It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Poster

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10/10
Who are you, really?
JFHunt27 January 2007
Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like It's A Wonderful Life.

Does it take me back to that place in my heart, that makes me long for everything that once was great and it could be again? Does it remind me of my childhood, Christmas in my home? No. Maybe it's just simply what I always wanted from life and every man I want to be.

Everything about this film is well for lack of better words, perfect. No question to it any longer, the best performance by an actor I have ever seen. It's more than just beautiful, timeless or fair. All of Stewart is revealed. Everything coming together for Capra. Lionel Barrymore at his best, which seems to be his worst.

Sometimes I think there is a reason why somethings happen. And I'm pretty sure there is some magical reason why this film was made. I'm 27 years old and saw it for the first time Christmas Eve of this year. I've watched it 3 times since. The only movie to ever make me cry. I probably wouldn't have all the answers for you, if you asked me why. I'm still trying to figure Stewart out and just how beautiful was Reed.

What can I say? This movie is a life changing experience.

Makes me feel good to be alive. What a wonderful little world it is. And if I waited my entire life, it would not be a waste of time.
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Atop my Top Ten
dweck9 December 1998
I am a film lover from 'way back, having even served a stint as a newspaper movie critic. Entries in my personal list of Greatest Films of All Time include "Fantasia," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Casablanca," "Singin' in the Rain," "North by Northwest," and "The Sound of Music. But sitting atop all of them, as undisputed champ, is "It's a Wonderful Life."

I have seen it hundreds of times (dating back to, oh, when I was a teenager I suppose, and our local PBS station ran it as part of a pledge drive). I drive my wife and family to distraction when we watch it together because I quote all the dialogue along with the actors.

I cry every time--and this is after viewing upon viewing--when Harry Bailey toasts his big brother George as "...the richest man in town." The emotions in that scene are so true and pure that I can't help but be affected by them.

The performances are unparalleled. Stewart is brilliant as a small-town dreamer who loses and finds his way. His superlative acting abilities cause us to identify strongly with him (how many of us have lamented--even to ourselves--that no one seems to notice the sacrifices we've made?), which is, I think, why the movie bears up under so many repeat viewings. Reed is just lovely here, the epitome of sunny girlfriend, caring lover, devoted wife, dedicated mother.

Capra's talent as a screenwriter are all over this script. He knows just how hard to tug the heartstrings without becoming overblown or phony. And his technical wizardry is evident too. I've never seen--before or since--more natural-looking onscreen snow.

Watching IAWL has become a tonic, a pick-me-up when I really need one--whether it's the Christmas season or not. Its message--that each one of us is important and has *something* to contribute to the greater good--is one about which the world could use some reminding from time to time.
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10/10
A Great Influence...
Coxer994 March 1999
No movie ever made has influenced me more than this classic. I had the honor of doing a play version of it about 5 years ago. I had seen the film thousands of times, had loved it, but I never really knew what it meant. During the course of the production, I suddenly felt alive. I felt that I wasn't having enough fun. I felt that I wasn't doing enough in my life. Crazy things, like kissing my mother or my father. I hadn't really hugged one of them in a while. It makes you think. It's more of a thinking person's film than a mere Christmas film. If you think it's just a Christmas film, I insist you watch it again and again, until you get the message.

Stewart gives the finest performance of his career, in one of the most difficult characters ever portrayed. A character all of us are familiar with...a person looking to find himself/herself. It's the great struggle for finding what it is in life you really want to do. George Bailey teaches us so lessons throughout the film and in the end he teaches us the most important lesson of all, that life, although a long and winding road, truly is (for lack of a better word) wonderful...
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10/10
A Wonderful Film and Timeless Classic
FlickJunkie-26 December 2000
This film has become a Christmas tradition in my family. We watch it every year and never tire of it. Frank Capra is a master of creating films with a message that reinforce strong values. This is probably his greatest film in that regard. Both he and Stewart have publicly stated that this is their favorite film.

The message in this film is one of courage and sacrifice for the greater good as George Bailey, a man with big ideas about seeing the world, continually forsakes his own desires to do what is right for the town. The second message is that each life important. No matter how insignificant we feel we are, we are all inextricably linked to each other and play an important part in the fabric of one another's lives.

Capra's direction is brilliant. His genius is bringing human stories to life in a ways that not only make a point, but that totally involve the audience in the lives of the characters. He is always extremely optimistic about the human condition. He is known for testing his characters with overwhelming adversity to make them struggle to triumph in a way that causes the world to change and the character to grow. For this reason his films were always crowd pleasers and this film was the best of all in that regard.

Led by Capra's understanding hand, the actors all did a magnificent job. Stewart's wide-eyed enthusiasm and boyish charm, coupled with an unbending strength of character made him the perfect folk hero. Donna Reed was lovely and charming and attained the right balance between being supportive and inspirational. The romantic chemistry between her and Stewart was subtle and charming. Lionel Barrymore was towering as the greedy old skinflint who was trying to take over the town. Thomas Mitchell plays one of my favorite characters, as the bumbling Uncle Billy in probably his most memorable role.

