This Frank Capra–directed classic is the bellwether by which all holiday movies are made, and 70-plus years after its release, “It's A Wonderful Life” is the “Citizen Kane” of the genre. The story follows a suicidal man named George Bailey, played by the legendary James Stewart, who decides to end it all on a snowy Christmas Eve after losing his life's savings. His attempt is thwarted by an angel who will win his wings if he gets Bailey to appreciate the life he has.
Ironically, the film didn't do well at the box office when it was first released, and it was nearly forgotten about — so much so, that its copyright lapsed by 1974, and the movie was in the public domain. This was a boon for networks and local affiliates who needed cheap holiday programming. The film showed on repeat on many stations over the next 20 years. By 1994, the free ride was over, but the movie was finally recognized as a classic, and today, it's not only one of the best holiday movies of all time, but one of the best films ever made. Its simple message of kindness, love and holding on in the face of adversity still resonates.