Review of 'The Third Man' Movie

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Released in 1949, 'The Third Man' is a classic British film that has become a staple of the film industry. Directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard, it is a taut thriller about a man's search for the truth in post-World War II Vienna. With its iconic zither theme and atmospheric cinematography, the film has become one of the most beloved films of all time. In this review, we will take a closer look at why 'The Third Man' is so highly regarded and how it has earned its place in classic film history.

The Third Man

is a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, and Alida Valli.

It tells the story of an American pulp novelist who finds himself caught in a web of intrigue and crime in post-WWII Vienna. The film is renowned for its atmospheric cinematography, striking use of lighting, and memorable musical score. The Third Man is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has had a lasting influence on cinema. The plot of the film follows Holly Martins (Cotten), an American pulp novelist who travels to post-WWII Vienna at the invitation of his friend Harry Lime (Welles). Upon arrival, he discovers that his friend is dead, and he soon finds himself entangled in a web of mystery and intrigue.

Holly must uncover the truth behind Harry’s death while also grappling with his own feelings of guilt and betrayal. The film follows Holly’s journey as he uncovers secrets about his friend’s past, all while navigating Vienna’s criminal underworld. The characters of The Third Man have become iconic figures in film history. Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is a sly and sophisticated figure whose mysterious motivations drive the plot forward. Joseph Cotten’s Holly Martins is a naive and idealistic character, whose naivety makes him an easy target for Harry’s manipulation.

Together, they form an unlikely duo whose complex relationship forms the emotional core of the film. The Third Man is renowned for its unique visual style and cinematography. The film was shot on location in Vienna, and the city serves as a backdrop to the action. The cityscapes are shot in long takes and wide angles, creating an ominous atmosphere that perfectly captures the post-war tension of the time. Additionally, the film makes extensive use of noir lighting techniques to create stark contrasts between light and dark. The Third Man was released in 1949 to great critical acclaim.

It was an instant success both commercially and critically, and it won multiple awards, including the 1950 Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Despite its initial success, the film was initially forgotten over time until it was re-released in the 1960s to a new generation of viewers. Since its re-release, The Third Man has gone on to become a beloved classic. It has been praised by critics for its use of cinematic techniques to create an atmosphere of suspense and mystery. It has been cited as an influence on numerous filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Terry Gilliam.

Today, The Third Man is still widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. The Third Man is a timeless classic that has had a lasting influence on cinema. Its unique visual style, memorable characters, and complex themes make it an engaging piece of cinema that can be enjoyed by viewers of all ages. Its place in cinematic history is assured thanks to its unwavering popularity over time, and it remains one of the most beloved films of all time.

Production History & Initial Reception

The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, and Alida Valli, was released in 1949. Filming took place in Vienna, Austria, and the film was shot in black-and-white. The movie premiered at the London Film Festival in October 1949 and was released in the United States in 1950.

The production of The Third Man encountered numerous difficulties due to the limited resources available in post-war Vienna. To save money, Reed had to come up with creative solutions to shooting scenes that would capture the city's atmosphere. For example, he had to film a chase sequence at night and had to use fake rain made from soapy water. The Third Man received generally positive reviews from critics, and it was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Writing (Original Story).

The film was also a commercial success and has since become a classic of British cinema. Despite the film's initial success, there were some controversies around its production. Reed was accused of exploiting post-war Vienna for its atmosphere, while Welles was criticized for accepting a paycheck from the Austrian government for appearing in the film.

Legacy & Reception Over Time

Since its premiere in 1949, Carol Reed's 'The Third Man' has been embraced by both critics and audiences alike. It has been heralded as a classic of film noir and praised for its clever writing, compelling performances, and atmospheric cinematography.

The film has won numerous awards over the years, including an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography. Widely considered one of the best British films ever made, The Third Man is often referred to as a masterpiece of suspense. The film has been praised for its visual style, inventive use of light and shadow, and for its complex plot. Critic Roger Ebert wrote that “The Third Man is a great movie because it is a great puzzle, filled with mystery and ambiguity.”The Third Man has also had an enduring impact on popular culture. Director Martin Scorsese has cited it as one of his favorite films, calling it “a moral fable about guilt and innocence, right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal.” The film is often referenced in other works of art, such as the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

Its iconic zither soundtrack has been used in numerous films and television shows. Though it was initially seen as a commercial flop, The Third Man's legacy has grown steadily over time. It's now seen as one of the greatest films ever made, with critic Philip French calling it “the most perfect British film noir ever made.”

Why It Remains Beloved Today

Since its release in 1949, 'The Third Man' has become a beloved classic of British cinema, and for good reason. Directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, and Alida Valli, the film was an instant success and has been consistently ranked as one of the greatest films of all time. But why has it remained so beloved over the years?One of the reasons 'The Third Man' has stood the test of time is its unique visual style.

Reed was able to capture the beauty and darkness of post-war Vienna with a striking use of black-and-white cinematography. This includes iconic moments such as the famous ferris wheel scene, which is one of the most recognizable images in all of cinema. In addition, the film's iconic score by Anton Karas has become one of the most recognizable pieces of music in film history. The film also features a complex plot that keeps viewers on their toes throughout. The story follows Holly Martins (Cotten), an American novelist who travels to Vienna to investigate his friend's mysterious death.

As he uncovers clues, he finds himself caught in the middle of a twisted web of lies and deception. The audience is kept guessing until the very end, making for an exciting and suspenseful viewing experience. Finally, 'The Third Man' features some of the best dialogue ever written for a film. Orson Welles is especially memorable as Harry Lime, delivering some of the most famous lines in movie history. His iconic monologue about cuckoo clocks perfectly encapsulates the film's themes of morality and redemption. All these elements combine to make 'The Third Man' an unforgettable classic that has resonated with audiences for decades.

