Citizen Kane is the best movie on AFI's 100 YEARS...100 MOVIES, second best on BFI's The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time and has score a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But I for myself cannot comprehend what is so great about this movie (I gave it a maximum of 8.5)? While this may sound slightly subjective there seems to be some major consensus in society about Citizen Kane's status as one of the best movies ever made (if not the best) and I would like to understand the reasons for this status, since those seem to be universal reasons.

Is it because of the time in which it was made? Is it because of the story? And I heard someone say that depth-of-field or something related was introduced for the first time in that movie. Is that right and may this be a reason, too?

  • Almost every shot is a special effects shot, in the sense that they had to pioneer new ways to convey visual story-telling. I'd first and foremost recommend Roger Ebert's DVD commentary. This commentary will be most illuminating and hopefully enjoyable. It's a history of film passion unto itself. ratethatcommentary.com/detail.php/34 Jan 6, 2014 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


Citizen Kane was incredibly innovative, for a number of cinematic techniques (both pro-filmic and technical).

The depth of field you are referring to is the first use of Deep Focus, or long focal range. If you actually type 'Deep Focus' into Google, the first images that come up are of Citizen Kane, such is its fame:

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Notice how Charles Foster Kane, as a boy, is still in perfect focus: even though the action is occuring in the foreground. This is saying nothing of the heavy use of symbolism used within the frame, and beautiful composition. And all this is only one shot of the film!

Orson Welles was one of the first US directors who believed in privileging the image, not only the content/plot. He would go to extraordinary lengths to create unique cinematic experiences that had never been discovered/explored before; boring holes into the studio floor to create camera trenches, in order to get super-low angle footage, for one.

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The film making techniques, the plot, the allegory to America's infatuation with wealth, the clever symbolism, the veiled attack on a much loathed newspaper magnate, and that ending...

..what's not to love?

The film was an instant classic: Cahiers Du Cinema, perhaps the most prestigious cinema journal of all time, described it as

an undisputed, ground-breaking masterpiece of cinema history. Welles’ stature as a baroque, impetuous and profoundly free artist made the studios uncomfortable. He had control of every detail.

It's simply one of the most influential movies of all time, for a variety of reasons pertaining to almost every field of film-making.


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