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Reviews & Ratings for
It's a Wonderful Life More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

It's a Wonderful Film

Author: Collie_M from Ireland
15 August 2013

When my father proposed this black and white film about a guardian angel for me to watch years ago, as a teenager, my initial reaction could hardly have been a more overwhelming 'no.' But after persistence that for weeks was just below the surface, waiting to be unleashed every evening pickings on the television were slim, one especially uneventful night I succumbed and with a sigh agreed to watch it with mostly the intention of getting him off my case. Little I knew it would be the best film recommendation I had ever, and likely will ever receive.

Most of the superlatives have been used up when describing this film so I will not go into them in too much detail again. The term perfection is thrown around loosely but I believe this is one of the very few films that can claim wear that lofty tag with comfort. Jimmy Stewart gives a stunning performance as George Bailey, one of the most endearing characters in cinematic history. The whole cast is excellent and the on- screen chemistry between George and Mary is a sight to behold.

The true power in this film is how it manages to, almost effortlessly but with complete conviction, leave a profound emotional impact upon the viewer. It is a film that the viewer can get so emotionally connected to and can relate to so deeply that it can become part of that viewers person and change their outlook, philosophy, and indeed, their life. Personally I have seen the film too many times to remember and it still manages to leave a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

It is perhaps ironic that years after that first viewing, I mirrored my father in turning pest and badgered my group of college housemates into watching. It is perhaps the best measure of a film's greatness that six sceptical 20year old college students could sit down, abandon the alternative option of an alcohol-propelled night out, and sit in silence as the film happened and blink away tears in the semi-darkness as the bells signalling the end of the masterpiece tolled.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Self-Sacrificing Going Too Far?

Author: bigverybadtom from United States
13 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The premise of the story is, of course, how a man named George Bailey keeps sacrificing his money and his desires all his life to help others in various ways over the years, and when later in life he is finally overwhelmed by his latest problems which he cannot solve himself and is ready to commit suicide, an angel from Heaven whose eyes are upon promotion is sent down to tell George about how all his self-sacrificing had saved so many people from disaster.

One can nitpick about various things in the movie: reading a Bible, there are references to cherubs and seraphs, angels whose status in Heaven is indicated by the number of wings they have; the fact that George, despite his frustrated ambitions, didn't do too badly-he has a nice wife and children and is not living in poverty, and not being eligible to serve in the military would not necessarily be considered by some people (including people who had) to be a bad thing.

My problem, though, is this-it turns out that Bailey has lots of friends because of all the good he had done, and they're willing to pay him back to get him out of his financial hole and save him from jail. Unfortunately, in real life self-sacrifice, especially excessive self- sacrifice, does not necessarily result in gratitude from those one had sacrificed for. They might necessarily take your actions for granted and in fact might regard you as a slave, which all too often happens in real life. Once your purpose is served, the sacrificer is discarded and forgotten, or even despised. And that, alas, would have been the far more credible ending.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Life Changing Experience!!!

Author: sreenivas v ( from India
18 February 2010

Simply 'The Perfect' movie experience of a lifetime. Then again, its not just a movie, but something you can actually relate to. The fact that it was made almost 65 years ago, doesn't have any bearing on its relevance. Like the saying goes, 'The more things change, the more they remain the same'.

To be honest, I was going through a very similar situation that 'George Bailey' was in the movie, and I do have a habit of watching a 'feel good' movie to enliven my spirits whenever I am going through a bad phase. I must admit, it was one of the most sensible things I did in recent times. This movie has reinforced my belief that life is truly wonderful, and one should try to make the most of every moment. The old adage 'You reap what you sow' still holds true. Do good and no harm will come unto you.

Everything in the movie looks so believable and the performances by the entire cast so natural. It all about keeping the faith and hope, particularly when you feel you are down and out. I could watch this movie, each and every day for the rest of my life!

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Why it's an icon

Author: escapoholic ( from Northbrook, IL
10 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

IAWL has inspired a number of imitations lately--one I would recommend is The Family Man with Nick Cage and Tea Leoni. But The Family Man didn't really stand up all that well on second viewing. IAWL has stood up under dozens.

