38. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
While hokey, schmaltzy and everything a "feel-good" movie has to be, there is just a pull around this movie that I cannot escape. First of all, it was another one of my mother's favorite films. In fact, she was the one who would make me watch it every year when it was on. And because it was on every year, it became a very strong part of my childhood. It just wouldn't be Christmas without this movie. What I also find fascinating about this film is the memory that people seem to have of it. People always seem to remember the more interesting second half of this movie: beginning with the moment when Frank Capra's everyman hero George Bailey (the amazing Jimmy Stewart) wishes he was never born. When relaying their experience with the movie, audiences tend to forget that this part doesn't happen until a good hour and a half into the film. But it is because of this movie's ending that it is so inspiring to people ("Teacher says 'Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!'"). That and the idea that one man can make a difference in the lives of the people around him. In addition to the delightful leading man that is Jimmy Stewart, there are good supporting performances from Donna Reed (as George's loving wife), Henry Travers (as the angel, Clarence), Thomas Mitchell (as the befuddled Uncle Billy) and the great Lionel Barrymore (as the wicked Mr. Potter). The movie is typical of what in Hollywood was called "Capra-corn," but it is a charming and memorable film (especially if you watch it every year like clockwork!).
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