[[quoteright:250:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/its_a_wonderful_life.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:250: "No man is a failure who has friends."]]

->''"Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel's just got his wings."''

Source of the trope ItsAWonderfulPlot, and an annual staple of Christmastime viewing, this much-loved 1946 Creator/FrankCapra film tells of one man's life of self-sacrifice and quiet despair, from which he is rescued by a miracle.

As the film begins, angels are listening to myriad prayers for a certain George Bailey (played by Creator/JimmyStewart). One of the angels, called Clarence Oddbody, is told [[ChekhovsGun he must answer the prayers]], once he's been told who George is. [[HowWeGotHere Cue Flashback]].

Zooming in on the small town of Bedford Falls, the first thing we see George do is save the life of his younger brother, Harry, at the cost of deafness in one ear. A little later, a girl, Mary Hatch, whispers promises of eternal love into his deaf ear just before George saves another life, and a pharmacist's career.

Skipping ahead a few years, we next see George at Harry's graduation party, held in the school's [[SuperMultiPurposeRoom gymnasium/swimming pool]]. George tells Mary about his plans for the future: leave town, see the world, go to college, build big things. Before an hour has gone, George learns his father has just had a stroke. His dreams will have to be deferred.

George stays in Bedford Falls to look after the family business, the Bailey Building & Loan, on the understanding that Harry will take over when he returns from college. However, Harry brings back a wife, whose father offers him a much better job, which George insists Harry take, sacrificing his opportunity. Soon afterward, George himself is offered a better job, but turns it down, knowing that without him the family business will be taken over by the [[CorruptCorporateExecutive avaricious banker]], Mr. Potter.

For several years, George's life continues in this vein. Every golden opportunity is frustrated by his self-imposed duties, until one Christmas Eve, when Potter seizes an opportunity, thanks to George's hapless uncle, to steal $8,000 from the Bailey Building & Loan, then threatens to charge George with the theft. This latest indignity, on top of his daily troubles, drives George first to verbally abuse his family, [[DrowningMySorrows to get drunk]], and then to [[DrivenToSuicide attempt suicide]], after realizing his life insurance would be able to cover all his debts and then some.

This is where the film began. Clarence appears, prevents George from committing suicide, and then [[BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor grants his unintentional wish]], creating an AlternateUniverse in which George never existed.

Wandering around town, George soon discovers that Pottersville, the alternate Bedford Falls, is full of strip clubs and drinking dens. All his friends and acquaintances are miserable, his brother is dead (as are a number of soldiers whose lives Harry saved in WorldWarII), and his wife is a [[OldMaid spinster]]. Clarence then explains how George single-handedly prevented this dire fate. He, and he alone, kept Potter in check, preventing the town from descending into squalor and vice.

George takes back his wish and Bedford Falls is restored. When he returns home, the sheriff is waiting to arrest him, but all the neighbors rush in, offering money. Mary had started making telephone calls immediately after George left the house, finding out the truth and spreading the word. George has been saved. His life may never improve, but he now knows that he is appreciated, and has made a difference.

This film had a resurgence for a while in the U.S. during the 1980s when it was discovered that the UsefulNotes/{{copyright}} on the film was never renewed, which meant the film was in the PublicDomain and any television station could legally show it as often as they wanted without paying for a license. Many of the PBS stations across the country ran it during pledge week. Routinely during Christmas, you could find as many as five or six stations in an area all carrying the movie at some time of the day or evening. This practice ended when the studio that produced the film realized while they couldn't do anything about the film itself, they could - and did - pick up the rights to the music used in it and to the original story, upon which those copyrights were renewed, and then announced to television stations that from that point forward they would enforce the copyright on the music and story, meaning you'd now need a license to broadcast the movie.

Not to be confused with ''[[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031500/ It's a Wonderful World]]'', a completely different black-and-white Jimmy Stewart movie made seven years prior. Neither should be confused with the video game ''It's A Wonderful World'' AKA ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou''.
----
!!Just say the word, Mary, and I'll lasso you some Tropes:
* AdaptationalVillainy: In the short story that the movie is based on, Mr. Potter is only the [[TheGhost unseen]] owner of a photography studio and doesn't have any conflict with George.
