Orson Welles is one of the most famous actors and filmmakers who ever lived. Even if you’ve never seen any of his movies, you’ve probably at least heard of a few.

He starred in classics like Citizen Kane and The Third Man, but he also directed some fantastic films of his own like Kane and others.

The best Orson Welles movies prove that he was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

After his incredible debut in Citizen Kane, Welles continued to push the boundaries of film by making bold political statements and redefining the way stories were told on screen.

Many of these films – especially his international classics like Chimes at Midnight and Touch of Evil – have benefited from modern restorations, allowing them to be seen in their intended form, while other films like The Other Side of the Wind remain almost completely unseen.

Best Orson Welles Movies

Here’s our list of the awesome films of Orson Welles. Bit of a tongue twister, that!

Without further ado, here’s the best Orson Welles movies.

F for Fake (1973)

F for Fake is a 1973 experimental documentary film by the British filmmaker and critic Orson Welles .

It was Welles’ first film in 12 years, and his last movie before his death in 1985. The title is an allusion to Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane , which itself was based on the eponymous novel by fellow filmmaker Herman Mankiewicz.

F for Fake is presented as a series of interviews by Welles with people who have been impacted by the art world: art collector and forger Elmyr de Hory , animal trainer Frank Buck , art dealer Julian Levy and art expert David Lewin .

The movie opens with Welles introducing himself as Mr. Arkadin (a reference to his earlier film). He then goes on to tell a story about a man named Elmyr de Hory, an artist who forged the work of many other artists.

He was considered the “greatest living painter” by many because no one ever suspected he was not the artist he claimed to be.

Welles introduces de Hory as a “pathological liar”. De Hory describes himself as an artist who paints lies, or fakes them in order to make some sort of point that is beyond ordinary experience. 

Sale
F for Fake (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Joseph Cotton (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

“The Magnificent Ambersons” is the story of a man, his family and his hopes for the future. It’s about how those hopes are destroyed by the growing pains of a nation, and about the failure of one man to grow with them.

As director Orson Welles later said, “I began with an idea of doing an exercise in style; I ended with an exercise in psychology.”

As he matured as an artist, Welles would increasingly use film to delve into character, but never again would he attempt such a radical refashioning of style.

The first third of this film takes place in 1905, and tells the story of how young George Amberson Minafer’s (Joseph Cotton) plans to marry Isabel (Dolores Costello) are thwarted when he loses all his money in a bad investment.

The rest moves forward in time to 1917, when George is a middle-aged widower. Having lost everything but his social position, George still longs for Isabel and is consumed with bitterness over her marriage to another man.

His daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter), meanwhile, has become engaged to Eugene Morgan (Donna Reed), who unwisely confides his concerns about George’s snobbery to Isabel.

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The Magnificent Ambersons (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Magnificent Ambersons (Criterion)
  • Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Touch of Evil (1958)

You know what I’m talking about. You’re on the edge of your seat and the fat lady hasn’t even started singing yet. Every shot is a long, lingering close up that lets the viewer soak in all of the characters’ faces.

The shadows are so dark you have to strain to see what’s going on. The camera goes from character to character at a snail’s pace, allowing your imagination to wander into some pretty evil places.

Touch of Evil is one of the most famous movies using this technique, and it was created by Orson Welles, who was quite a filmmaker himself.

There’s no denying his talent for creating suspense on film, but let’s face it: he had some help from cinematographer Russell Metty and director of photography Gerald F. Brunskil.

The camera angles in Touch of Evil are wide and close to the action, with frequent cuts between characters (a total of 97). The editing also helps add to that feeling of suspense and mystery because it is fast paced and there aren’t many long shots.

This may be why some people find it hard to follow along with exactly what is happening.

A lot happens in Touch of Evil, but the audience isn’t lost at sea because they can always see who is where and what.

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Touch of Evil [Blu-ray]
  • Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director) - Orson Welles (Writer) - Albert Zugsmith (Producer)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

 

Best Orson Welles Movies

Who Is orson welles?

Orson Welles was born on May 6, 1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After his parents divorced when he was 4 years old, he and his mother moved to Chicago, Illinois.

He graduated from the Todd Seminary for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1931 and later attended the Todd School of Expression in Chicago.

