Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film, directed by and starring Orson Welles. It was Welles's first feature film. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories; it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman Mankiewicz and Welles. Citizen Kane was voted the greatest film of all time in five consecutive Sight & Sound's polls of critics, until it was displaced by Vertigo in the 2012 poll. Citizen Kane is particularly praised for its innovative cinematography, music, and narrative structure.
The story is a film à clef that examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick, and aspects of Welles's own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. Kane's career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is revealed through the research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud".
After his success in the theatre with his Mercury Players, and his controversial 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds on The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Welles was courted by Hollywood. He signed a contract with RKO Pictures in 1939. Unusual for an untried director, he was given the freedom to develop his own story and use his own cast and crew, and was given final cut privilege. Following two abortive attempts to get a project off the ground, he developed the screenplay of Citizen Kane with Herman Mankiewicz. Principal photography took place in 1940 and the film received its American release in 1941.
While a critical success, Citizen Kane failed to recoup its costs at the box office. The film faded from view soon after its release but its reputation was restored, initially by French critics, especially Jean-Paul Sartre, and more widely after its American revival in 1956. It has topped many 'greatest film ever made' lists such as Sight & Sound's decennial poll, the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list and its 10th Anniversary Update.
The film was released on Blu-ray disc September 13, 2011, for a special 70th anniversary edition.