For 389 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 65% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 34% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 8.9 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Stephanie Zacharek's Scores

  • Movies
Average review score: 68
Highest review score: 100 The Missing Picture
Lowest review score: 10 Oldboy
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 20 out of 389
389 movie reviews
    • 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
    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
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    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.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    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
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Cave of Forgotten Dreams is compelling, sometimes in a hypnotic, sleepy-bye way.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fruitvale Station is intimate in the best way, thanks largely to Jordan's deft, responsive performance.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 55 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Descendants is an ultra-polished picture in which every emotion we're supposed to feel has been cued up well in advance. There's nothing surprising or affecting about it. Not even Clooney, who works wonders with the occasional piece of dialogue, can save it.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    What's remarkable about Dallas Buyers Club is its lack of sentimentality. The movie, like its star, is all angles and elbows, earning its emotion through sheer pragmatism.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    What's remarkable about Pina is how democratic it is, how casual it is about opening up the world of modern dance to people who know, or perhaps care, little about it.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Hugo states, in its adamant, straightforward poetry, that old things do matter.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Even if Captain Phillips treads into some ideologically rough waters, there's one thing that's hard to find fault with: Hanks gives a performance that goes from good (through the first 124 minutes) to extraordinary (in the last 10).
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    But damned if Boyle, with the help of his star, doesn't make the experience almost… cheerful.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    The animation itself is technically gorgeous, a class act all the way. But there's so little to be found in the faces of the characters, or even in the way their limbs move (much of it adopted, cleverly enough, from Tati's own physical style), that it's not clear what we're supposed to feel for them.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    There's such a thing as having too much reverence for your material, and although Davies is an extraordinarily gifted and principled director, The Deep Blue Sea may suffer for that reverence.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Frances Ha is a patchwork of details that constitute a sort of dating manual—not one that tells you how to meet hot guys, but one that fortifies you against all the crap you have to deal with as a young person in love with a city that doesn't always love you back.
    • 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.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    In the early moments of The Trip, you wonder if either actor will survive the enterprise.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    What Cedar captures here is the way a father and son can be bound so tightly they almost choke the air out of one another. You can't exactly call it affection; it's that far more complicated thing we call kinship.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    By the end you feel you've learned something about the man, yet his mystique emerges intact.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Le Havre proceeds from the usual Kaurismäkian premise: Things are only going to get worse, so why not just go with it?
    • 81 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    The faces of these performers - particularly Williams' - are the key to Blue Valentine.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    Beginners is all about beginnings that begin with endings - the point, Mills seems to be saying, is that sometimes you need to say good-bye to make room for hello.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    To be bewildered by Upstream Color is to be human; the story is obtuse by design, though the filmmaking is X-Acto precise. But it's a bloodless movie, and its ideas aren't as tricky or complex as Carruth's arch, mannered approach might suggest.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    The best Allen movie in 10 years, or maybe even close to 20 - is all about that idea: Reckoning with the past as a real place, but also worrying about the limits of nostalgia.
    • 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.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    The actresses' performances intertwine beautifully, like twin climbing vines vying for the attention of the sun.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    Mattie is a no-nonsense mite with a forthright manner and a mean head for figures; she wears her hair in two sturdy braids whose tips have never seen the inside of any inkwell, believe you me.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    An adaptation that wholly and faithfully captures the spirit and mood of the book it's based on, and an example of computer animation - the 2-D sort - that shows the human touch in every frame.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    Naranjo keeps the action tense but understated; instead of allowing explosions and shootouts to pile up, he rations them in taut doses.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Buirski clearly shows that the spark that made her great couldn't be snuffed out so easily.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Rivers appears to have more energy than most 30-year-olds; she gets more done in a day that some of us could accomplish in a week.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    Fiennes works hard to keep the rhythm going: He stages hand-to-hand combat sequences and knife fights as if he were making a smart action movie, not adapting Shakespeare, which is precisely the point.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 55 Stephanie Zacharek
    The tragedy of The Fighter is that Wahlberg's performance suggests a character who wants more. And yet Russell barely seems to notice how much subtlety Wahlberg brings to his role, or to the movie at large.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are lovely together, though her character is the sharper-edged of the two. It's Gandolfini's Albert, soft-hearted and soft-bellied, who suffers more. Gandolfini takes the movie's small, offhand jokes and intensifies them.