This film is number eleven on AFI's list of best films of the century. It was nominated for five academy awards and won none. It was swept in 1947 by `The Best Years of Our Lives', a great film that won seven Oscars that year but in my opinion was the lesser film. History has corrected that minor injustice by rendering `It's a Wonderful Life' an enduring classic that is viewed and loved by generation after generation. Of course, I rated it a 10/10. I can't wait to see it again this Christmas.
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9/10
Best feel good movie ever? Quite possibly.
Aidan McGuinness11 February 2002
Here's a new definition of cold-hearted: a man or woman who remains completely untouched by the 1946 Capra classic "It's a Wonderful Life". You can't not be moved by this wonderful little gem.

The acting is all great. One of the film's greatest strengths for me is making George Bailey - the star of the movie played by James Stewart - a nice normal man. He's not perfect and that's pretty much essential to the film's success because Bailey could be *any* man. The lesson of the movie is fairly simple - we all have our role to play in the world and we are all important. Most movies would make this into a schmaltzy affair but Capra delivered a touching, heart warming tale. Bailey consistently denies himself to allow others to live as he sacrifices his life to make sure people can have enough money to avoid having to sell-their-soul in debt to the evil H. Potter (alas not a Harry Potter...). His complete and utter humility is great - he doesn't see how much he accomplished until his guardian angel Clarence shows him. Again Clarence isn't played in the usual clichéd manner but more as a believable character who honestly loves Bailey for his strengths.

The movie is a success because you can't but want Bailey to succeed. The manner in which he does could be classified as corny but, because it's so deserved, that doesn't matter. The music, the set pieces, all the touches add to a wonderful movie and give you hope that life can indeed also be wonderful. A lovely mood-lifter. 8.8/10.
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10/10
One of the greatest movie ever made in cinema history!!
jon-larsen14 March 2010
When I heard about this movie for the first time, I thought it was just a forgettable and funny movie. But I was wrong. I saw this movie last Christmas and I did not find it funny, but I loved it, though! Everything is so great in this movie. The story is amazing. The characters are great, and the character's development is fantastic! the cinematography is grea, and the acting is fantastic. James Stewart was mind blowing. The whole movie is amazing,touching and encouraging. You cannot describe how good this movie is. Nor can you describe how good the message is.

This is the best feel-good movie ever. It's a life changing movie, actually. It makes you feel good to be alive. Do me a favor and watch this movie as soon as possible! When you're sad, think about the message this movie delivers, because you will get a smile on your face! I'm 14 years old. My English is not very good, but I hope this review was useful!
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10/10
IT'S NOT OFFICIALLY CHRISTMAS SEASON UNTIL I WATCH THIS MOVIE
brianlion5 November 2002
I am so glad Frank Capra had a vision to make "It's A Wonderful Life". I'm glad he chose Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey. There are some little gems in life that help make life pleasant. It is not officially the Christmas season without watching this little gem. The supporting cast is perfectly matched. Donna Reed is wonderful as well as all the characters of the town. This would be a great movie, even if it were not in a Christmas setting. The holiday flavor makes it even more charming and memorable. A angel trying to get his wings is a little far-fetched, but Capra pulls it off. The impact of living a good life cannot be underestimated. What would life be like for your family if you had never been born? Our actions do speak loudly. In an age of 9-11, we need this movie more than ever. The values of "It's A Wonderful Life" still hold true today. Yes, I'll say it, it's a wonderful movie.
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10/10
A wonderful film that should be watched again and again.
Richard Brunton13 September 2002
This is one of the best films of all time, without a doubt. I challenge anyone to watch this film and not be touched, if you can, you have no heart!

James Stewart is one of my favourite actors, and in this film he acts so naturally you even forget he's an actor playing a part, you really believe his story. You're pulled on a roller coaster of emotions throughout this film, and by no means is this a light hearted look at life, as many believe. This is not a rose tinted look at the wonderful life we have, this is a dark, downtrodden start to a film where the lead character is about to commit suicide.

However, it is a beautiful film, and is one of the few that you can watch again and again and walk away with the same glowing feeling as you did when you first watched it.
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10/10
"To My Big Brother George, The Richest Man In Town"
bkoganbing25 December 2005
I've always thought that the reason It's A Wonderful Life has had such enduring popularity is that more than in any other film it shows what can be the value of a single individual and the contribution to the greater good they can make.

George Bailey as portrayed by James Stewart is the kind of every man hero we can all identify with. He's got the every day problems to be sure, raising and providing for a family, but he's got bigger problems than that. Fate has made him the rallying point of opposition in his small town of Bedford Falls to the "richest and meanest man in town", embodied in Lionel Barrymore.

It's a real David vs. Goliath battle. Barrymore seems to have unlimited resources at his disposal. Samuel S. Hinds as Peter Bailey put it so well to him in asking what are you doing all this for? Barrymore does have more money than he could ever possibly use. A little charity wouldn't hurt him.

