Stephanie Zacharek
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For 1,502 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 2.3 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Stephanie Zacharek's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 62
Highest review score: 100 A Christmas Tale
Lowest review score: 0 The Amityville Horror
Score distribution:
1,502 movie reviews
    • 100 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Boyhood had the curious effect of making me feel lost, uneasy, a little alone in the inexorable march forward — and also totally, emphatically alive.
    • 99 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Not just one of the great films of the '60s but one of the great films, period -- and the chance to discover it at the beginning of the 21st century, in an era when we think we've seen it all, is an unquantifiable privilege.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a true fairy tale, and one of the finest fantasy pictures ever made, but please do not take your young children to see it unless you want them to be scarred for life.
    • 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.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bird is one of the great modern animators -- as well as an astonishingly gifted filmmaker, period -- precisely because he doesn't set out to wow us.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's 85 minutes of screen time that represents one crystallized moment not in the Beatles' career per se but in the parallel career they forged inside all of us, the one that will last beyond any breakup, retirement or death.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Gravity is harrowing and comforting, intimate and glorious, the kind of movie that makes you feel more connected to the world rather than less.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fincher and his screenwriter, TV writer-god Aaron Sorkin, have made a seemingly modest picture that achieves something close to greatness the old-fashioned, slow-burning way: By telling a story with faces, dialogue and body language of all types, from awkward to swaggering.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Zero Dark Thirty is precise, definitive filmmaking, yet Bigelow refuses to hand over easy answers. Some people call that evasion. I call it the ultimate despair.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    A Separation doesn't try to make easy sense of that world, or of this family's suffering. It's simply a quiet cry of anguish.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Before Midnight—visually stunning, in a late-summer way—is more vital and cutting than another recent marriage picture, Michael Haneke's old-folks-together death march Amour; it has none of Amour's tasteful restraint, and in the end, it says more about the nature of long-term love.
    • 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.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Leigh, Spall, and cinematographer Dick Pope — who borrows lots of lighting tricks from Vermeer and Ingres and even Turner himself, to glorious effect — have gently atomized Turner's character, breaking it into small, potent fragments that affect us in ways we don't see coming.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture feels weirdly, and disappointingly, disjointed, something that starts out as poetry and ends as product.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's a tricky feat, channeling the glamour of a famous international terrorist without glamorizing him. But damned if French filmmaker Olivier Assayas doesn't pull it off with Carlos.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    There's so much dreamy beauty in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that it's almost like a narcotic.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Although the Coens are consummate craftsmen, they don't always show the lightness of touch or the depth of feeling they do here.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Class is a lovely, exhilarating work about the ways in which failure and frustration can open the pathways through which we make sense out of life.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Speaks to the teenager in all of us.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    There are epic impulses everywhere you look in There Will Be Blood; what's missing is character development, focused storytelling and, most significantly (apart from that terrific opening sequence), any sense of raw, intuitive drama.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    I see it as nearly perfect: It's one of the best fantasy pictures ever made.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a dense, multilayered picture, one firmly rooted in a specific landscape, a dramatic coastal spot dotted with the carcasses of decrepit fishing boats, as well as the magnificent skeleton of one long-dead whale.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    A sequel made with care and integrity, Toy Story 3 is just moving enough: It winds its way gently toward its big themes instead of grabbing desperately at them, and because its plot is so beautifully worked out, getting there is almost all of the fun.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Chomet bows to the tradition of conventional animation even as he tests its limits.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Mirren's performance is glorious: Rather than impersonate the queen -- which would have been all too easy to do -- she reaches deeper to locate the buried, calcified thoughts and feelings that might guide this deeply inscrutable woman.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    This wondrous, absorbing little picture covers a great deal of winding meta-territory, reflecting on the ways in which a single family's story can be told—or maybe, more accurately, examining the idea that there's no such thing as a "single story."
    • 90 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is one of those movies -- like last year's inner-city down-a-thon, "Precious" -- that can't quite make a distinction between profundity and plain old bleakness.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 40 Stephanie Zacharek
    Her
    Instead of just being desperately heartfelt, Her keeps reminding us — through cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema's somber-droll camera work, through Phoenix's artfully slumped shoulders — how desperately heartfelt it is.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    The movie has a crispness about it, an unwillingness to succumb to sentimentality.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's all beautiful, all right. But before long I began to feel beaten against the rocks of that beauty -- Finding Nemo smacks of looky-what-I-can-do virtuosity, and after the first 10 minutes or so, it's exhausting.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    A small but extremely significant message in a bottle. That metaphor is almost literal: The picture made its way to Cannes via a USB drive -- which was smuggled in a cake.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Although there isn't a single kiss in this love story, it's intensely erotic -- and more to the point, it's not afraid of eroticsm's juicier and more forthright twin, carnality.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Incredibles has that rare quality of feeling modern and classic at the same time.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Like rock 'n' roll itself, the movie's really all about girls. Even when -- no, especially when -- it's pretending not to be.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    A narrative picture with many of the qualities of a documentary, not to mention a comic book -- is one of those rare, inventively made movies that isn't so taken with its own novelty it loses sight of its characters. Its warmth is for real, and it enwraps you.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Isn't much more than marvelous entertainment -- but then, that's a lot right there.
    • 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?
    • 90 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    There may not be much behind the sparkling tinsel curtain of David O. Russell's extraordinarily entertaining American Hustle. But what a curtain!
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The connection between Bob and Charlotte, as Coppola shows it to us at the end of Lost in Translation, is a moment of intimate magnificence. I have never seen anything quite like it, in any movie.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a graceful and enveloping feat of filmmaking.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a teasingly complex political thriller, but it's also a sort-of romance.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's a cross between confidence and vulnerability that's hard for an actress to pull off, but Streisand hits the note perfectly. And her greatest moment of acting, I think, is also the picture's strongest musical number.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Borat is an astonishingly entertaining picture, and it's a testament to Cohen's gifts that he can pull off a feat as extravagant and as fully realized as this one is.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    With Selma, DuVernay has pulled off a tricky feat, a movie based on historical events that never feels dull, worthy, or lifeless; it hangs together as a story and not just part of a lesson plan. The movie is at once intimate and grand in scope.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's a picture that romances its audience into watching in a new way - by, paradoxically, asking us to watch in an old way. The Artist is perhaps the most modern movie imaginable right now.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Represents a failure of nerve: As if Gondry and Kaufman weren't sure that the story of Joel and Clementine would hold us, the doomed couple's unfolding-in-reverse romance is intercut with a subplot filled with zany touches.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    Eastwood is so busy humanizing Japanese soldiers that he ends up rewriting history.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Although there's plenty of music, and plenty of joy, in Once, it's ultimately a quiet, wistful picture.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    While the filmmaking overall suffers from a kind of tasteful, low-key blandness, Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Capote keeps the blood coursing through it. He's the bright, chilling spot of color at the center of an otherwise beige movie.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    If Whiplash doesn't quite hang together, Chazelle has still managed to pack it with some wonderful ideas.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Kechiche and his actresses explore the in-between—ecstasy, exploration, the comfort and eventual boredom of domesticity—and the aftermath, the painful shards of feeling we cling to after something has shattered. And they don't mess around when it comes to the ferocity of love, sex, or, God help us, the two combined.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Sordi is an elegant comic actor in the vein of America's William Powell; the world may confound him, but it can never rumple him.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    A direct and heartfelt piece of work. It's conventional, maybe, in its sense of filmmaking decorum, but extraordinary in the way it cuts to the core of human frustration and feelings of inadequacy, reminding us how universal those feelings are.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    Up
    Save for a few inspired canine gags and a handful of very pretty visual details, Up left me cold. Its charms appear to have been applied with surgical precision; by the end, I felt expertly sutured, but not much else.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Birdman is a marvelously entertaining picture, a work of "look at me!" bravado that's energized every minute. Its proficiency, the mechanically fluid kind, works against it in some ways.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Missing Picture is so immediate, so vital, it practically breathes. Not all memoirs need to exist. But the gentle urgency of Panh's story is right there in the filmmaking. This is a story that had to be told. Even in its stillness, it moves.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Brash and sweet, We Are the Best! captures perfectly the aimlessness of adolescence, the waiting to become something that's so often intertwined with the desire to make something, to leave your mark on the world in some small way.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    So much modern animation is technically brilliant and yet comes off as cold and indifferent. But Wallace, Gromit, and the people and creatures in their world always look warm to the touch. Someone made, and moved, all those bunnies by hand. It's impossible NOT to believe in them.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    If anything, Joe's sense of dream logic is more naturalistic than Lynch's, more grounded in the knowable world - as much, that is, as we can know about nature - and the luminous Uncle Boonmee is no exception.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    Takes great pains to be a compassionate love story; but the filmmaking itself, self-consciously restrained and desiccated, is inert and inexpressive.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The real strength of The Kid with a Bike is the cautious but generous warmth of its storytelling. Not much happens in The Kid with a Bike, but it leaves you grateful that the worst doesn't happen - with these characters, you might not be able to bear it.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    The movie's final moments are the equivalent of the half-jubilant, half-mournful thrill you get when you close the cover of a book you've savored.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    James — the director of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters — gives us a sense of Ebert as a man who kept reinventing life as he went along — out of necessity, sure, though he also took some pleasure in adapting. It couldn't always have been easy, but that, too, is part of the story.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Strickland builds the film, artfully, into a complex and ultimately moving essay on the privileges of victimhood and the nuances of what it means to suffer for love.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    So intrinsically rich that it doesn't need any metaphors.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Now that Pitt no longer has brash youth on his side, he's digging deeper and doing more with less. It's the kind of acting - understated but woven with golden threads of movie-star style - that gives us more to look at rather than less.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture does, in places, feel like an unspoken homage to Kurosawa, though it's certainly its own distinct creation. But I wonder if it more closely resembles another end-of-an-era picture, Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch."
