4. It’s A Wonderful Life
Release Year: 1946
Directed By: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, Gloria Grahame
Even though very few Netflix binge-watchers would probably watch It’s A Wonderful Life (or any of the other films released before 1980 on this list), you can’t rank the best Christmas movies ever without including the story that has influenced so many other movies, TV episodes, and Christmas specials. The film comes from famed director Frank Capra, and although it initially wasn’t an on-arrival hit, it has grown into a beloved American classic.
It’s A Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man living under so much pressure that he contemplates suicide. Even though it’s Christmas, George finds himself at his lowest point, but he’s saved by his guardian angel just before jumping off a bridge. Following his suicide attempt, Clarence (Henry Travers) shows him what life in his town would be like if George hadn’t been around to do good deeds over the years. In the end, George discovers a new sense of gratitude…and holiday cheer, of course.
Strangely enough, It’s A Wonderful Life opened in 1946 to mixed reviews and big box office losses. Still, the film earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but won only the Technical Achievement Award. But it’s been included on a number of AFI honorific lists. Because of its influence and timelessness, It’s A Wonderful Life is one of the greatest Christmas movies in history.