Not all movies make me cry. I’m not necessarily a major weeper, but if a movie or a TV show strikes just the right chord, then my tears are a melody of all my feels.
That being said, there are some movies that make me cry more than most – and make me cry every time I watch them. This is one of those movies. (Beware: there are obviously spoilers.)
Granted, this movie can only be watched on or within two days of Christmas, but despite its seasonal categorization, it deserves to be on this list.
I’ve seen it dozens of times and it still gets me every time. But really just at one point.
I don’t cry so much when Harry Bailey falls into the ice. Nor do I shed a tear when George jumps in the icy water to save him. I get a little uncomfortable when Mr. Gower beats George’s just-destroyed ear until it bleeds because George didn’t deliver the poisoned pills Mr. Gower almost gave to a child when he was drunkenly grieving the death of his son. I get bolstered up, but not teary, when George confronts Mr. Potter and is subsequently made head of Bailey Building & Loan. I feel bad for him when ol’ Sam Wainwright drives through in his fancy car and George is left being the good guy building homes for those who need it and not asking much in return. I feel pride when he and Mary stay calm for the town and for the business and for each other during the bank run. My stomach is in knots when Uncle Billy accidentally hands over $8,000 to Mr. Potter. I feel terror alongside the children when their father goes into a belligerent rage and runs off to get a drink and then kill himself. I laugh when Clarence, poor old clockmaker, intervenes and feel bad for George when he can’t seem to find a way out of this parallel world where he wasn’t born.
But then that moment comes.
When he runs home, yelling out “Merry Christmas!” to everyone and to all the buildings and to cranky old Mr. Potter.
When he runs into his house and finds his kids and is so pleased that there’s a warrant for his arrest and Zuzu doesn’t have a “smidge of temperature.”
When Mary, who’s kind of the real hero of this story, comes home and George is so happy to see her, but she’s just doing her best to make her husband stand still and wait eagerly as people start pouring in for George.
And everyone’s bringing in money to help him.
Mr. Gower collected all the owed tabs.
Martini broke open the jukebox.
Even the policeman rips up a warrant for his arrest.
And then Harry comes in.
Harry the war hero.
Harry the one everyone was looking forward to coming home so they could throw a party for him.
Harry comes in after travelling through a blizzard to get there.
And he gives a toast.
To his big brother.
“The richest man in town.”
Tears. Every time. Guaranteed.
And then there’s that one last sucker punch to the tear ducts when George finds a copy of Tom Sawyer with the inscription, “No man is a failure who has friends.”