Stephanie Zacharek

Select another critic »
For 1,703 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 53% higher than the average critic
  • 2% same as the average critic
  • 45% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 0.9 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Stephanie Zacharek's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 63
Highest review score: 100 Ratatouille
Lowest review score: 0 Crush
Score distribution:
1703 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
    A coming-of-age movie, and a love story, that leaves you feeling both stripped bare and restored, slightly better prepared to step out and face the world of people around you, with all the confounding challenges they present. There’s not much more you can ask from a movie.
    • 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.
    • 96 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
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Casey Affleck is both the soul and the anchor of the movie.
    • 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
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    Carol is a film you want to reach out and touch, if only you could reach anywhere near the top of the pedestal it's perched on. It is itself an unattainable love object, the goddess Venus disguised as a movie.
    • 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
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Peck captures all that’s galvanizing and forceful about Baldwin’s words and demeanor.
    • 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.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 70 Stephanie Zacharek
    The picture feels weirdly, and disappointingly, disjointed, something that starts out as poetry and ends as product.
    • 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
    The devastating truth of 45 Years, so beautifully wrought, is that even the most devoted couples are made up of two people who are essentially alone.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Dunkirk is extraordinary not just because it’s ambitious and beautifully executed, but because Nolan, who both wrote and directed it, has put so much care into its emotional details—and has asked so much of, and trusted, his actors.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    To say Toni Erdmann is funny doesn’t even begin to capture the out-there texture of the jokes, and of the actors’ timing.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Spotlight feels both timeless and modern, a dexterously crafted film that could have been made anytime but somehow feels perfect for right now.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    La La Land is both a love letter to a confounding and magical city and an ode to the idea of the might-have-been romance, in all its piercing sweetness. It’s a movie with the potential to make lovers of us all. All we have to do is fall into its arms.
    • 93 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
    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
    Both gentle and staggering, an examination of the way our personal experiences can spur creativity—or render it inconsequential.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    If it's a far less flashy film than The Act of Killing, it's also a better and possibly more honest one.
    • 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!
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    It’s about love and poetry and dreams, and about the chance encounter that can close a wound with the magic efficiency of a tiny butterfly bandage. How you pour all of that into one movie is something of a mystery. But then, a good poem is always something of a mystery too.
    • 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
    Even by the out-there standards of "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls," Paul Verhoeven’s latest, Elle, is a thing to behold. Part thriller, part obsidian-black comedy, part cerebral firebomb, it’s confrontational, terrible and glorious. You almost can’t believe such a picture exists.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    Röhrig isn’t an experienced actor. In fact, he’s a poet and a former kindergarten teacher, living in the Bronx. But that could be what makes the performance so magnetic.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Stephanie Zacharek
    The director's last film was the superb 2012 Barbara, also starring Hoss and Zehrfeld, another romance with a mystery built in; Phoenix is an even finer piece of work, so beautifully made that it comes close to perfect.
    • 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
    Huppert is extraordinary — she reveals everything even when you think she’s showing nothing — and she’s the perfect actress, right now, for Hansen-Løve’s fine-grained perceptiveness.
    • 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
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    Bridges knows just what he’s doing, and with the splendid West Texas waltz of a drama, Hell or High Water, British director David Mackenzie has given him the perfect hook on which to hang his hat.
    • 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
    • 60 Stephanie Zacharek
    Once you start reckoning with Anomalisa’s obsession with self-absorption, the novelty of this one-man pity party begins to wear off. A little puppet pain goes a long way.
    • 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
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    It’s been said that if the U.S. couldn’t tighten its gun-control laws after Sandy Hook, it never will. But Newtown refutes hopelessness, making its case less with words than with faces it’s impossible to forget.
    • 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
    • 90 Stephanie Zacharek
    There's nothing quite like it in the world of Hollywood documentaries, though Riley's presentation of this rich material is at times a little discomfiting.
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    Roy-Lecollinet’s face, both haughty and welcoming, both anchors the movie and sets it free in the wind. No wonder Paul can’t shake the memory of it. It’s the thing that will age him before his time—and also keep him young forever.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    The Big Sick succeeds in doing so many things that romantic comedies — to the extent that they’re even made anymore — have failed to do for years.
    • 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
    • 80 Stephanie Zacharek
    What really registers is how frustrating Krisha’s erratic, furtive behavior would be if she were part of your family — and how deeply sympathetic she is because, thankfully, she is not. Fairchild’s performance is key to the movie: Krisha is witty and chatty one moment, and shut down like a deserted fairground the next.
    • 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
    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
    Wright has orchestrated every swerve and near smashup—and one glorious foot chase—with precision, a rarity in action filmmaking these days.
    • 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
    Amy
    A surprisingly seamless biographical documentary, one that, even though it's been constructed largely from found elements, feels gracefully whole.

Top Trailers