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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)



Average Rating: 7.9/10
Critic Reviews: 11
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 6,174

My Rating

Movie Info

Orson Welles' followup to Citizen Kane (1941) was utterly different from Kane in style and texture, but just as brilliant in its own way. Writer/director Welles does not appear on camera, but his voiceover narration superbly sets the stage for the movie's action, which fades in valentine fashion on Amberson Mansion, the most ostentatious dwelling in all of turn-of-century Indianapolis. Its mistress is the haughtily beautiful Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello). When Isabel's beau, erstwhile


Drama, Classics

Booth Tarkington, Orson Welles

Sep 18, 2012

RKO Radio Pictures

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Latest News on The Magnificent Ambersons

September 15, 2005:
Hollywood Giant Robert Wise Passes Away at 91
Master filmmaker and 4-time Oscar winner Robert Wise has died at the age of 91. Probably best known...


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All Critics (31) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (3) | DVD (3)

Ambersons is not another Citizen Kane, but it is good enough to remove Director Welles for keeps from the novice or one-picture-prodigy class.

March 12, 2013 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Although reams have been written about the mutilation of Orson Welles' second feature, what remains of it is nevertheless a major accomplishment.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

While telling this story, haltingly and clumsily, the movie runs from burdensome through heavy and dull to bad. It stutters and stumbles as Welles submerges Tarkington's story in a mess of radio and stage technique.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Orson Welles devotes 9,000 feet of film to a spoiled brat who grows up as a spoiled, spiteful young man. This film hasn't a single moment of contrast; it piles on and on a tale of woe, but without once striking at least a true chord of sentimentality.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The emotional sense of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is so palpable you can taste it.

April 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A masterpiece in every way (but ignore the awkward ending the studio tacked on without Welles's approval).

April 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Visually creative classic.

August 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Classic Film and Television
Classic Film and Television

The editors might have molested it, but The Magnificent Ambersons remains on a par with Orson Welles's greatest achievements.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Film4

What remains is inevitably, irritatingly uneven, but still tender and insightful. It will cut you up.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The essence of the Ambersons and of Ambersons is mortality.

May 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

This is Orson Welles' lost movie, one he might have been able to rescue, had he been less brash -- and a film he and others believed to be superior to Citizen Kane.

April 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Having mastered film technique in Citizen Kane, Welles devotes more attention to the characters, all of which are all individual creations rather than types. It's a deeper, more personal work than Kane even if it lacks the latter's narrative pull.

August 23, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Told in a magnificently opulent cinematic style.

June 1, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Not 'Citizen Kane,' but what is?

October 23, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

Orson Welles' heavily chopped up drama, it is still a nostalgic, dramatically powerful tale and should ultimately be savored for what it is rather than rejected for what it is not.

October 14, 2004

A domestic drama that is every bit the equal of Welles' Citizen Kane.

August 16, 2003
Nick's Flick Picks

Audience Reviews for The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons may not be the finished article that Orson Welles wanted as it stands today but I can only imagine what he actually had in mind. It is beautifully directed and includes some fantastic performances by Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello and Tim Holt to name but a few. It's pure theatre, more theatre than cinema anyway but that's not a bad thing, particularly when it's Welles at the helm. It is famous for being cut to pieces in the editing room while Welles was out of the country and deemed a bit of a missed opportunity but without seeing the would be finished piece it's hard for anyone to comment but I would argue that it was in safe hands, those hands belonging to the great Robert Wise. Great but no Citizen Kane.
April 10, 2013

Super Reviewer

That staircase. After watching The Magnificent Ambersons, I'm still struck by the staircase of the Amberson mansion. Director Orson Welles somehow gives the impression the staircase winds up story after story, hundreds of feet into the rafters, and without a window to be found. The Ambersons live in this mansion of nitemares, all shadows and endless, winding stairs. The Ambersons are a family of great Shakespearean tragedy. Eugene (Joseph Cotten) and Isabel (Dolores Costello) are sweethearts until Eugene embarrasses himself (when coming to serenade Isabel, he accidentally trips and smashes his bass fiddle) and becomes the laughing stock of the town. Isabel can't settle for any imperfection as she's the daughter of a very important family. She chooses security over love, and marries a plain but well off businessman. When their child comes, he's spoiled horribly, and grows into an even more obnoxious adult. Meanwhile, Eugene has returned to his hometown a successful car manufacturer, recently widowed and with a beautiful daughter. Isabel's son, George (Tim Holt) falls in love with Eugene's daughter, or at least what passes for love in someone so self-absorbed and egotistical. Eugene and Isabel strike up where they left off, much to the envy of the jealous Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead). Fanny schemes to convince George to intervene in the newly re-burgeoning relationship between Eugene and his mother, and the results are tragic for all involved. Aunt Fanny and George are a pair of lost souls, George especially is filled with impudence yet doesn't really understand why things happen around him the way they do, only that they don't happen the way he wishes. Visually, there aren't alot of films as stunning and on as many different levels as this. It's a unique vision and just about as daring a film (visually) as has ever been made. Welles original edit of the film has been lost and bastardized through the years, and the film's final tone of forgiveness rings somewhat at odds with the rest of the film's general feel. However unfortunate this situation may be, it matters little when every frame of the Magnificent Ambersons is a work of art in it's own right.
March 6, 2010
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

I enjoyed it a little bit more than Kane.
November 11, 2007

Super Reviewer

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

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Foreign Titles

  • Der Glanz des Hauses Amberson (DE)
  • La Splendeur des Amberson (FR)
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