If you live in the US, on Christmas Day there will be at least one TV channel showing this Frank Capra-directed classic – it’s more traditional to an American Yuletide than turkey and crackers. It’s often listed as one of the best films ever made, yet it never won any Oscars.
A film about the good in everyone, it’s based on the short story ‘The Greatest Gift’ by Philip Van Doren Stern, and is the tale of George Bailey (Stewart, who nearly turned the role down, tired after returning from the war), an all-round nice guy who grows up in the small friendly town of Bedford Falls but dreams of travelling the world. Instead, he marries Mary (Reed) and has a brood of cute kids, but the stress of his job and the disappointment of never fulfilling his dreams lead him on Christmas Eve to attempt suicide by jumping from the local bridge.
However, an angel named Clarence (Travers) comes down from heaven to show George what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if he hadn’t existed, and naturally it transpires that it would have been a much darker world without him. A beautiful film that is perhaps a little too bleak for very young viewers, but a must for everyone else.
Is It’s A Wonderful Life suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
None, but young children may be upset by the idea of George trying to commit suicide.