Skip links

It’s a Wonderful Film — Yes, the Best Ever

Asked in an interview recently to name my favorite Christmas movie, I went through the usual routine of naming several candidates — new and old, mostly black and white — before inevitably getting to the point, the undeniable, the obvious: Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life.

“Look,” I fessed up, “I know it might seem trite to say this, but can’t we all just be honest and concede that It’s a Wonderful Life is not only the greatest Christmas movie ever made but the greatest movie ever made period? There is no debating this. I cry like a little girl every time I watch it.”

Many guys have told me the same. Yes, guys — the males of the species. These are guys who otherwise, like me, might pick The Godfather (I or II), and identify with Michael Corleone or Marlon Brando’s character, or perhaps might point to Hugh Jackman’s “John Valjean” in the terrific 2012 version of Les Miserables, or a Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne role. To quote my colleague David Ayers, writing last year after visiting Jimmy Stewart’s hometown museum: “Once again this Christmas season, countless Americans sat down to watch Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring the great Jimmy Stewart. I’ve seen the movie plenty of times. So why did it leave me crying again this year?” (Bruce Bawer has said the same in these pages.)

Yes, why? It has that effect, unavoidably.

Real Artistry

When asked to name a favorite film, I suppose many are tempted to invoke some faux-intellectual, foreign, Frenchy, avant-garde drivel. But for a hick like me from Butler, Pennsylvania, there are no such airs. (Incidentally, in part because I’m from Western Pennsylvania, The Deer Hunter is also a favorite of mine.)

Many a snob would deny Capra’s masterpiece its rightful place in the film pantheon, akin to sneering at the beautiful work of a Norman Rockwell while waxing silly over some bizarro hunk of nightmarish slop hung on a wall in some museum of modern “art.” But that’s their problem. Norman Rockwell produced real artistry, as did Frank Capra.

To repeat, note that I’ve gone so far as to assert that Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is not only the best Christmas movie ever, but the best movie ever. Quite a claim, eh?

Read more at 

Share with Friends: