The Greatest Christmas Movie Of All Time Is Topping The Streaming Charts

The classic It's a Wonderful Life has been in Amazon Prime Video's Top 10 movie list since December 18.

By Parker James | Updated

It's a Wonderful Life

There’s nothing quite like curling up with loved ones around the fireplace during the holidays to watch a good old-fashioned Christmas movie. There are about a million out there, but chances are you’ll be watching Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), as it’s dominating the streaming charts

According to Flix Patrol, It’s a Wonderful Life has been in the top 10 of Amazon Prime streaming since December 18. It’s no surprise why this holiday classic has been continuously charting so high. The story revolves around George Bailey (James Stewart) looking at a long drop off a bridge on Christmas Eve.

Having given up on life, George calls out to heaven for a sign. 

His deceased brother and archangels hear his prayers and send down Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), made a Christmas icon by It’s a Wonderful Life, to show George that his life is worth living and to earn his angel wings. Clarence shows George how he saved his brother Harry Bailey (Todd Karns) as a child who went on to become a war hero during WWII, saved a pharmacist from poisoning a patient, and kept his family business afloat.  

George doesn’t believe the angel and jumps off the bridge anyway. Clarence dives in after him, saving his life at the last second. Furious and saddened by the fact that he was saved, he wishes to never have been born.

Clarence, determined to earn his wings and help George, shows him that it’s truly a wonderful life, by revealing what it would be if he hadn’t been born. His brother died and never saved any lives during WWII, the pharmacist went to prison for manslaughter, and the family business went under, leaving George’s uncle in a mental institution. 

Realizing that George’s contribution to his family, friends, and hometown has made his life beautiful no matter the hardships, he rushes back to the angel to demand his life be restored. The movie ends with Clarence earning his wings and George being called the “richest man in town” by his brother. 

It's a Wonderful Life

Even though It’s a Wonderful Life is over 80 years old, the film created a certain formula for Christmas movies that is still being repeated today. Instead of a consumerist idea of gift-giving and outdoing everyone else in town, It’s a Wonderful Life shows us the important things. Family, friends, and the beauty of life through its hardships, mishaps, and triumphs.

This idea is shown in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), A Christmas Story (1983), and even Elf (2003). By crafting this specific story of the importance of community during the darkest time of the year, It’s a Wonderful Life set the stage for almost every Christmas movie to date. 

Now why It’s A Wonderful Life spread so quickly and has remained as a Christmas movie staple for as long as it has is bafflingly simple. Originally, the movie was owned and produced by Liberty Films but was transferred to Paramount Pictures and remained there until 1951. The rights to the film changed hands a number of times until landing at National Telefilm Associates (NTA). 

It’s a Wonderful Life remained at the NTA until 1974 when a clerical error prevented the NTA from renewing the copyright properly. This one small slip-up led to the film being plopped right into the public domain and led to hundreds of TV stations around the U.S. playing the film on repeat. That cemented It’s A Wonderful Life into the American Christmas zeitgeist to this very day.