“Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel’s just got his wings.”
This ultimate festive favourite, from Oscar-winning director Frank Capra, stars James Stewart as despairing businessmen George Bailey. One fateful Christmas Eve, George receives a visit from Clarence, a celestial messenger, who prevents him from jumping into a freezing river. The pair travel together through moments in George’s life to show him what the world would be like if he had never existed.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a bleaker film than its reputation suggests, and James Stewart is pricklier than you might remember, as he displays hints of the darkness he would deploy in later films for Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann. However, this tender yuletide classic has endured for a reason: it’s very very good.