American history through movies


Celebrating the 75th anniversary of its release.

Christmas classic conveys many messages beyond having faith in one another.

It’s a Wonderful Life, released 75 years ago, has inspirational qualities and memorable moments that make it a beloved holiday staple. But the film can be explored and viewed in another way: as a presentation of history on the screen.


Christopher Wilson, Director of Experience Design at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, takes you on a journey that interprets the film with a new set of eyes. He gives insight into what was happening in American history when the film was made. His article also includes a link to a video discussion of the film presented by the Smithsonian Associates and Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Read the Smithsonian Magazine article.