Remember the basic plot outline. A whole lot of people in Bedford Falls one post World War II Christmas Eve see that their friend George is toting a heavy load of mysterious origins. Their prayers reach the heavens where an angel is dispatched to aid.

But before Henry Travers the angel arrives, he's given the story of George Bailey's life. And we see the kind of struggles he's had, the sacrifices he's made for the good of a whole lot of others. We've also seen a greedy and grasping Potter, grabbing everything that George Bailey cannot save.

Something happens that day before Christmas through no fault of his own, Bailey is in big trouble. It's driven him to the brink of despair. That's why the angel is sent down. He shows him the alternate universe that would have been had he never existed. It's something each and every one of us should try to do, step outside ourselves see just what our contributions can be.

But I think what Frank Capra is trying to say in this greatest of his films is that having done that and we realize we haven't contributed to the greater good of humankind, we resolve to do so. It's a simple, but profound lesson.

What if Potter got the same opportunity? In a sense Charles Dickens did just that in A Christmas Carol. Would Lionel Barrymore change? It's an interesting point of speculation.

In addition to those cast members already mentioned a whole group of players who worked with Capra before grace this film. Add to that some others and you have a perfectly cast feature picture.

Donna Reed has an interesting part as well. Your choice of mate is real important in life. Had she not been as loving and supportive to George Bailey, he might very well have taken a different route in life. Mary Hatch Bailey became a signature part for her, more identified than her role in From Here to Eternity which got her an Oscar. It certainly was the basis for her TV series.

When Todd Karns who plays Harry Bailey toasts his brother he's saying that the riches of the world are not necessarily things that can be quantified. Your life is not measured in material things, but in how you use the material things given you.

And that universal lesson will be taught into eternity as long as It's A Wonderful Life is shown every year. Wouldst we all learn it.
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Sheer brilliance!
bradman200018 April 2000
After strong performances in films such as "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" and "The Philadelphia Story", James Stewart confirmed his status as one of the greats with his performance as George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life". This movie is, without a doubt, the best of all time.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is a movie that you can watch over and over again. It's movie that makes you think, about life in general and how each person makes a difference, and about how great life can be (hence the title "It's a Wonderful Life). Whilst making you think, it also entertains with many light hearted moments, particularly towards the end of the film.

The direction, sound and casting in "It's a Wonderful Life" are second to none. Yet it is the fact that almost any person can watch this movie and come away feeling inspired that makes it easily the best movie of all time!

A 10/10 without a doubt!
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10/10
My favourite film
Geoff Mendoza27 November 2002
No other film comes anywhere near to getting people to find out what things would have been like if an event had or had not taken place - Groundhog Day comes close (my second favourite) and Sliding Doors tries.

