Review: It’s A Wonderful Life (4K)

It's A Wonderful Life 4K Review

George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.

Plot: An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Director: Frank Capra

Aspect Ratio: 1.37.1

Runtime: 130 min

Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

Online Ratings:

  1. Rotten Tomatoes 93% 
  2. IMDB 8.6
  3. Metacritic 89


“A timeless holiday classic.”


This movie was shot on 35mm and ultimately finished as a 4k Digital Intermediate — that means you’ll get a native 4K release! As per the norm with UHD releases, it was also given a HDR color grade for your viewing pleasure in Dolby Vision & HDR10.

Paramount restored the treasured film by using the original nitrate negative along with the two fine grain masters made in the 1940s. Each element was carefully scanned using the latest technology to both preserve the delicate negative and to create the best possible digital image for this release. Fortunately, 13 of the 14 reels of the original negative survived, but portions had begun to deteriorate, so the best image was selected from one of the three original sources on a shot-by-shot basis. The result is a more vibrant and detail-rich picture that brings this classic to life like never before.

Going into this film I thought there’d be more grain than seen on previous releases, but to my surprise, there’s not too much to speak on — it’s been perfectly crafted layer by layer to hold the original look. They accomplished this by removing dirt and scratches on the negative — now nothing stands out or looks out of place in any frame. This new 4K presentation also provides an extra level of detail and depth with an expanded gray-scale because of the great use of HDR and added sharpness. You can see the love and care that was given to the original negative — details are more apparent in the background, foreground and on the characters faces and clothes. (There is still some softness here and there, but there’s nothing negative about it.)

It was hard to point out specific highlights due to the amazing transfer, but I noticed a few scenes where the added benefits really had their chance to shine. The first time this was evident was in the rain in Chapter 12 just after the wedding. George and Mary are in the back of Ernie’s cab and you can see rain drops running down the windows and on the ground, all the while, black levels hold strong and the new detail, as previously stated above, look rock-solid. Again in Chapter 25 you can really see the deep blacks and added depth when George discovers his home is completely abandoned with no sign of Mary and the kids. Look at that contrast!

These are just a few scenes that highlighted some of the new aspects nicely, at least in my opinion, but you can nit-pick at all this scene after scene.

This is one of my favorite movies of all time and I watch it every time the holidays come around. Watching the old Blu-ray, I never questioned the quality, but I never thought it would be possible either. This may sound strange, but I didn’t need the UHD, but now that I have it, I’m glad it exists. Even more than that, it’s #1 on AFI’s Most Inspiring Films of All Time rounding out the top 5 which includes other movies like To Kill A Mockingbird, Schindler’s List, Rocky & Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It’s one of the greatest movies of all time — no doubt about it. (The colorized version is also included for all to watch, which does add another perspective, but I prefer the original black and white hands down.)

Officially, the 4K UHD Combo Pack releases on October 29th, so make sure you head out to your local retailer to pick it up — it’s a must own classic you have to watch every time the holidays come around. It’s never looked better and you have my permission to double or triple dip on it.

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, a bunch of classics are around the corner or just released in the UHD format including The Shining, Scarface and The Wizard of Oz — be sure to check back in for more reviews as they release to the world.

Are you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up in UHD? Let me know what you think in the comments below.



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