The Best Orson Welles Movies

Over 400 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Orson Welles Movies
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Vote for your favorite Orson Welles movies, regardless of critic reviews or how big the role was.

Over 400 passionate movie lovers have come together to create this ultimate list of the best Orson Welles films. As a pioneer in the art of cinema, Welles left an indelible mark on the industry with his revolutionary techniques and incomparable style. His body of work boasts several timeless classics that continue to mesmerize audiences even today.

As one of the most influential filmmakers in history, Welles' genius is perhaps best embodied by Citizen Kane - a cinematic masterpiece widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. But what about his other works? Where do they stand in comparison?

This ranking is your chance to dive deeper into Welles' filmography and unearth some hidden gems you may have overlooked. From gripping thrillers like Touch of Evil to epic dramas such as Chimes at Midnight, each movie on this list showcases Welles' unparalleled vision and unsurpassed craft.

So whether you're a lifelong fan or just discovering Orson Welles for the first time, join us on this journey through his definitive catalog. And if our choices align with yours or if you feel we've missed out on any favorites, be sure to cast your vote for your top picks.

Most divisive: Compulsion
Ranked by
  • Touch of Evil
    1
    Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh
    122 votes
    • Released: 1958
    • Directed by: Orson Welles
    When a car bomb explodes on the American side of the U.S./Mexico border, Mexican drug enforcement agent Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) begins his investigation, along with American police captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles). When Vargas begins to suspect that Quinlan and his shady partner, Menzies (Joseph Calleia), are planting evidence to frame an innocent man, his investigations into their possible corruption quickly put himself and his new bride, Susie (Janet Leigh), in jeopardy.

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  • The Third Man
    2
    Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard
    148 votes
    • Released: 1949
    • Directed by: Carol Reed
    In the aftermath of World War II, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), an American writer, navigates the shadowy underbelly of ruined Vienna in search of his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). A British officer tells him that Harry is dead, but inconsistencies arise. As a web of deception unravels, Martins discovers a chilling secret about Lime. This noir classic The Third Man is directed by Carol Reed and won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Its haunting zither score and atmospheric cinematography remain iconic in cinema history.
  • Citizen Kane
    3
    Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick
    170 votes
    • Released: 1941
    • Directed by: Orson Welles
    Citizen Kane is a riveting drama, directed by Orson Welles. The film delves into the life of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a wealthy newspaper magnate. Told through the memories of those who knew him, the narrative unfolds like a jigsaw puzzle. It's a tale of ambition, power, and the quest for love. Kane's life is revealed in fragments from his humble beginnings to his opulent adulthood. The film, notable for its innovative techniques and narrative structure, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Its distinctive storytelling style keeps audiences engrossed till the end.

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  • The Lady from Shanghai
    4
    Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane
    84 votes
    • Released: 1948
    • Directed by: Orson Welles
    A seaman becomes involved in a complex murder plot when he is hired to work on a yacht. He soon finds himself implicated in the murder, despite his innocence. The film is best remembered for it's climax "hall of mirrors" scene with a shoot out amidst shards of shattering glass.

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  • The Trial
    5
    Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider
    75 votes
    • Released: 1963
    • Directed by: Orson Welles
    When police officers arrive at his home to tell him that he's under "open arrest," unassuming bureaucrat Josef K. (Anthony Perkins) can't imagine what kind of crime he might have committed. He consults first his neighbor (Jeanne Moreau) about the incident, then the courts, then a pompous law advocate (Orson Welles), all to no avail. Ironically, Joseph is able to learn of his sentence -- he is to be put to death -- but the nature of the charge against him remains elusive.

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  • Othello
    6
    Orson Welles, Micheál MacLiammóir, Suzanne Cloutier
    62 votes
    • Released: 1952
    • Directed by: Orson Welles
    When a secret marriage is planned between Othello (Orson Welles), a Moorish general, and Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier), the daughter of Senator Brabantio (Hilton Edwards), her old suitor Roderigo (Robert Coote) takes it hard. He allies himself with Iago (Micheál MacLiammóir), who has his own grudge against Othello, and the two conspire to bring Othello down. When their first plan, to have him accused of witchcraft, fails, they plant evidence intended to make him believe Desdemona is unfaithful.

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