The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
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Interesting how Frederic March was regarded as one of the greatest living actors of his time (major inspiration to Brando) and yet you never hear him mentioned anymore. This was his self-proclaimed most important film role and he certainly does stand out among this ensemble of medium-hitters (one of the more convincing drunks I've seen on screen).
Overall, this is a wonderful, relatively realistic (for its time) post-war picture with just the right balance of cynicism and hope. You really have to admire the direction that William Wyler took here, a soldier himself who had just returned from overseas months before beginning this production. It's plainly evident just how personal of a project this was for him. According to IMDB, his aim was to have a no-frills production and shoot it almost like a documentary (I guess they had a different idea of what documentary style was back then). Whatever superficial frills do show up in the final product are apparently the result of studio interference -- notably the score, which Wyler detested.
I certainly have to give the man props.
Three men dealing with the consequences of the sacrifices they made during the war and the brotherhood and fraternity that develops on their arrival home. Honest and caring without ever being over-sentimental.
Yeah, how dare a film treat returning veterans and their families with dignity and respect and try to comfort their physical and emotional injuries?
Also, I know "propaganda" is kind of a catch-all term for any film that you don't like that deals with anything related to war - but, really, this film doesn't qualify as propaganda (which isn't to suggest that there aren't also propaganda films that make for great cinema.)
Its treatment of real issues is honest and respectful and far more complex than propaganda films. It doesn't try to cover up the real problems that people were facing, nor does it paint an overly glorified portrait of those returning from war. It doesn't provide simplistic answers to the problems it does present. It does, however, offer hope for those suffering and/or trying to readjust to home life - but that hardly makes it propaganda.
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In 27 official lists
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This movie ranks #1 in BAFTA Award - Best Film
This movie ranks #4 in Golden Globe Award - Best Motion Picture
This movie ranks #11 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers
This movie ranks #14 in IMDb's 1940s Top 50
This movie ranks #15 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #20 in Academy Award - Best Picture
This movie ranks #37 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies
This movie ranks #41 in IMDb's Romance Top 50
This movie ranks #42 in IMDb's War Top 50
This movie ranks #48 in Arts & Faith's Top 100 Films
This movie ranks #51 in Leonard Maltin's 100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century
This movie ranks #77 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #85 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #87 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Adjusted Box Office
This movie ranks #105 in Emma Beare's 501 Must-See Movies
This movie ranks #154 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #162 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #180 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
This movie ranks #190 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #224 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #239 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #249 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #271 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #302 in Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time
This movie ranks #318 in Roger Ebert's Great Movies
This movie ranks #321 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #909 in UNESCO's Memory of the World