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“Citizen Kane,” long hailed as the greatest movie of all time, just got downgraded.
In an upset 80 years in the making, an unearthed archival review has knocked the 1941 cinematic masterpiece from its top spot, dropping from its 100% rating down to 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, citing 116 reviews. The popular site famously aggregates critical reviews to estimate a percentage level of viewer satisfaction on their “Tomatometer.”
Films that have now surpassed Orson Welles’ master work with 100% ratings include “Paddington 2” (2017), “Rebecca” (1940), “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) and “Leave No Trace” (2018). It should be noted, however, that Rotten Tomatoes’ weighted ranking, which also factors the number of reviews for each flick, still ranks “Citizen Kane” at No. 3 on the all-time list, behind “Black Panther” (2018) and “It Happened One Night” (1934) in the legitimate No. 1 spot.
An eagle-eyed fan on Twitter first called out the under-the-radar review: “Rotten Tomatoes literally dug up an 80 year old negative review of Citizen Kane and now the movie no longer has a 100% fresh rating,” they wrote in a tweet shared by more than 5,000 other armchair film critics.
The pseudonymous review was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on May 7, 1941, a week after the movie’s premiere in New York City and one day after its Windy City debut, under the catty headline “ ’Citizen Kane’ fails to impress critic as greatest film ever made.”
“It’s interesting. It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece,” according to the nit-picky review. “But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value.”
The unidentified author added, “I only know it gives one the creeps and that I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in.”
A Rotten Tomatoes insider told IndieWire the vintage upload was made in conjunction with the site’s “RT Archives,” which was introduced in November 2020 with a stated mission of preserving editorial content related to classic and historic film.
The review suggests that the hype surrounding “Citizen Kane” had begun long before its wide release, which put critics under the storied film’s spell. Its infamy was fueled by a smear campaign launched by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who is widely understood to be Welles’ inspiration for protagonist Charles Foster Kane.
David Fincher’s “Mank,” starring Gary Oldman as legendary “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz, has ignited renewed interest in Hollywood’s most esteemed feature, revealing the contentious circumstances in which Welles and Mank completed the politically and artistically fraught film.
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