Stephanie Zacharek
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For 1,507 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 52% higher than the average critic
  • 2% same as the average critic
  • 46% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 2.1 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Stephanie Zacharek's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 62
Highest review score: 100 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Lowest review score: 0 Over Her Dead Body
Score distribution:
1,507 movie reviews
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It all seems calculated to churn up excitement, a promise that there's lots of dazzle, glamour and intrigue to come. An Ideal Husband actually does deliver all those things, but mostly in a pleasurably understated way -- no need for the noisy signals.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Vital and affecting romantic drama.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Happily Ever After is an exhilarating, joyous picture, but it's sometimes terrifying, too. It offers a vision of marriage as an adventure we embark on together, alone. If you didn't cry, you'd laugh.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Might not be as intriguingly odd as the picture that inspired it. But like that earlier picture, it bristles with life and energy. It's a movie made with equal measures of bravado and humility -- the same mix of qualities you need to play Beethoven, Mozart or Bach.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is absinthe in movie form, a white chocolate space egg of a picture that has a giddy hallucinatory quality in some places and an overcalculated glossiness in others. But for better or worse, it's fascinating.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Wedding Crashers may be the most optimistic Hollywood comedy of the year, because it restores at least some dim hope that directors, writers and actors with actual brains in their heads can somehow triumph over unimaginative studio execs. In that way, Wedding Crashers isn't just the life of the party, but its pulse.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    At least Linklater isn't just picking the bones of his forebears; he honors them as they deserve.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture itself is so ebullient and celebratory that it practically beams with perverted innocence.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a superb, delicately calibrated comic performance: Carell never allows the character to swerve into excessive cuddliness.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    When Craven says "Jump!" we all do it at once, and giggle at how easily we've fallen under the spell. The key is that Craven is laughing with us, not at us.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    El Crimen Perfecto is a joyride that leaves you feeling drunk and dizzy and swearing that you haven't touched a drop.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Weisz has never been better: She's joyously expressive and alive, but there's gravity beneath that milkmaid complexion. She's grounded even when she's being flirtatious. And Fiennes has never been more moving.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Florid, passionate, frequently hilarious and loaded with messy emotions that nobody in his or her right mind should even attempt to explain, it's operatic in its nutball intensity.
    • 35 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Gloriously excessive, passionate and messy, A Life Less Ordinary is the kind of picture that's becoming more and more of a rarity in the landscape of American movies: a love story with a hard-on.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Lord of War skims along like a dance routine. Political morality doesn't usually get such fleet choreography in the movies.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It doesn't sacrifice craftsmanship and elegance at the altar of its strong convictions.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    I suspect many Cash fans will think it's too conventional. But I think its conventionality is part of its power.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a shimmery beaded curtain of a movie, a slight, charming picture that's almost all facade. But what a facade!
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Jackson is far more interested in the relationship between the girl and the ape than he is in the power of special effects for their own sake. As big as King Kong is, its sense of intimacy is what really sticks with you. This is an epic Big Little Book of a picture.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Exhilarating and exhausting, the kind of picture you don't bounce back from immediately. Yet its elusiveness is the very source of its poetic energy.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Among the least-heralded of the Christmas releases, Casanova is one of the few that's wholly enjoyable.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    A comedy embedded with secret tips for better, more enjoyable living.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Something New is the perfect date movie, not only because it explores a range of suitably romantic sentiments, but because it's so canny sociologically, as well as being delightfully good-natured.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's Foster who rules the movie like an ice queen.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    A picture that's fully open to some pretty rough truths. But it's also a joyful, heartfelt movie, one that speaks to the openness and vitality we see in Bettie's pictures.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's an expertly made picture that I wish I could stamp out of my mind. What's the value of artistry that sucks the life out of you?
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    In these three potent miniatures, Hou Hsiao-hsien suggests that time passes differently when you're deeply in love. He captures the mystical quality of that time on film, making us feel as if we're living in it, rather than simply watching it.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Heading South is a seemingly straightforward and simple picture that's really defiantly complex, sexually, politically and emotionally.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Carell's physical comedy is close to genius.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a wonderful, horrifying performance: Whitaker doesn't take the easy way out by playing Amin as a killer clown, a treacherous buffoon.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Coppola captures the luxe insularity of Marie Antoinette's world in a way that leaves no doubt why the revolution had to happen. The picture's final image is a moment of devastating stillness that wouldn't be out of place in Luchino Visconti's end-of-an-era masterpiece "The Leopard."
