Why the Third Man Is My Favorite Film

The Third Man was directed by Carol Reed. Released in 1949.
  1. First, let me mention the unique music. I can't think of another movie that uses a zither as the only instrument. Somehow the zither just works perfectly in setting the mood. Here's Anton Karas and his zither.
  2. The setting is fantastic. Post World War II Vienna really helps set the tone for the dark mystery to unfold. The city has been divided into French, American, British and Russian zones. That disorienting mix of languages and peoples helps to put the lead character constantly off balance.
  3. The black and white cinematography is glorious. The use of canted angles and ominous shadows raise the stakes. The protagonist, Holly Martins, seems over-powered and like he could be swallowed at any minute by the darkness around him.
  4. The corkscrew mystery and intrigue is captivating. The circuitous plot winds its way back around to where it started.
  5. The introduction of Harry Lime. It may well be the most surprising and most effective character introduction of all-time.
  6. The Ferris wheel scene. It's interesting that a fun ride is turned into this creepy threatening moment. Orson Welles' cuckoo clock speech is absolutely masterful.
  7. The sewer chase near the end of the film, is one of the great sequences in film. Harry is like a trapped animal being slowly hunted. There's no real escape, only delay. The dark shadows and quick cuts, mixed with reverberating rich echoes help ratchet up the impending doom.
  8. Lastly, the ending helps wrap up a unique film in an atypical way. Anna walks down a path surrounded by trees shedding leaves, only to continue on past the camera and away forever.