From its stunning visuals and unforgettable score to its complex plot and brilliant dialogue, 'The Third Man' is a timeless work of art that will continue to be cherished by viewers for years to come.

Visual Style & Cinematography

The Third Man is renowned for its distinctive visual style, which was largely due to the work of cinematographer Robert Krasker. The film features a mix of high-contrast black and white photography, stark lighting and deep shadows, unusual camera angles, and long tracking shots. This combination of elements creates an atmosphere that is both visually striking and emotionally evocative. The opening sequence is especially noteworthy. As the audience is introduced to Vienna in the aftermath of World War II, there are shots of bombed-out buildings and rubble-strewn streets.

The camera pans across the city, highlighting the destruction and despair that are so prevalent in this setting. This establishes a tense mood that carries throughout the film. The frequent use of low-angle shots also helps to add to the sense of foreboding. By shooting from below, the characters seem to be looming over the viewer, emphasizing their power and authority.

This effect is particularly effective when used on Orson Welles’ character Harry Lime, who is often shown in the film’s signature low-angle shot. The Third Man also makes effective use of deep focus photography, which allows multiple planes of action to be in focus at once. This technique is used to great effect in a scene where Harry Lime is walking through a crowded fairground. The camera follows him as he moves through the crowd, giving a sense of the chaotic atmosphere while also allowing the audience to take in the details of this vibrant setting. Finally, The Third Man features several inventive uses of trick photography.

In one sequence, a character is seen from two different angles at once, giving the impression that he is in two places at once. This clever visual effect adds to the mysterious and dreamlike tone of the film. In conclusion, The Third Man makes masterful use of visual style and cinematography to create an atmosphere that is both visually striking and emotionally charged. By combining high-contrast black and white photography with unusual camera angles and clever uses of trick photography, director Carol Reed created a distinct visual style that has become one of cinema's most iconic.


The Third Man is a classic film, which has many themes that are still relevant today. The main themes explored in the film are morality, justice, and loyalty.

Morality is a key theme in The Third Man. The film follows the journey of Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a naïve American who becomes embroiled in a morally ambiguous situation in post-war Vienna. He is drawn into a web of intrigue and deception as he attempts to uncover the truth about his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Throughout the film, Holly faces many moral dilemmas which force him to confront his own beliefs about right and wrong.

Justice is another important theme in the film. The theme of justice is explored through the character of Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), who represents the law and attempts to bring Harry to justice for his misdeeds. Calloway's pursuit of justice is complicated by the corruption and moral ambiguity of post-war Vienna, and his dedication to the rule of law is tested as he is forced to make difficult decisions about what is right and wrong. The theme of loyalty is also explored in The Third Man.

Holly is loyal to his friend Harry, even though Harry has done some questionable things. Holly's loyalty is tested as he struggles with his conscience over whether or not he should betray Harry in order to do the right thing. In the end, Holly's loyalty wins out, and he is able to do what is right without betraying his friend.

Plot Summary

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, and Alida Valli. It tells the story of Holly Martins, an American writer who arrives in post-WWII Vienna to visit his friend Harry Lime, only to find out that Lime has been killed in a suspicious accident.

Martins soon discovers that Lime was involved in the black market sale of diluted penicillin. As he investigates further, he finds himself increasingly drawn into a complex web of intrigue and deceit. The Third Man is set in the Austrian capital of Vienna, which has been divided into four zones, each controlled by one of the victorious Allies from World War II. Martins is in the American zone, and his investigation leads him to other parts of the city, including the Russian zone and the British zone. As he digs further into Harry Lime's shady dealings, Martins discovers that Lime's associate, Popescu, had been selling diluted penicillin on the black market. The film features several plot twists and turns, including an unexpected meeting between Martins and Lime in a sewer tunnel beneath Vienna.

In the end, Martins discovers that Lime was a wanted criminal and that he had been responsible for many deaths. Despite this revelation, Martins still feels a deep affection for his friend. The Third Man is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and its cinematography and score have been praised by critics. It has also been credited with influencing other films such as The French Connection and The Godfather. The film is an exploration of moral ambiguity and its themes are still relevant today.


The Third Man features a number of key characters, all of whom have distinct personalities and motivations that contribute to the film’s narrative.

At the center of the story is Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), an American author who has come to Vienna in search of his old friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Holly is naive and trusting, with a strong moral code, and his interactions with Harry, as well as the other characters, drive much of the plot. Harry, meanwhile, is a mysterious figure, and his motivations are never fully revealed. He is charming and manipulative, with a penchant for making shady deals and exploiting people’s weaknesses.

His relationship with Holly is complex, and it’s never clear whether he truly cares about him or is just using him for his own gain. The other main character is Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), an Austrian woman who is in love with Harry but is also deeply suspicious of him. Anna is strong-willed and principled, and her relationship with Holly is equally complicated. She wants to protect him from Harry’s influence, but also has her own hidden agenda.

The Third Man also features several supporting characters, such as Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), a British intelligence officer investigating Harry; Popescu (Ernst Deutsch), Harry’s partner in crime; and Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White), Holly’s mentor. Each of these characters plays an important role in driving the narrative forward.'The Third Man' is an important film that has continued to captivate audiences since its release in 1949. It has become a classic of British cinema, and its influence can be seen in many modern films and filmmakers. The film's unique visual style and cinematography, along with its complex themes and suspenseful plot, have helped it to remain beloved by audiences around the world. It is a timeless classic that will continue to inspire generations of film lovers.

Meg Carter
Meg Carter

Avid music evangelist. Professional web junkie. Amateur food ninja. Extreme web expert. Extreme music expert.

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