As the Christmas season approaches (I know, I know Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet, but don't fight it, people), it's time to get in the spirit with some of the best holiday movies. And the one movie that should be on everyone's required viewing list is It's a Wonderful Life (it was voted as the number one inspiring film of all time by AFI). As you're choosing which holiday film to watch this year, you needn't look much further than this Christmas classic from 1946. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it's just an amazing look at a man's life as he goes through personal ups and downs.
When I was 15, I finally decided to sit down and watch this holiday classic from start to finish. I had seen portions of the black and white film on TV during Christmas my whole life, but I never got why the adults in my family loved it. One watch, and I was obsessed. It became one of my favorite movies. Besides the utterly charming Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, it reminds us of the importance of one man's life and how you never realize the full reach of your good deeds (especially if you own a building and loan company).
If you need a good sentimental cry this Christmas (the film makes me misty-eyed whenever I hear the tune of "Auld Lang Syne"), then it's time to rewatch the classic — so here's how you can view it this holiday season.
Actually, finding It's a Wonderful Life on TV may prove more difficult than you'd expect, thanks in part to some copyright laws. Although ABC Family is usually the holiday movie hookup, their 25 Days of Christmas lineup does not have It's a Wonderful Life represented. (The horror!) The TV schedules for AMC and TCM also don't have It's a Wonderful Life currently listed, so you have to rely on NBC to air the movie. Last year, they aired the classic twice, and it looks like it will be the same this year. According to the It's a Wonderful Movie blog, NBC will be showing it on Saturday, Dec. 6 and Wednesday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve, of course), both at 8 pm.
Netflix and Hulu do not have It's a Wonderful Life available to stream (you can only get it through Netflix DVD). You can buy it on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes for $14.99 for HD, and $17.99 for HD on Google Play (all three sell it for $9.99 in standard definition). But at that point, you might as well go the old fashioned route and watch it . . .
I know the idea of popping in a DVD is archaic. But, chances are, someone you know owns this movie on DVD, Blu-ray, or (gasp!) VHS. It's an iconic film and I made sure I grabbed it on DVD for Christmas one year. And if you wait 2 years, there is bound to be a 70th anniversary edition, since there's already a 60th anniversary edition. (Or wait seven years for the 75th anniversary DVD — I expect big things, like a Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey figurine and a copy of "Buffalo Gals" on vinyl. Now that would get you into the vintage mood.)
If you're feeling real frisky, you can actually watch It's a Wonderful Life in movie theaters. AMC Theatres have a classics series, where you can watch older films on the big screen. They haven't updated the schedule for December yet, so there's sure to be classic Christmas movies potentially coming your way. Plus, local theaters play the movie, like the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, which has 14 chances for you to see the film. And the IFC Center in NYC starts its run of the movie on Friday, Dec. 12. As Christmas gets closer, check your local theaters.
However you watch It's a Wonderful Life this year, it will be bound to put you in a giving and loving mood because there's just something about George Bailey that inspires us. In the words of his wife Mary, "George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die."