For sheer emotion this film has the lot. I have watched it over 40 times now and I still get tearful towards the end of the film. If anyone wants to find out why life is worth living, this is the one to watch.
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10/10
So is the movie...
MovieAddict201629 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Review edited and therefore quite choppy due to maximum word limit. Has there ever been a truer and more heartfelt character than George Bailey? This is a man whose life is one of great significance, but he, like all of us, does not always realize that this is so. He does not recognize his impact on the world until an angel erases his existence like chalk on a board. It is then that he is hit by the fact that one man's failing life isn't always as inconsequential as it may seem. We all remember when Clarence (Henry Travers) first appears on that snowy bridge and saves George Bailey (James Stewart) from committing suicide. He explains nonchalantly that he is an angel and George is incredulous--until Clarence wipes away his entire past. His mother doesn't recognize him. George tells her about his uncle as a source of belief. She states that his uncle has been dead for some time, now. The best scene in the entire film is that following when George is thrown out by his mother. He runs towards the camera in an intense wide shot, his face registering emotions of fear, horror, and ultimately the horrid understanding of what has happened. This role is the highlight of James Stewart's career--he never came anywhere close to the superb performance he gives in this movie. There is a reason it was his favorite film he ever starred in. Stewart's portrayal of George Bailey is the grown image of all of us: As a child he dreamed of nothing but exotic locations and adventurous travels to foreign lands. But now he is a family man, a father and a husband. He has left behind his silly bachelor notions, but they still come back to haunt him. Bailey owns the town savings and loan, left to him by his father. The cranky Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) wants complete monopoly over the town, and all that stands in his way is Bailey and his little bank. But Bailey, an inner disgust and hatred towards Potter brewing since his childhood days, refuses to cave in and give it all away. Then one day, George's absentminded and quite eccentric uncle (Thomas Mitchell), misplaces a large sum of money, leaving George hopeless and Potter with a serious advantage. After blowing up at his wife (Donna Reed) and kids at home, George gets drunk at a local bar, is scorned at by a schoolteacher's wife, and left dazed and confused, walking through the snowy town at night during the happy Christmas season without a hope in the world. Battered and delirious, thinking back over his apparently pointless and wasted life, he contemplates suicide. He prays to God and wishes that he had never existed. Which is why Clarence comes down from heaven to sort things out and answer his prayer. Essentially bombing at the box office when it was first released, and then proceeding to fall into copyright problems for years, "It's a Wonderful Life" resurfaced only years later when it was brought back into the public domain circa 1970. When other channels were airing expensive Hollywood movies during the Christmas season, PBS picked up the film and played it as a counter attack, a weak hope prevailing in them that the classic film buffs out there would tune in. They did. And so did families across the nation. Every year the ratings got stronger and stronger and now, almost sixty years following the movie's initial release, it is considered a holiday tradition. George considers suicide as a way of escaping his problems without really thinking over the possible outcomes given his final choice. He looks back upon his life as wasted potential; he wanted to become an adventurer, break his family's small-town tradition and become something huge. Mentally scanning his life to the point in time when he stands on that bridge, George Bailey believes that he has simply and truly created a waste of space. He's ready to end his (assumed) pointless life when his entire point of view is wholly altered by the power of God. George suddenly realizes that though he never lived out his boyhood fantasies, he did so much more than he ever dreamed of. He saved his brother's life, which resulted in a huge impact in later years; he made an influence in the lives of others and brought peace and harmony to an otherwise small town by prevailing at the requests of Mr. Potter; he married a beautiful wife and had children, all of whom will no doubt have some measure of significance later in the world. And his wish on that bridge was that he had never been born. Often I am asked to name my favorite movie, and though I ignore requests and state that I have not seen every existing movie and therefore my judgment carries no significance, I have the lightest whimsy that "It's a Wonderful Life" may be my favorite motion picture to date. I cherish few other films just as close, but to me, "It's a Wonderful Life" is more moving than "Casablanca," a better study of one man's life than "Citizen Kane," and a movie that will live on in the hearts and memory of viewers long after we are gone. I believe that this is the definitive Americana motion picture, regardless of how I compare it to my other favorites, which may carry the same weight but not the same true significance. Few films come as close to the heart as "It's a Wonderful Life." And few films come as close to "It's a Wonderful Life" at all, for that matter. 5/5.
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10/10
The fable still holds up
Senator_Corleone19 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I just re-watched this film with my family as an annual Christmas tradition (first time on DVD though). I have to say, despite the 10-11 times i've seen this, it still holds up with magnificent strength and emotion. The scenes where Bailey has "never been born" with Clarence the angle and the triumphant concluding scene in Stewart's house where all his friends come to his aid are famous beyond comparison, but still are mesmerizing and emotional. What often is overlooked is the mountain of great dialogue in this film. Barrymore and Stewart have so many great lines-"I'm and old man and most people hate me, but I don't like them either"; "Oh, why don't you stop annoying people!"; "Is it too much to ask that people can live their lives with a few nice rooms and a bath and not have to live in your slums? We need this run-down old building just so there can be somewhere people can go and not crawl to Potter." Jimmy Stewart gives one of THE performances of all time as the ultimate put-upon good guy George Bailey. All he wants to do is get out of Bedford Falls, travel the world and go to college. But, because of a string of coincidences and occurences where George puts others above himself, he ends up never leaving the town. Donna Reed is his loving wife Mary, who waits around for George to realize that he loves her. This situation leads to one of the most touching and romantic scenes on film, where as the plastic magnate Sam Wainwright talks to George and Mary on the same phone, they look into each other's eyes and you see the what they truly feel for eachother. George grabs Mary, saying "I don't wanna get married to anyone anywhere at anytime", but he is cut off in the middle of his speech by the emotion, and they embrace. Rob Reiner claims he can't watch or discuss this scene without tearing up. How Stewart and Reed didn't win Oscars for this scene alone is unthinkable. Also, Lionel Barrymore is great as the evil Mr. Potter (with his wheelchair pilot/crony, Potter is the predecessor to everyone from the Beatles "Mean Mr. Mustard" to Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons")-who you believe is just a mean old man at the beginning, but then when he gives his final major speech to Stewart you realize what a twisted and cruel monster he truly is. The director, Frank Capra, must also be given credit when praising this film. He directs the actors and frames them in such a way that the true relationships and actions between them are so much more meaningful. He really knew what he was doing when making this film. The make-up and lighting department also successfully show the wear of 18 years on the principle actors-this movie takes place with the same actors from the period of 1928-1946, and Reed's and Stewart's make-up jobs are extremely convincing. Some great moments: The close-ups of Stewarts face when 1.) He lears if he doesn't take over the Bailey Building and Loan, the board of trustees will vote with Potter and drive the institution out of business, and 2.) In the fantasy scenes, where he runs away from "Ma Bailey's Boarding House" and realizes that not even his own mother regognizes him. The speech Bailey gives condemning Mr. Potter after Pa Bailey's death and Potter's appeal to liquidate the Building and Loan. A young George Bailey reveals to the pharmacist Mr. Gower that because he was so grief-stricken over the death of his son that he put the wrong medicine in the wrong tablet, and the look from Gower when he realizes that if not for Bailey, he would have done a terrible, terrible thing (this moment always gives me goosebumps). The look of disgust and horror on Stewart's face after shaking Potter's hand after being offered a job, then wiping his hand on his jacket-symbolising his realization that if he had agreed to work for Potter, he would have been selling his soul to the devil. This scene is followed by the wonderfully tender moment between Stewart and Reed where he stares at her in the dark as she tells him she is pregnant. Capra's greatest gift to the common man, "It's a Wonderful Life" still holds up beautifully. It is a morality tale with a timeless message that no man is poor who has friends. It's the ultimate happy ending, and the ultimate Christmas story.
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10/10
The enduring classic for all time.
Spikeopath1 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I once read that It's A Wonderful Life is the holiday gift for all time. Never a truer statement has been made about one of the most popular films to have ever been made.