In 1933, he found work with an acting company and toured with them until 1937. He then moved to New York City to seek acting work.

Trouble began to follow Welles as soon as he began working professionally as an actor.

In 1934, during a benefit performance of Julius Caesar that Welles directed at the Mercury Theatre in New York City, one of the extras in the crowd turned out to be a member of the National Guard who was incensed by what he considered a subversive and unpatriotic presentation of Shakespeare’s play.

The ensuing riot led to Welles’ brief arrest and caused him to lose a job as assistant stage manager for Broadway’s Federal Theatre Project.

On November 11-12, 1938, Welles staged his production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds over the radio–a dramatization of an invasion from Mars that convinced many listeners that Earth really was under attack by aliens.

 

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

In 1941, on its release, the film was a tremendous critical and commercial success. RKO made a net profit of $630,000 ($10.3 million in 2016 dollars) from the picture and it was named the year’s best film by the New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review.

The film received nine Academy Award nominations and won every Oscar except Best Picture (however, it did win that year’s special award for “distinguished production achievement”).

A few years later, when Orson Welles was asked to choose his favorite film among those he had directed, he picked Citizen Kane. In polls taken by Sight & Sound in 1962 and 1982, it ranked as one of the greatest films ever made.

In 1992, the film was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Citizen Kane is particularly praised for its cinematic techniques and story-telling methods.

For example, Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu estate is very large but also very empty because it lacks any personal touches; Welles contrasts this with newsreels showing Kane at various charity events and political rallies where he interacts with thousands of people over his lifetime.

   

Sale
Citizen Kane (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Macbeth (1948)

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Macbeth [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw (Actors)
  • Roman Polanski (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

The Immortal Story (1968)

Watching the film, I approached it with an open mind but with reservations. My experience of Bunuel’s work is not extensive, and I have to admit that his last film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), left me cold.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.

The Immortal Story is a charming, elegant and mysterious fable that asks us to consider how we deal with death and how we deal with love.

The story concerns Mr. Clay (Fernando Rey), the owner of a chandlery shop in a small maritime town in South America. He is visited by Mr. Brown (John Malkovich), who claims to be a fugitive from justice, fleeing from a crime that he did not commit.

Brown tells Clay that he will pay him generously if Clay allows him to stay in his house for just one night as a place where he can hide from the rest of the world until he feels able to leave again under his own steam.

Clay agrees to take Brown in, and while they are talking, a young woman named Rose (Catherine Deneuve) arrives at the shop looking for some candles for her mother’s funeral later that day. 

Sale
The Immortal Story (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Norman Eshley (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Stranger (1946)

On the surface, The Stranger is a relatively straightforward film noir that follows the investigation and prosecution of a man thought to have murdered his wife.

The deeper truths in this movie revolve around the nature of guilt and innocence, however, and the story of how an ordinary man can be manipulated into committing a crime that he does not fully understand.

Tinged with both disillusionment and existentialism, The Stranger is one of director Orson Welles’ most complex films.

It is also one of the best examples of film noir, and deserves to be ranked alongside classics like Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, and Touch of Evil as some of the best films in this dark cinematic genre.

The Stranger begins with scenes of Richard Wilson’s character, Frank Wilson (a.k.a. Franz Kindler), arriving in New York City after having escaped from a prison camp during World War II.

He is taken in by a kindly old couple who help him get back on his feet and even put him up for several months while he searches for work. He then finds work as a clerk at an art shop owned by Mrs. Una Voss (Eleanor Parker).

The two develop a close friendship that turns into romance.

The Stranger
  • Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Loretta Young (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Welles was a genius, but he was no businessman. He made lots of enemies and trusted the wrong people. When he became embroiled in a costly lawsuit with RKO Studios, his financial problems intensified.

A few years before Mr. Arkadin , Welles had convinced Paramount to back the filming of The Magnificent Ambersons .

However, when the studio boss took one look at the footage and declared it a disaster, they fired Welles and finished the movie without him. This left Welles with nothing to show for his efforts but a reputation for being difficult to work with.

When Welles conceived the idea of Mr. Arkadin , he knew it would be a challenge to find backing. Although its plot wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, Arkadin ‘s budget was exorbitant for its time: about $4 million (today about $30 million).