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The flaws in Flags of Our Fathers are at least partly attributable to Eastwood's attempts to do too much. Still, even when he overreaches, he somehow hits the mark.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a teasingly complex political thriller, but it's also a sort-of romance.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Best of all may be the narration, by Sam Shepard: His voice, the kind of voice God might have if he'd ever smoked Camels, frames this gentle but potent little story with good-natured authority, making it feel modern and ageless at once.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture's ending -- which is satisfying, possibly even happy, depending on how you look at it -- is almost inconsequential; it's the texture of everything leading up to it that matters. The Pursuit of Happyness, even within its slickness, gets at intangibles that allegedly grittier movies fail to capture -- like how heavy a wallet can feel when you're down to your last dollar.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    A solemn, haunting picture, but it's also a thrilling one, partly because of the sheer bravado with which it's made. It left me feeling more fortified than drained. Cuarón, the most openhearted of directors, prefers to give rather than take away.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Cooper also pulls off the near-impossible, making us feel dashes of sympathy for this twisted and unscrupulous man.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    In the first 10 minutes, I feared the picture would be dull and earnest -- until, about a half-hour later, I realized it was lively and earnest, and also refreshingly, unapologetically movielike.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    So refreshingly straightforward that at first you may not know what to make of it.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    At once deeply affectionate and sharply observed: There's never anything smart-alecky about Wright's approach as a director.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    As human beings, we're geared to desire an actual plot in our movies, and I regret to inform you that nothing really happens in Syndromes and a Century -- and yet the experience of the movie is all about the NOT happening.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The good news about Spider-Man 3 is that it's more of the same -- except better.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Although there's plenty of music, and plenty of joy, in Once, it's ultimately a quiet, wistful picture.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    A beautifully shaped piece of work: There are no slack patches, no gratuitous feel-good moments -- if you walk out of Knocked Up feeling good, that means you've earned it.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    That sense of one small, private world shattering within the larger and even more unstable one around it is the essence of Michael Winterbottom's unmooring, bleakly beautiful film version of A Mighty Heart.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture works because, despite the fact that it took nearly six years for the filmmakers to bring it to the screen, it doesn't strive for greatness. It's fleet, concise and clever in a nut-ball way.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Instead of taking control of the movie in any overt way, Clooney commands our attention by swimming just beneath its surface. He's a disappearing act with staying power.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This tale of filial love and family baggage is Wes Anderson's most heartfelt feature film yet. Its companion short, "Hotel Chevalier," is darn near perfect.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Lovely and deeply touching picture.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    As lively and entertaining as Juno is, Reitman and Cody have also done the work of shaping the story into something emotionally direct, unsparing and generous.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Philip Seymour Hoffman utters one of the year's most refreshing lines in this terrific tale of political wheeling and dealing.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Entertaining and subtle at once, it doesn't just dazzle us with the hows and whys of a particularly wily brand of thievery; it transports us to a specific time and place that often seems to fall between significant eras. The Bank Job is set in a country that's in transition, an extended metaphor for the way its characters are in transition, too.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Watching McDormand navigate that transformation is the kind of thing that can keep your hope in movies, and in actors, alive.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The movie's climactic battle scene is mildly thrilling -- although it's not nearly as exciting as simply watching Downey and Bridges work together. Bridges makes a great villain precisely because he's such a relaxed, affable presence.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The movie "Munich" should have been. At the very least, it's got to be the first picture to use smelly-feet jokes as a means of parsing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But more than that, it's a mainstream movie that dares to make jokes about the kinds of complex political realities that most of us don't dare bring up at dinner parties.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    So unapologetically loopy and lush and ridiculous that I found it irresistible.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Ghost Town is a rarity, a contemporary romantic comedy that honors the traditions of the genre without checking them off some plasticized list. The picture is breathing, and alive, every minute.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Howard has made a picture for grown-ups, a well-constructed entertainment that neither talks down to its audience nor congratulates it just for showing up.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Statham isn't an actor who coasts, not even in a recklessly enjoyable picture like Transporter 3. He does the work, so we don't have to: His Frank Martin is the personification of pleasure without guilt.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Such an exhilarating, spirited piece of work that its embellishments and omissions cease to matter.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Coraline is essentially faithful to the spirit of its source material. But it's also so visually inventive, and so elaborately tactile, that it stands apart as its own creation.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    An intelligent adult thriller about the death of newspapers.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Rudd's timing has always been good, but in I Love You, Man he gives the finest performance of his career, breaking his comic beats down into weird and wonderful fractional increments. It's as if he's invented a new comedy dialect.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The magic of Summer Hours is that even in its elusiveness, it gives us something to hang onto.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Streep isn't playing Julia Child here, but something both more elusive and more truthful -- she's playing our IDEA of Julia Child.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel charm the pants off us -- and each other! -- in this irresistible comedy.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The drawback is that even though The Hurt Locker is extremely effective in places, it ultimately feels unformed and somewhat unfinished.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture throws off an aura of wistfulness, which may be Mann's acknowledgment that of course he can't re-create the past. The best he can do is to honor the idea of it, storybook-style, and to remind us that before there was gangsta, there were gangsters.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture is beautifully paced, with an exhilarating, comically violent opening, a halcyon middle section where, in what could be viewed as a sideways homage to "Rebel Without a Cause," our rootless wanderers share a brief respite in an empty, lavish mansion, and a finale filled with light and color and movement (as well as piles of vanquished zombies).
