A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Places importance on the meaning of one person's life, inviting viewers to reflect on how they affect the lives of those around them, including their friends, family, and neighbors. Loyalty and family bonds are highlighted. Some dated behavior, particularly in the way a Black domestic worker is treated.
Positive Role Models
George and Clarence are kind and compassionate. Clarence helps George realize how important he is to those around him. George serves in the domestic war effort and becomes a helpful citizen.
Entire cast is White except for Lillian Randolph, who appears as a domestic worker in several scenes. Viewers are told she's an essential part of the household. But the character is used for comic relief and barely given any depth. George, the main character, is deaf in one ear. Women are given reductive roles and are in service of the male characters.
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Violence & Scariness
Gunshots. A short fistfight. For a brief moment, George knocks over the furniture and loses his temper. It's a tough scene when George is slapped by Mr. Bower. George considers ending his life. Several people are killed off-screen, during the scenes where George sees what the world would be like without him in it.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of a naked woman hiding in shrubbery, but nothing is shown.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Frank Capra's heartwarming movie It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic. Tweens and teens will be engaged by the mature way in which it takes on the human condition in all its complexity. While there's some dated behavior -- particularly in the way a Black domestic worker is treated -- there's also a beautiful message about how much each person means to the world. Expect some gunshots, a short fistfight, and other scenes involving temper issues -- as well as the despair that drives George to consider ending his own life -- but overall this is a family-friendly pick for the holidays (or anytime!). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This film has earned a reputation as a perennial Christmas classic, and with good reason. It's a Wonderful Life conveys the values of love, compassion, sharing, and kindness through a no-nonsense story that defies conventions of what a holiday movie should be. After contemplating ending his life, George discovers that his existence has saved his community from the cruelty of robber barons and, more importantly, from its own greed and shortsightedness.
Made just after World War II, the film was a favorite for both leading man Stewart and director Capra. There's a delightful song and dance sequence, visually witty moments like the dance floor that converts into a swimming pool during a feverish Charleston competition, and sophisticated dialogue. Stewart gives one of his best performances, showcasing the ways in which all our contributions, whether we see them as big or small, make a difference in the world.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.