    • 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.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    Let Me In is a chilly little story set in a very cold place. But Reeves still knows when to go for the burn.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Aronofsky isn't loose enough, or canny enough, to be in touch with its camp soul.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    Drive not only met my hopes; it charged way over the speed limit, partly because it's an unapologetically commercial picture that defies all the current trends in mainstream action filmmaking.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 30 Stephanie Zacharek
    Blue Jasmine is so relentlessly clueless about the ways real human beings live, and so eager to make the same points about human nature that Allen has made dozens of times before, that it seems like a movie beamed from another planet.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    I suspect nearly everyone who sees the picture will have a loud opinion about this ending, which is just one way Holofcener works her stealth magic as a filmmaker and storyteller: She doesn’t close up shop on her movie until she’s made each of us an honorary New Yorker — in other words, a person with a strong stance and something to say.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Very little in Under the Skin is clear at all. Its secrets unspool in mysterious, supple ribbons, but that's part of its allure, and its great beauty.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Only Lovers Left Alive is silly and deeply serious at once, an elegy with a light touch and more than a dash of hope.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    At its simplest level, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a portrait of a master. In its deeper layers, it explores what drives us to make things: Beautiful, jewel-like things, or things that delight our palate – or, in this case, both.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    As Adenike, Gurira is wonderful: Her face is equally radiant whether she's channeling anguish or joy, and she captures the ways in which this woman, so old-country dutiful, also longs to join the modern world.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The pleasures Get Low offers lie in the process of simply getting there, in watching performers take material that has some limitations (the script, inspired by a true story, is by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell) and turn it into something that has the rough-hewn, no-nonsense veracity of folk music.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 95 Stephanie Zacharek
    What Press comes up with in the end isn't just a portrait of individual eccentricity. Its larger subject is the way one man, just by being alive to what's around him, has created a vast, detailed anthropological record of how New Yorkers present, and feel, about themselves.
    • 76 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.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is the kind of sophisticated storytelling you rarely get even in live-action movies any more, full of unexpected turns and unruly human complications.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    In Something in the Air, that past—a version of Assayas's own—is rendered in visuals so specific and evocative, it's perpetually alive.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Sex is threatening, as Brontë knew, and Wasikowska and Fassbender make this particular dance look exceedingly dangerous.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    This is a picture whose dance steps are determined by any number of mishaps and misfortunes; like the dance floor of a great club on a good night, it's gorgeous, unruly and exhilarating all at once.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    Olsen's performance is restrained but not tentative; you could say the same for the movie around it.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    Gibney, a prolific and skilled documentarian, marshals and organizes a raft of information as deftly as anyone could wish. But his conclusions are murkier than they might be.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 50 Stephanie Zacharek
    Penn and Teller are bright guys, and their act can be fun in small doses. Yet Tim's Vermeer accentuates one of their worst impulses: They think they're mischievously raining on our parades when, really, they're not telling us much at all.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    In short, Cronenberg has made an elegant film, with spanking. There's some mildly kinky sex in A Dangerous Method, but Cronenberg makes it neither exploitive nor so tasteful that it loses its charge.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Director John Cameron Mitchell - adapting David Lindsay-Abaire's play - has a surprisingly deft touch with this admittedly downbeat material; he builds dramatic intensity in subtle layers, rather than slapping it on with a trowel.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    To paraphrase something Quentin Tarantino once said about Sergio Corbucci, Verbinski loves the uglies. They return the favor by looking almost beautiful.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's both a perceptive dual character study and, that rarity of rarities, a large-scale action movie for grown-ups, one worth leaving the house for.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture's finale isn't as smart as it ought to be. Cornish tries to make a damning social statement, but the only thing you take away from the movie is how cool it is to kick alien ass.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    It was a stroke of genius, at least a miniature one, to cast Black in this role – he's made to play the affable teddy bear who could snap at any moment.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bridesmaids is the Bride of Frankenstein of contemporary comedies, a movie stitched together crudely, and only semi-successfully, from random chick flick and bromance parts.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    I've seen Detective Dee twice now, and I still don't think I've taken the full measure of the visual nuttiness, and lushness, Tsui has packed in there.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    Catching Fire suffers from the movie equivalent of middle-book syndrome: The story is wayward and rangy, on its way to being something, maybe, but not adding up to much by itself. Still, it’s entertaining as civics lessons go, and it’s a more polished, assured picture than its predecessor.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 40 Stephanie Zacharek
    There are hints of greatness, one or two artfully constructed scenes that remind you why you look forward to new Scorsese films in the first place. But as a highly detailed portrait of true-life corruption and bad behavior in the financial sector, Wolf is pushy and hollow, too much of a bad thing.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's an amusing enough story, all right, and it adequately fills up Tabloid's 88 minutes - but a minute longer would have been too much.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 30 Stephanie Zacharek
    Everything he (Nolan) does is forced and overthought, and Inception, far from being his ticket into hall-of-fame greatness, is a very expensive-looking, elephantine film whose myriad so-called complexities -- of both the emotional and intellectual sort -- add up to a kind of ADD tedium.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Farewell, a cold war drama by the French director Christian Carion, isn't just a movie set in 1981; in many ways it feels like a movie made in 1981.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bully is much better when it sticks to simple storytelling. And storytelling, not grandstanding, is the thing that just might grab the attention of, say, school administrators, people who can have some effect on how bullies are dealt with.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 85 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's the kind of movie that makes the world feel like a smaller place, suggesting that the similarities connecting us across continents and cultures are more resonant than the things that divide us.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 65 Stephanie Zacharek
    Between the Truffautish voice-overs and Jacques Demy-style musical interludes, it's a wonder anyone in this sort-of drama, sort-of comedy ever gets any rest.
    • 73 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    It's valuable for both the vintage footage Rostock has collected and for the observations provided by Belafonte, who is as charming, handsome and persuasive in his mid-80s as he ever was.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    In the end, though, Our Nixon is an elusive piece of work. It doesn't add much to our understanding of the man himself, though admittedly, there may not be much more that we want or need to know, anyway.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 75 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture could be so much better than it is, and yet it's also the kind of movie that makes you want to grade on the curve, adding extra points for good intentions.