It’s a Wonderful Life

PG, 1946, 2h 10min, Drama, Family

No holiday season is complete until I watch the endearing, cinematic masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life. This 1946 Christmas classic has stood the test of time for one reason: It resonates the intrinsic values of family, redemption, love, and humility for the sake of sacrificing for others over one’s own self-interests.

The plot follows the life of a small-town hero and the movie’s protagonist, George Bailey, who has grandiose dreams of leaving his hometown of Bedford Falls to travel to far-off lands. Even from the start, it is obvious that George will never fulfill his ambitions and eventually settles into a mundane life. He marries his high school sweetheart and raises a family, while managing the family business helping less fortunate townsfolk get mortgage loans they otherwise could not afford. Unforeseen circumstances—his father’s death, his brother’s marriage, an absent-minded uncle/business partner at the family’s savings and loan, and an avaricious local banker, Mr. Potter—thwart his dreams of “shaking the dust of this crummy town from my shoes.”

His life implodes one Christmas Eve when his business partner, Uncle Billy, misplaces a significant amount of the bank’s funds, which George hysterically realizes will result in scandal and prison. While not responsible, George takes responsibility for his uncle’s blunder and desperately runs off lost for answers.

Aimlessly wandering around town, George contemplates taking his life by jumping off a bridge into a frigid river in an effort to recoup the money from his life insurance policy, thereby saving the family’s business and reputation. Enter Clarence, an Angel 2nd Class, whom heavenly bodies have commissioned to save “our hero,” jumps into the icy waters before George, disrupting his suicide attempt. They then begin a magical journey traveling through a Bedford Falls in which George was never born. As a result, he experiences how much his life has influenced his family and friends and its true meaning and value to others.

It’s a Wonderful Life is not just a heart-warming “message picture,” but it is a celebration of America’s ordinary citizens, who try their best to do the right thing by themselves and their neighbors, realizing that what really matters in life is not money nor social status, but faith, family, and friends. The film includes classic lines and indelible moments, which brings the most stonyhearted person to tears.

For me, the moral of this film never gets old. I value it because of its message about life and the road not taken, and, most importantly, what really matters.

Information on the film can be found HERE.