Why Is Citizen Kane Considered Best Film?

There are many interpretations regarding the greatest movie of all time. We agree with some of these comments and strongly oppose to others. So, if the best movie in the world had to be chosen, which movie would it be?
The answer to this question, according to many authorities, is Citizen Kane, which was produced in 1941. So what makes this movie so good?
Citizen Kane, which is at the top of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of the 100 best films, was a literal failure in 1941 when it was released. The film did not find what it wanted at the box office and was not well-liked by the audience. It was awarded one Oscar despite its 9 nominations. During its acceptance of the award, shouts of protest rose from the hall.

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As the years went by, however, these ideas have completely changed. Now, the movie has an unshakeable success. How is it that this movie, which was seen as almost a complete fiasco at the time, is so appreciated after so many years? This question has several answers:
The movie begins with the death of our main character, Charles Foster Kane. The rumor has it that the main character was inspired by William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the largest newspaper chain of the time, which caused the film to be discredited before it was released. Hearst didn’t know how he would be portrayed in the movie but he feared that he would be shown as a bad guy, so he started to revile against the movie right from the start.
The film starred and directed by Orson Welles, was released in such a hostile environment and started to confuse people with its first scene, because after the name of the film was written, the film started immediately before another text appeared on the screen. This was very unusual for that period. Audiences were used to seeing the names of the actors and the characters they portrayed after the title of the movie. The fact that the movie started so quickly and that the first scene came to the screen with a piece of music reminiscent of a horror movie gave the audience a second confusion.

Citizen Kane – Opening Scene:

A famous scene that completely puzzled the audience, and was to be used in many productions years later, was towards the middle of the movie. The main character, Charles Foster Kane, stands in front of a famous newspaper’s window, and while Kane is looking at the picture of the newspaper’s editorial team, his friend’s voice is heard  saying “It took 20 years for the newspaper to build such a team.” With this line, the camera approaches the picture in the showcase and suddenly there is movement in the picture. During this movement, Kane begins to speak; “Well, six years ago I looked at a picture of the world’s greatest newspapermen. I felt like a kid in front of a candy store. Well, tonight six years later, I got my cand. All of it.”

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As today’s audience, it is perhaps very easy for us to understand what has happened in this scene. A character looks at a picture, the picture gets closer and closer to the screen, and then, the picture suddenly starts to move. We understand that we have gone into the time when that picture was taken, we are watching the events that happened at that time. However, this was not an easy situation for the audience in 1941. Because they had never witnessed a change of time and place through a picture before. So no one understood how or why this picture was moving and what it was trying to deliver. Confusing the audience this much did not work well for Orson Welles at the time and caused many people to leave the theaters after this scene. Today, the importance and value of this scene, which took Welles 3 struggling days to shoot, is considered the work of a great genius.

Citizen Kane – Revived Photo:

Of course, the great ideas Welles used for his film were not limited to this. He had a meager budget and was already vilified by the press. Therefore, it was impossible to recruit the necessary number of extras for the rally speech of the main character, who was running for governor. But the character needed to speak to a very large audience. So Welles once again came up with an ingenious idea. Instead of placing hundreds of people in a big hall and shooting a scene, he had a drawing of a large hall with hundreds of people in it. He placed these pictures at the perfect angles around the camera, giving the audience the impression that they were watching a view of a large hall. However, there was a problem; No one was moving in the hall. How could a drawing be shown as if it were alive? Welles’ ingenuity solved this problem as well. He punched many tiny holes in the picture with the help of a needle and continuously moved a flashlight behind these holes during the recording. With this illusion, the people in the hall had become alive, moving people. Welles used the pictures for the rest of the movie to bring certain locations to the screen.
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Citizen Kane. (2022, October 6).
Resource: Wikipedia

Citizen Kane – Governor’s Election Speech:

In addition, Orson Welles’s character Kane grows older as the movie goes by. The aging make-up that was applied to Welles to make him look older was extremely successful for its time.
Of course, as a member of an audience living in 2022, it may be difficult for us to be impressed by what we see in Citizen Kane. However, if we watch the movie and imagine that we are in 1941, in a world without computers, television, and visual effects, we can understand how much the movie is beyond its time. Thanks to these reasons and many more, Citizen Kane is seen as one of the best feature films of all time.

References and Future Readings

AFI Catalog of Feature Films. AFI. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2022, from

Pasch, T. (2022, May 4). Why citizen Kane is considered to be the best film of All time. MovieWeb. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from,best%20movie%20of%20all%20time.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Asu Pelin Akköse

Hello everyone! My name is Asu Pelin Akkose. I am a graduate student at METU Chemistry Department. All my life, my favorite thing to do has been to read and learn. I have always thought that researching, learning and sharing knowledge is the best part of life. I am very happy to share with you the taste of learning new information through OkButWhy!

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