Movie Review: The Best Years of Our Lives is Rated Number One Best Film Ever

New York Times

The 10 Best American Movies

January 4, 2009 – It’s Top Ten time again, and like everyone else I have a list, in my case a list of the 10 best American movies ever. Here it is, with brief descriptions and no justifications. Only the first two films are in order. The others are all tied for third.

Number One: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), directed by William Wyler. Regarded as producer Sam Goldwyn’s masterpiece, this deeply felt study of soldiers coming home after World War II boasts career-best performances by Fredric March (who won an Oscar), Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael and the amazing Harold Russell (two Oscars), a double amputee and first- and last-time (non)actor who played a double amputee.

The movie is filled with thrilling and affecting scenes – the moment when Milly Stephenson (Loy) realizes that the person at the door is her husband, Al (March), who has come back a day before he was supposed to; the moment when Homer Parrish (Russell) waves goodbye to his two new friends and his parents see the hooks that are now his hands for the first time; the moment when Fred Derry (Andrews) hoists himself into a military plane like the one he flew in so many times and hears in his mind the engines of the other dead planes surrounding him in rows. The three intertwined stories are resolved with a measure of optimism, but with more than a residue of disappointment and bitterness. Al Stephenson is still a drunk. Fred Derry is still poor and without skills. Homer Parrish still has no hands.

VCS Note: We highly encourge people of all ages to watch this timeless film to better understand the readjustment needs of our current combat veterans. We hope one day a screen writer, film producer, and studio will make an updated version.

Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke University. He is the author of 10 books. His new book on higher education, “Save the World On Your Own Time,” has just been published.

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