* AdultFear: Losing all your money? Possibly betrayed by those you love? Never fulfilled your dreams? This movie has AdultFear in ''spades''.
** From the very beginning the movie is filled with the kinds of things that keep grown-ups up at night - George almost loses his little brother to a tragic accident, and is himself disabled because of it. The whole scene with Gower in the pharmacy is AdultFear on both sides - Gower loses his beloved son to a terrifying epidemic, and if George hadn't noticed what he did to the drugs while intoxicated, [[ParanoiaFuel a family would have unknowingly given their sick child poison because they would have had no reason not to place their trust in a medical authority.]] And that's just in the first twenty minutes of the movie.
* TheAlcoholic: Uncle Billy and then some. In the Georgeless universe, he's put in a sanitarium for it.
* AluminumChristmasTrees: That gym with the swimming pool under the floor really exists (at Beverly Hills High School). Capra added the scene to the movie after he heard about the gym, noting that [[RealityIsUnrealistic no writer could have come up with an idea like that]].
* AnAesop: ''No man is a failure who has friends''.
* AuthorTract: That the movie bears down very hard on the value of home ownership and the need for it to build happy, healthy communities, as opposed to the dangerous shacks Potter rents out is ''not'' a coincidence. To audiences at the time it bordered on {{Anvilicious}}.
* ArtShift: The Pottersville scenes are done in the FilmNoir style.
* BackhandedCompliment: Potter eulogizing Peter Bailey as "a man of high ideals. ...[-[[BaitAndSwitchComment so called.]]-]"
* BadGuyBar: Nick's. "This oughta be Martini's place!".
* BaldOfEvil: Mr. Potter.
* BarBrawl: Zuzu's teacher's husband, Mr. Welsh, finds George at Martini's bar and punches him in the eye. Martini then kicks Welsh out of the bar.
* BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor: "[[RetGone I wish I'd never been born!]]"
* BettyAndVeronica: Mary and Violet, respectively ([[FirstGirlWins George chooses Mary]]).
* BillBillJunkBill: Potter, as head of the draft board: "1A...1A......1A."
* BittersweetEnding: For such a famously feel-good movie, audiences may be frustrated by how Potter gets off scot-free and that George never gets the chance to live his dream of traveling abroad and becoming an architect. But really, it's George's internal conflict that is the most important, so that's the one that gets resolved.
* BizarroUniverse: Pottersville
* BlackAndWhiteMorality: George is a kind, selfless man while Mr. Potter is a heartless business owner who wants to run the town.
* BookEnds: The first thing we see George do is save Harry from drowning, and the last thing he does before wishing he was never born is save Clarence from drowning.
* BowtiesAreCool: Clarence. Also, Ernie when he's on the job.
* BreakTheCutie: George goes through a ''lot'' of turmoil, here. See DespairEventHorizon, below.
* BrickJoke:
** George repeatedly breaking the knob off the staircase rail. See RunningGag below.
** "Hee-haw!"
* ButterflyEffect: When George saves Clarence from the river, it is snowing quite heavily. After his wish, there is none falling. When he is "restored," the snow immediately falls at the same rate. Somehow George not being there altered the weather patterns for upstate New York.
* {{Catchphrase}}: "Hee-haw!" for Sam Wainwright.
* ChekhovsArmory: Pretty much everything that happens over the course of the movie is shown to be significant when George sees what Bedford Falls is like without him.
* ChekhovsGag: Uncle Billy's being forgetful and scatter-brained is PlayedForLaughs for about 2/3 of the film until his carelessness leads him to leave the company's $8000 with Mr Potter.
* ChildhoodFriendRomance: Mary, who was in love with George from girlhood onward.
* ChivalrousPervert: George shows signs of this. "Maybe I can sell tickets."
* ChristmasMiracle: However 90% of the movie is a story about George's life and takes place at some point other than Christmas. It's also just a coincidence that the event that would push George over the edge, Uncle Billy losing the $8000, happens on Christmas Eve. It could've happened any other day of the year and we'd have had the exact same story.
* ChronicHeroSyndrome: George just has to help everyone at the cost of his own dreams. He doesn't even go through with his own suicide when he sees that someone (Clarence) is drowning and needs help, and he decides to jump in to rescue him instead.
* CloseKnitCommunity: Bedford Falls
* CloseupOnHead: While George is [[DrowningMySorrows drowning his sorrows]] at the Martini bar, the camera moves up close to his head as he makes a desperate prayer and is crying ManlyTears. There are also many loving shots of Donna Reed's face.
* {{Cloudcuckoolander}}:
** Everyone thinks Clarence is nuts at his first appearance, including George.
** Among the living, Uncle Billy is the best candidate. In the alternate timeline where George was never born, he wound up in an insane asylum.
* CluelessChickMagnet: Young George doesn't notice (or is repelled by) Violet and Mary's advances -- he's too busy planning for his future harem in India. Even as he gets older, he still has no idea how much Mary (and possibly Violet) still loves him.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: Henry Potter, one of the most notable examples in film.
* CrapsackWorld: Pottersville, at least from Capra's wholesome, conservative Catholic perspective. The main part of town is a swinging place packed with bars, dance halls, strip clubs and gambling dens blasting jazz music. (Just in case you might think that [[http://www.salon.com/2001/12/22/pottersville/ actually sounds pretty awesome]], the rest of the town is a depressing, dreary slum full of abandoned houses, where the people George knows are all miserable. George spends most of the Pottersville sequence trying to find the last friend he saw, bar owner Martini. A deleted scene exists in which George finds Martini's grave near Harry's, as Clarence explains that Martini and his family died in a fire because they couldn't move out of Potter's slums.)
* CreatorProvincialism: At the start of the film God observes that George is due to kill himself "at exactly 10:45 ''Earth time''". Apparently even ''God'' thinks America (specifically upstate New York) is the epicentre of the Earth.
* CrucifiedHeroShot: If you're looking for it, it's so obvious: when the angels 'pause' George's life, he's standing with his arms held up and out in the pose. This is a subversion, however, as George is shown from the side, rather than the front, and has spread out his arms to excitedly ask for a large suitcase.
* DaddysGirl: Zuzu seems to be this.
* DavidVersusGoliath: George vs. Mr. Potter.
-->"And are the local yokels making with those David-and-Goliath wisecracks..."
* DeadGuyJunior: George and Mary's first son is named Peter, after George's late father.
* DeadpanSnarker: Mary, of all people, has moments of this.
-->'''Mary:''' [[RefugeInAudacity He's making violent love to me, Mother.]]
** When she sees George walking back and forth in front of her house scraping her wooden fence with a stick, she yells out her window, "What are you doing? ''Picket''ing?"
** When George comes to bed late thinking she's asleep and they share a tender moment:
--->'''George''': Why did you ever marry a guy like me?\\
'''Mary''': To keep from being an OldMaid.
** George himself is a fair snarker in his own right.
--->'''Clarence:''' We don't use money in heaven.\\
'''George:''' Ah, well, it ''comes in pretty handy down here'', bub.
*** As mentioned above, casually musing about selling tickets while Mary (not yet his wife) is hiding behind a bush in a rather embarrassing state.
** They actually engage frequently in a playful banter reminiscent of ol' [[TheThinMan Nick and Nora]].
*** This takes on a much [[MoodWhiplash darker shade]] during George's desperation sequence.
* DecoyDamsel: Inverted with Clarence, who screams like a girl after intentionally jumping in the river.
* DespairEventHorizon: George's entire life is a spiral of quiet desperation which is slowly winding him up... until he finally snaps. And it is terrifying. [[spoiler:He gets better, though.]]
* DeusExMachina: [[AvertedTrope Completely averted]]. The "god" appears, but when he goes away, George is physically in the same spot he was in before; the only thing that is different is his attitude.
** And it drives home the point of the whole movie: ''everyone is George''.
--->'''Clarence''': Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many others, and when he isn't there, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
* DigitalDestruction: Creator/{{Paramount}} had ''all'' the grain removed in 2006, but the public didn't seem bothered with how sterile the image became until after watching it on Blu-Ray a few years later.
* DistractedByTheSexy: At one point, a nameless background male character turns his head to watch Violet walk by while crossing the street and nearly gets hit by a car as a result.
* TheDitz: Uncle Billy.
* DoorFocus: After a heated argument, George Bailey leaves Mary's house only to return because he forgot his hat. A little more yelling later, [[SlapSlapKiss smoochies ensue]].