The Plot is a simple one that has since been regurgitated and trundled out almost yearly it feels like. James Stewart plays George Bailey, an all round swell fella, who because of a number of life's circumstances finds himself forever a resident of Bedford Falls. Here he is the principal guy in the running of the family Building & Loan business. When a substantial amount of money goes missing during the run up to Christmas, Bailey finds himself at the mercy of family nemesis, and nefarious town banker, Mr. Potter {Lionel Barrymore}. But George, tipped over the edge by an incident involving the bank funds, has an idea that taking his own life would greatly improve the fortunes of his family and the family business. But as he stands at the precipice of death by suicide, George is saved by his guardian angel Clarence {Henry Travers} and given the chance to see what Bedford Falls would be like having not had George Bailey's influence.

Few, if any, directors have rivalled Frank Capra when it comes to successfully portraying the human heart on screen. It's A Wonderful Life is Capra's masterpiece. Rightly so, it is unashamedly sentimental, but also it's rich with the directors faith in community spirit and a belief in the strong bond of family love. The story is loosely worked from "The Greatest Gift," a Phillip Van Doren Stern story that he had sent to his friends as a Christmas card. Aided on screen writing duties by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett {Dalton Trumbo is in there sometimes too}, Capra fashioned an ultimate feel good movie that is flecked by sheer darkness and disconcerting "life is tough" undertones. It's most likely that the more dark side of the film, and the wait for Christmas cheer, is what made It's A Wonderful Life a flop on its release. The film made a huge loss, tho not quite as gargantuan as many today believe, and was quickly consigned to the forgotten bin. But annual yuletide repeats on television over the following decades garnered it a cult following. A cult following that eventually swelled to a near universal one, to the point that now Christmas just wouldn't be the same without it. It is by definition, the ultimate comeback movie.

Tho all the cast are superb {special mention to Donna Reed as George's wife, Mary} it's Stewart who leads the way in the class stakes. As he drifts from homely, lovable dreamer, a man sacrificing those dreams for others to benefit. To his descent into despair and the undertaking of a nightmarish odyssey, Stewart captivates in every frame, and more telling is that he is believable with each transformation of George's state of mind. However, when all is said and done, it's with the ending that basically the film rewards those who have trusted in Capra and Jimmy. It's an ending warm enough to melt the coldest of hearts. So see it with someone you love {always nice to have someone else to cry with} or introduce it to the poor souls who haven't seen it yet. Either way, it's here to stay forever the timeless classic that it so most certainly is. 10/10
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10/10
An inspirational heartwarming experience. A Timeless Classic!
Freddy Levit10 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
George Bailey is a man with goals, ambitions - a man of courage, integrity and pride. But all he has ever done his whole life is assist those in need, never for a second thinking about himself. Wanting to see the world before he sets off to college for an architect degree, he finds that he can't let his town crumble against the miserable, hateful, greedy and powerful 'Potter' and so he decides to stay. His father passes away, and so he must find a way to run the 'Loans' business that his father has kept from the mad man 'Potter'. All goes well for Bailey - a beautiful wife, a few children and a lot of friends. Although still handing out loans like his father before him, he pursues his dream of building and constructs a home village with affordable houses despite Potter's mass influence on the township. Unfortunately for Bailey, things begin to point downhill following the Depression and later bankruptcy where Bailey just can't handle the weight of burden of all the people's money he cannot repay. He comes to the harrowing conclusion that he should never have been born and decides to leave his family and friends and take his own life off a bridge. But the world cannot dispose of itself such a man, so god sends an Angel on a mission to get its wings, or better yet to save George Bailey's life. The Angel shows George what life would have been like had he not been born at all and of what became of the people he took dearly. Miserable under Potter's absolute influence, the town looks like an over indulgent, over spent, money making machine. George gets a glimpse of his own powerful influence on his friends and family and realises just what a wonderful life he really had.

Few films have portrayed the value (not the meaning) of life like 'It's a Wonderful Life' has. In contemporary times, we have been fed with recycled stories such as "The Family Man" and "It can happen to you", but none have captured the raw beauty of life like the original, "It's a wonderful Life"- its success partly due to its simplicity. And it sustains your attention from start to finish due to its simple and riveting storytelling. Sets aren't big, the story is quite small and the film is in black and white.

