Christmas movies are an essential part of the festive season and thankfully there’s no shortage of heart-warming films to put you in the mood.
Films like Home Alone, Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are modern classics that both children and adults alike can enjoy. While you may have seen each of them ten times over, they’re always well worth a revisit and help you achieve that nostalgic feeling that will have you believe you’re a kid again.
They’re easy to watch and don’t require any great amount of attention, so they’re perfect to watch when doing the traditional Christmas tasks of decorating the tree, preparing Christmas dinner and stressing over whether you have enough money to get your loved ones something other than a home-made card.
However, if you’re yearning for a film that offers a little bit more and encapsulates the true spirit of Christmas, Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ could be what you’re looking for. Released in 1946, the tale of a man who is on the brink of suicide before being shown what life in his small home town would be like without him, is sure to stick long in the memory of anybody who has watched it.
There is no Santa Clause, no mention of presents or Christmas dinners, and even snow only makes an appearance near the end of the film, so it’s not immediately obvious that the film has anything to do with Christmas. Yet the film has everything to do with kindness and giving, which is what Christmas is supposed to be about.
The film is centred around the life of a man named George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who has put the needs of others above his own for his whole life. He has big aspirations, such as travelling the world and going to college, but his plans are scuppered by one disaster after the other.
He is not without fault and takes his anger out on his family and those around him when confronted with the one issue that he can’t solve on his own. The reason for his despair is serious financial difficulty, something he has struggled with for most of his life. Plagued by money problems for so long, Bailey is unable to see what really matters in life.
A dim witted but deceptively wise guardian angel is sent down from heaven to show Bailey the true meaning of life. While Bailey may not have amassed the fortune that was within reach for a man of his talents, the angel shows him all the good he is responsible for in the small town of Bedford Falls.
In his hour of greatest need, the people in the town who he helped throughout the years come to his aid. This shows both him and the audience that there is more to be gained from a life spent helping others than a life spent trying to make as much money as possible. It might not be as charming or as funny as some of the modern classics mentioned earlier and it probably won’t captivate many children this Christmas time, but ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ delivers an important message absent in many Christmas films.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the family friendly Christmas films we know and love, if you haven’t seen it, do watch Frank Capra’s masterpiece. It’s a fantastic film that gave people reason to pause and think back in the 1940s and still does so today.
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