The Third Man

As powerful and original now as it was in 1949.
  • Review Date: July 15, 2003
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1950
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

None except for a few fatal gunshots, only by reference. A murder scene is tastefully presented without a drop of blood. The dark, haunting mood and a chase through a winding sewer system might unnerve some preteen viewers.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie sets out to entertain, and does so ingeniously, without blood or sensational violence. Still, the shadowy, suspenseful mood and wry dialogue may not appeal to some preteens, so this one is better for teens and their parents.

What's the story?

Set in postwar Vienna, this classic espionage movie follows the story of American writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who comes to Vienna because his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) promised him employment. But Martins learns that Harry was killed in a car crash and that his friend had a criminal background and was, in fact, a killer. Martins finds himself caught up in the mystery surrounding Lime's death.

Is it any good?


Several factors contribute to make THE THIRD MAN as powerful and as stunningly original now as it was when it premiered to great acclaim in 1949. Graham Green's taut story and wonderfully snappy dialogue provide a strong foundation for some outstanding performances. Then there are the dank and glorious ruins of Vienna, exquisitely captured by Robert Krasker's Oscar-winning camerawork. And there's that music, a lone zither plucking jauntily away throughout the movie, even at the scene of a murder. Director Carol Reed's unconventional choice to have unknown musician Anton Karas perform the entire soundtrack met with objections, but it worked splendidly and made a star of Karas.

Orson Welles doesn't appear onscreen until two-thirds of the way through, but his presence is felt early on. The skewed camera angles, the imposing shadows; these, he said, were Reed's genius, but there's no mistaking the influence of his own Touch of Evil and Citizen Kane, which Welles and Joseph Cotten also starred in together. This is a movie that sets out to entertain, and does so ingeniously, without blood or sensational violence. The American Film Institute voted it number fifty-seven on their list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the filmmaking techniques used in this 1949 film, and how it compares to the more action-oriented spy thrillers of today.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 2, 1950
DVD release date:November 30, 1997
Cast:Alida Valli, Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles
Director:Carol Reed
Studio:Selznick International Pictures
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written bymongofa March 5, 2011
age 12+
There are many things that make this movie great. The acting is fantastic! The cinematography is perhaps the pest I have ever seen. The seen where Joseph Cotton walks through the sewer corridor is chillingly great.
Adult Written bygumba61 April 9, 2008
age 0+

Great Film Noir with Style and Mystery

This is a classic film of the Cold Way period. Joseph Cotton and Orson Wells are their magnificent selves. The film is fine for older kids but you'll probably have to spend time explaining the plot to them.
Parent of a 6 and 11 year old Written byWife-mother-law... April 29, 2012
age 13+

CSM review got it right.

The CSM review go it right. To understand this movie teens will have to understand "black markets" and a little bit about post WW II history of dividing parts of Europe into zones controlled by the Allies and what it might mean to be repatriated to Eastern Europe.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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