Top 100 Movie Review: #11 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Hate it and Love it.

This movie can really piss me off, but you know, I still like the ending. 
0e4edd9678.0American Film Institute’s Ranking: #11/100
Awards: Nominated for five.
My Rating: StarStarStar

This movie is a heavy dose of syrupy sweet cough medicine. Much like overdosing on dimetapp, the central character hallucinates his way to new found meaning. If you feel like an unimportant fixture of society, this is the movie for you.

Except it proffers awful advice. The movie attempts to square the life of someone who never puts themselves first with being fulfilled. Imagine: you never accomplish a single goal or desire. That 5, 10, 15, or 20 year career plan gets decimated by the local miser as you are whipped around by the tides of fate. Shouldering the burdens of an entire town for a generation must be exhausting, but don’t worry: it’s all part of the “plan.”

You know a movie’s old when even the children are dead now.


On Christmas Eve, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) contemplates suicide. The prayers from his family on Earth reach heaven, and George is assigned an Angel. To get ready for his mission, the angel reviews George’s life. It is an itemized list of disappointments:

  • Not being able to go to college because he has to run the family business to keep it away from Henry Potter, the local venture capitalist.
  • Continues to run the business he hates so his brother can go off and get a better job.
  • Forgoes a honeymoon to bail out his financial institute when people make a run on the bank.
  • Faces financial ruin when one of his subordinates accidentally gives the opposition a deposit of their earnings.

With George thinking of jumping to his death, the Angel decides to show George his life if he was never born.



Let’s talk about what really gets my blood boiling: the straw that breaks George Bailey’s back.

One of his many Sisyphus-esque tasks was putting up with his dumb-ass Uncle Billy. Billy is your prototypical screw up, the person you don’t even trust to toast bread. However, Billy plays an integral part at Bailey’s bank as overall administrator. What could go wrong?

Near the end of the movie, Billy decides to taunt the main antagonist of the movie while accidentally giving him all the deposits from the week of work. Only totaling the sum of eight thousand dollars (about 100k today), it’s enough to put the Bailey Bank into bankruptcy and investigated for fraud. It should be Billy trying to jump off the fucking  bridge when he realizes he’s shouldn’t even be working as a Walmart greeter, not George.

Maybe what George really needs to do, instead of reframing his cognition, is start going Rambo on these bitches.

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes.

Type 2 Diabetes not only has ruined American health but the stereotype of the fat banker.

Nothing motivates me for a work week like a combination of non-assertiveness and feeling guilty about everyone’s emotional and financial well being. This would be an awful way to live; no wonder George needs divine intervention to survive.

Even with that stupid message, the ending still makes me swell up with emotion and shed a few tears. Seeing everyone come to George’s aid at the very end is affirmation of how many people we touch. We all need this reminder, particularly in our darkest moments, and seeing the parade of people from movie’s beginning to end return for a rumpus celebration was perfect.

This was a difficult balance for me to strike. Bailey’s fight against Potter is admirable, and with everyone coming to his aid, he’s clearly more “rich” than the evil capitalist. But, who wants to live like a doormat?

Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. 


Enjoy working that miserable 60 hours a week in that small town you’ll never escape George because at least you have acquaintances that respect you.

Other People’s Takes:

  • The Warden’s Walk: “Yes. Yes. Yes. You have eyes? You watch movies, ever? You really should see this at least once. And you will probably welcome the chance to see it again and again and again”
  • The Rabbit and Reel: The phrase ‘the old ones are the best’ cannot fit anymore perfectly to Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Perhaps one of the greatest Christmas films of all time, this film will warm the darkest places of your heart, and will guarantee a tear to the eye.”
  • The Best Picture Project: “I can finally understand how this film warrants this honor, its message warms the heart and make us all see and appreciate the wonderful life we have.  No matter how little we have, we should cherish and be grateful for the live we are given.”

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