75 Years of Movies: The Defining Film of Each Year From 1945-2019

1946 — It’s a Wonderful Life

Every Christmas season, television stations bustle to get this film in their time slots. Perhaps the ultimate feel good movie, It’s a Wonderful Life shows us the value of self-love and that gratitude is never a wasted or misplaced feeling. George Bailey (the incomparable Jimmy Stewart) is a despondent family man on a snowy Christmas Eve who is contemplating suicide. Despite all his good efforts with everyone in town, this beloved bank employee has been conned by his scheming boss — and now believes the police are coming to arrest him on fraudulent charges.

In a literal answer to his prayers, Angel in training Clarence (Henry Travers) arrives just in time. Audiences are treated to flashbacks of George Bailey’s life where his intervention in the lives of others saved and helped them — an entire town wouldn’t be the same if George Bailey wasn’t there. A dam of depression bursts forth and unleashes a torrent of gratitude as Bailey can see his success in life and all its wonders more clearly than ever before.

In an age where movies are filled with caped, superpowered heroes, George Bailey reminds us that heroism exists in the simple acts of life. It would be easy to compare Bailey to a plain-clothed Superman — but in reality, it’s Superman who would want to be a man like George Bailey.

Honorable Mention: The Stranger

A hardboiled detective plays cat and mouse with a well-liked and respected professor — who just might be a Nazi war criminal hiding in plain sight. Though far more well known for directing Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ eye for cinematography — and portrayal of the villain in disguise — is just as sharp here.

Image Source: IMDb