The debate of what is the greatest Christmas film of all time is a common topic of conversation when it comes to this time of year.

In some respects 'Christmas films' have become their own genre and with the huge amount of choice you get from streaming services and what's shown on TV in the festive period, there's a lot to consider.

The likes of Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually, Miracle on 34th Street, Muppet Christmas Carol and Die Hard (yes it counts) have all earned much praise in this regard.

However, one film in particular easily clears the rest, and that is Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Why is It's a Wonderful Life the greatest Christmas film ever made?

It's a Wonderful Life concerns the story of George Bailey (played by James Stewart), who we come to learn very quickly is a selfless and altruistic individual.

At just 12 years old we see him save his brother from drowning, which causes him to go deaf in one ear, and that's a common theme we see emerge in his life about sacrificing his own goals for the good of the community.

George has big dreams and wants to travel the world, but is denied at every opportunity, and instead of leaving his home town of Bedford Falls he becomes intrinsically tied to it.

In particular, once his father suddenly dies George takes over the family business in Bailey Brothers Building and Loan to stop it being dissolved by the ruthless and despicable businessman Mr Potter (played brilliantly by Lionel Barrymore).

George eventually marries childhood sweetheart Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) starts a family and benefits Bedford Falls enormously.

However, after one particularly bad mishap on Christmas Eve where his life is seemingly in ruins, George contemplates suicide and his guardian angel Clarence comes in to try and help him out.

Even if you haven't seen the film you may be aware of the section where Clarence shows George a version of the world where he doesn't exist.

It is a genuinely chilling supernatural turn where it gets surprisingly dark for a while but hammers home its point in such an effective manner.

Celebrating life and all its ups and downs seems to be an aspect of film nowadays which is often sorely lacking, but It's a Wonderful Life shows that conveyed properly it can be so incredibly uplifting, and a tonic against all the evils the world has to offer.

The best ending to a film ever?

Now I won't spoil the ending but it is genuinely the most triumphant and soul-affirming thing I have ever laid witness to and it never fails to bring me to tears.

It brings its themes of strong familial connections and tightly connected community to the fore in such a fantastic way that I would be incredibly surprised it doesn't spark joy in you. If that doesn't encompass the Christmas spirit perfectly I don't know what does.

The payoffs in the narrative at this point are delightful in and of their own, even if you are somehow not moved by the whole affair.

A film that has stood the test of time

I've rewatched this film multiple times now and at first whilst I enjoyed it I was not particularly taken with George's backstory, all the ins and outs of managing the Building & Loan company.

However, as I've got older (and hopefully a bit wiser) I can recognise now how important every scene is in establishing George's story because the payoff at the end wouldn't be nearly as impactful without all the contact of his life built up before.

Also for a film that reaches the two-hour and ten-minute mark, it is paced exceptionally well, and there are many wonderful moments of honour and earnestness sprinkled throughout.

Despite getting somewhat mixed reviews at the time of its release, Frank Capra's effort stands out among an already great filmography and has without a doubt stood the test of time.

If you haven't yet seen It's a Wonderful Life yet it's available to watch on Amazon Prime and Channel 4 right now. I promise you you won't regret it.