Skip to main content

Where to watch It’s a Wonderful Life

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life.
RKO Radio Pictures

If ever there was a movie that could make generations cry with tears of happiness, it’s the Frank Capra holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Films like A Christmas Story and A Charlie Brown Christmas are also popular Christmas movies, but It’s a Wonderful Life is on another level. This is one of the greatest movies ever made, and it’s a genuinely moving story about George Bailey, as played by Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart.

It’s a Wonderful Life arrived in theaters in 1946, just a year after World War II ended. And for most of the movie, it paints a pretty bleak picture of George’s life. He had dreams and ambitions beyond his small town, but George sacrificed them all for the sake of his family’s Building and Loan business, and for the town of Bedford Falls. On Christmas Eve in 1945, George faces financial ruin and likely prison time through no fault of his own. That’s when an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and prevents George from committing suicide by showing him a world where he had never been born at all.

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” may be the most famous line from the movie, but in my opinion, the most impactful statement is the written message that Clarence leaves for George at the conclusion: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” That sentiment, and the story behind it, are the reasons why this film has endured for nearly eight decades. And this holiday season, you’ll be able to stream It’s a Wonderful Life any time that you like, or you can wait for its annual broadcast on TV.

Where can you watch It’s a Wonderful Life?

Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey holding his wife in one arm and his daughter in another.
Liberty Films / Liberty Films

If you want to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and see James Stewart discover the magic of Christmas, and the joy being alive, there are two main platforms where you can watch it for free with a subscription. Amazon Prime Video and Plex are the current streaming homes for It’s a Wonderful Life.

Prime Video has a considerable library of its own with originals like The Tomorrow War, The Peripheral, Fleabag, Jack Ryan, and the worldwide hit The Lord of thee Rings: The Rings of Power. Prime’s library also includes classic films like the James Bond movies and The 40-Year Old Virgin.

Stream It’s a Wonderful Life on Prime Video

Plex gives you one place to find and access all the media that matters to you. From personal media on your own server, to free and on-demand movies and shows or live TV, to streaming music, you can enjoy it all in one app, on any device.

Stream It’s a Wonderful Life on Plex

A man looks at a woman in It's a Wonderful Life.

When does it stream for subscribers?

It’s a Wonderful Life is currently streaming on both platforms. Note that Prime Video has both the original black-and-white version and a colorized version. We advise you to stick with the original.

How much does it cost?

For Amazon Prime Video, it costs $9 a month just for the Prime Video service — it’s also free with a Prime membership. For Plex, a monthly subscription costs $5, an annual subscription costs $40, and a lifetime subscription costs $120. You can also check out these details on what each plan has to offer.

A man talks to a cop in It's a Wonderful LIfe.

Where can I watch it for free?

For now, Plex is offering It’s a Wonderful Life for free on its platform without the need for any subscription. The only catch is the film occasionally pauses for advertisements.

Wait, isn’t this on broadcast TV too?

Yes! NBC traditionally airs the movie on Christmas Eve. The exact time for this broadcast has yet to be revealed, but stay tuned for further updates as more information is revealed.

Is It’s a Wonderful Life worth it?

Does an angel have wings? Yes, it’s worth it! It’s a Wonderful Life is dated in the best possible way. They don’t make movies like this anymore, and that’s just one of the many reasons why people like it. Despite its reputation as a squeaky clean Christmas classic, the film is surprisingly dark and brutal. The movie deals with depression and, for much of its runtime, is unsentimental.

James Stewart gives one of his best performances ever as George Bailey, who gets his wish that he was never born and sees the dark results. The movie also stars Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, and a young Gloria Grahame as Violet. The movie was directed by Frank Capra and runs 130 minutes.

The movie has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 93% and an audience score of 95%.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
Where to watch Elf, the Will Ferrell Christmas movie
Will Ferrell in Elf.

Twenty years ago, who would have guessed that Elf would become one of the all-time great Christmas movies? It was only the second feature film helmed by Jon Favreau, and it was one of Will Ferrell's first leading roles following his long stint on Saturday Night Live. That combination proved to be too irresistible for audiences to pass up, which is why Elf is now celebrating two decades as a perennial holiday hit.

Ferrell stars as Buddy the elf, who just happens to be biologically human. Buddy grew up in the North Pole surrounded by elves who work for Santa Claus. He just doesn't fit in very well among the elves. One holiday season, Santa gives Buddy the inspiration to travel from the North Pole to New York City so he can meet the father he never knew. That's the basic setup for Elf, and now we're going to tell you where you can stream it this holiday season.
Where is Elf streaming?

Read more
Where to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The cast of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Forty years ago, the Griswold family found out that "it's a long way down the Holiday Road" during their big screen debut in National Lampoon's Vacation. The Griswolds returned in 1985 with the first sequel, National Lampoon's European Vacation. However, the Griswold clan has perhaps become best known for the third movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which arrived in theaters in 1989 on its way toward becoming a holiday favorite.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are the only actors to have stayed with the franchise through all five films, including Vegas Vacation in 1997 and Vacation in 2015. Chase and D'Angelo have been playing Clark and Ellen Griswold since 1983, but their kids have been recast in every subsequent film. In Christmas Vacation, Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis stepped in to play the Griswold children, Rusty and Audrey.

Read more
The best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime Video right now
Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer in The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Most of the major streaming services are currently overflowing with cheesy Christmas movies that never saw the inside of a movie theater. Instead, their Christmas flicks are either streaming originals or films that migrated from Lifetime, Hallmark, or any other TV network that pumps out dozens of Christmas movies every year.

Amazon Prime Video has a lot of those films, too. Fortunately, Prime Video is also the home of actual Christmas classics that offer so much more than these made-for-TV flicks. For this holiday season, we're throwing the spotlight on The Man Who Invented Christmas, Scrooged, Last Christmas, and Violent Night as they join our roundup of the best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.

Read more