The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)



Critic Consensus: An engrossing look at the triumphs and travails of war veterans, The Best Years of Our Lives is concerned specifically with the aftermath of World War II, but its messages speak to the overall American experience.

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Movie Info

A memorable film about the aftermath of World War II in the United States., this film opens with the homecoming of three veterans to the same small town. The movie exposes the reality of altered lives and the inability to communicate the experience of war on the front lines or the home front.
Classics , Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
RKO Radio Pictures

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Fredric March
as Al Stephenson
Dana Andrews
as Fred Derry
Harold Russell
as Homer Parrish
Myrna Loy
as Milly Stephenson
Virginia Mayo
as Marie Derry
Teresa Wright
as Peggy Stephenson
Cathy O'Donnell
as Wilma Cameron
Hoagy Carmichael
as Butch Engle
Gladys George
as Hortense Derry
Roman Bohnen
as Pat Derry
Ray Collins
as Mr. Milton
Minna Gombell
as Mrs. Parrish
Walter S. Baldwin
as Mr. Parrish
Dorothy Adams
as Mrs. Cameron
Don Beddoe
as Mr. Cameron
Marlene Aames
as Luella Parrish
Michael Hall
as Rob Stephenson
Ray Teal
as Mr. Mollett
Dean White
as Novak
Victor Cutler
as Woody Merrill
Pat Flaherty
as Construction Foreman
Clancy Cooper
as Taxi Driver
Blake Edwards
as Corporal
Teddy Infur
as Dexter
Robert Karnes
as Tech. Sergeant
Ralph Sanford
as Mr. Gibbons
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Critic Reviews for The Best Years of Our Lives

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (12)

William Wyler's heartbreaking postwar ballad seems even more radical today than it did in its Oscar-thick heyday. It's as non-propagandistic as an unemployment line.

Full Review… | February 22, 2015
Village Voice
Top Critic

As far as this review is concerned, it is the best picture to come out of Hollywood since the end of the war.

Full Review… | February 17, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

[A] powerful, if cumbersome prestige picture.

Full Review… | June 3, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

Profoundly and sensitively balances the private demons of scarred veterans and the press of public policies that leave their mark on daily life.

Full Review… | June 1, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

Like most good mass entertainments, this picture has occasional moments of knowing hokum; but unlike most sure-fire movies, it was put together with good taste, honesty, wit -- and even a strong suggestion of guts.

Full Review… | February 17, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

One of the best pictures of our lives.

Full Review… | February 19, 2008
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Best Years of Our Lives

A deeply touching and significant post-WWII classic that depicts the psychological trauma and several obstacles encountered by veteran soldiers of different backgrounds returning from war, and it does so with an expert use of deep focus and a wonderful mise-en-scène to create many meaningful visual compositions.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Patriotism and lenght aside, an evocative and passionate melodrama with soulful performances.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


It definitely gets a little too syrupy at times, but William Wyler's ode to returning veterans is a remarkably bold and frank look at post-WWII America (especially brave, considering these were topics Hollywood avoided for years before its release). Fredric March is brilliant as always, and underrated Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright are terrific as well. It features Wyler's traditionally tight direction, and the legendary Gregg Toland shines by composing some truly stunning deep focus photography as well. In the end, The Best Years of Our Lives may be a little too conventional, but it's done well enough to draw you in and root for its characters.

Jonathan Hutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

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