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The Third Man (1949)


Average Rating: 9.1/10
Reviews Counted: 60
Fresh: 60
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: This atmospheric thriller is one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema, and boasts iconic performances from Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 13
Fresh: 13
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: This atmospheric thriller is one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema, and boasts iconic performances from Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.


Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 49,590



Movie Info

In this Cold War spy classic, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a third-rate American pulp novelist, arrives in postwar Vienna, where he has been promised a job by his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival, Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in a traffic accident, and that his funeral is taking place immediately. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway … More

Mystery & Suspense , Classics
Directed By:
Written By:
Graham Greene (I) , Graham Greene (II)
In Theaters:
Nov 30, 1999


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Critic Reviews for The Third Man

All Critics (64) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (60) | Rotten (0) | DVD (29)

It transformed the way I looked at the world.

Full Review… | November 1, 2007
Top Critic

Welles gives Harry a mask of irony that turns all moral judgment back on itself. He turns a mass murderer into a wry rogue, and makes his villainy all the more horrifying because we rather like him.

Full Review… | July 21, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Seen today, The Third Man ... can be appreciated as a prophetic statement on the eventual moral bankruptcy of the one-world euphoria that clouded men's minds immediately after the second 'war to end all wars.'

April 22, 2004
New York Observer
Top Critic

Top credit must go to Mr. Reed for molding all possible elements into a thriller of superconsequence.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

For lovers of film noir, The Third Man is unquestionably a must-see -- one of the masterpieces of a genre that has contained everything from milestone motion pictures to low-budget potboilers.

Full Review… | August 29, 2002
Top Critic

The Third Man is like the exhausted aftermath of Casablanca.

Full Review… | January 17, 2002
Detroit News
Top Critic

The movie's verve comes from the abstract use of a jangling zither and from squirting Orson Welles into the plot piece-meal with a tricky, facetious eyedropper.

Full Review… | August 29, 2012
The Nation

The truth is often what one least expects it to be, and the ability to cope with the seemingly unbelievable is a dividing line between Reed's characters.

Full Review… | October 14, 2011
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

As powerful and original now as it was in 1949.

Full Review… | January 2, 2011
Common Sense Media

One of British cinema's most enduring and atmospheric thrillers. A genuine and endlessly rewatchable classic.

Full Review… | April 20, 2009

Directors like Reed and Wilder created an environment of spatial and moral confusion in which their pulpy narratives could take on the ethical weight of a Biblical proverb.

Full Review… | December 16, 2008
Slant Magazine

Greene's story and screenplay, which he accurately described as "a comic thriller," is a gift that keeps on giving, with patter that's never less than brilliant. [Criterion Blu-ray]

Full Review… | December 14, 2008
Groucho Reviews

If The Third Man is a tragedy, it isn't just the tragedy of a hobbled city, scribbled with ruins and parsed into zones of occupation that can't communicate and don't cooperate.

Full Review… | September 13, 2008
Nick's Flick Picks

As you watch the film, you feel as though the screen is tilted higher, glowering over you as you wince in its devastating presence, which is probably how Martins felt scurrying through the Vienna darkness.

Full Review… | July 1, 2007
Arizona Daily Star

It's a suspense-thriller-romance steeped in Hollywood's best influences and 'gimmicks,' yet it's crafted with enough looming European 'art-house' style to topple Fritz Lang into an existential funk.

Full Review… | May 29, 2007

An iconic film noir that's still fresh despite being familiar.

Full Review… | August 15, 2006

An undisputed masterpiece, this movie captures the mood of Vienna in post-WWII like no other, and is also a testimony to film as a collaborative art, benefiting from Greene's writing, Reed's direction, and stellar cast with Orson Welles at his scariest

Full Review… | July 28, 2006

Do herói fragilizado e patético ao fascinante vilão, passando pela fotografia inesquecível, a trilha surpreendente e uma Viena inigualável, o filme é simplesmente perfeito.

October 2, 2004
Cinema em Cena

The Third Man isn't an eager crowd-pleaser, but it's great. The film is distinctly British, with a wonderfully bizarre zither score by Anton Karas.

August 4, 2004
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Is it perfect? Maybe the answer has more to do with semantics than film craft; it's at least indistinguishable from flawlessness.

June 8, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

A monumental arty thriller of British noir.

Full Review… | February 4, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

This handsomely shot black-and-white thriller hasn't aged one bit. Terrific writing, direction and acting never go out of style.

December 29, 2003
Nitrate Online

About as close to a perfect film as you're likely to get.

Full Review… | December 4, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for The Third Man

Despite its distracting overuse of Dutch angle shots, this is a classic film noir crafted beautifully by Reed and Graham Greene (who worked on it by writing his excellent novella), with a fascinating villain, a fabulous post-war Vienna as its location and a perfect choice for a score.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

The absolute in spy classics, and Carol Reed's best directorial effort, "The Third Man" remains one of the most interesting and politically driven films of all times. The performances are amazing, to say the least. Joseph Cotten is Holly Martins, an expatriate from America, who comes to war torn Austria to find his friend dead, his job gone, and an unraveling mystery all set up for him to solve. As Martins (a mystery novelist) starts looking into his old friend's (Welles) death, he discovers a man he desperately doesn't want to admit knowing, and a conspiracy that extends to murder. Martins is so subdued and dark that he instantly fits into the everyman facade and runs with it. Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt was intriguing as well, fighting for the man she loves but also being shocked into empathy. Anna Schmidt is one of the more complex and interesting characters of the entire film, and though her motivations are clear, she still steals the show from time to time. The plot is interesting, the suspense is taut, and the cinematography is out of this world amazing. A must see, a classic, and a thriller worth being thrilled about.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

It's difficult not to be captivated by this outstanding film-noir.

Full review at on 11/28

Alexander Diminiano

Super Reviewer


If you take away Welles it wouldn't be that memorable, and even with him, the movie is still not that memorable. What do you remember about this aside from Welles lines, the photography, and the theme song? Having trouble remembering anything else? That's because most of the story dances around a "plot twist" or discovery or whatever it is that is hardly exciting, and all too predictable (Lime is alive, duh) and our main lead is a doofus, and not exactly the charming type, just a helpless goon going around from one point to another. The switch he has at the end in his confrontation with his old friend ends up feeling like a super moralistic preachy lesson about "doing the right thing". I can see why this movie has stand the test of time, but it's merits are rather shortcoming. Not bad, just not great.

Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

The Third Man Quotes

Harry Lime:
In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They producedd Michaelangelo, da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.
– Submitted by rick b (2 years ago)
Anna Schmidt:
Honest, Sensible Holly martins. Holly. What a silly name!
– Submitted by Mithil B (2 years ago)
Harry Lime:
Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
– Submitted by Emily G (2 years ago)
Harry Lime:
In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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