It's a Wonderful Life: Everett Collection
EW Staff
November 22, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Why ”It’s a Wonderful Life” is a top tearjerker

The misty awwws for Frank Capra’s crisp holiday classic start as soon as the film opens with prayers for George Bailey (James Stewart). Bewildered angel-in-training Clarence will get his wings if he can save a distraught salt-of-the-earth Everyman faced with losing his good name, his family, and everything he’s sacrificed his dreams for. Clarence shows Bailey how different tiny Bedford Falls — and the lives of its citizens — would be without him, and when Bailey joyously returns home, embraces his family, and witnesses the love of his friends, tears start to swell in all of us on the other side of the screen.

KLEENEX MOMENT One by one, the townsfolk chip in to help pay Bailey’s bank debt. Then, war-hero brother Harry gives the emotional summation: ”To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”

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