The Third Man (1949)

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten

Awards: BFI Best British Film of the 20th Century (1999)

Quite simply, my favorite film. Out of work, novel writer Holly Martins arrives in war-torn Vienna looking for a job, only to find his only friend, Henry Lime dead. Upon investigating further, Holly comes to find that his friend was not the stand-up citizen he assumed, rather a ruthless black market smuggler, who staged his own death to escape the authorities.

Shot with stark contrasting expressionistic lighting, forced perspective, and signature dutched angles, this film stands the test of time as having a technical style all its own. The script is tight and smart, the dialogue captivating, especially the additions to Greene’s script by a young Orson Welles. The locations are gritty and believable, having captured a post WWII Vienna that will never exist again.

Also to note is the unqiue score all played on an instrument called the zither by Anton Karas. From the poster hanging in my living room, “He’ll have you in a dither with his zither!”

Don’t miss one of the greatest on-screen villain performances in cinema history.

Other Notable Films by this Director: The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

While the original trailer is out there, I thought the remade TCM trailer more engaging for modern audiences:



  1. Is the music in this trailer the zither? Is this the music in the movie?

  2. Experience the zither…

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