* DramaticWind: Lampshaded by Clarence, who is irritated at the unwanted special effects.
* DrinkOrder: George orders a bourbon while Clarence deliberates what to get, which only makes the barman angrier.
-->'''Nick:''' Look, mister, I'm standin' here waitin' for you to ''make up your mind''...\\
'''Clarence:''' [[ComicallyMissingThePoint That's a good man]].
* DrivenToSuicide: George contemplating jumping off the bridge. Thankfully, Clarence was there to save him.
* DrowningMySorrows:
** George gets drunk in the bar before attempting suicide.
** George's boss in the past, Mr. Gower, gets smashed after receiving a telegram informing him of his son's death.
* TheDutifulSon: George stays in Bedford Falls to take over his dead father's business.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Well, sort of. It still has a bittersweet feeling.
* {{Egopolis}}:
** Pottersville. Ernie lives "in a shack in [[TheCityNarrows Potter's Field]]", the bizarro version of Bailey Park.
** Ironically, the ego getting stroked is George's. He's being shown a CrapsackWorld that exists because he didn't. The real world even has a housing complex called Bailey Park. Although, "Bailey Park" is named after his father.
* EmpathicEnvironment: The snow ceases to fall when George is in the alternate universe and resumes when he returns.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: Mr. Potter '''is''' this trope. Seriously, almost every scene and every fifth line of his dialogue features a gross miscalculation of one of the Baileys, or human nature in general. To elaborate ...
** Potter doesn't understand Peter Bailey's motivation for creating the Building & Loan, or George's motivation for (permanently) postponing his vacation and college education to keep the B&L going... even after George spells it out for him in his TheReasonYouSuckSpeech. The notion that providing decent housing for the townspeople might be rewarding simply does not click with Potter.
** Potter assumes that the crowd that runs on the B&L is a violent lynch mob rather then the frightened, desperate, but quite well-behaved crowd it actualy is.
** Still not sure who or what he's dealing with, Potter wonders aloud to his real estate flunky how Bailey commands public respect despite the fact that he doesn't make a great deal of money off of his (potentially lucrative) housing projects.
** Potter attempts to bribe George with a lucrative job -- provided that George dissolve the B&L and hand it over to Potter. Potter makes a good sales pitch... but George is only tempted for a grand total of thirty seconds (time it), before the revulsion hits him. It's Potter's sweaty palm that tips George off to the fact that Potter is still scheming against him.
** Potter's final swing-and-a-miss is easy to overlook, though the climax hinges on it. While gloating over George's downfall, Potter taunts him asking "why doesn't he ask the rabble" for the money, predicting that the "rabble" would run him out of town. Of course, this is ''exactly'' what Mary and Uncle Billy do, and the townspeople rally in support en-masse around George. Potter is a poor student of the human creature...
** Honestly, does ''anyone'' who considers a fellow human being "worth more dead than alive" understand Good?
* EvilCripple: Mr. Potter's wheelchair looks like a throne.
* EvilOldFolks: Potter.
* EvilIsPetty: Potter never forgets George's insult to him at a board meeting, even twenty years later.
* FailedASpotCheck:
** George and Mary are the only couple who don't realize they're dancing over a swimming pool.
** Uncle Billy losing $8000 in an envelope wrapped in a newspaper that he inadvertently gives to Potter.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Mr. Potter.
* ForWantOfANail: The entire meaning of the alternate world.
-->'''Clarence''': Harry Bailey fell through the ice and drowned at the age of nine.\\
'''George''': THAT'S A LIE! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport!\\
'''Clarence''': Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them, because you weren't there to save Harry!
* AFriendInNeed: The entire town, for George Bailey.
* FriendToAllLivingThings: Uncle Billy has a bizarre assortment of animals living with him.
* FromBadToWorse: Potter holding the money mistakenly handed to him by Uncle Billy.
* GeorgeLucasAlteredVersion: Even though Jimmy Stewart hated colorization, this movie received that treatment twice in TheEighties, and again in 2007.
* GetOut: '''SLAM.''' "That's ''it''. Out you two pixies go, though the door or out the window!"
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar:
** After loaning out his own money and having only two dollars left.
-->'''George:''' Let's put them in the vault and see what happens.
