Film: The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 post-war drama directed by William Wyler and starring Frederic March and Harold Russell. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year.

Just after the end of World War II, servicemen Fred Derry, Homer Parrish, and Al Stephenson return home to Boone City to their loved ones. Their adjustment to post-war life is met with varying levels of success. Al, a banker, finds it difficult to reconnect with his family and even more difficult to be as stern as he was before. Homer, who lost both hands in a fire, can't stand the pity that he detects from others, including his fiancee. Meanwhile, Fred is infuriated that the only real job he can hold is a soda jerk, and discovers the woman he married before heading off to war wasn't worth it. Somehow, they are going to have to go on with their lives...

This movie is interesting (and this is probably the reason it was so well received) for being one of the first movies that showed war as it was, instead of romanticizing it like movies and books were prone to.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Al turns to the bottle after his return home.
  • Bad Dreams: Being a Shell-Shocked Veteran, Fred is consistently having bad dreams where he relives dramatic war scenes.
  • Betty and Veronica: Fred between Peggy (Betty) and Marie (Veronica).
  • Break Her Heart To Save Her: Although he harbors feelings for her, Fred calls Peggy to tell her that it's over, in order to put her out of harm's way.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Homer and Wilma, having lived next to another since childhood.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: Cobwebs and signs of dust inside the B-17 that Fred is checking out at the airplane graveyard.
  • Comforting Comforter: A running theme. First it's Peggy covering Fred with a blanket, then it's Homer doing it to his little sister (or niece) and lastly it's Wilma doing it on Homer.
  • Eye Take: Millie rolls her eyes as she listens in on Al's conversation with his boss.
  • Girl Next Door: Literally with Homer's girlfriend Wilma. Peggy could also count.
  • Hook Hand: Homer Parrish — played by real-life double amputee Harold Russell.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: At the pub, when Fred and Homer discuss Al's whereabout, the latter enters through the door.
    Fred: Oh, Al. He's home in the swankiest apartment house in town. We'll never see him again. [[Cue Al waling in]]
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: The standard wedding song sung by the kids.
  • Manly Tears: Homer sheds these in his bed after Wilma leaves.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Averted with Al, who hands out a loan for a war veteran because of his gut feelings.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Homer writing a check at the bank. For a person with two working hands it's a simple task. For Homer to do it, it's an act so amazing it shames Al into giving another veteran a loan without sufficient collateral.
  • No Romantic Resolution: The romance between Fred and Peggy brews and brews, only coming to a resolution with 45 SECONDS LEFT and the credits rolling.
  • Removed from the Picture: At one point, Fred looks at the photograph taken at the double date dinner with his wife and Peggy. He first tears off the half showing his wife, then he also tears the other half with him and Peggy in two.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Peggy intends to break up Fred's marriage to Marie. Lampshaded by her line "That's the end of my career as a home wrecker".
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Al can no longer relate to his wife or his children who grew up without him, and is turning into an alcoholic.
    • Fred, a retired bomber pilot, finds himself having Bad Dreams wherein he relives dramatic war scenes.
    • Homer lost his hands in the war and is now ashamed of his artificial hooks which makes him feeling uncomfortable around his family or his girl-next-door sweetheart.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: All three have been so changed by their war experiences that they can't fit back into their old lives, and are forced to reinvent themselves ... with varying results.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: The central theme, examining the lives of three soldiers after they come home and struggle to readjust after the horrors of war.
  • Title Drop:
    Marie: These are the best years of our lives, and we're wasting them!
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Fred and Peggy through most parts of the movie.
  • War Is Hell: We don't see any battles on the screen. All we see is the damage each war veteran brings back with him.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Both Fred and his wife are having flings as their marriage crumbles.

Alternative Title(s):

The Best Years Of Our Lives