It's a Wonderful Life
Underrated (Despite Overexposure)
Thanks to its endless loop of reruns nearly every December, an entire generation has been raised to believe that It's a Wonderful Life is either A) a relentless harbinger that Christmas has arrived, or B) the poster child for Ted Turner's aggravating obsession with colorizing perfectly acceptable black and white films.
What might not be as obvious is this: It's a Wonderful Life is an amazingly resilient, possibly timeless film.
The story of a small-town dreamer who never seems able to achieve his heart's desire -- to leave his hometown and "see the world" -- works as well today (if not better) than when it was first released. Since 1946, the world has become a far more cynical place, and the ability of one family (much less one man) to withstand the march of corporate politics is far smaller now than it was when George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) provided Bedford Falls with its only acceptable alternative to doing business with the sneering, contemptuous Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore).
Despite what you might recall from its most-highlighted scenes, it's not all saccharine-sweet storytelling, either. George Bailey's dark descent into depression, disbelief and desperation is one of Jimmy Stewart's most impressive -- and overlooked -- performances. It's that palpable trip to rock bottom that makes the famous final sequence feel so deserved -- for George and for us.