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The kind of smart, openhearted comedy that doesn't come along every day.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    One of those rare documentaries that works on two seemingly incongruous levels at once: It's both social commentary and pure delight.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Watching it, I saw him from some new angles -- painful as well as celebratory -- and I realized that this isn't it: This, as with Elvis' posthumous career, is only the beginning.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    A clever picture, and something of a novelty -- it's not going to change the face or direction of horror filmmaking in any drastic way. But it's fun to watch something that's so obviously made with love.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Less like a movie than an interpretive-dance piece, with Cage as its lurching, depressed-satyr star.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bridges performance in Crazy Heart, for my money the finest male performance of the year, reels us right back to understanding why: Instead of dressing up words, he sends them out naked. It's everything he subtracts that matters.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Emily Blunt shines as the tough-minded British queen in this lush, and even sexy, period romance
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The best rock 'n' roll movies are less about strict authenticity than about capturing a vibe. And The Runaways gets the vibe just right, from its opening shot.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The women of Pussy Riot have an idea of what the new Russia should sound like; Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer shows just how hard it is to make that new world audible.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    More Than Honey isn't just 91 minutes of dead bees. Who could bear that? Instead, it's a delightful, informative, and suitably contemplative study of the bee world and the bee-population crisis, though in the end it does offer enough dewdrops of hope to fill up a bluebell or two.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Danish director Tobias Lindholm's wiry, neatly crafted thriller A Hijacking wrests fact into the shape of believable fiction, although the movie is most remarkable for everything it doesn't show.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Byzantium isn't Jordan's first movie about bloodsuckers—that would be 1994's Interview with the Vampire—but it's the right vampire movie for today, poetic and elegant in an artfully tattered way.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    There are so many ways Despicable Me 2 could have gone wrong, and so many things it does right.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Pacific Rim is big and dumb in a smart way.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fruitvale Station is intimate in the best way, thanks largely to Jordan's deft, responsive performance.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bell captures the insularity of certain professional pockets of Hollywood, with all their petty rivalries and backstabbing. But she's sharpest in her exploration of what makes women desire success, and what prevents them from getting it.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Daniels is that rare contemporary filmmaker who's not afraid of melodrama. The Butler is so old-school it feels modern: Stylistically, it could have been made 30 years ago, but its time is now.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The World's End is a big, shaggy dog of a thing, a free-spirited ramble held together by off-kilter asides, clever-dumb puns, and seemingly random bits of dialogue that could almost become catchphrases in spite of themselves.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's a comedy that moves with a sense of purpose, as Gordon-Levitt does in the title role.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    In A Touch of Sin, Jia is attuned to, and saddened by, the violence he sees creeping through his country, caused at least partly by the ever-widening disparity between rich and poor. He ends on a note that's more haunting than hopeful.
    • 97 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    12 Years a Slave works so hard to be noble, but it doesn't have to: Ejiofor is there to do all the heavy lifting.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Lee seems less interested in capturing how people of color talk than in capturing how people talk. He coaxes us to step in and listen, and the very casualness of his invitation is the key to the joyousness of The Best Man Holiday, flaws be damned.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The good news is that Anchorman 2 is pretty funny. It's also more rambling and hit-or-miss than its predecessor, which means, thankfully, that it's less likely to become what we euphemistically call iconic: In other words, fewer annoying guys will be inspired to quote it.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is half silliness, half swagger, but Branagh's arms-akimbo impudence as a director makes it work. He takes it all seriously, but with a wink.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Charlie Victor Romeo shows us how much of life's weight and meaning can be packed into one second of thought or action; it's a work of shivery intimacy.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Buirski clearly shows that the spark that made her great couldn't be snuffed out so easily.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Making this kind of thriller has all but become a lost art, yet Mira clearly believes that high style is worth bothering with.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fading Gigolo is a breeze, enjoyable both for its sweetness and its unapologetic silliness.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Jalil Lespert's Yves Saint Laurent tries to sweep the evanescent butterfly Yves into its net: The movie isn't enough, but it's something.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a much better and far less silly movie than its predecessor.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This odd little wonder captures the delicate textures and shadowy half-secrets of family life, mapping them out in a mosaic of fragmented dialogue and half-poetic, half-prosaic images.

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