Today’s Prayer Focus

It's a Wonderful Life

also known as “Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life,” “La vie est belle,” “Ist das Leben nicht schön?,” “¡Qué bello es vivir!,” See more »

Reviewed by: Ben McMaster

Moral Rating: Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: All Ages
Genre: Drama
Length: 2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release: 1946
USA Release: December 20, 2946 (NYC)
January 7, 1947 (wider)
Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios Copyright, Republic Studios
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Box art for “It’s a Wonderful Life”


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Christmas movies
REVIEWS of “Christmas” movies
Featuring James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Lionel Barrymore (Henry F. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy), Henry Travers (Clarence Oddbody), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Bailey), Frank Faylen (Ernie Bishop), Ward Bond (Bert the Cop), Gloria Grahame (Violet Bick), H.B. Warner (Mr. Gower), Frank Albertson (Sam Wainwright—a friend of George's), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey), Samuel S. Hinds (Peter 'Pa' Bailey), See all »
Director Frank Capra—“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It Happened One Night”
Producer Liberty Films, Frank Capra
Distributor Republic Studios

“It's a wonderful laugh! It's a wonderful love!”

This film was a failure at the box office and at the time marked the beginning of the decline for Christian scientist-turned-director Frank Capra. Because of its failure in every sense of the term, it was discarded by its distributer, RKO (which would soon go bankrupt and pack it in), and fell out of distribution, allowing it to wander the mean streets of television's extra time slots. It then was aired on Christmas night and built up a cult following and pidgeonholed as a “Christmas movie”. I think this is for good reason.

I first saw this film on a Christmas night and saw it again a few months later. It has played a very strong part in my being born again with its easily relatable themes of ambition versus obligation. Everything in this film seems to be a struggle.

The story focuses around George Bailey, a man who has a worldly vision for his future that is constantly put aside because of his selfless devotion to the town he lives in and the people in it. The favour of God is upon his life, yet he does not realise it until he almost commits suicide. It is how he is saved from suicide that the film gets into the heavy and involved aspects of the themes portrayed.

I cannot convey enough how Christian this populist piece is. If ever there was a moment in cinema history where the hand of God and the magic of film combined to form a work of art, this is it. Frank Capra made films based primarily on democratic, American ideals. With this film, he explored even deeper ideals and pulled everything off masterfully. He deliberately included scenes involving mild family abuse, drunken behavior and pride to allow for a subjective insight into the workings of George Bailey. The dark side is there to contradict the light—not at the expense of.

This film is purely for the family, but parents may want to block their childrens' eyes during the later scenes. There seems to be such a strong timelessness about it that may mean the kids once older will be able to make educated opinions on these scenes, in particular. I get the distinct impression that God wants this film as a Christmas movie as a way for our present culture to celebrate Jesus Christ. Would that there could be more like this one. It could very well be the greatest film ever made.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This movie was awesome. I am definitely a proud owner of this classic. What a wonderful depiction of self-sacrifice and knowing just how much difference one life can make. If there is ever a question of our significance according to God’s plan, this movie demonstrates that our existence as individuals is important. Thumbs up to whoever wrote this movie. What insight.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
L. Simmons, age 32
Positive—I just rented this movie to watch during the Christmas season (and I will rent it again and again every Christmastime) and needless to say, I LOVED IT! it’s a great movie to watch with the family (though a couple of bar scenes might be inappropriate for some kids). Capra's movie does an excellent job of conveying Christian themes in this movie and it SHOULD be in EVERY Christian's video library. I will continue to watch this each Christmas season and I will carry on the tradition. When I get married and have children, I will definitely share this timeless classic with my family. From this film, I learned that it’s always wonderful to have friends and a God who loves me.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
Shannon, age 20
Neutral—I guess I’ve seen this one too many times, so I’m too bored with this film to spend another holiday season watching it. However, it is still good, wholesome entertainment with a solid message. James Stewart turns in another great performance as a man who longs for a life of excitement, but realizes the value of appreciating what he has.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
Hillari Hunter, age 40
Comments from young people
PositiveThis is undoubtedly the greatest film ever made! Never has there been such a high-quality, heartwarming, Christ-honoring film in Hollywood history! Jimmy Stewart proves himself to be a most versatile actor, perfectly playing the part of George Bailey from age 19 to age 50 with astounding ability. His Oscar-nominated performance is a work of art! The plot, while witty and irresistibly charming, has a realistic, almost cynical theme: Life is full of trials and troubles, and sometimes it takes total failure to bring a man to God. The two most powerful moments of spiritual redemption come at the lowest points of George’s life: the first at a bar with George in a drunken depression, and the second on a high bridge where George contemplates suicide. In those dark moments, he cries out to God, and God is more than willing to help. This film clearly shows that good works cannot save anyone, it is God’s merciful grace that saves a person. Even good people need Jesus. A clean, powerful, beautiful piece of great American art that celebrates the wonder of life! Highly Recommended!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Jonathan, age 17 (USA)
Neutral—I love this movie, it used to be my favorite movie until I saw “The Lord Of The Rings.” Great story, Great acting (Jimmy Stewart Ya Baby!) and pretty good filming. All I have to say is this is a great movie.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
Ryan Flesch, age 12