It's a Wonderful Life Movie Poster Image

It's a Wonderful Life



This classic delivers warmth all year long.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1946
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Important message about the value of an individual life and how one person's actions affect all those around him. Family and friendship are important. Small-town residents are loyal to each other. Some dated behavior, particularly in the way an Arrican-American maid is treated.

Positive role models

George is a compassionate but despairingly frustrated man. He learns how much he means to people -- and how much they value him -- by seeing their lives without him. He's humble, appreciative, and joyful after his experience and demonstrates gratitude and integrity.


Gunshots. A short fist fight. 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.


A naked woman in a shrubbery. Nothing is seen and it's very funny.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Frank Capra's bittersweet, heartwarming movie It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic. Tweens and teens will love it as an engaging story that takes on the human condition in all its complexity. While there's some dated behavior -- particularly in the way an African-American maid is treated -- there's also a beautiful message about how much each person means to the world. Expect some gunshots, a short fist-fight, 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!).

What's the story?

Frank Capra's bittersweet, heartwarming movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is about a man who comes to realize the value of his own life has been a Christmas favorite for years. At the story's center is George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a man with big plans whose even bigger heart keeps him from leaving his hometown. When George wishes he were never born, an angel shows him the tremendous impact he has had on his community.

Is it any good?


No matter how often you see this perennial Christmas favorite, you will be entranced. Flawless. Indeed, it has become such a familiar part of the holiday landscape that those who have never seen it might dismiss it as "Capra-corn," sentimental and syrupy. In fact, the movie's vision is that of a dark-edged world in which heroes are necessary. 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 the war, It's a Wonderful Life was a favorite for both leading man Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra. And it's easy to see why. 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 the performance of a lifetime. Alternately affable and bitter, he is the movie's little-man hero. And if the movie is about broken dreams, it's conclusion is that these broken dreams can turn out to be a blessing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about It's a Wonderful Life's more disturbing aspects. For instance, George contemplates suicide because he thinks he failed in his life.

  • Talk about how each member of your own family enhances the others' lives. How can you show that every day?

  • How do the characters in It's a Wonderful Life demonstrate integrity and gratitude? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 20, 1946
DVD/Streaming release date:September 19, 1995
Cast:Donna Reed, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore
Director:Frank Capra
Character strengths:Gratitude, Integrity
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Parent of a 11 year old Written bylizruest December 23, 2009

Reassure first-time viewers

We thought our 11-yr-old was ready for it, but he questioned the suicide theme, and the scene where George gets hit and his ear bleeds. He liked it in the end, but was disturbed several times at our choice! As adults, we tend to wrap it in the good feelings from the end of the movie, but a first-time young viewer may need reassurance.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byaidanqm1996 August 23, 2009
I hate black and white movies. Good message though.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion November 2, 2008

One of the best holiday movies ever!

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is, and always will be, one of the best holiday movies. The strong message of being thankful and living life to the fullest never ceases to inspire. You're always rooting for George Banks to see how precious his life really is. As the film opens, you hear a voice in the stars (supposedly God) speaking to another star named Clarence. He tells Clarence that he must go down to Earth to save George, who is about to take God's most precious gift (life). We then see the events of George's life played out, up to the point where Clarence, his charming guardian angel, must show him how great his life really is. And the only way to do him what life would be like if he never were born. The overall theme of suicide is tense but not scary. There is no violence or language. Sex is very minor, with no sex, but when George and his soon-to-be wife are playing, she runs and her robe gets snagged in a bush. She then hides in the bush (we hear her voice) and is presumably nude (but we don't see anything at all). It's a great movie. Watch it if you can.