5. The Third Man (1949)
Director: Carol Reed
Screenwriter: Graham Greene
Hero solves the crime, wastes the bad guy, and gets the girl. That's how things are supposed to end, but that's not exactly the case in Carol Reed's masterful film noir. The Third Man weaves a pulpy murder mystery set against the backdrop of post-WWII Vienna. While the Allies divide up the country, bumbling American fiction writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives, stumbling upon a conspiracy and the fetching woman Anna who is tied up in the ordeal.
In a film that's as relevant today as it was more than 60 years ago, Martins is a awkward American presence in a foreign country, a well-meaning hero whose earnest efforts can also be harmful. His victory is not met with the exaltation he might have hoped for.
In the film's haunting final moments, the villain is in the grave and Martins is ready to return home, but not without sharing another moment with Anna, whom he waits for on a tree lined road. As we watch Anna slowly approach, we're eager for a resolution that never comes. She walks right on past Martins without so much a look in his direction. He's left by himself on the side of the road and we're left shell-shocked by a conclusion that's boldly cynical but also strikingly sincere. —Rad S.