What makes this film stand taller than others is the great dialog between the characters which consistently remains on the story throughout the film and not on irrelevant topics - this is what keeps us glued to the screen (unlike with modern films, most of the dialog is blabber about nothing). The acting is superb from the whole cast, but you have got to hand it to James Stewart for one of the best performances of his career portraying the discouraged George Bailey - arguably his best performance - and one of the best performances you will see in any film. What I really love about this film is the lack of music, which gives a sense of realism to the story, like we are there with the characters in George Bailey's world.

Frank Capra creates an unforgettable atmospheric experience that remains tattooed in your memory years after viewing. The outdated effects aside, this film has stood the test of time as a timeless classic. The direction was subtle and superb - rarely equaled and I think this film is best in Black and White, even though they already had color in 1939, seven years before this masterpiece was released.

I recommend this film to anybody who feels down and depressed, sad and lonely. It really makes you think about the importance and beauty of this life in which you are living. All I can say is that I will be watching this film yearly until the day that I die due to its poignancy. A real classic in cinema history. It really is a wonderful Life!
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10/10
It makes you stop to think about your own wonderful life...
kbncyk4 September 2006
On one crisp December evening, two decades ago, my husband and I celebrated our very first Christmas together as a married couple. One of our yearly traditions, which we established that very Christmas season, has been to settle in front of the TV with a large bowl of popcorn and sodas for a quiet evening enjoying the holiday classics.

That evening, my husband flipped the channels and excitedly noted the film "It's a Wonderful Life" had just started playing. After learning that I'd never seen it, my hubby enthusiastically said, "You have to watch this movie - it's one of the best films EVER."

I guess my prejudice toward black-and-white TV was rearing its ugly head. I was in no mood to watch a dated film that I thought was of no relevance to us. I encouraged my hubby to see if he could find one of the many holiday classics that we enjoyed as kids growing up in the late 1960s, early 1970s timeframe.

My husband chuckled and said, "Trust me, you'll love this story. It's about this guy, George Bailey, who..." After relating a brief synopsis of the film, he warned me that I might find the first 45 minutes or so to be slow-moving. Still, he encouraged me to pay attention closely. "Remember everything happening now to this guy, George," he advised, "It'll pay off in the second part of the film."

As I watched George struggle with his devoted wife to raise their kids and pay the bills, report to a job that he never really wanted, battle his devious nemesis Mr. Potter, and yearn for a life that might have been, I thought - okay, there are some universal themes here. But this was a Christmas film? I couldn't make the connection, and really wasn't in the mood to continue watching anything that wasn't about Christmas.

I was getting ready to go into the other room to finish my Christmas wrapping when, suddenly, finally, it was Christmas Eve in George Bailey's little world. I remembered looking at that serene little town, decorated for Christmas and bathed in fluffy white snow, and wishing that I lived in such a place.

And just as my husband had promised, over the course of the next several minutes, everything started to come together. By the end of the film, as I watched George Bailey come to the realization, with his cherished family and lifelong friends gathered around him under his Christmas tree that George Bailey, representing every man and woman, ultimately realized that he surely had had a wonderful life. I wiped away a happy tear from my eye, knowing I'd viewed something very special.

Then two and then four Christmases later, as I sat in a rocking chair, at first with our newborn baby girl and then her baby brother, I watched It's a Wonderful Life with my babies. I have subsequently repeated this tradition with friends and relatives of all ages. Many of them, like me at first thought they were dealing with an out-of-touch film from the mid-1940s, only to come to realize the timeless, wonderful gift we've all been given by Frank Capra.

Since Christmas 1985, I have watched "It's a Wonderful Life" countless times. I agree with many other viewers - it is not only hands-down, the best Christmas movie, but perhaps my most favorite movie of all. I love and cherish it for so many reasons, perhaps most of all because it really makes you stop to think about what's important in your own life.

And the most special moments of all are those times when I get to share "It's a Wonderful Life," as my husband did that one Christmas so long ago, with someone who is watching the film for the very first time.
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8/10
One of The Best Christmas Movie Made
Christmas-Reviewer17 December 2016
BEWARE OF BOGUS REVIEWS. SOME REVIEWERS HAVE ONLY ONE REVIEW TO THEIR NAME. NOW WHEN ITS A POSITIVE REVIEW THAT TELLS ME THEY WERE INVOLVED WITH THE MOVIE. IF ITS A NEGATIVE REVIEW THEN THEY MIGHT HAVE A GRUDGE AGAINST THE FILM . NOW I HAVE REVIEWED OVER 200 HOLIDAY FILMS. I HAVE NO AGENDA. I AM HONEST ABOUT THESE FILMS

"It's a Wonderful Life" is one of the most beloved pictures of all time. The film core idea however has been stolen several times in less worthwhile television films. In fact the film was remade in 1977 for television with Marlo Thomas. That film however not only not have Jimmy Stewart it also lacked the Capra touch.

However this is the classic movie that everyone loves and for a good reason "It's the best film ever to capture the Christmas Spirit".