** Violet is as promiscuous as a female character is allowed to be in 1940's cinema, culminating in her clearly implied fate as a hooker in Potterville, making this {{Foreshadowing}} gag in the childhood flashback scene all the harsher:
--> '''Violet''': I like him.
--> '''Mary''': [[ReallyGetsAround You like]] ''[[ReallyGetsAround every]]'' [[ReallyGetsAround boy.]]
-->'''Violet''': [[EthicalSlut What's wrong with that?]]
** Potter ''very'' strongly implies that some folk think that George is having an affair with Violet, due to his loaning her money.
** Bert's reaction to seeing Violet walk down the street: "Think I'll go home and see what the wife's doing."
** Potter's status as a KarmaHoudini, given that UsefulNotes/TheHaysCode made them strictly verboten. For 1947, this was quite impressive.
* GondorCallsForAid: The entire town turns out to help raise the money for George.
* TheGreatDepression: George and Mary's wedding day was the day of a bank run on the Building and Loan.
** This is ''very'' fortuitous, as the $2000 that George withdrew for their honeymoon is what kept the BBL from going under.
* GuardianAngel: Clarence. George is a bit less than impressed; probably he expected someone with wings.
* GuiltComplex: Although, at first, he rightfully blames Uncle Billy for the loss of the money, George then blames himself, without explaining how he could have been expected to prevent it.
* HannibalLecture: When Potter is trying to recruit George for his operaton, he shows that although he doesn't understand George, he ''has'' been watching him.
* HappilyMarried: George and Mary. George's parents are also implied to have been this, and in a single throwaway line midway through the movie, it's implied that Uncle Billy is in perpetual mourning for his own late wife.
* HaveAGayOldTime:
** "He's making violent love to me, mother!" Though this wouldn't have scandalized her much less in the '20s with the meaning intended than it would now with the current meaning.
** Pottersville Nick kicking George and Clarence out of his bar, calling them "[[MistakenForGay you two pixies]]" (which back then was almost certainly meant as slang for hobo or drunk; also, the term '[[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pixilated?s=t pixilated]]' was slang for 'kind of crazy'). Or just Nick making fun of Clarence's claims to being an angel.
* HelloNurse: Violet Bick.
* HeroicBSOD: George suffers this when he's on the verge of being arrested for embezzlement.
* HeroicSacrifice:
** Not in the normal sense, but George and Mary give their honeymoon money to the people who need money to make it through the week that the local bank is closed.
** George's whole life, really, staying home and working for the people of Bedford Falls.
** Clarence dives into the river just before George jumped off the bridge, thus resulting in George saving him from saving George.
* {{Hobos}}: As George wasn't there to stop him from mixing up a prescription, Pottersville's Mr. Gower is a homeless ex-con.
* HonestCorporateExecutive: George's friend makes it big in emerging businesses, and at the end he wires enough money to George to bail him out several times over.
* HonorBeforeReason: A lot of things George does, especially refusing the job Mr. Potter [[DealWithTheDevil offers him]].
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: Violet
* HotLibrarian: While Pottersville Mary isn't really ''meant'' to be this, she's still Donna Reed in [[CuteGlassesGirl glasses]]. They had to apply a mask of concealer just to make her seem average.
* HowWeGotHere
* ICouldaBeenAContender: George had big dreams of seeing the world, all of them dashed.
* INeedAFreakingDrink:
** In Pottersville, George convinces himself that a stiff one will clear him right up.
** Ernie says this after he witnesses Clarence teleport.
* IOwnThisTown: Pottersville, natch.
* IconicItem: Zuzu's petals.
* ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy: Pottersville's Bert finally has enough of George and fires a wayward shot at him. Probably {{Justified|Trope}}, since God is unlikely to let George get seriously hurt.
* ImprobablyCoolCar: Inverted by George Bailey's circa-1920 Dodge tourer. Not treated as an AllegedCar but far older than a prominent citizen and owner of a financial institution would've owned by 1941[[note]]It might've actually been more believable in 1946, after three years of no new-car production[[/note]].
* IncessantMusicMadness: When George returns home after discovering that Billy misplaced the deposit money, he begins to mentally unravel while Janie can be heard practicing ''Hark the Herald Angels Sing'' on the piano. Eventually, he snaps and shouts, "Haven't you learned that silly tune yet? You've been playing it over and over! Now stop it! Stop it!!"
