Where to Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ During the 2023 Holiday Season

black-and-white image from the ending of the 1946 film
Courtesy Everett Collection
"No man is a failure who has friends," and George Bailey (James Stewart) has plenty

If you were around in the 1970s and ’80s, you probably remember the days when Frank Capra’s beloved, Oscar-nominated 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life was in the public domain.

That meant that the movie was on some channel or another almost every time you turned on the television, so between Thanksgiving and Christmas you could watch it possibly a dozen times or more if you wanted to, either in its original black-and-white form or in an awful colorized version (“colorizing” classic B&W films was all the rage at the time). That certainly helped it to become a beloved Christmastime viewing staple many decades after its release.

movie poster for 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life." On the left of the poster is a large illustration of James Stewart (on the left) holding Donna Reed close as their characters kiss in a scene from the movie. Below them, in a yellow box, reads text "Frank Capra's wonderfilm It's a Wonderful LIfe' starring James Stewart, America's favorite feller, and Donna Reed, Jimmy's favorite girl" At the top right of the poster reads "It's a Wonderful Love!" and right below that is another illustration of Stewart and Reed's characters, with Stewart on the left holding up Reed with both gazing and smiling at each other.

Courtesy Everett Collection

Of course, It’s a Wonderful Life lends itself to such multiple viewings, since it is one of those fantastic movies that a lot of people, myself included, stop on and watch when they happen upon it while channel-surfing, no matter how many times they have seen it.

Best Actor Oscar nominee James Stewart is, well, wonderful (as usual) in his portrayal of George Bailey, a discouraged and despairing building-and-loan manager who contemplates suicide before a guardian angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and allows George to see what his small town of Bedford Falls would be without him — and all that is right in his world. Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Thomas Mitchell also lead the iconic film whose Oscar nominations also included Best Picture and Best Director for Capra.

black-and-white image from the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life." It is a nighttime scene on a bridge in a heavy snowfall. George Bailey (James Stewart) is on the right of the photo, excitedly talking to Bert the cop (Ward Bond) on the left.

Courtesy Everett Collection

“Bert, whaddya know about that!?!”


For a while though, the frequency of It’s a Wonderful Life on television was greatly diminished when NBC became the sole broadcaster of the film. So your opportunities to watch it on TV went from dozens down to one or two. NBC would usually show it on Christmas Eve, and perhaps another time earlier in December.

NBC still shows the film, but in recent years, It’s a Wonderful Life has also been airing in late November/December on cable channels within the NBC Universal family — including channels you would not necessarily expect to see it on, like Bravo and E! — so we are now back to having the chance to see it several times during the holiday season.

That is happening again in 2023. At the time of this posting (Dec. 7, 2023), It’s a Wonderful Life has already aired a number of times on some of these channels, and there are still more opportunities to see it ahead of Christmas and to once again tear up at this classic ending no matter how many times you have watched it:

And again, if you were around in the ’80s, you likely also still tear up for a different reason — because of laughter — from watching Saturday Night Live‘s classic sketch from the Dec. 20, 1986, William Shatner-hosted episode that featured the “lost ending” to It’s a Wonderful Life, in which George (Dana Carvey with a spot-on Jimmy Stewart impression), Mary (Jan Hooks), Uncle Billy (Phil Hartman), Harry (Dennis Miller) and the other townspeople give “scurvy little spider” Mr. Potter (Jon Lovitz) a beatdown.

I have to think that NBC will include this sketch among others in its two-hour Saturday Night Live Christmas Special, airing Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, at 9pm ET, and Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023, at 9pm ET.

As for It’s a Wonderful Life itself, here is when NBC and other NBC Universal channels are airing it, as of this posting (Dec. 7, 2023).

Where to Watch It’s a Wonderful Life in December 2023 (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023

USA Network, 9pm

Friday, Dec. 15, 2023

Bravo, 7:30pm & 10:30pm

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023

E!, 5pm & 8pm

Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023

NBC, 8pm

Monday, Dec. 25, 2023

E! — 24-hour marathon of the movie (eight showings) from 6am on Dec. 25 until 6am on Dec. 26