In this film George Bailey is at the end of his rope is contemplating suicide. The man is played by Mr Stewart. After a life of dreaming of leaving Bedford Falls and never able to do so. He wants to see the world and be an explorer. After a rough day at work he finds himself about to jump of a bridge but at the last moment an angel does a few tricks that prevents George from suicide.

When Angel tells George "that he is there to rescue him" George laughs. Finally the angel shows George what his presence has meant to not only his family but to the people of Bedford Falls.

This film has does not have one false moment. The casting is perfect. The story moves along at a brisk pace. The child actors are just as good as the adults.

If you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray Set the colorized version should be avoided. This film plays better in black and white!
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10/10
Ageing Beautifully
dowdosean20 June 2006
I had fond memories of "It's A Wonderful Life" but, somehow, it never made my top ten. The other night I felt the urge to see it again, from beginning to end, after that fun compilation from the AFI, 100 movies, 100 Cheers. The most surprising thing about this perennial classic is that it's not just a good movie but a sort of miracle. Age has made it more relevant, more powerful. Frank Capra is, without question, its miracle worker. His narration style was a first and in a way unsurpassed. As you may very well know, the film wasn't an instant success. A peculiarity it shares with most of the great works of art. The truth is something that needs time to be confirmed even recognized. James Stewart's performance lived from a 2006 stand point is, quite simply, extraordinary. Capra's films were known as "capracorn" in their day. Strange to think about it now because its sentimentality wasn't really sentimental but a need to find goodness in the darkest places. The great Capra not only found it, it unmasked it with the same relish that he unmasked evil and greed. My only regret is that on this times of technical prowess we'll never see again the likes of "It's Wonderful Life" But, trying to look on the bright side in the most Capraesque kind of way. "It's A Wonderful Life" will be around for ever.
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10/10
Masterclass in Movie-making
Richard Tunnah23 December 2005
The first time I am aware of seeing IAWL I managed to catch the last 5 Min's of the movie. It seemed to feature a character running around shouting 'Merry Christmas' at everybody, followed by a party where everyone handed over money To be frank, I wasn't in a hurry to see the rest of the movie.

Then several years later, I started to watch IAWL from the beginning, unaware that it was the same movie. I was struck by how comprehensive the character study of George Bailey was. He was a good man, but his ambitions were frustrated at every turn. He wanted an Education, that was just outside his grasp. He wanted to travel, life conspired against him. At every step of the way, one person saw George 'rolling with the blows', that was Mary Hatch. This woman loved George and wanted to stand at his side, so they can face the slings and arrows of misfortune together. This is love of the purest kind.

But even Mary's love cannot prevent George contemplating suicide. A single bad day that sees George on the top of the World at the beginning and thinking that taking his own life is the only way out by 10.45 pm.

I was stunned when the ending turned into the movie I had seen some time before. But this time I understood, this wasn't just sentiment for it's own sake. To understand the ending you need to have gone on the same dark journey that George Bailey had been on.

Many others have commented on the feel good aspects of the movie, so I won't. What I would like to say is that there are a number of scenes which live in the memory long after the end credits.

Young George trying to persuade Mr Gower that he had prescribed poison (with young Mary Hatch Looking on).

George hurrying home when he heard his father had had a stroke (with Mary Hatch looking on).

George waiting at the station with Uncle Billy for Harry to come back from college (only to find Harry is already married and has a job that will keep him away from Bedford Falls).

That kiss (I have to check that I am earthed, there is so much electricity in the air).

Mary giving up their honeymoon money, to keep the Building and Loan out of Potters grasp.

The Bridal Suit (with Ernie & Bert).

Trying to talk to Mary in the alternate reality, but managing frighten her.

The Ending.

I don't think I have seen a better character study, or for that matter a better movie.
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10/10
Brings you back into the true meaning of Christmas
Kristine20 December 2005
I know this is going to sound ridicules, but seriously, I have not seen this movie since I was a child. Even though they play it every year for Christmas, I never really had an interest to see it again. I was complaining to my mom the other day how sad it is that people just look at Christmas as present time and just getting what you want, I almost cried over it because I miss how my family would get me presents, but we'd go the homeless shelter to help out people who couldn't have a better one than us, I always thanked my parents for those wonderful experiences. It taught me that there is always worse and we must help those not just on Christmas, but all year around. Well, we did it again this year, but I'm now in the retail business and when I complained about this to my mom, she lent me the movie and said to watch it.

Watching this movie truly touched my heart and brought me back to the true meaning of Christmas. I mean, your heart just goes out to George and his wonderful little town of Bedford Falls. He and his wonderful wife Mary together do whatever they can to make it in life and support their 4 darling children. But when a horrible mishap goes on at the bank that George works at, loosing $8,000, he starts to wonder if his life is worth living. But there is one angel who will not give up on him and shows him what life would be like if George had never been born. In Bedford Falls without George, turned into Pottersville because of the very greedy business man Mr. Potter, no one is happy and Mary is all alone. George realizes that maybe life is worth living and comes home to this loving town that is willing to do anything to help him and his family out.

