When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1946, it gave its Best Picture award to The Best Years of Our Lives, a well-intentioned film that is nowhere near as good as any of these:
1. It's a Wonderful Life
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Capra, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Jo Swerling, from a story by Philip Van Doren Stern
I have heard your complaints about this movie. You think Potterville looks like a pretty fun place to live. You think it's ridiculous that it's considered such a terrible fate to become a spinster librarian. You think that romantic portrait of a building-and-loan is partly responsible for the S&L crisis. You've got a ton of arguments against this beloved classic, and I understand them. I even agree with some of them. (Go, librarians!) But it's still a damn masterpiece, a film of depth and nuance that keeps yielding more depths and nuances the closer you look at it. The best thing Capra ever did.
2. My Darling Clementine
Directed by John Ford
Written by Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller, and Sam Hellman, from a novel by Stuart N. Lake
"Mac, you ever been in love?" "No, I've been a bartender all my life."
3. The Big Sleep
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman, from a novel by Raymond Chandler
The picture with a plot so convoluted that even Chandler wasn't sure who killed one of the characters. Somehow that makes it better.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ben Hecht
"My car is outside." "Naturally."
5. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Written by Robert Rossen, from a novel by John Patrick
Quite possibly the single most bizarre movie in all of '40s and '50s film noir. Yes, I realize that's saying a lot.
Directed by Charles Vidor
Written by Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet, and Ben Hecht, from a story by E.A. Ellington
"I cheat with my own money, sure. But with your money, I wouldn't have to cheat."
7. The Killers
Directed by Robert Siodmak
Written by Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiller, and John Huston, from a story by Ernest Hemingway
Putting that Citizen Kane structure to use on a rougher, more violent tale.
8. Hair-Raising Hare
Directed by Chuck Jones
Written by Tedd Pierce
Bugs Bunny meets Peter Lorre.
9. Beauty and the Beast
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Written by Cocteau, from a novel by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
No, not the Disney movie. For heaven's sake.
10. The Postman Always Rings Twice
Directed by Tay Garnett
Written by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch, from a novel by James M. Cain
Like the movies at #s 3, 5, 6, 7, and arguably 4, this is a noir. Did I mention that this was a good year for noir?
Of the films of 1946 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Duel in the Sun.