Movie Review

Citizen Kane

The classic story of power and the press.
Citizen Kane Movie Poster

US Release Date: 05-01-1941

Directed by: Orson Welles


  • Orson Welles
  • Charles Foster Kane
  • Joseph Cotten
  • Jedediah Leland
  • Dorothy Comingore
  • Susan Alexander Kane
  • Agnes Moorehead
  • Mrs. Mary Kane
  • Ruth Warrick
  • Emily Monroe Norton Kane
  • Ray Collins
  • Boss Jim W. Gettys
  • Erskine Sanford
  • Herbert Carter
  • Everett Sloane
  • Mr. Bernstein
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: May 31st, 2003
Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

There is not much left to say about what has been called the greatest film ever made by more critics than any other movie. Citizen Kane is undeniably a masterpiece of filmmaking. Orson Welles was only in his mid-twenties and had never made a movie before writing, directing and starring in this one. It is interesting that audiences have never embraced Citizen Kane with the same fervency as critics. In fact this is probably the quintessential example of an art house movie that has never connected with the masses but continues to be placed on a pedestal by the industry itself.

The reasons for this are quite obvious.

On the critic's side are the many brilliant and groundbreaking aspects of the movie. Most notably the much written about deep-focus photography and the cyclical way in which the story is told. Shot for shot this movie is probably the greatest ever made. It is, after all, the best example of a 'directors movie'. In style it was decades ahead of anything else coming out of Hollywood and its impact on hundreds of later movies is undeniable. The acting is also superb. And the movie is filled with iconic images. The close-up of Charles Foster Kane's mouth as he whispers his dying words followed by the shot of the snow globe falling to the floor, and the image of Kane stumping for political office in front of a billboard sized poster of himself are probably the two most famous. Then there is the surprise ending where the meaning of 'Rosebud' is revealed. Unfortunately time and fame have completely removed any surprise that this revelation originally carried. Still it is a satisfying conclusion to an incredibly well written story.

On the detractor's side is the lack of any sympathetic characters (although it can be argued that Kane himself is ultimately a victim of his own success and therefore sympathetic) and the fact that the plot, once you wade through the intricate style and mish-mashed way that it's presented, is actually extremely simplistic. And can be summed up as... reclusive millionaire whispers 'Rosebud' as his dying words and a reporter interviews people who knew him to discover the meaning. Ultimately, I think audiences are turned off by the fact that, although we are shown the answer to the question, none of the movies characters ever finds out. In that sense, for many people, the ending is a let down.

Citizen Kane is rather like Shakespeare in that they are both often labeled boring by the masses. Not to be a snob but the fact is that they are both acquired tastes that get more flavorful with each serving. For Citizen Kane is truly a feast for the eyes. Nearly every shot is unique and the story is told in such a way that you can watch it over and over and find new details every time. The hard part is getting through it the first time.

Reviewed on: June 8th, 2003
The snow globe from Citizen Kane.

The snow globe from Citizen Kane.

Get over yourself Patrick! Citizen Kane is a bore of a movie. I don't care how the director shot this film. The use of shadows are dramatic but do they actually help the plot along?

It is filled with some imaginative scenes. I like the part that explains the life of his marriage. It shows the couple at the table in a series of scenes. At first they talk. In the next scene they talk less. In the last scene they just sit at the table as if the other one is not even there.

Citizen Kane is an artistic and creative work of brilliance. So what? I watch movies for entertainment. Show this movie in a film studies class. The instructor should preface the showing by telling the class that this is what you should aspire to if you want to please the critics and never make a dime.

Citizen Kane is the greatest example of an overly directed movie. Sure there are some shots that stay with you. But this movie has no emotional center. The greatest impact a movie can make on the audience is to have them feel something during or after they watch it. Laugh at a comedy. Get choked up over a love story. Feel a rush during an action scene. Citizen Kane leaves me cold. You can pile all the artistic direction you want into a movie, but if their is no emotional attachment to the characters then the movie failed on the simplest of levels.

Reviewed on: March 8th, 2009
Lots of cool shots here, but not much entertainment.

Lots of cool shots here, but not much entertainment.

The only way I could think to write about this movie was to say to myself, "Okay, pretend like you'd never heard of it before now, or ever seen it before. What was your honest opinion of it?" And my gut response was that there are some really cool shots in it, but that I didn't like Kane very much and every other character in it is completely two-dimensional. The plot is simple, but it's filmed in an intriguing non-chronological manner that makes it seem deeper. As for the celebrated ending, honestly, it seems like a gimmick. It's like the ending of a Twilight Zone episode or an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Patrick, if I say this movie is boring, I'm just one of the uncultured masses who doesn't appreciate the finer things? I have to disagree. I can appreciate the technical aspects of this movie. I can throw around film student jargon like mise-en-scene, backlighting, dissolves, and indeed, deep-focus photography and cyclical storytelling, but while it might make me sound pretentious it doesn't make Citizen Kane any less boring.

What it comes down to is whether or not you watch movies to be entertained or to admire the filmmaker's acumen. Of course in truly great movies, you are both entertained and amazed by the technical aspects of the movie. That's just not the case here.

Patrick, you sound surprised this was someone's first movie. To me it seems pretty obvious that it was someone's first. It seems very much like a film student's movie. It's over-directed and crammed full of tricks and gimmicks. Sure, all the cools shots are a feast for the eye and are impressive in that he was doing some of them for the first time here, but that doesn't make it a better movie overall, just a better movie technically.

Eric is right, if art doesn't make an emotional connection with an audience than it has failed and like its titular character, this movie just doesn't make a human or emotional connection.

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