#64. Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed by: Orson Welles
Written by: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart
Citizen Kane, often regarded by critics and historians as the greatest film ever made, is certainly the most daunting film on my list to write about – even briefly. What can somebody of my experience say about Orson Welles’ magnum opus that hasn’t already been repeated ad nauseum? Absolutely nothing, but I can at least give readers an idea of why it’s appearing on my list. Citizen Kane tells the epic story of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a newspaper tycoon through the early to mid 1900’s. The story takes place after the death of the controversial but important figure, transporting us between past events that lead to Kane’s rise and fall, and the present where those closest to the man give some insight into his character. We learn of the building of his famous, but incomplete, Xanadu, his multiple failed marriages, and the effect that his modest upbringing had on his personality. Citizen Kane weaves an impressive and poignant narrative with style and grace, laying the foundation for generations of filmmakers to come – its influence is still felt in the American movie scene. Orson Welles was in his mid-20’s when he wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane – an achievement that has gone unmatched in the decades since the film’s release. Welles’ visionary approach to directing and storytelling cannot be understated – the director employs the use of newsreel footage, montages, flashbacks, and nonlinear storytelling to push the narrative along, and techniques like deep focus to give the film a stylistic flair. Citizen Kane’s opening newsreel sequence is one of my favorite movie scenes ever – delivering the perfect amount of information and background to our main character and his achievement. The film’s reveal of “Rosebud” is deeply moving, despite having been parodied for decades – it’s one of cinema’s greatest reveals. Everything about the movie is graceful, meaningful, and deliberate – there’s no doubt in my mind that Citizen Kane is one of cinema’s all-time greatest achievements. Without it, the majority of my list would never have been made, at least not on the ambitious artistic levels many of them achieve. If you haven’t seen Citizen Kane solely because of its reputation, I urge you to do so immediately – it’s a thrilling exercise in the magic of film, full of wonderful moments, performances, and photography that will make your jaw drop.