It's a Wonderful Life

  • Review Date: February 28, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1946
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

Common Sense Media says

This classic delivers warmth all year long.
  • Review Date: February 28, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1946
  • Running Time: 125 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie conveys an important message about the value of an individual life and how one person's actions affect all those around him. It's 1946, and George's younger brother chases their black maid, trying to grab her butt. While she is treated warmly by the family, it is clear she is a servant and a subordinate.

Positive role models

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey, by showing what life would had been like if he never existed. It's a classic for good reason.


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.


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 this classic is both sweet and knowing. Teens will love it as an engaging story that takes on the human condition in all its complexity. It features a witty screenplay and a grand old score. See it in its original, glorious black and white. Younger kids may be drawn in by George as a youth.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Frank Capra's bittersweet, heartwarming movie 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, this movie 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 the film's more disturbing aspects. For instance, George contemplates suicide because he thinks he failed in his life.

  • Families may want to talk about how each family member enhances each person's life and discuss how to show that every day.

Movie details

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

This review of It's a Wonderful Life was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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.
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


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