"What goes around, comes around", I couldn't stop tearing at the end because it's just so loving. I hope future Christmas's will go back like this movie's examples, where people are just happy to have what they have and realize some are not so lucky, but we must all do our part. Cheesy, I know, but if one person can raise their hand, we all will do our parts in the end. Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

10/10
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8/10
Arguably James Stewart best performance
Forest G21 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
To be honest before I watch It's a Wonderful Life, I really don't like James Stewart. I watched him in Vertigo, Rear Window, and other Hitchcock's movie, and I don't like him at all, I think he was so typical and 1 dimensional. After I watched him in this movie, I start to like him, especially when he acted in the last part. Well I guest I just hate Hitchcock as a director, not Stewart as an actor.

Back to the movie, at first I don't like it because Stewart looks so older when he was playing as teenager Bailey -.-". After half of the movie I don't really care, I guess I am such a sucker for Christmas family movie, the golden part of this movie is the last part after Bailey met the angel, Stewart showed that he is good actor in this part. In the end this is good family movie if you like Christmas film.
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6/10
Life's Not Always So Wonderful
evanston_dad23 March 2006
My apologies to all of you "It's a Wonderful Life"-ers out there. Please believe me when I say that I've tried multiple times to develop warm feelings for this movie. But it's just not meant to be. I've seen this film a couple of times, and I never want to see it again.

I want to beat James Stewart's George Bailey about the head and shoulders every time I watch the movie. Perhaps the most passive-aggressive hero in motion picture history, George Bailey spends half of his time sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of others, and the other half whining about his hard luck. No, George, it's not hard luck...it's the result of your own decision making skills. Either be selfless and stop complaining, or be a bastard and screw everyone else. But make up your mind, and don't take two hours to do it.

Ahhh, perhaps I now live in too cynical and jaded a world to tolerate George's namby-pamby indecision. But maybe that's a reason better than any other to keep this film around. Character aside, however, the one thing I can unequivocally praise about this film is the performance of Stewart. He provides a welcome bitter edge to combat Capra's sugary-sweet corn. His breakdown scene in a bar, where he desperately prays to God to help him keep himself together, is a tour-de-force.

Drag it out every Christmas and enjoy...I won't begrudge you that small pleasure. Just don't expect me to join along.

Grade: B-
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10/10
My all time favourite film
brolac24 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Before writing my comment, I skimmed through the existing 196 user comments and found that much has been said about the way this film reaches out and touches people (some of whom are fully paid-up members of the cynics party!) There have also been some very negative views registered, and I think I can see why some find it hard to relate to this film, with it's post-war values and strong religious tones.

Personally I love 'It's a Wonderful Life' on all levels; it is heart-warming and moving, it has a message that is lacking in so many films today and it is a superb piece of cinematic art. But if the religious frame of the film does not appeal to you, I say look beyond it and appreciate some of the most skillful moments of cinematography and finest acting you will ever see.

****POSSIBLE SPOILER*****

In my mind the finest scene is that when George meets his brother from the train and discovers that he is planning to marry. Watch the way the rest of the action becomes incidental as the camera focuses on George, a man seeing his hopes slipping away from him.
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7/10
Capra's most cynical movie, and why he's right.
Irie21228 July 2009
Criticizing It's A Wonderful Life is almost an act of treason in this country, but if ever a movie deserved a closer look, it's this one.

Far from being a celebration of the importance of the individual, or of small-town life, "It's a Wonderful Life" depicts most citizens of Bedford Falls as timorous weaklings. Moviegoers identify with the hero, George, of course, but he's the exception in this movie, not the rule. If any general lesson is to be learned from the story, it's that a willful leader is the only thing preventing ordinary small-town folk from losing not only prosperity, but morality.

The evidence is plain: Without George Bailey to hold the town together, it becomes Pottersville, which is a Hays Code version of Gomorrah. The townsfolk haven't got the courage or sense to manage their own affairs without a leader. In Bedford Falls, that's either corrupt Potter or long-suffering George. The only other characters with any backbone are Harry Bailey and Sam Wainwright, and they both left town. What remains are virtual ciphers like Mr. Gower, Uncle Billy, Ernie, and Bert.

America doesn't exactly burst at the seams with self-reliant citizens, according to Frank Capra. So why does this movie merit a healthy 7 rating? Two reasons:

1. Because it has undeniable power. Capra was a good director-- but a great propagandist. He made patriotic short films for the U.S. Army from 1942 until 1948-- and "It's a Wonderful Life" was made in 1946, smack in the middle of that period. The film is a masterpiece of manipulation. People love it, watch it over and over again every year, never noticing that its real message is deeply cynical, presenting little hope for mankind, and almost no faith in it. Indeed, it is almost fascistic in the way it champions the idea of a single leader (or worse, divine intervention) taking charge over ineffectual ordinary middle class people.

2. Because Capra proves himself right with his own movie. As an influential leader/filmmaker, he is skilled enough to make generations of sheep-like Americans cry and cheer at his movies, no matter how much he insults us.
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5/10
Self-Sacrificing Going Too Far?
bigverybadtom13 August 2013
Warning: 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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