First and foremost, there's Jimmy Stewart. His performance in IAWL is the performance of his or anybody else's lifetime. The role of George Bailey is as demanding as any could be--everyman's life, with the highest highs and the lowest lows. I really don't think anyone else could have done it. Do you really think anyone else could have done the bit as Mary's reluctant suitor after Harry comes back to town? (Spoiler) Is there a better reaction shot than when George enters their new home/wedding suite, showing its signs of having to be prepared at the last minute and yet almost outrageously ingenious, itself a little bit (of which there are many others) of classic filmdom? There are at least a dozen others like these and contrasting with them.

Second, there's the high concept (spoiler alert)--what if you could see how life would have been if you hadn't been born? Usually, this sort of thing falls flat, but when it works it's magic, and all the required setup is here to make it work.

Third, the portrayal of Bedford Falls, achingly nostalgic for us to experience in the 21st century. So many characters in such variety who nevertheless seem to belong together, and share an experience that is more than their individual selves. I think it's here that the Christmas motif plays in.

And one more, the message, which admittedly doesn't resonate with everyone, but should, dammit! "We have to stick together." I see some have complained about too much altruism, but I think they're missing the point. In the long run, George himself is better off for having been point man in the struggle to build community.

Because in the end, although it's "friends" that George is seen to have in abundance, it's really more than that. It's all of Bedford Falls, whose existence depends on people like George, who are the difference between its community values and the values of Pottersville.

In the end, the film is perhaps an argument for a life that never really was, but the dream or nostalgia of which we should never lose.

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3 out of 4 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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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Absolute Masterpiece

Author: Incalculacable ( from Perth, WA
20 December 2005

'It's a Wonderful Life' is one of the best movies of all time. It is directed by Frank Capra and starring movie legends such as Donna Reed and James Stewart.

It's a Wonderful Life shows the life of George Bailey, a kind, caring man. You see him right from childhood and even then he is giving to people. As he grows older, he has dreams of traveling. However, after a series of unfortunate events, he can't go on the trips as he has always wanted and he has to look after the family business - the bank. George gets tied down with a family and feels trapped in a world in which he doesn't want to belong and he finds himself trying to commit suicide.

This is a beautiful, touching yet dark film. You see so many emotions, attitudes and values in this such as envy, love, corruption, joy, hope, faith and despair, all beautifully portrayed by the actors. It runs along at a fast pace and has a beginning, middle and an end. It also has a moral, which is lacking in so many movies today.

It's A Wonderful Life is absolutely universal and timeless (you can enjoy it whether you are 8 or 80). I watched this when I was 12 and it became one of my favorite movies, which I know watch every Christmas. It sums up everything that Christmas is about.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A true classic if there ever was one

Author: slymusic from Tucson, AZ
30 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What could I possibly write about "It's a Wonderful Life" that hasn't already been written? It is my favorite film starring my favorite actor James Stewart. Beautifully directed by Frank Capra, it is a masterpiece about the joys and trials of everyday life, and its main lesson is the fact that nobody is born to be a failure and that everybody is important. A struggling man named George Bailey (Stewart) sees life pass him by as he forgoes his opportunities to travel the world, go to college, and do all sorts of outstanding things. George considers himself a failure and never realizes what a great man he is until he meets his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), who shows him how different many people's lives would have been had George never been born.

"It's a Wonderful Life" contains such an outstanding cast that it is difficult to imagine anyone else playing these parts so effectively. Frank Capra had only James Stewart in mind for the all-American George Bailey, and he could not have made a better choice. Not to mention Donna Reed as George's sweet, comforting wife Mary; Lionel Barrymore as the cold, Scrooge-like Mr. Potter; Thomas Mitchell as the fun-loving, irresponsible Uncle Billy; Henry Travers as George's lovable, kindhearted guardian angel Clarence; Beulah Bondi as George's warmhearted mother; Samuel S. Hinds as George's caring-about-others-before-himself father; H. B. Warner as the drunken-turned-responsible druggist Mr. Gower; and on and on the list goes. Honestly, no other actors could have portrayed these roles so well.

Here are my favorite highlights from "It's a Wonderful Life," and there are quite a few. At the end, amidst all the donations and tears of joy at the Bailey residence, the one moment that almost never fails to bring tears to my eyes is George's discovery of the inscription on the inside cover of Clarence's copy of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer": "Dear George, Remember NO MAN is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence." George displays his darker side when he both yells at Uncle Billy for misplacing the $8,000 and lashes out at his family shortly thereafter. James Stewart's initial appearances in this film serve as a reminder of his prewar all-American image, particularly when George describes the giant suitcase he wants for his European tour, or when he talks quietly with his father at the dinner table, or when he confronts the scheming Potter, who threatens to dissolve the Bailey Building & Loan Association after the sudden death of George's father. Arguably the loudest and funniest scene in the picture involves the Charleston dance at the high school gymnasium, during which the floor opens up to reveal a swimming pool below. George and Mary spend their wedding night in the same dilapidated old house that they threw rocks at years ago, but the music and the candlelight dinner are just right (as actor Tom Bosley pointed out, if George has had a wonderful life in humble Bedford Falls, to a large extent it was Mary who made it so). Mr. Gower physically abuses young George (Bobbie Anderson) for not delivering a prescription, until Gower realizes what he had put in the capsules! George runs through Pottersville in shock at the unfamiliar buildings and the interesting music filtering through some of them. Upon Clarence's announcing that he is an angel second class, the night watchman (Tom Fadden) falls backward out of his chair! And finally, the film displays its sentimentality right from the opening shots, in which the humble voices of George's family and friends are heard praying for him.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is a classic, no doubt about it. I enjoy it not only during the Christmas season but all through the year. James Stewart WAS George Bailey, and he has my utmost praise for such a fine performance. The film was Stewart's and Capra's favorite, and no wonder. Capra was passionate about the story, and Stewart gave it his all after five years of having not appeared in feature films. In short, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a truly remarkable film.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A lone dissenting vote on It's A Wonderful Life

Author: anonymous from Washington, DC USA
25 February 1999

I hate to be the lone dissenter here, but I think It's a Wonderful Life stands right up there as one of the most overrated movies of all time. Not that it is a particularly bad movie, but I cannot see how it rates on everyones top ten list. True, the story is interesting and a bit intriguing, and it has a couple of good scenes. But you take out the scene where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing and they fall in the pool, and you take away the last five minutes of the movie, then there is not much left. And speaking of the last five minutes of the movie, that is the only reference in the whole movie to Christmas, yet this movie has been branded a Christmas movie. To me, in terms of Christmas movies, it does not belong in the same category (or class) as Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and yes, Even Home Alone, Parts I and II. I will give it one thing, the ending to this movie is truly one of the best of any movie ever made. But to me, a movie has to have more than a good ending with a Christmas setting to be called either a classic movie or a Christmas movie. Oh well, the minority has spoken.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Superb! Excellent! The Best movie ever!!!!!!!!!!

Author: RightWingGuy from United States
21 April 2006

Not liking this film is like not liking ice cream. The acting, the story, the directing, everything about this movie ROCKS! ***Spoilers*** George Bailey, at age 12, saves his brothers life. Several weeks later, he stops the town druggist from putting poison in some pills. We see that he accomplishes many things in his life, and he puts his dreams aside to help these people.

Even after he accomplishes many things, he begins to think his life is worthless. Especially after a horrific event one Christmas Eve, in which his uncle Billy loses $8,000. George seriously contemplates suicide, but his guardian angel, Clarence, comes to his rescue. He then learns, first-hand, what the world would be like if he hadn't been born. After he sees many changes that would have been if not for his birth, he gets his life back. He returns home, and then his friends and family come, along with money that they had collected from theirs friends in the town.

This is a great movie. Watch it on Christmas Eve. 10/10.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Literally perfection.

Author: liquidmetalkingslime from New Zealand
8 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's not much to say about the movie, except that it is utter perfection in film.

A lovely story about strife in life, and overcoming it with love and family. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, as he overcomes every challenge that life can throw at him, with an added magical spin from his angel, Clarence, which turns the movie into a pseudo-remaking of A Christmas Carol.

It's tough to review it though, in today's terms at least - but that doesn't make it any less of a fantastic movie. Fantastic movies should stay as fantastic movies, and this certainly has.

A perfect Christmas classic, and one that you should watch at least once in your life.

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