By Ruth Kinane
December 22, 2016 at 02:00 PM EST
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Watch the full episode of EW Presents: The Top 10 Holiday Movie Moments, streaming now on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices.

It’s hardly surprising that EW’s editors have crowned a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life asthe winner of EW Presents: The Top 10 Holiday Movie Moments list on the PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN).

Today, the 1946 film remains one of the most iconic holiday movies ever, but it’s wasn’t always so popular. Before the Frank Capra-directed movie was released, it garnered a lot of anticipation, but then flopped when it hit the box office. Nonetheless, it was steadily rediscovered over the years and is now an absolute classic and must-watch this time of year.

“It’s hard to meet somebody on this planet who has not seen It’s a Wonderful Life,” says EW.com editor Christopher Rosen EW Presents: The Top 10 Holiday Movie Moments.

The movie that follows Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey, isn’t as light and happy as the title suggests. In fact, the film goes to some pretty dark places with Bailey even contemplating suicide.

“It asks some universal questions and has some pretty dark material that I don’t necessarily think it gets enough credit for,” says EW movies editor Kevin P. Sullivan. “George Bailey is the nice guy in town who gets knocked down and kicked in the teeth by the big business man.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom — this is a holiday movie, after all. A despondent Bailey’s prayers are answered by a second-class guardian angel named Clarence who shows him what life would be like for his family and the other inhabitants of his small town if he didn’t exist. In doing so, a passion and appreciation for life is reignited in Bailey.

“George comes out of this vision and it’s this really great moment, and maybe one of the more classic moments of Jimmy Stewart’s whole career,” says Sullivan of the scene where Bailey runs through his town, Bedford Falls, ecstatically yelling “Merry Christmas!” “The movie’s so dark for the middle section — that’s what you don’t really remember — this moment of return is so earned and you just have this relief, like… I’m really happy for this guy.”

Sullivan adds, “I think if someone ran through a town the way that George Bailey did, they’d probably be locked up and put into psychiatric care.”

“It’s just a quintessential, American classic,” sums up Rosen. “Holidays or not, it’s just a top film.”

That a boy, Clarence.

It's a Wonderful Life

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • UNRATED
runtime
  • 130 minutes
director
  • Frank Capra

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