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FREE FOR MEMBERS: It's a Wonderful Life

The most loved Christmas film of all time! 

Year: 1946 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 
Certificate: BBFC U Cert – Universal 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Frank Capra 
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore  
An image from FREE FOR MEMBERS: It's a Wonderful Life

This beautiful, unique and touching film gives a response to those thoughts we have all had in our darkest moments in such a clear and unapologetic way, not mincing words or feelings to make the overall message less raw. The plot follows building and loan banker George Bailey (James Stewart) as he contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, a feeling brought up as he believes he has wasted much of his life. A guardian angel named Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), brought down from heaven by the desperate prayers of his family and friends, attempts to save George by showing him that his life had meaning. This takes the audience through an exploration of George’s life as we learn about his sacrifices and achievements, as the angel attempts to show George of the importance of his own life. It’s a thought-provoking analysis of life with a conclusion that despite how hard it can sometimes be, life really is wonderful.

James Patt

It’s a Wonderful Life is an undisputed classic - audiences all around the world fell in love with it. It has become one of the biggest Christmas movies of all time, although it flopped on its initial release. This Christmas, take time to find out whether it deserves such a high honour.

George Bailey is a bank manager from Bedford Falls, USA. We see him growing up, we see him falling in love with Mary (who subsequently becomes his wife), we see him continue to run his father’s Building and Loan Company, and we see him continually disappointed and frustrated. Eventually, we also see him at the pits of despair - Bailey is a man who has lost everything, and sees no option but to commit suicide. Enter Clarence Oddbody: Angel, second class...

The movie has a long and distinguished pedigree: Frank Capra directed such classics as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace and It Happened One Night. George Bailey is played by the unforgettable James Stewart, one of the world’s most popular and enduring actors, star of over one hundred films as diverse as The Philadelphia Story and Vertigo. To celebrate the film’s fiftieth birthday, it was re-released in cinemas around the world in 1996 to thunderous applause at its premiere. It subsequently became a best-selling video, and a new generation of film fans found themselves drawn into the film’s magic.

Though the film lays on the schmaltz to obvious excess, and spreads it all over the audience with a large spatula, this is a large part of the movie’s charm. You can’t really help but leave the cinema feeling all gooey inside - it’s sickening, but it’s true. It’s A Wonderful Life is the ultimate Christmas movie - accept no others - and a film that everybody should see at least once, to reaffirm that perhaps it is, after all, a wonderful life.

Chris Campbell

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Autumn Term (35mm)
2019/2020 Autumn Term (digital)
2023/2024 Autumn Term (35mm)