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: George Bailey.
* IronicEcho: Potter's brow is twisted with rage as he recalls George calling him a "warped, frustrated old man."
-->'''Potter:''' What are you but a warped, frustrated ''young'' man?
* ItsAWonderfulPlot: TropeMaker and TropeNamer. Go click on the trope page to see a long list of how many works have either played this trope straight or lampooned it.
* JacobMarleyApparel: Clarence is still wearing the undershirt he wore when he kicked it. "I didn't have time to get changed."
* {{Jerkass}}: Honestly, if you didn't want to just smash Potter in the face before this movie, after viewing it, you will.
* JerkassHasAPoint:
** George employs an incompetent relative in a position of trust and gives home loans to people with bad credit. Sound familiar?
** George concedes Potter's point that "(his) father was no businessman," and that he doesn't understand why he established the company in the first place—in the middle of a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech no less.
* KarmaHoudini: Potter, in a time where Karma Houdinis were banned in the film industry. He was supposed to die of a heart attack, ''onscreen'' no less, but the scene was cut because Clarence's narration over the scene made it all seem too macabre.
** One could also make the argument that dying alone and unloved, as it's implied he will, technically disqualifies him from Karma Houdini status.
* KneelBeforeZod: Potter relishes George groveling before him at last.
** Also, the chair across from his desk is noticeably shorter than Potter's wheelchair, so that whenever someone comes into his office, he can literally look down upon them.
* LampshadeHanging: Uncle Billy notes that "Nobody changes, here!" after Harry comes home from college.
* LargeHam: Actually a WorldOfHam, especially George, thanks to JimmyStewart whenever he's happy or depressed.
* LawOfConservationOfDetail: Much of the first hour sets up what will be changed by George not existing.
* {{Leitmotif}}: Some of Clarence's scenes have an instrumental of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" playing in the background.
* TheLoad: Uncle Billy.
* MaidenAunt: When George gets the chance to find out how the world would have turned out if he'd never been born, he finds that his wife Mary had become a bitter, unhappy Maiden Aunt.
* ManipulativeBastard: Mr. Potter is a textbook example of this trope, constantly scheming and plotting, to ruin George Bailey's life, and by extension, the lives of the inhabitants of Bedford Falls. Not for nothing is he ranked #6 on AFI's List of "Villains"
* ManlyTears: Jimmy Stewart, everybody. The tears were real. Jimmy Stewart got so into the moment that he genuinely started crying while reciting the lines of the prayer. Frank Capra asked him to do it over so he could zoom the camera in and Stewart couldn't duplicate it. So the scene isn't a camera zoom, it's hours of painstaking work to take a small part of the original footage and enlarge it bit-by-bit.
* MathematiciansAnswer: When George asks Mary whether she is having a boy or a girl, she just nods and says "Mmm-hmmm!"
* MeaningfulName:
** "Pottersville". In the Bible, the potter's field refers to a place where foreigners (or strangers) are buried. In George's alternate reality, the town is a graveyard where he finds his brother's tombstone.
** There's a more overt reference than that. In the first act, the neighborhood Potter built (that the Martini family moves out of) is actually called "Potter's Field".
** There is also the Biblical reference as 'The Potter's Field' was the place where suicides were also buried.
** Of lesser note, Mr. Martini (mentioned above) is the owner of a bar.
* MerchantPrince: Mr. Potter uses his money to basically run the entire town except Bailey Building & Loan.
* MoodWhiplash: George's romping with Mary [[spoiler:outside of their future home]] is interrupted by his Uncle Billy, with the news that George's father had a stroke.
** Actually, there's a lot of it all through the story.
* MorallyBankruptBanker: Averted and played straight.
* MysteriousMiddleInitial: Henry F. Potter.
* NakedPeopleTrappedOutside: Mary. In 1946! (Or 1928, according to the movie's chronology.)
* NeverRecycleABuilding: George and Mary move into an old abandoned mansion which, until then, had been used for the local teens to throw rocks at.
* NiceHat: Clarence's fedora hat.
* NumberOneDime: Clarence's copy of ''TomSawyer''.
* OlderThanTheyLook: "Two hundred and ninety-three, ahh......[[AndADietCoke next May]]."
