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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

tomatometer

94

Average Rating: 8.8/10
Reviews Counted: 66
Fresh: 62 | Rotten: 4

The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It's a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

90

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 1

The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It's a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

audience

96

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 214,110

My Rating

Movie Info

This is director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. As the film opens, it's Christmas Eve, 1946, and George, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and is seriously contemplating suicide. High above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss Bailey's dilemma and decide to send down eternally bumbling angel

Sep 19, 1995

Liberty Films

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Latest News on It's a Wonderful Life

November 19, 2013:
It's a Wonderful Life Is Getting a Sequel
Yes, really.
November 29, 2011:
12 Days of Christmas Gifts
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All Critics (67) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (62) | Rotten (4) | DVD (32)

The most well-loved of all Christmas movies.

December 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a Wonderful Life is about hunger. It's about greed. It's about the many ways a good man is stymied. Finally, it's about George Bailey, whose decency prevents him even from killing himself.

December 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Salon.com
Salon.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Capra is an old-time movie craftsman, the master of every trick in the bag, and in many ways he is more at home with the medium than any other Hollywood director. But all of his details give the impression of contrived effect.

August 31, 2012 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a Wonderful Life is a pretty wonderful movie.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The epiphany of movie sentiment and a transcendent experience.

June 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The April-air wholesomeness and humanism of this natural bring back vividly the reminder that, essentially, the screen best offers unselfconscious, forthright entertainment.

June 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The inspirational, thoroughly festive ending is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes.

December 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

It's both a summation of Capra's own career and a peak of achievement for a gentler kind of American cinema

December 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

I love it, corny as it may be, because it reminds every one of us that we all make contributions to the people around us, contributions we ourselves don't even realise.

December 3, 2013 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

This masterpiece from Frank Capra still has a lot to say about community spirit and is a film with much more to it than feel-good sentimentality.

November 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

This is the all-time great, curl-up-on-the-sofa-with-a-cup-of-tea movie. Not only is it beautifully photographed, but it also contains enough emotional strength to hold your attention for all of its two-hour running time.

December 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

I wasn't able to get reasonably straight about it for quite a while. I still think it has a good deal of charm and quality, enough natural talent involved in it to make ten pictures ten times as good, and terrific vitality or, rather, vigor.

August 31, 2012 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

This classic delivers warmth all year long.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Is the movie corny? Often. Is it moving in the most basic, moral way? Every year we watch it.

November 28, 2010 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

One could use It's a Wonderful Life to teach their children values: compassion, selflessness, loyalty, and self-respect.

March 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Film and Felt
Film and Felt

Raise your hand if you think 'It's A Wonderful Life' is mushy, sentimental, over-praised hokum. Now, go to your room. Both of you.

November 5, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis | Comment (1)
Movie Metropolis

If you can separate - or rescue - It's a Wonderful Life from its niche as a Christmas classic, you might discover a film that swings wildly from noirlike starkness to saccharine bathos.

December 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A genuine American classic.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

You'd have to possess a very hard heart not to find something to love in this story.

November 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

It ain't just hype; it really is a true holiday classic.

November 17, 2007 Full Review Source: Bullz-Eye.com
Bullz-Eye.com

Without overlooking its lapses into populist bathos, it's necessary to rescue It's a Wonderful Life from its spot at the centerpiece of untouchable American "classics."

November 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

George Bailey and Bedford Falls never looked so good!

November 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for It's a Wonderful Life

Maybe considered a timeless classic, however I wish time had moved a little faster during the movie. For me a forgettable movie that drags in places. Huge fan of Stewart, not a huge fan of this movie!
December 7, 2013
FiLmCrAzY
Film Crazy

Super Reviewer

Joyous, timeless classic! I can't say I've seen many movies from the 1940's, let alone any Christmas ones, but this was a very pleasant viewing experience, in several senses of the word. James Stewart is fantastic and brings a lot of vigor to his performance, but above all it's got a story that can be applied still today. It isn't confined to the values of the era, as it's broadly and universally human in its message. Basic themes like love, loss, greed and empathy, provides it with a wide spectrum of emotions that we can all relate to in some way (which is pretty amazing, considering it's over half a century old). A riveting, jolly and beautifully narrated holiday tale, that will add some extra lustre to your Christmas.
November 18, 2012
CloudStrife84
Mike S

Super Reviewer

Capra finds the most perfect balance between bittersweet and optimistic in this timeless holiday tale, to remind us that life is always worth it, even in the worst of circumstances. A wonderful story that resonates for a very long time after it is over.
November 9, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

Great. Definitely a film to watch each and every Christmas holiday. Rather wholesome and simple message gets across to anybody and everybody.
February 10, 2012
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

    1. George Bailey: How old are you anyway?
    2. Mary Hatch Bailey: Eighteen.
    3. George Bailey: Eighteen. Why it was only last year you were seventeen.
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (7 months ago)
    1. Annie: I've been savin' this money for a divorce, if ever I got a husband.
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (7 months ago)
    1. George Bailey: Am I talking too much?
    2. House Owner: Yes! Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
    3. George Bailey: How's that?
    4. House Owner: I said why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
    5. George Bailey: ...You want me to kiss her, huh?
    6. House Owner: Oh, youth is wasted on the wrong people!
    – Submitted by Sarah K (19 months ago)
    1. George Bailey: I don't have your money. It's in Tom's house... and Fred's house.
    – Submitted by Aaron S (19 months ago)
    1. Zuzu Bailey: Teacher says, 'Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.'
    – Submitted by Frances H (19 months ago)
    1. Uncle Billy: They did it, they did it, George, they voted Potter down. And they only had one condition, and that's the best part. They want you to run the Building and Loan.
    2. George Bailey: No, no, this is my last chance to get away from here. Harry Bailey is your man, he will run the Building and Loan.
    3. Uncle Billy: But George, they'll vote with Potter otherwise...
    – Submitted by Stan D (19 months ago)
View all quotes (34)

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Foreign Titles

  • Ist das Leben nicht schön (DE)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (UK)
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