Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
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…
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'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.
I came upon this film from my wife and she came upon it by reading about it in a Paul Auster book. Backstory!
Color me pleasantly surprised because I was immensely entertained and awestruck for the better part of 172 minutes, that's even with little droplets of melodrama sprinkled throughout, although not enough melodrama that the refreshingly natural and humanistic aspects couldn't overcome.
All the performances are fantastic while every character seems effortlessly multi-dimensional as Wyler brilliantly balances the three separate storylines that are both distinct yet comparable all at once. This 1946 gem is a perfect blend of emotional heart-wrenching, playful camaraderie, quick witted one liners, and above all honest, sincere depictions of the tribulations faced by all those…
Mark Harris wrote a great book about the Hollywood filmmakers who went to WWII and shot all the footage we now know today. And then they had to come back to a Hollywood that had in many ways forgotten them. One of them, William Wyler, made this fantastic film, so I talked to him about his book and this masterpiece.
Special Veteran's Day screening at Alamo Drafthouse. Also the last movie I saw with my friend Jim Werner who has since passed away.
I didn't know too much about this movie going in, other than it was on the Ultimate Film List (UFL) and was about veterans coming home from war. I was surprised by how funny, interesting, heart-warming, and how modern it was. I can see why it won seven Oscars (and an honorary one).
It was three hours long and never felt like it (though I was running late for the next movie I was seeing and that made me antsy for it to end). It was just so engaging.
Oh how I loved this
In the aftermath of World War II, it would have been easy for Hollywood to make films that celebrate Americana and the greatness of our boys coming home from war. Certainly there were a lot of films of that ilk, but one of the better films of that era is the exact opposite.
The Best Years of Our Lives is an ironic title. At first glance the title seems to promise exactly the scenario I described, of an America entering her glory years. But the title in fact refers to the best years of these characters lives having been consumed by war, and the changes that have results.
It's at least a daring film in that regard, as it is…
God, these old films are long!
This one starts out okay but at some point I lost interest.
Three men return home from Europe after WW2 and struggle to readjust to civilian life. At this point in time there have been a million of these kinds of films covering a variety of conflicts but when this was made, in 1946, it would have been a current affairs kind of deal. Which is interesting because I kind of thought nobody ever acknowledged these things until years after the fact. But there you go.
It's well made and well acted, I find lots of older films quite hammy on the acting front, but just a tad long for me. The script is pretty tight too. "Who is this Peggy?" "She's just a girl." "Well I didn't think she was a kangaroo!"
It's a tradition of mine to begin the year watching a movie I've never seen before; 2014's was TO BE OR NOT TO BE, and this year, at the suggestion of my friend Nick, I have chosen another WWII film, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, which beat out IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE for Best Picture in 1946.
Within the first 20 minutes, as our three leads have their first meeting, I took to Twitter to thank Nick for the recommendation. This a film of such precision, in writing, performance and direction, yet never once does it feel calculated or manipulative. In fact, like the best films, it simply feels like it is capturing real life. Never for a minute…
ballsy for 40s hollywood in that it portrays the effect of war on soldiers returning home realistically--alcoholism, ostracizing, ptsd, poverty...the end is a happy note that is ultimately a minor key in the lives of the characters. it's a long movie but it feels like it should be while watching it. also, myrna loy.
Good to know that somebody was making Clint Eastwood movies 25 years before he was making them himself.
The Best Years of Our Lives may not be Wyler's most known film (that's Ben Hur), but out of his films that I've seen, it is his best. It is the story of 3 servicemen, having returned form WWII, whose lives mix and cut against the America that has changed so much in their absence. The film, while containing many lines about not respecting veterans enough, is really truthful in the depiction of how alien home might seem after such an experience as war--as losing comrades in battle and watching the destruction that can ravage civilizations, like Hiroshima. These three men are different, but so are the people who sacrificed back at hime.
Fred (an air force captain) married right…
I'm sad to say I've never heard of this great film before last week. What a beautiful and moving picture. I can honestly say that watching The Best Years of Our Lives has heightened my perspective of WWII veterans, and I'm sure to think back to many of its scenes in the future. The cast was all fantastic, and Harold Russell's only credited, yet Oscar-winning performance is obviously a standout. It's also worth noting that Gregg Toland did the cinematography, and it shows. His use of deep focus might be the first technique of his you'll notice, but there is so much attention to detail in every scene, that the movie is worth watching for that alone.
Seven Oscars including Best Picture and sadly it seems this movie has been ashamedly forgotten.
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