The Best Years of Our Lives

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After that, I had it easy... That's what I said. They took care of me fine. They trained me to use these things. I can dial telephones, I can drive a car, I can even put nickels in the jukebox. I'm all right, but... well, you see, I've got a girl.
Homer Parrish
These are the best years of our lives, and we're wasting them!
Marie Derry

The Best Years of Our Lives was a 1946 film 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 was one of the first movies that showed war as it was (probably the reason it was so well received), instead of romanticizing it like movies and books were prone to.

Tropes used in The Best Years of Our Lives include:
  • Bittersweet Ending: The three war veterans are slowly returning to normal lives, with Homer marrying Wilma, and Fred getting divorced from his unloving wife freeing him to court Al's college-age daughter. But all three acknowledge they still have tough roads ahead of them.
  • Girl Next Door: Literally with Homer's girlfriend Wilma.
  • Oscar Bait: Arguably one of the first films to qualify for this.
  • Playing Gertrude: Actress Myrna Loy (Milly Stephenson) was only 13 years older than Teresa Wright who played her daughter Peggy.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Though they all have traits of this, one of the original plans before they found the man who played Homer was to have a full-on Shell Shock victim who constantly had panic attacks.
    • Al can no longer relate to his wife or his children who grew up without him, and is turning into an alcoholic.
    • Fred dismisses the war medals he's earned, and finds himself climbing into the remains of a bomber plane that are getting taken apart now that the war's over.
    • Homer is ashamed of his artificial hooks and can't keep himself around his family or his girl-next-door sweetheart.
  • 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.
  • World War II: Or, at least, the psychological effects of it.
  • Written-In Infirmity: Homer was supposed to be merely shell-shocked, but when real-life amputee Harold Russell was cast, his disability was written in.