First Draft: Five Must-Read Classic Holiday Movie Screenplays

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

After George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he had never been born, an angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.

Essential Holiday Movie Elements

This classic is the true “granddaddy” of holiday movies, utilizing each and every essential holiday movie element. We once again have the nostalgia of the holiday season, thanks in part to the atmosphere of the film. The movie created many of the tropes and cliches we look for and expect, so those are obviously present, while both hope and redemption encapsulate the whole concept of the movie itself. Finally there’s the magic, showcased in subtle but prevalent fashion with George being contacted by an angel who grants his wish of never being born. We watch as George struggles through seeing this magical alternative reality only to learn the error of his ways—earning him the blessing of returning to his life and fixing the wrongs and mistakes he made.

Interesting Screenplay Trivia

Two of the writers—husband and wife writing team Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett— called the finished film “horrid” and refused to see it when it was released. They even had an arbitration with the Writer’s Guild to have Frank Capra’s name taken off, but it remains on. The finished film was also a box office bomb when it debuted in 1946.

Click here to read the screenplay for It’s a Wonderful Life.

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1 Comment

  1. Tom Luca

    December 15, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Love this article, Thank You very much and I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! Love reading MovieMaker. Only filmmaking magazine I read enthusiastically aside from American Cinematographer and Make-up Artist Magazine.

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