** Which oddly suggests that he would more likely have been a fan of JohnMilton than MarkTwain.
* OurAngelsAreDifferent: This is where the whole 'every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings' concept was born.
* ThePowerOfFriendship
* PrayerIsALastResort: George even prays, "Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man..." Slightly subverted, though, since his GuardianAngel has been looking out for him all along after all.
* PrettyInMink: A few furs in the backgrounds of some scenes, and it's mentioned Violet has a few.
* PropheticName:
** Methinks Mr. Martini's path in life was set from birth.
** There's also [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Freddie Othello]], Donna's would-be jealous suitor at the high school dance.
* RealityIsUnrealistic: See the AluminumChristmasTrees entry. The scene was called "Movie fakery at its worst" despite there being a real one, since the real one was in Beverly Hills, Calif. Swimming pools under the floorboards were rare then. A small town in New York State which is being kept respectable by creative refinancing is not ''likely'' to have one back in the late 1920s. Who paid for that?
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech:
** Well, what are you but a warped frustrated young man?
** Which is a call-back to one George gives Potter near the beginning of the film, declaring that while his father wasn't a success, he helped other people realize their dreams of home ownership, making him richer than Potter will ever be.
** George gives Potter another one mid-way through, accusing him of thinking the world revolves around him and dismissing him as nothing more than a "spider."
* RefugeInAudacity: George at the dance after he cuts in-between Mary and her date to dance with her. Her date protests and George tells ''him'' to stop being annoying, and he actually apologizes to George before he realizes what he did.
* TheRemake: The 1977 MadeForTVMovie ''It Happened One Christmas'', featuring a {{Gender Flip}}ped version of the story with Mary (played by Marlo Thomas) as the central character.
* RetGone and UnPerson: Combined in the definitive scene, where George gets to see what life would be like in Bedford Falls – check that, Potterville – if he never existed. Indeed, none of the townspeople George holds dear – Bert, Ernie, Mary, Uncle Billy, Giuseppe, Harry and his mother – know who he is, and think that this strange fellow is some kind of kook who is out to cause trouble. Worse, Mr. Potter has a vice grip on Bedford Falls, which becomes Pottersville (because George's nullifying influence that always foils Potter isn't there). In the end, George sees that he is needed in Bedford Falls and wants to become a person again. God obliges. Nothing happens until he addresses him.
* TheRoaringTwenties
* RuleOfThree: George pulls the head off the wooden railing three times. See RunningGag bellow.
* RunningGag: George climbing the stairs of his house and yanking the head off of the wooden railing.
* ScreamingWoman: Mary as an old maid in Pottersville. She even faints in the arms of some burly men!
* TheScrooge: Potter, obviously.
* ScullySyndrome: George is slow to believe Clarence is really an angel who has altered reality, and keeps waving off the clues that something is wrong, like his restored hearing. "Musta been that jump in that cold water..."
* ServileSnarker: Annie, who works as a maid for George's parents.
* ShamefulStrip: Happens to Mary when George steps on her robe, leaving her naked in public but fortunately at night (and by accident on his part). See the NakedPeopleTrappedOutside above.
* ShamingTheMob: When a bank run threatens to put the Building and Loan under.
* ShipperOnDeck: A middle-aged man who is tired of waiting for George and Mary to kiss.
-->'''Man:''' Bah! [[YouthIsWastedOnTheDumb Youth is wasted on the wrong people!]] [slams window]
-->'''George:''' [[HeyYou Hey, mister]]! Come on back out here, and [[IWillShowYouX I'll show you some kissing]] that'll put hair back on your head!
** George's mother also qualifies when she pushes George to track down Mary.
* ShoutOut: Toward the end when George is running through town, we see a movie theater with the BingCrosby movie ''The Bells of St. Mary's'' prominently advertised on its marquee. (Henry Travers, who plays Clarence in ''[=IAWL=]'', had costarred in the earlier film.)
* ShutUpKirk: Potter, after a lengthy TheReasonYouSuckSpeech from George capped off with how "in (his) book," his father is richer than Potter will ever be, says "I'm not interested in your book. I'm talking about the Building and Loan!"
* SingleMaltVision:
** A snarky old man to George, who insists he drove into the man's tree. "You must mean two other trees."
** Also used when Uncle Billy gets soused. He asks George where his hat is (he's wearing it); George takes it off his head and offers it to him.
