Frank CapraUSA130 minutes1946B&WEnglish
The gold standard of Christmas classics, Frank Capra's enchanting fable was a critical and commercial flop upon its initial release, but became an annual televisual ritual when it fell into the public domain. James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a small-town boy who dreams of striking out and seeing the world, but finds circumstances (and his own conscience) keeping him trapped in his humble hometown of Bedford Falls. Driven to despair when his nemesis, the evil banker Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), engineers his financial ruin, George comes to believe he is worth more to his family dead than alive — until a bumbling angel (Henry Travers) descends to Earth and shows him what the world would have been like without him. "Some movies, even good ones, should only be seen once…. [Others] can be viewed an indefinite number of times[:] like great music, they improve with familiarity. It's a Wonderful Life falls in the second category" (Roger Ebert).