If you only watch one movie this Christmas, make it this one. That’s what respondents of a recent poll of more than 2,000 British people think: they heralded It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as the best Christmas film ever made. I can see why – if there’s ever a film to restore your faith in humanity, this is it.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a summary:
The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. [Source]
A movie about a man thinking of suicide may sound depressing, but in fact it’s anything but. Here are seven reasons to watch the movie:
1. It was directed by Frank Capra, the acclaimed director, producer and writer who worked his way up from the ghetto to Hollywood, becoming one of the most influential directors in Hollywood in the 1930s. His approach of improvising rather than scripting scenes carefully has left a legacy of powerful cinema.
2. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed films in history, and is commonly high in ‘Best Ever Movie’ lists, including those of the American and British Film Institutes.
3. The cast is headed up by screen legend James Stewart – handsome, charismatic and indisputably believable in all his roles.
4. The film has taken on a life of its own, capturing the public imagination so that it went from box-office flop to essential viewing at Christmas over a period of thirty years. Capra told the told the Wall Street Journal: ‘I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work.’
5. Christmas is all about nostalgia, and this black-and-white classic beautifully stirs such a mood. Colorised versions of the film have been released, but nothing can beat the beauty of the original tones.
6. It has such warm, witty dialogue as this:
George Bailey: Mary Hatch, why in the world did you ever marry a guy like me?
Mary: To keep from being an old maid!
George Bailey: You could have married Sam Wainright, or anybody else in town…
Mary: I didn’t want to marry anybody else in town. I want my baby to look like you.
George Bailey: You didn’t even have a honeymoon. I promised you…
George Bailey: Your what?
Mary: My baby!
George Bailey: [stuttering] Your, your, your, ba- Mary, you on the nest?
Mary: George Baily Lassos Stork!
George Bailey: [still stuttering] Lassos a stork?
George Bailey: What’re’ya… You mean you’re… What is it, a boy or a girl?
Mary: [nods enthusiasticly] Mmmm-hmmm!
7. As expressed by David Wilson in the Guardian: ‘I watch It’s A Wonderful Life every year because [its] message needs to be repeated – time after time – and certainly just as often as Come All Ye Faithful, for it is that message that reminds us to do what we can to make this world a better place.’
No doubt the film will be on the television schedule this year, but as with all films the emotional impact is heightened by watching on the big screen. To mark It’s A Wonderful Life as the ultimate Christmas film, Odeon Cinemas are holding screenings at 80 of their UK cinemas on 15 December. The perfect outing to get you in the holiday spirit!