Welles also intended his film to be shown in widescreen CinemaScope — another extravagance that put off some potential backers. It also didn’t help that Welles had been sidelined from American filmmaking for almost 10 years following his controversial turn as Citizen Kane .

With no studio backing, Welles turned to independent producer Julius Fleischmann for financing.

Mr. Arkadin ( 1955 ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import - France ]
  • Mr. Arkadin ( 1955 )
  • Mr. Arkadin ( 1955 )
  • Orson Welles, Michael Redgrave, Akim Tamiroff (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director) - Mr. Arkadin ( 1955 ) (Producer)
  • French (Subtitle)

Othello (1951)

The 1951 adaptation of Othello is an extraordinarily clear, fast-paced and exciting version of the play. It is a film that almost seems to be designed for a visual-oriented audience, as though it is being performed on stage.

This film has a lot going for it, which makes it a very good film.

The story of Othello is about a powerful general in the army who falls in love with his wife’s handmaiden, Desdemona. He is so overcome with love that he cannot see the evil intentions of his ensign, Iago.

Iago wants Othello’s position and will do anything to get it. There are plenty of twists and turns during the story and this movie handles them all well.

The acting also helps to make this movie as good as it is.

Micheal Redgrave plays Othello and he does an excellent job of playing his part. He plays the role very well and makes you feel sorry for him when he should.

His acting style fits perfectly with the time period the movie was made in because you can tell that he is old fashioned, which works well with the setting since everything else about the movie fits well too. 

Sale
Othello (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Suzanne Cloutier, Micheál MacLiammóir, Orson Welles (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

The Lady from Shanghai is a 1947 drama film noir directed by Orson Welles starring himself, his estranged wife Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane. The plot of the film was taken from a novel by Sherwood King, which was originally a pulp magazine story.

This is one of the few films where Orson Welles was not only the director but also had a major role in the film.

The plot is based on legal proceedings that took place in San Francisco around the turn of the 20th century, involving Eleanora Sears who married Ernest Fenollosa and became embroiled in a murder trial she did not commit.

The plot is known for its ending, which employs a dream sequence within a dream sequence to show all the characters involved in the murder walking down a pier and into the water to drown.

Welles plays “Michael O’Hara”, who has come to San Francisco with his current wife, “Liz” (Rita Hayworth), so that he can divorce her and marry his ex-wife, “Evelyn” (as played by Dorothy Comingore).

Michael becomes enamored with Sylvia (also played by Hayworth), who seems to be interested in him as well. 

The Lady From Shanghai
  • Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Trial (1962)

The Trial (1962) starring Anthony Perkins and directed by Orson Welles is widely considered to be one of the best movies still left unreleased.

Description:The Trial (1962) is a 1962 American film adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel of the same name directed by Orson Welles. The film was never officially released, although at least two versions are known to exist.

An incomplete copy was discovered in a vault in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1993. It had originally been stored in a Belgian film laboratory and was subsequently purchased by the Library of Congress and screened at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival.

A complete copy of the film, restored by the Munich Film Archive, was later discovered in a film laboratory in Potsdam.

This version is slightly shorter than the Kansas City version but contains additional scenes not seen since their original showing at a private screening in Cannes, France on May 21, 1962.

The Trial (1962) is a 1962 American film adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel of the same name directed by Orson Welles.

The film was never officially released, although at least two versions are known to exist. An incomplete copy was discovered in a vault in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1993. 

The Trial (1962) ( Le procès ) ( Der Prozess (Il processo) ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import - Germany ]
  • The Trial (1962) ( Le procès ) ( Der Prozess (Il processo) )
  • The Trial (1962)
  • Le procès
  • Der Prozess (Il processo)
  • Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Orson Welles (Actors)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Based on the play “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” by Dale Wasserman, this is a movie that has been in the works more than twice as long as it took to make Gone with the Wind (1939).

But it was worth waiting for, for anyone interested in the great Spanish director and actor, whose work is not well known in this country.

Of course, the title refers to his masterpiece, The Adventures of Don Quixote (1905), but it also hints at something else. The picture is actually about another great filmmaker and actor — Orson Welles — and his attempts to make a film version of Cervantes’ classic.

