Final Draft 9

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Screenplay Genre: Drama / Family / Fantasy

Movie Time: 130 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

George is a good boy who always put himself before others, but now he’s finally saved up enough to go to college. He wants to get out of Bedford Falls, see the world, and really make something of himself despite his father’s plea that he stay and continue to help out in the Building and Loan. (00:17:22)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

When George learns of his father’s death, he postpones his summer trip to Europe to help the Building and Loan transition until they can find a new chief. On the day George is scheduled to leave for school, the board decides that they’re out of options. They must close down the Building and Loan and sell it to the wealthy, cold-hearted Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). But that would destroy all the work his father did to help the townspeople build themselves up, so George stays to stop the sale. (00:34:33)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

There’s a run at the savings and loan. George has to use his honeymoon money to save the town by convincing the people not to sell their loans to Potter. He manages to pull it off by using all the funds he had saved for his trip. His new bride Mary (Donna Reed) arranges for an exotic honeymoon anyway by decking out their fixer upper dream house with exotic posters and Hawaiian music. (01:00:58)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

George’s uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) misplaces an $8,000 deposit. Potter finds it, but decides that he’ll keep it in order to ruin the Building and Loan. This will bankrupt the entire town, and George will end up in jail. George loses it. He beats his uncle, yells at his family, and gets into a bar fight. He decides that the only thing he can do is kill himself so that his family can use the life insurance policy to save the town. But before he can jump to a cold, watery end, Clarence the angel (Henry Travers) jumps in first. (01:38:52)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

George saves Clarence instead of killing himself and Clarence states plainly that he’s George’s guardian angel. George laughs him off as an old crazy until Clarence grants George’s wish that he had never been born. George goes back to town but now everything is worse than before. (02:01:52)