It’s A Wonderful Life Is The Best Christmas Film Ever Made

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UNILAD Voices is a new series where our writers argue in favour of an opinion they’re truly passionate about. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

A still from It's A Wonderful Life of 1946RKO Radio Pictures

Never has a film encompassed all the spirit of Christmas like Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s A Wonderful Life (IDST). 

This emotional rollercoaster has earned its number one spot on the festive film viewing list, perched serenely and beautifully just like the angel atop your tree, rightly pulled out of the VHS box each and every year without fail.

Disagree? Take a look for yourself:

The story follows George Bailey, a merry all-American sort who’s down on his luck, on a journey of retribution, self-discovery and love, as he fights his way back from the brink of despair one wintry Christmas Eve.

But don’t let the monochromatic picture put you off. This tale of human endeavour and heart-warming reconciliation is absolutely, unequivocally timeless.

Why? Because the struggles experienced by George Bailey – feelings of worthlessness, a desperate desire to do good, as well as a sense you’ve lost your place in the world – are universal.

A still from It's A Wonderful Life of 1946RKO Radio Pictures

Yes, his story might be shot through an archaic lens of American ideals, but the bare bones of his emotional turmoil – and most importantly, his ultimate deliverance – remains one of the greatest human equalisers in film.

The peaks and troughs of everyday existence illustrated in this film might be unique to the characters, but show me someone who says they’re not relatable and real and I’ll show you a liar.

But fear not, this film isn’t a bleak vacuum of festive magic.

A still from It's A Wonderful Life of 1946RKO Radio Pictures

Enter: Clarence, your friendly neighbourhood humanoid angel, who’s here to save the day and demonstrate how each individual to walk this planet brings with them their own special cocktail of love and significance.

His message is this: Everyone has worth, no matter how bleak and lonely you might feel.

It’s an important one, especially during the holidays when the grind of everyday life slows down a bit and you’re left with the time on your hands to reflect.

If that’s not enough for you, press play for some romance and laughter into the often-occurring old-timer traditional Christmas scenes, and you’ve got yourself a festive favourite.

Picture a family huddling around a crackling fire, a tree laden with decorations, and sprinkle the whole thing with perpetual, never-melting, crisp, white snow.

It’s an unbeatably heart-warming aesthetic.

I’m not the only one who appreciates the snowy mainstay of Christmas film classics shot by Capra.

The Academy awarded Russell Shearman and the RKO Radio Studio Special Effects Department with an Oscar for the development of a new method of simulating falling flakes on motion picture sets.

In essence, we owe It’s A Wonderful Life for every single snowy scene on the silver screen since.

Yet, the best Christmas films are not intended to dazzle audiences with staged merriment, fat men in red suits and comedic family feuds. You’d be forgiven for thinking so considering the contemporary crud coming out of Hollywood.

In fact, as you digest the mounds of food, long after your brain has turned to mush in efforts to tune out the Queen’s speech, Christmas films should have the power to shake you out of your commercially-induced consumption; a 6pm re-awakening from materialistic merriment.

It’s A Wonderful Life may have made a loss of $525,000 – a Christmas turkey, if you like – but that’s not the point. In fact, Capra himself didn’t even consider it a Christmas film, as such.

A still from It's A Wonderful Life of 1946RKO Radio Pictures/Paramount Pictures

The film’s strength is based on the narrative storytelling. Not gimmicks, nor cheap tricks to superficially tug on your heartstrings when you’re a little drunk on sherry.

Based on a self-published short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called The Greatest Gift, my gift to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of viewing James Stewart portray a true everyday hero is this piece of humbly-offered advice…

Hold off on Die Hard and The Great Escape this year, because It’s A Wonderful Life has a message which feels ever-so poignant at the present moment in time.

Let’s be honest, 2018 has been crap. Collectively, we all feel a little bit downtrodden and as battered and bruised as George Bailey at this moment in time when keeping a smile on your face in the face of current affairs is proving ever difficult.

We all need a Clarence from time to time. This is the cinematic equivalent. A nice guys finish first – albeit after a real uphill struggle – story.

It’s as pure as the driven award-wining white snow through which George Bailey runs, yelling good tidings to all. It’s A Wonderful Life is, quite simply, the best Christmas film ever made.

It's A Wonderful Life family smilingRKO Radio Pictures

Christmas is a time for tele.

This year, the UNILAD team have each argued the case for their favourite of the greatest festive films of all time.

Have your say. Tell us your go-to Christmas classic in the poll below:

<INSERT FILM POLL>

Go on, it’ll stop the bickering.

Merry Christmas, and happy channel-hopping to all!

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]


Francesca Donovan

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.