AFI Movie Club: THE THIRD MAN – American Film Institute
The Third Man Film Still - Orson Welles



THE THIRD MAN appears at #57 on AFI’s original list of the greatest American films – and subsequently at #75 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list. The character of Harry Lime – played by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Orson Welles – shows up at #37 on AFI’s list of the greatest screen villains. 

Watch Kenneth Branagh announce the film:

Movie Trivia about THE THIRD MAN

DID YOU KNOW Graham Greene based Harry Lime on British double agent Kim Philby? Philby had been Greene’s superior in Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service – and Greene’s suspicion of Philby was allegedly the reason for the former’s abrupt resignation from the service in 1944. 

DID YOU KNOW that Cary Grant was initially sought for the part of Holly Martins, which eventually went to Joseph Cotten? 

DID YOU KNOW Noël Coward, Robert Mitchum and Jimmy Stewart were all considered for the role of Harry Lime, which Orson Welles ultimately played? 

DID YOU KNOW that the production shot on location in Vienna, Austria? Director Carol Reed was granted permission by all four of the country’s occupying powers. 

DID YOU KNOW that Graham Greene credits Orson Welles with writing the famous line about Switzerland’s sole contribution to world culture being the cuckoo clock? 

DID YOU KNOW that Carol Reed discovered Anton Karas – then an unknown musician who specialized in the zither – in a Vienna wine bar? Reed hired him to compose the critically acclaimed score for THE THIRD MAN. 

DID YOU KNOW that Carol Reed’s frequent use of Dutch angles to portray unease and tension led his friend William Wyler to send him a level accompanied by a note? It read, “Carol, next time you make a picture, just put this on top of the camera, will you?” 

DID YOU KNOW that THE THIRD MAN won the Academy Award® for Best Cinematography (Black and White) and was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Editing? 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-How is Vienna used as a character? 

-How do you think Graham Greene’s background in British Intelligence informed the narrative of THE THIRD MAN? 

-What are the film’s themes? 

-What was the post-World War II climate like in Austria when the film was shot? How does the film reflect the environment in Europe at the time? 

-What do you think of the film’s visual style? How does it mirror Italian neorealism? 

-How is the film’s ending different than in Graham’s novella? Which do you prefer? 

-Do you think the film still resonates today, and why? 

-How would you rank THE THIRD MAN? 


In this exclusive AFI Archive video, Joseph Cotten honors Orson Welles at the AFI Life Achievement Award tribute:

Watch director William Friedkin talk about Orson Welles’ character, Harry Lime, in THE THIRD MAN:

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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