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The Best Years of Our Lives
Three wonderful loves in the best picture of the year!
The Best Years of Our Lives is a classic film from director Williams Wyler about three war veterans. The film earned seven Oscars in 1946.
Film #23 of Project 40
”I'd stand up for you, kid, til I drop.”
The Best Years of Our Lives has a special place among the movies made about WWII, you may expect to see some sort of a heroic movie celebrating the valor and sacrifice of those young men who went to the brutal battlefields of war but William Wyler’s film takes a totally different path. It might be one of the very earliest movies exploring the joyless and ruined lives of individuals who experience the horrors of war as Wyler zooms on a triangle of American war veterans who return home to continue their normal lives but soon realize that the experience they have gone through will cast…
The other day, I found myself watching a lovely episode of China Beach entitled "The Thanks of a Grateful Nation". The story follows Dodger as he returns home from Vietnam and struggles to reintegrate into everyday life. It reminded me that we have a lot of Vietnam-centric films on this topic. And it occurred to me I had never seen the granddaddy of all 'coming home' films; I decided it was time to fix that oversight.
Best Years of Our Lives is not the first 'coming home' film. (See the John Gilbert silent classic "The Big Parade" for a heartbreaking example from World War I.) But it's this film that to this day is one of the top 100 moneymakers…
I'm struggling to think of what a contemporary equivalent of this would look like.... Something from Hollywood with A-list actors that confronts the emotional and psychological toll of war on fully realized characters while still working as masterfully filmed melodrama... How mentally malnourished are people who hold the (demonstrably false) opinion that new Hollywood movies are somehow more sophisticated than "old ones?" We've been at war for over a decade and we get a few Lone Survivors a year, but where are the stories about soldiers at home? Too uncomfortable to confront, I suppose.
The perfect movie.
Encapsulating the worrisome uncertainty of a post-World War II America, The Best Years of Our Lives is an albeit long-winded three-pronged romantic drama but with a realism. Which is a strange way to describe I suppose, since realism is constantly in flux - constantly changing alongside time and events and personal experience, but for its time - this film was considered a realistic portrayal of three veterans' and their return home to a fictitious town by the name of Boone City. They're all of different military rank, different class but become pals on their journey home.
When they arrive home: life has changed for them. They each have potential/current wives and must reintegrate into civilian life negotiating their love life…
I cried three times during this film. Then I cried again as I recounted to my wife what made me cry the first time I cried during the film. If I tried to write about the moment now I would probably tear up.
And The Best Years of Our Lives isn't even heartbreakingly sad. It never wallows in misery. It is even funny at times. Really it's just wonderfully human. And it is full of so many powerful little moments that translate amazingly well 70 years after it was made.
I didn't expect to be so blown away by this film, but I supposed the fact that it was expertly written, acted and directed helped too.
Masterfully made film. Great direction and photography. The story and acting are realistic and never corny. Ahead of its time.
Class, UCSC - FILM 134A
Coming home ain't always easy. Overall good flick.
In the opening scene of The Best Years of Our Lives, returning veterans fly above Boone City and comment on what it is like to look at their hometown from a bird’s eye view. Even when the men aren’t surveying a field full of bombers, the tension is clear–these men converse about how different things look from above, making literal the fact that their homes and community have become only vaguely recognizable. A rare Hollywood prestige picture that is able to overcome being saddled with that burden, The Best Years of Our Lives is as empathetic as the movies get–not only are these characters wrought with their fragilities foregrounded, but they show remarkable love for one another as they try…
Feels incredibly modern for such an old film. Tackles so many sociological issues with a light touch. Brilliantly executed.
Watched this in Film History class. Absolute masterpiece. I loved every minute. Wasn't even embarrassed that I shed a few tears. Highest possible recommend.
Like "Hoop Dreams" but also kind of nothing like "Hoop Dreams."
For a movie made right after WWII it still holds up and does not feel cliche, mostly. The deep focus cinematography is excellent in this three part story and what a story. A surprise of honest film making. Oh and one more thing, the reveal of Homer Parrish, while very subtle, is one of the greatest cinematic reveals of all time. I stand by that.
All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1177. An easy way of seeing how…
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!