Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Third Man (1949)


Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Third Man (1949, UK)

In director Carol Reed's classic drama of geopolitical intrigue, enhanced by the haunting zither music soundtrack by Anton Karas:

  • the moody scenes of a shattered, post-war Vienna in the film's opening
  • the graveyard scene as Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was buried (he had allegedly been killed after being struck by a truck) - with his American unemployed pulp novelist friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) and Harry's dark-haired mistress lover Anna (Alida Valli) in attendance
  • after the ceremony, cynical British military police officer Major Calloway's (Trevor Howard) revelation to Martins about Lime's suspected occupation - a post-war black marketeer, involved in the theft of penicillin from the military hospitals, dilution to make it go further, and the drug's sale to patients (including children) through the black market for a profit: "He was about the worst racketeer that ever made a dirty living in this city...You could say that murder was part of his racket"
  • the image of a mournful Anna lying in bed and wearing Harry Lime's striped, monogrammed pajamas (HL)
  • the famous scene of presumed-dead Harry Lime's delayed appearance in the film - from a shadow inside a doorway when an overhead light illuminated his enigmatic, smirking, devilish face and a cat snuggled at his feet
  • the legendary gripping encounter between Lime and Martins at the top of the Prater Ferris wheel high above a Viennese fairground; Lime first explained how he didn't want to be a hero: "What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn't expect me to give myself up...'It's a far, far better thing that I do.' The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories"; Lime also contemptuously looked down from the ferris wheel at the scuttling mortals below, cheerfully calling the people unrecognizable "dots" from the height of the ride: "Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?"
  • then, once they had descended, Lime delivered a callous, perverse "cuckoo clock" monologue about Switzerland and cuckoo clocks, arguing that there was greater productivity in a warring, strife-ridden culture and civilization than in a peaceful one; the corruptible Lime cynically justified his black market criminal activities, and equated the corrupt political intrigues of the Borgias to the artistic triumphs of Michelangelo and da Vinci: "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock"
  • the concluding sequences - prefaced by an old, night-time balloon-man seller who betrayed the presence of guards and police searching for Lime
  • the thrilling, extraordinary chase sequence through the sewers after the wounded Lime - he crawled up a circular iron stairway to reach a grill-covered man-hole - his fingers clutched, curled, strained and poked through the sewer grill grating
  • the exquisite closing sequence - the second funeral of Harry Lime - and Anna's long and deliberate walk in between a row of trees and past a waiting Holly following the ceremony


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