As far back as 1952, Welles had tried to raise money for Chimes at Midnight while he was making Othello (1952). He failed then and again in 1962 when he was trying to raise money for The Merchant of Venice (1965).

Welles finally got his chance when producer Emiliano Piedra and co-producer Mario del Sacro offered him $250,000 to make Chimes at Midnight in Spain. Welles didn’t have enough money of his own even to go there, but he managed to raise some more from several other sources. 

Sale
Chimes at Midnight (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Keith Baxter (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

The Other Side of the Wind is a movie released on 12 January 2018, directed by Orson Welles. The movie has received good critical reviews.

It tells the story of a legendary director, who has not made a movie in years. The movie takes place at the estate of an aging filmmaker, as he prepares to host a party to show his final film to friends and family and it is framed by a documentary filmmaker played by Errol Morris.

It was shot over several years in the 1970s and 80s and stars John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar and Norman Foster.

The film features numerous celebrity cameos including Dennis Hopper, Robert Random, Susan Strasberg, Cameron Mitchell, Paul Mazursky, Lilli Palmer and Mercedes McCambridge. Also featured is footage from Welles’ unfinished films The Other Side of the Wind (1970) and Don Quixote (1955).

The Other Side of the Wind won the 2018 Cannes Film Festival’s FIPRESCI Prize while being screened out of competition. A 21 November 2018 limited release in New York City and Los Angeles will be followed by a nationwide release on 1 December 2018 by Netflix.

What Is Orson Welles Best Film?

The 1951 adaptation of Othello is an extraordinarily clear, fast-paced and exciting version of the play. It is a film that almost seems to be designed for a visual-oriented audience, as though it is being performed on stage.

This film has a lot going for it, which makes it a very good film.

The story of Othello is about a powerful general in the army who falls in love with his wife’s handmaiden, Desdemona. He is so overcome with love that he cannot see the evil intentions of his ensign, Iago. Iago wants Othello’s position and will do anything to get it.

There are plenty of twists and turns during the story and this movie handles them all well. The acting also helps to make this movie as good as it is. Micheal Redgrave plays Othello and he does an excellent job of playing his part.

He plays the role very well and makes you feel sorry for him when he should. His acting style fits perfectly with the time period the movie was made in because you can tell that he is old fashioned, which works well with the setting since everything else about the movie fits well too.

Where Do I Start Orson Welles?

Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915. He was the son of Richard Head Welles, a magician and vaudeville performer whose stage name was Richard “King” Welles, and his second wife Beatrice Ives Welles.

His first name came from his father’s stage name as he was named after Shakespeare’s character “Orson” in the play “Henry VI”, Part 2.

Troubled Childhood: Orson Welles grew up in Westport, Connecticut. His mother nicknamed him “Old Sorrowful” because of his facial resemblance to the famous statue in Italy, The Mourning Cavalier.

During his childhood, he developed a love for magic tricks, but his alcoholic father disapproved of this interest and tried to discourage it by making him read books on magic instead of playing with magic tricks. He also developed an interest in other art forms such as music and theatre.

In 1920 Welles moved with his parents to Chicago where they were divorced two years later.

Walking on the Moon: After graduating from Todd School for Boys in June 1930, at the age of fifteen, Orson moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin where he attended Edgewood High School for one year.

What Is Orson Welles Best Known For?

Orson Welles is best known for his radio adaptation of “War of the Worlds,” which caused a panic in New Jersey and New York City in 1938. The broadcast told listeners that Martians had landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and were engaged in a battle with Earth’s military forces.

Though the broadcast was presented as news, many listeners believed it was real and panicked.

When Welles was 19 years old, he directed his first film, “Citizen Kane.” It was ranked by critics as the best American film ever made at the time of its release and has been cited by many critics as one of the greatest films ever made.

Welles had a notable acting career that included appearances on the television show “The Twilight Zone” and roles in several movies such as “Touch of Evil,” “Chimes at Midnight,” “The Long, Hot Summer” and “Kane.”

In 1958 he married actress Rita Hayworth after she divorced her second husband. They divorced three years later. He then married Paola Mori, who acted in some of his films. They also divorced.

Welles died in 1985 at age 70 from a heart attack.
 

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