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11,782 Ratings

The Third Man

Directed by Carol Reed
United Kingdom, 1949
Film noir, Mystery, Thriller


With his pulp fiction career on the wane, Holly has plenty of time on his hands. So when his old school friend Harry invites him to postwar Vienna, Holly is curious and goes. But when Harry, a known black-marketeer, is killed in a suspicious traffic accident, Holly enters a world of intrigue.

Our take

Arguably the greatest British film ever made, The Third Man is a stone-cold classic: a masterpiece enshrined in film history that still leaps thrillingly to life. Welles was never better, and the witty script by Graham Greene is both a gripping mystery and an exposé of modern evil.

The Third Man Directed by Carol Reed

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1949 | Winner: Grand Prize of the Festival

Academy Awards

1951 | Winner: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

1951 | 2 nominations including: Best Director

National Board of Review

1950 | Winner: Top Foreign Films

I read an interview years ago with Pedro Almodovar in which he said that when a film is really working, it seems to be dancing across the screen. “The Third Man” is a great dancer… When you think about it later… you think about the way it sounds and moves—the look and feel and rhythm of it, the way it shimmies and glides. It is, to borrow a phrase from the script, a magic lantern show, set to music.
June 29, 2015
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Pristinely restored and re-released in the UK, Carol Reed’s crepuscular 1949 masterwork only matures with age, its themes becoming more fragile and illusive the closer we get to it. Like Orson Welles’ own Touch of Evil, to come in 1958, this is a film which does away with such cretinous inanity as offering up goodies and baddies, instead presenting its cast of characters as doing things which they believe to be good, but are not seen as such through the eyes of observers.
June 26, 2015
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Reed’s direction and Graham Greene’s screenplay reach a summit of perfection: a balloon man, a sewer chase, and an inimitable Ferris wheel confrontation—all to the sounds of the unrelenting zither.
June 24, 2015
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What are people saying?

  • Wee Hunk's rating of the film The Third Man

    It's lucky that Selznick was involved, or we might have had Cary Grant instead of Joseph Cotten. Joseph Cotten was underused and under-appreciated. Apparently, Orson Welles was a bit of trouble on the set of this film. He did an excellent job of being enigmatic and sociopathic as Harry Lime. He was rumored to have written all his own dialogue, and directing his scenes. Look for the Dutch angles.

  • Samuel T.'s rating of the film The Third Man

    16mm. Re-watch (for the first time in 10 years almost exactly). This film takes itself so seriously, and at times is so quirky! That score! That cinematography!!! (I just learned about "the Dutch angle" tonight, oops.) Orson steals the show the second the camera hits him. A thoroughly satisfying cinematic experience.

  • Zachary T.'s rating of the film The Third Man

    Of course, it’s a timeless, unquestionable masterpiece – but it’s also a film that strikes a warm, personal chord with many, subjectively speaking. Greene's provocative screenplay has aged like fine wine. So have the unconventional soundtrack, the dizzyingly stylish, topsy-turvy cinematography. The sensitive performances. Appropriately staged in gritty postwar Vienna, it is a darkly-humorous lament for simpler times.

  • LauraPalmer's rating of the film The Third Man

    "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." After watching this film for the THIRD time, it seems to be even better than a MASTERPIECE.

  • courtneylesueur's rating of the film The Third Man

    Five stars solely for the absolutely stunning cinematography. The contrast of light and shadow was consistently gorgeous throughout the entire film. And I, for one, loved the score! I see that a lot of people hated it in these reviews. And that final shot is terrific. So glad they went with that ending instead of an amends between the two characters.

  • Stefan Drees's rating of the film The Third Man

    I really don't know how often I watched this movie... and everytime I am discovering new surprising details. Especially intriguing: the work with light and shadow.

  • msmichel's rating of the film The Third Man

    Essential cinema. One of the all time best scripts offering a more rich experience with each viewing. The wonderful camera placements and edits; the amazing zither score; the performances by all involved especially Cotten and Howard; the crackling dialoque; that perfect capture of post war Europe in a Vienna that is still recognizable today; all adding up to a near perfect cinematic experience. "the cuckoo clock"

  • Eleni Ashton's rating of the film The Third Man

    When I was in Vienna a few years ago my friends and I were hanging around outside Harrry Lime's building when a very dapper elderly resident asked us if we'd like to take a look inside... Of course we said yes and he left us alone to do our thing. It was amazing and then a few minutes later we got kicked out by the porter/a grumpy old man.

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