Hosed, Bud: One Bad Review Has Ruined the Perfect Rotten Tomatoes Score for Citizen Kane

Orson Welles (L) and Joseph Cotten (R) in 1941's Citizen Kane.
Orson Welles (L) and Joseph Cotten (R) in 1941's Citizen Kane. / FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The enduring praise for Orson Welles’s debut directorial effort, 1941’s Citizen Kane, has kept it in the conversation for the greatest movie of all time. In addition to pioneering some innovative camera movement, Welles starred in the film about newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, uttering its iconic “Rosebud.”

More than 80 years later, Rotten Tomatoes has discovered that one critic didn’t like it.

According to Boing Boing, the review aggregator site’s addition of the negative write-up—which was originally published in The Chicago Tribune on May 7, 1941—prompted Citizen Kane to drop from a perfect 100 percent on the “Tomatometer” to a paltry 99 percent. Of the 116 reviews of the movie, the Tribune critique is the only negative one.

“You’ve heard a lot about this picture and I see by the ads that some experts think it ‘the greatest movie ever made,’” the review reads. “I don’t.”

It’s not exactly a scathing commentary, with the Tribune offering that the film is “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.”

The change in score, which was first spotted by Twitter user @Caulimovirus, means that Citizen Kane is no longer part of the site’s exclusive 100 percent positive review club, which includes 1957’s 12 Angry Men, 1959’s Rio Bravo, 1984’s The Terminator, and 2018’s Paddington 2.

The Tomatometer is sometimes misunderstood by people to mean that high-ranking films are highly lauded by all reviewers. Instead, any positive review—even if it’s only mildly effusive—counts. A movie with a 100 percent positive rating might mean everyone liked a movie; a movie with an 80 percent positive rating might mean a lot of critics loved it.

On the site’s list of the 100 best-reviewed movies, which uses a slightly different algorithm to account for the number of reviews, 1934’s It Happened One Night is at the top, followed by 2018’s Black Panther; Citizen Kane is in third place.

So who was the lone dissenting voice at the Tribune?  We may never know. At the time, movie reviewers weren’t held in very high esteem, and some newspapers didn’t bother with bylines or simply assigned whoever was available. In the case of Citizen Kane, the review is credited to “Mae Tinée,” a pun on “matinee.”

[h/t Boing Boing]