Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane has been regarded for decades as one of the finest pieces of cinema ever crafted. It is a truly incredible film, both for its time and these days, though there is a particular scene I never want to see again after having watched it 100 times in a row for a college film class. Regardless, as such a well-regarded film, Citizen Kane has held a “100% Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes for about as long as Rotten Tomatoes has existed. That, however, has changed, and it’s all because of a grumpy critic from 80 years ago.
Rotten Tomatoes has been running an archival project wherein older film reviews from before the digital age are uncovered, transcribed, and added to a film’s score. The project recently uncovered a single negative Citizen Kane review published in the Chicago Tribune in 1941 with the rather succinct headline “Citizen Kane Fails to Impress Critic as Greatest Ever Filmed.”
“You’ve heard a lot about this picture and I see by the ads that some experts think it ‘the greatest movie ever made,’” reads the review. “I don’t. It’s interesting. It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value.”
Sounds like someone who’s fun at parties. Nevertheless, with this vintage review, Citizen Kane has been officially knocked down to only 99% Fresh, leaving another 100% Fresh film to claim the throne: Paddington 2. While there are other films with 100% ratings, Paddington 2 maintains its rating despite having the most reviews on file, which means it’s the new top bear.
I do hope Mr Kane won’t be too upset when he hears I’ve overtaken him with rotten tomatoes.
— Paddington (@paddingtonbear) April 28, 2021
“It’s extremely lovely to be on on any list, which includes Citizen Kane, but it is obviously quite an eccentric list that goes from Citizen Kane to Paddington 2, so I’ll try not to take it too seriously,” writer and director Paul King told The Hollywood Reporter. “I won’t let it go too much to my head and immediately build my Xanadu. But I have been cooking up a model just in case.”