Citizen Kane

Critics poll
2 nd
Directors poll
2 nd

Citizen Kane

Year: 1941 Country: USA
Directed by Orson Welles
Featuring Joseph Cotten / Dorothy Comingore / Agnes Moorehead

Introduction

Given extraordinary freedom by Hollywood studio RKO for his debut film, boy wonder Welles created a modernist masterpiece that is regularly voted the best film ever made.

“Nothing can detract from the film’s vivid Balzacian rendering of a dynamic society, its high-powered American virtuosity: the effect of Citizen Kane on the art of film has been incalculable.”
Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg, Hollywood in the Forties, 1968

The 26-year-old Welles, already renowned for his work in radio and theatre, used the unprecedented artistic license offered to him by RKO to create a fictionalised portrait of one of America’s most powerful men – press baron William Randolph Hearst. Charting the rise of Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles himself) – who decides to start a newspaper with his inherited fortune – Welles’ film is a classic story of the corrupting effects of power.

The use of deep-focus photography (keeping both foreground and background in focus) and abstracted camera angles, the non-chronological narrative structure and overlapping dialogue, were just some of the myriad formal innovations that Welles brought together for his groundbreaking debut. Such novelty and controversy proved a curse for Welles, whose career never enjoyed such indulgence again.

Any film to go after the dark heart of the American dream, from The Godfather (1972) to There Will Be Blood (2007), owes Citizen Kane a debt.

157 critics voted for this film

Antti Alanen Sek Kei
Nigel Algar Glenn Kenny
Sitora Alieva Andriy Khalpakhchi
Thomas Allenbach Eric Kohn
Gunnar Almer Andrzej Kolodynski
Borislav Andjelic Richard Koszarski
Geoff Andrew Tadeusz Kowalski
Nigel Andrews Fernando Lara
Anjelika Artyukh Eric Le Roy
Michael Atkinson Danny Leigh
Florin Barbu Matthew Leyland
Luciano Barisone Tiina Lokk
Charles Barr Xiaoning Lu
Gabriele Barrera Tony Macklin
Ruth Barton Geoffrey Macnab
Pavel Bednarik Antonio Mariotti
Philip Berk Jeff Masino
Carlos Bonfil Demetrios Matheou
Guido Bonsaver Patrick McGilligan
Paul Buck Maura McHugh
Edward Buscombe Paolo Mereghetti
José María Caparrós-Lera Fung Ka Ming
Martin Tudor Caranfil Khalid Mohamed
Noel Carroll Philip Molloy
Massimo Causo Luciano Monteagudo
Anchalee Chaiworaporn Nashen Moodley
Tom Charity Orlando Mora
Youssef Cherif Rizkallah Venkateswaran Narayanan
Peggy Chiao Kim Newman
Renata Clark Bill Nichols
Richard Corliss Irina-Margareta Nistor
Nevena Dakovic Karel Och
Thomas Dawson Sevin Okyay
Maria M Delgado John Oliver
David Denby Mark Olsen
Guy Désiré Yameogo Karen Oughton
Bruno Di Marino Hannah Patterson
Ernesto Diezmartínez Alan Pauls
Thomas Doherty David Pendleton
Atilla Dorsay Jacob Perlin
Rachel Dwyer Alberto Pezzotta
Roger Ebert Mirsad Purivatra
Dimitri Eipides Leonardo Quaresima
Thomas P Elsaesser Leo Robson
Amir Emary Mohammed Rouda
Jim Emerson David Rudkin
John Ewing Jaan Ruus
Joseph Fahim Barry Salt
Edna Fainaru Pablo O. Scholz
Robert Fischer Graham Shirley
Ambrosio Fornet Nico Simon
Scott Foundas Jim Sinclair
Christopher Frayling Neil Sinyard
Graham Fuller Tim J Smith
Andreas Furler Fernanda Solórzano
Alon Garbuz Michael Sragow
Dan Georgakas Francine Stock
Luke Gibbons Lóránt Stőhr
Ben Gibson David Stratton
Jamie Graham Catherine A. Surowiec
Trevor Groth Matthew Sweet
Román Gubern David Thomson
Roman Gutek Fabio Troncarelli
Báron György Kenneth Turan
Rahul Hamid Quentin Turnour
Howard Hampton Maria Ulfsak
Liz Helfgott Susan Vahabzadeh
Marek Hendrykowski Peter Walsh
Jan-Christopher Horak Michael Wedel
Philip Horne Paul Whitington
Chinlin Hsieh Linda Ruth Williams
Mikhail Iampolski Norm Wilner
Nachman Ingber Wheeler Winston Dixon
Alby James Sergio Wolf
Jorge Jellinek Elizabeth Wood
Bruce Jenkins Jason Wood
Kim Ji-seok Kim Young-Jin
Thierry Jobin Jane Yu
Trevor Johnston