter,) force him to give away all that he has hoped and dreamed for to "save the family buisness."

Later, as world war two is raging, George's possibilties of getting out of Bedford Falls are again dashed by the evil Mr. Potter, who through is political influence has managed to ensconse himself as the head of the draft board, thereby using a slight hearing deficiency to keep George from joining the armed forces. That way the evil robber barron Potter can keep our George under his control, at home, in dismal old Beford Falls.

After that crushing blow to his dream, George becomes complaicent and allows Mary to saddle him with FOUR children. Ultimately dashing all hope of ever leaving Beford Falls. When an IDIOT relative misplaces a large sum of money that belongs to the Building and Loan, the money is stolen by the evil Mr. Potter and a crisis ensues. Poor George is driven into drpression and contemplates suicied.

Up to this point we can only feel sorry for poor George, we are shown his troubled life from his perspective; but, here is where this movie takes a turn. Just as George is about to end it all, an angel in the form of a dumpy old man named Clarence shows up and saves George from his untimely demise. What happens next is most enlightening.

Our George tells Clarence that he wishes that he had never been born. His wish is grated and we get to see what life in Bedford Falls (now Potterville) would be like if George Bailey had never been born. We are shown in great detail how each and every person in the town was better off because of George Bailey. Everyone that is EXCEPT George.

George's dear wife Mary ends up as a spinster. It would seem that her only prospect for landing a husbandl was George. Even though she had been persued in the first half of the movie by George's close friend Sam Wainwright. We can now plainly see that Sam's interest in Mary was only a rivailry with his friend George. With George out of the picture, Sam had no interest in Mary at all. No wonder then that she did everything in her power to trap poor George into marriage, and keep him by producing multible offspring.

At a blinding pace, the movie shows us how each and every person in the town of Bedford Falls has USED George Bailey. Taken his kindness and generosity for all it is worth and given nothing back. And, in the process, assuring that George's one dream of getting the hell out of Bedford Falls will never become a reality. Each and every person in that hell of a town had used George in their own way: the cab driver, the police man, the bartender, the list goes on and on. All had TAKEN from George and given nothing back.

In the end though, Clarence scares George so badly that he pleads for his old life back, and predictably his wish is again granted. The movie then tries to make us feel better by showing that this town of ungrateful takers has begun to realize that they NEED George Bayley. In a stirring closing scene, we see these "users" come to George and Mary's house to give money to help save George from prison. The movie closes with George having been saved from prosececution, only to be stuck in the same HELL that has been his whole life.

What is not shown at the end of the film is that the evil Mr. Potter, who stole the money that caused all the trouble in the first place, gets off scott free. Once again the evil robber barron Potter comes out on top, while poor old George is left to live out his misserable life serving the leitches of Beford Falls.

The moral lesson to all who watch the film is that no matter what your dreams, no matter how good a life you live; the evil in this world (be it low life leitches that take, take take; or corporate robber barrons like Potter) will ultimately triumph over you and crush your dreams.

Merry Christmas everybody!!!

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

an enduring classic that has only gotten better with age

Author: TheUnknown837-1 from United States
19 December 2009

James Maitland Stewart was one of the most inspirational and admirable actors who ever lived. Although his range of talents allowed him to effectively play whatever kind of role he wanted, he is remembered most for the roles where he stole the audiences hearts. He was nominated several times for an Academy Award, but won it only once and at that time felt that his friend Henry Fonda deserved it more. In my opinion, James Stewart should have won the Oscar at the very least three times. He deserved the one who received for "The Philadelphia Story" (1940). And he should have won it for his performances in "Vertigo" (1958) and his most beloved classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." This improving-with-age classic is generally marketed as a Christmas classic, but that's very one-dimensional. Yes, the perfect season to view it is during the said holiday season, but it's about much more than that. It's about life itself and the ups and downs of life and no matter how heavy the latter may be at times, it's well, it's a wonderful life.

In the film, James Stewart plays an ambitious young businessman who would rather do nothing but travel the world and build cities (perhaps a reference to Stewart's early ambitions to be an architect?) but his generous heart and the constant shortcomings of his friends continually puts him behind in his own life. When his troubles become so heavy and so depressing to the point where he ponders over suicide, he is visited by a strange man (Henry Travers) who turns out to be an angel wanting to show him how the world would have been if he'd never been born.

I guarantee you that most if not all storytellers of the past sixty-some years wanting to generate a character that would win over the hearts of the audience have used this masterpiece for reference. Jimmy Stewart was just warming up at winning over your heart with another collaboration with Frank Capra, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," here he just steals your sympathy with every scene he's in.

As for Stewart's supporting cast, well, let's just say he had a great collaboration to work with. The enchanting actress Donna Reid is fantastic as his love interest, Lionel Barrymore is superb as the conniving greedy businessman Mr. Potter, the great Thomas Mitchell gives another fantastic performance as Stewart's bumbling uncle, Ward Bond is terrific in his supporting role as the kindly town sheriff, and of course, I cannot leave out Henry Travers who is absolutely lovable as the guardian angel who comes to teach Stewart about the gift of life.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is one of those rare films. Like "Casablanca", it does not wear down even as decades go by. It's only gotten better with age. James Stewart said it was his personal favorite out of all of the movies that he made in his illustrious career in Hollywood. Is it my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie? No. But I will tell you this. It is so sweet and moving and enchanting and wonderful that I held back a lot of what I wanted to say in this review because I don't want to give any more away than what is necessary. There's only a handful of movies that I will do that for. Because there is so much to be seen here and every minute is absorbing and beautiful.

And one more thing. You know that feeling you get—that really, really good feeling in your soul—whenever you see a really, really good movie? If you want to revisit that sensation, see "It's a Wonderful Life" as soon as you can. And the beauty of it is, you don't even necessarily have to wait for the Christmas season to do that.

Rating: 4/4

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Take the kids

Author: rareynolds from Columbia, Maryland
24 December 2005

Just returned from seeing this at the AFI Silver -- had not seen it on the big screen before, so piled the kids into the van and drove down to Silver Spring to see it. What a movie! I'd seen it before, of course, but didn't expect to cry so much. The scene at the end, when the whole town shows up to pitch in to save the Building and Loan, was almost too much for me to bear. I just sat in the theater and bawled. It was a bit embarrassing.

Impossible to think of anyone else but Jimmy Stewart as George. If Stewart had never been born, quite likely this movie would never have been made! One can't help but wonder how the world would be different...

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