It's a Wonderful Life

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
It's a Wonderful Life Movie Poster Image
This classic delivers warmth all year long.
  • NR
  • 1946
  • 125 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 24 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 35 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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!).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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,... Continue reading
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 ce... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byaidanqm1996 August 23, 2009
I hate black and white movies. Good message though.
Kid, 12 years old December 22, 2010

Great for just about all ages if you think they could follow it

This is a great classic Christmas movies that you should show your kids. I gave it a 9 + just because you younger kids might get bored, and might not follow it.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

For kids who love the holidays

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