The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

TOMATOMETER

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.

AUDIENCE SCORE


Want to See

Not Interested

Add Rating
My Rating    

The Best Years of Our Lives Photos

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.

Watch it now

Cast

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
Victor Cutler
as Woody Merrill
Pat Flaherty
as Construction Foreman
Clancy Cooper
as Taxi Driver
Blake Edwards
as Corporal
Robert Karnes
as Tech. Sergeant
Ralph Sanford
as Mr. Gibbons
View All

News & Interviews for The Best Years of Our Lives

Critic Reviews for The Best Years of Our Lives

All Critics (48) | 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.

Feb 22, 2015 | Full Review…

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

Feb 17, 2015 | Full Review…

[A] powerful, if cumbersome prestige picture.

Jun 3, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
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.

Jun 2, 2014 | Full Review…

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.

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

One of the best pictures of our lives.

Feb 19, 2008 | Full Review…
Variety
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

½

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

½

Before films like The Deer Hunter (among others) provided commentary on the readjustment of soldiers after the Vietnam War, this film tackled the way in which soliders dealt with coming home after World War II. This is a long story that looks at the lives of three men from the same town who all come home together and form a bond as they each struggle individually to move on with their lives after having served overseas. It's also an extremely relevant and good story, too. I liked how the narratives interweaved, although the connection between the men and their fast friendship seems a little undercooked and more coincidental than anything, as these men have apparently never known one another before the war. The film won a ton of Oscars though (including for Best Picture), and I have to say that they're all pretty well deserved. The performances are great, and I loved how they got an actual handicapped guy to play Homer, adding authenticity to things. The film is really touching, and well shot, but not without a few minor flaws. The editing could be a bit tighter, cutting down some of the run time. This would also cut down on the film's occasional dragging. Also, ike I mentioned above, a slightly better developed background connection for the characters. While the film does a fairly good job of covering each man's story, it seemed like things could have been a bit more equally balanced in terms of amount of time devoted to each. All in all, a very well done and engaging film about an important subject. I'm glad I saw this, because I really had no idea that there were any films about post war experiences of soldiers for the WWII era. Highly Recommended.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The Best Years of Our Lives Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features