--> '''Uncle Billy:''' Which one?
--> '''George:''' The middle one.
* SmugSnake: Potter.
* SnowMeansLove: It stops snowing after George wishes he'd never been born, and only starts up again after he decides he wants to live again. Also, one of the earliest depiction of a ButterflyEffect.
* StarsAreSouls: At the beginning, some angels are talking and the visuals shown are a galaxy and a nebula that flash in synch with their voices. Then Clarence is summoned and a smaller star shoots into view. Clarence is also explained to have died previously, although we aren't told whether the other two angels were ever people.
* StealingFromTheTill: What George is accused of after Potter takes the money.
* SuicideDare: "You're worth more ''dead'' than alive!" So sayeth Potter, in one of the most reprehensible, heartless, remorselessly cruel comments ever to make it to the big screen … and it drives George to the brink.
* SuperMultiPurposeRoom: The high school gym, which opens up into a swimming pool.
* TalkingDownTheSuicidal: The whole reason for the plot. The angels have decided to respond to the many people praying for George Bailey by having Clarence do whatever he can to persuade George to not commit suicide. He does this by granting George's wish to have never been born and showing him [[CrapsackWorld the resulting state of affairs]], demonstrating what a positive force George has been in the lives of his friends and family.
* TakeItToTheBridge: George almost takes a high dive leap from one.
* TelegraphGagSTOP: Sam Wainwright sends a telegram from London when he hears George is in trouble. Ernie reads it aloud, including the stops.
-->Mr. Gower cabled you need cash, stop. My office instructed to advance you up to twenty-five thousand dollars, stop. Hee Haw and Merry Christmas! Sam Wainwright.
* ThoseTwoGuys: Burt and Ernie.
* ThresholdGuardians: Inverted with everyone who offers George the chance to leave Bedford Falls. It seems that George does a RefusalOfTheCall every time. The truth is that his true calling is staying and looking out for his hometown.
* TimeshiftedActor
* TitleDrop: Clarence pulls this on George.
--> '''Clarence:''' You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it all away?
* TragicDropout: George's dissatisfaction with his life is due to his having been this.
* UnPerson: Clarence turns George into one, allowing him to see what the world would be like if he was just erased from existence and nothing filled his void.
* ViceCity: Pottersville seems to be full of less than reputable establishments.
* TheVoice: Angels Franklin and Joseph, who only "appear" as stars in the night sky during the opening scene.
* TheVoiceless: Potter's aide.
* WeCanRuleTogether: Potter attempts to bribe George into giving up the Building & Loan.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Ruth Dakin Bailey. Shouldn't she have accompanied Harry to Bedford Falls at the end?
* WorldWarII: Mentioned in the first act. George was exempt from military service because of his bad ear, but organized his community's efforts and served in civil roles. Harry Bailey served in the Navy, and received the (Congressional) Medal of Honor for saving a transport full of soldiers.
* WritersCannotDoMath: Harry Bailey's grave reading "1911 - 1919," despite Clarence saying he died at the age of nine. [[ViewersAreMorons For those that don't understand]], that's ''eight'', not nine.
* YouAreBetterThanYouThinkYouAre: The essential point Clarence is telling George; rather than a worthless failure, George is a deeply respected community leader who has been a blessing to everyone he knows.
* YouAreNotAlone: The final scenes of the movie is this in spades when every one of George's companions comes to his aid for once.
* YoungerThanTheyLook: In the {{alternate universe}}, Clarence says that Mary is an "old maid", yet when we see her, she looks a bit younger when she is closing the library. Maybe it must be due to that makeup.
* YoungestChildWins: Appears to be in full force, with George's younger brother Harry becoming a war hero. Averted in the end, as Harry leads the toast for George Bailey, the most popular man in Bedford Falls.
--> "To my big brother George, the richest man in town."
** We see in the backstory that Harry only won because George stepped aside for him. George looked out for his brother and made several sacrifices for him, including staying behind and looking after the Building & Loan so Harry could go to college (even paying for it with his own tuition). In the alternate Bedford Falls, Harry never lived to see his tenth birthday without George to save his life.
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-->[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Ding Ding! ]]
'''Atta boy, Clarence!''
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