    • 86 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Tillman Story isn't designed to be a shockeroo exposé; it's more a slow, steady rumble of anger and dismay at what the U.S. military, and the government, can get away with in the name of public relations, as if PR - and not human lives - were the most important consideration during wartime.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    More universal than it is alternative, except in one sense: There's nothing else on the contemporary movie landscape like it.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Gripping, and it's moving, but it isn't particularly subtle. There's a strong thread of tabloid drama running through its core -- but at least it's sensationalistic storytelling with a heart.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Don't Think I've Forgotten is a testament to how much a song can mean: You can destroy the vinyl it's been recorded on, but the sound itself, and all it stands for, is indestructible. Groove is in the heart.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Cave of Forgotten Dreams is compelling, sometimes in a hypnotic, sleepy-bye way.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Talk to Her is much better than Almodóvar's "bad" movies. But it never soars as freely as his best ones do -- it has a very trim, manicured wingspan.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Whatever allure The Son has lies in its very remoteness, in its resolute refusal to show us all but the most delicate emotional vibrations. It also moves very sluggishly.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Scorsese didn't need to remake "Infernal Affairs," but what he has done with it is a compliment rather than an affront to the original: The Departed reimagines its source material rather than just leeching off it, preserving the bone structure of the first movie while finding new curves in it. The story has been clarified; the ellipses of the original have been filled in with just the right amount of exploratory shading. This is a picture of grand gestures and subtle intricacies, a movie that, even at more than two hours long, feels miraculously lean. It's a smart shot of lucid storytelling.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    His (Miyazaki) stories, and often his character design, just leave me cold. I know I'm supposed to be magically transported by his fanciful tales and his whimsical grandiosity, but they make me listless.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    A great action movie, exhilarating and neatly crafted, the kind of picture that will still look good 20 or 30 years from now.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Smolders with more reserved passion than "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The group's members come off more like real musicians than parodists.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    The movie's intricacy, and the way it finds its way into the emotional lives of its characters via (and not in spite of) that intricacy, is what makes it extraordinary. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy challenges audiences to believe in craftsmanship again.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Heart of Gold is a sweet, gentle picture, if not a particularly exhilarating one.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The sight of Hedwig and his band transforming a trashy trailer into a glitter-rock stage during "Wig in a Box" was so exhilarating I almost leapt out of my seat. The movie is pure theater, as it should be.
    • 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.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    The economics of star casting aside, what would Take Shelter have been like with James McAvoy or Mark Wahlberg or Jake Gyllenhaal at its center?
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    May not hit every note perfectly, but the picture they've come up with is full-bodied and intelligent.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    The low-key quality of the filmmaking in Restrepo only intensifies the reality of how much these kids are risking.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Tree of Life is gorgeous to look at. It's also a gargantuan work of pretension and cleverly concealed self-absorption masquerading as spiritual exploration.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Meek's Cutoff is an ambitious feat of visual storytelling that's alive to both its landscape and the actors who people it.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fruitvale Station is intimate in the best way, thanks largely to Jordan's deft, responsive performance.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture is so dramatically textured that you feel something's happening every minute.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Vuillards are not an easy family, and A Christmas Tale is not an easy movie. But by the end, what Desplechin has given us -- in his own inexplicable way, which is sometimes meandering and sometimes piercingly direct, and sometimes both at once -- is a benediction.
    • 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.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    So why can't I love Moonrise Kingdom? For all the movie's technical meticulousness, the storytelling still has a wiggly-waggly quality, like a dangly loose tooth.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Mystic River is hard-boiled beyond toughness: It's so tender the skin falls away from the bone. It's Eastwood's most soulful, and most organic, movie.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    Even as dystopian dramas go, the picture is arid and lusterless in its more serious moments and unpleasantly kitschy when it tries to soar over the top.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The magic of Summer Hours is that even in its elusiveness, it gives us something to hang onto.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    Am I alone in thinking that computer animation is the work of the antichrist?
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Part noir-comedy, part ghost story, but it's mostly a potent reflection on how where we come from shapes us, in ways we can't understand until we've been away for a long, long while.

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