Parents' Guide to

Citizen Kane

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Classic should be required for any movie lover.

Movie NR 1941 119 minutes
Citizen Kane Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 18 parent reviews

age 9+

What of the greatest movies

Great movie tells the rise and and fall of a complex magnate. It may seem average but this movie was revolutionary and it’s inspiration is in every movie you see today.
age 12+

That deep focus and and lighting!

I watched this film for the first time when I was a teenager and I thought it was nothing more but an interesting mystery and average in every other way. Viewing the film again a wee bit older offers different insight. Screening it on a much bigger screen also helps, making the lighting and the deep focus emerge much stronger. I can see why Welles made such a splash and how history held him to a different kind of standard. I think the film is uniquely well made and very interesting and it definitely takes chances on how the shots are laid out, but "greatest film ever made?" That is a title that seems unfair to bestow onto any film.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (18 ):
Kids say (58 ):

Kids who watch this film can never know how revolutionary it was. Every one of its dozens of innovations, from the flashback structure to the use of sets with ceilings for additional authenticity, has become all but standard. No problem -- there is time enough for them to study these aspects of Citizen Kane's brilliance if they decide to learn more about film history and criticism. For their first viewing of this brilliant work (and for purposes of a family discussion), just let them focus on the story, the dialogue, and the characters, which remain as compelling and contemporary as they were more than 50 years ago.

Like Willie Stark in All the King's Men, Kane begins as a populist and dies corrupt and alone, and we cannot help but hope for some explanation of how that happened, as Thompson does. Both Kane and Stark were based on real-life figures. Kane was based largely but not completely on William Randolph Hearst, the almost impossibly wealthy heir to the largest gold and silver mine owner in America, who became a powerful publishing magnate. Kane might also have been based on Welles himself, only 25 years old when he co-wrote, directed, and starred in this, his first film. He spent the rest of his life coming up with one excuse or another for why he never came close to that level of achievement again.

Movie Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate