The Best Ways to Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on TV & Streaming

Larry Simms, Jimmy Hawkins, James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Karolyn Grimes in 'It's a Wonderful Life'
Everett Collection

It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday staple and has been for decades, but there’s more than one way to watch the 1946 Frank Capra classic on television.

While it may not have been a box office success, the film starring James Stewart and Donna Reed became a Christmas mainstay when it fell into the public domain, which allowed it to be broadcast without licensing or royalty fees. Now, it airs across the winter months beginning during the week of Thanksgiving and through the holiday season.

Before streaming, broadcast television was the only way to watch unless you had a physical copy of the film, but now, there are a bevy of options for those determined to revisit George Bailey’s (Stewart) epic story. As viewers know by now, It’s a Wonderful Life reflects on the life of George, a man who has put others in his life before himself, but when an innocent mistake threatens to upend the life he’s built, he begins to wonder if everyone would be better off without him.

Donna Reed and James Stewart in 'It's a Wonderful Life'

(Credit: Everett Collection)

There to guide him away from such thoughts is his Guardian Angel Clarence (Henry Travers) who is on a mission of his own — get his wings by proving to George that the world would be worse off without him. Below, we’re breaking down some of the best ways to catch the beloved film this season.


The film is sure to get plenty of screen time over the November and December months. Kicking things off on Friday, November 25, viewers can tune into E! beginning at 6 a.m./5 a.m. c for an all-day marathon as the film airs five times throughout the day. The next evening Saturday, November 26, the film will air at 9/8c.

While it may air elsewhere, viewers can almost certainly rely on NBC‘s yearly Christmas Eve broadcast of the film on Saturday, December 24. No listings are currently available but stay tuned as we approach the holidays. And while it’s nice to find the film on broadcast, the film clocking in at over two hours becomes a rather bloated viewing experience when it’s littered with commercials. This leads us to our alternative suggestion…

Jimmy Hawkins, James Stewart, Donna Reed, Carol Coomes, and Larry Simms in 'It's a Wonderful Life'

(Credit: Everett Collection)


There are several platforms where you can stream the film; one of which is Prime Video which offers not just one, but two versions of the movie. While most know It’s a Wonderful Life as a black-and-white film, there is a colorized version and Prime Video offers access to both, giving subscribers the chance to choose. And if you don’t subscribe, you can purchase the film for your streaming library permanently for just $4.99.

If you’re not subscribed to Prime Video, another viable option is Plex, which offers the film free of charge. The only downside? This streaming version features commercials.

Other streaming platforms including YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Redbox, Vudu, and Apple TV offer the film at varying prices ranging from $2.99 to $3.99. Meanwhile, you can view the movie on Hulu and Sling TV with premium subscriptions.

How will you be watching It’s a Wonderful Life this holiday season? Let us know in the comments section, below, and make sure to grab a tissue or two for that film’s heartwarming conclusion.