If you have to watch one Peacock movie this May, stream this one

The cast of The Best Years of Our Lives.
RKO Radio Pictures

2024 has, thus far, been kind of a strange year for movies. While there have been some marquee titles in theaters like The Fall Guy, and some breakout hits on streaming like Scoop, thanks in large part to the strikes that lasted for months on end, there are fewer movies than we might normally expect.

This temporary drop off in the supply of new titles is a perfect excuse to do a little exploring. While it may not be the most popular streaming service, Peacock has a library of great titles that are well worth exploring. This May, we’d recommend checking out one of the older movies on the service, The Best Years of Our Lives, which tells the story of three World War II veterans who return home at the end of the war. Here’s why you should check it out.

It’s remarkably prescient about the nature of trauma

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Official Trailer – Myrna Loy, Fredric March Movie HD

The study of trauma has come a long way since The Best Years of Our Lives was first released in 1946, but this movie is nonetheless a surprisingly sharp examination of the lingering trauma these three men face as they attempt to assimilate back into their regular lives.

In chronicling the lives of three men of different ages as they return from the war, we get to see how each of them handle the strangeness with being expected to resume whatever they were doing before the war as if the entire conflict simply never happened.

It was directed by someone who had experienced the war firsthand

Dana Andrews and Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives.
Public Domain

It’s perhaps unsurprising that The Best Years of Our Lives is so sensitive to the plight of veterans, given that it was directed by someone who had been close to the war. William Wyler directed two documentaries about the war and volunteered to serve as a major during the conflict. He also made several films explicitly about the war, including the equally great Mrs. Miniver.

Wyler’s techniques for depicting trauma might seem a little dated to a modern audience, but what unquestionably holds up is the sensitivity he gives his characters, never expecting them to “man up” or “get over” the horrible things they’ve seen.

It features a slew of great performances

A black and white image of Harold Russell standing beside a woman in a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives.
RKO Radio Pictures

The Best Years of Our Lives was a major favorite at that year’s Academy Awards, and with good reason. Each of the movie’s three main actors are remarkable, and that’s especially true of Harold Russell, who plays Homer, a man who lost both his hands during the war and has to return to his high school sweetheart completely changed. He won two Oscars for his performance, and is the only performer to have pulled off this feat.

While the men are at the center of this story, The Best Years of Our Lives also gives its female performers, most notably Myrna Loy, plenty of opportunity to shine as we come to understand the way the war and its aftershocks transformed not just the men who left but also the women who stayed.

The Best Years of Our Lives is streaming on Peacock.

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