I’m not one to watch films because they have a particular actor in them. It is all about story and storytelling for me. But the actor that I get a leap in my heart whenever I see him on screen is Jimmy Stewart. He is probably at his best in It’s a Wonderful Life.
I could have easily chosen Harvey or Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, but I think his range is best shown in the overplayed but dearly loved "Christmas" classic. Jimmy Stewart doesn't actually have a lot of range. His best role is that of the mild-mannered charmer who gets put in very difficult situations, but deals with his life with wisdom and just the right amount of anger. I think he is too angry and not nearly as charming in The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance, but in It's a Wonderful Life, he is perfect.
In this film he is always Jimmy Stewart-- not the human, but the character-- JS falling in love, JS dreaming of the future, JS overcoming difficulties, JS being noble, but what we do not often see is JS in despair. And he does it all so well here.
Look at this clip as he tries to figure out what is both right to do for himself and for everyone else. I love this because he clearly doesn't know what he's going to do or say. Yet, somehow, he works it out. Maybe we're not even sure, but we believe it.