Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 44 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 44
  2. Negative: 0 out of 44
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jul 4, 2012
    100
    Sometime miraculous films come into being, made by people you've never heard of, starring unknown faces, blindsiding you with creative genius. Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the year's best films.
  2. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Jun 26, 2012
    63
    The problem with Beasts of the Southern Wild is that, like "The Tree of Life," it seeks to integrate its small, very personal story into a much larger, more ambitious tapestry.
  3. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Jun 29, 2012
    100
    The best reason to wade into this (let's be honest) challenging but hugely rewarding film is Quvenzhané Wallis.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jun 28, 2012
    100
    There's no way you won't be captivated by Wallis, chosen ahead of 3,500 candidates to play the tiny folk hero who narrates the story. Her performance in this deceptively small film is a towering achievement.
  5. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Jun 27, 2012
    100
    The movie is small, local, and idiosyncratic. Then again, it's also a thing of beauty and originality - and for that, sustained huzzahs are in order.
  6. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Jul 5, 2012
    100
    She's (Hushpuppy) trying to make sense of this world, and the movie, pitched between realism and fable, is the story of how she finally does. That balance is the key to the movie's magic.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jun 28, 2012
    100
    There's no trace of calculation, only artistic ambitions and hopes that have come to fruition in the year's finest film thus far.
  8. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Jun 27, 2012
    88
    It's unlikely there will be a film as visually stunning or poetic this year - or perhaps any year - to rival Beasts of the Southern Wild.
  9. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Jul 12, 2012
    100
    Beasts of the Southern Wild transports us to places that are peculiar and dangerous and magical, and makes us feel weirdly at home.
  10. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Jul 11, 2012
    89
    It's a jaw-droppingly good performance from this pint-sized, first-time actor.
  11. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Jul 20, 2012
    100
    It's a beautiful, strange tone poem about childhood and innocence, set in a strange but still recognizable world where the polar ice caps are melting, crayfish shacks float down rivers and enormous aurochs, an extinct breed of bison, are sloughing their way toward our tiny, adorable narrator.
  12. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Jul 5, 2012
    100
    "The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right," declares Hushpuppy, the fierce, nappy-headed girl at the center of this extraordinary southern gothic.
  13. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jun 29, 2012
    50
    The endangered swampland dwellers are supposed to be an indigenous pastoral community threatened by eco-unfriendly oil refineries. I kept rooting for Hushpuppy and Co. to leave behind their squalor and relocate. This is not the politically correct response.
  14. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Jun 26, 2012
    100
    This movie is a blast of sheer, improbable joy, a boisterous, thrilling action movie with a protagonist who can hold her own alongside Katniss Everdeen, Princess Merida and the other brave young heroines of 2012.
  15. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Jul 19, 2012
    88
    Perhaps Zeitlin isn't really making an issue of class distinctions. Maybe he's just suggesting that we don't know these people very well, and our lives would be richer if we did.
  16. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jul 5, 2012
    50
    But even with the great good efforts of Wallis, the results, to some of us, betray a distrustworthy slickness reminiscent of a British Petroleum oil spill clean-up commercial.
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Jun 22, 2012
    100
    It's very much an art piece, to be sure, but it feels like a genuine one that, while meditated, speaks fluently and truly for the place, people and culture it so indelibly depicts.
  18. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jul 1, 2012
    80
    The point of watching the film, and the only reason to see it, is the experience of watching it, which sounds tautological or something, but is just true. It's a powerful visual and sonic creation with unforgettable characters, set in a heartache-inducing imaginary vision of American community, worlds away from hyper-technologized urban existence.
  19. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Jul 12, 2012
    91
    Brings you into a world you didn't know existed with a closeness that the movies almost never achieve. If that constitutes exploitation, then it's a crime which all works of art should aspire to commit.
  20. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Jul 13, 2012
    100
    Shot in Louisiana, with non-professional actors and apparently set-designed from a junkyard, Beasts of the Southern Wild marks one of the most auspicious American directorial debuts in years.
  21. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Jun 28, 2012
    40
    Winds up feeling like a form of emotional tourism. The images recall Terrence Malick, but the film fills "atmosphere" into dry narrative holes where a story should reside.
  22. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Jul 12, 2012
    50
    Maybe the best way to describe Beasts of the Southern Wild is faux-k art. Even Hushpuppy's name suggests an author more interested in the folk- and foodways of a culture-with-a-capital-C than the people who comprise it. Too often, she and her peers are presented as curios to be exhibited rather than as fully realized -- if resolutely un-mythic -- human beings.
  23. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Jun 22, 2012
    100
    Mark down the date: June 27. That's when American moviegoers will see this perfect storm of a film, and the tiny force of nature that is Quvenzhané Wallis.
  24. 50
    I hope I'm not raining on Beasts of the Southern Wild's deluge to say it doesn't always live up to its pretensions. There's a lot of unshaped babble and draggy landscape shots, and the music, so lovely in small doses, is numbing when it's ladled over everything.
  25. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Jun 22, 2012
    91
    It's undoubtedly something extraordinary: like a live-action Miyazaki film, with Days Of Heaven narration, set in a dirt-poor community at an unspecified time of crisis.
  26. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jul 12, 2012
    90
    A mixture of magical realism, Southern gothic, coming-of-age movie, star turn for first-timers, disaster story and out-and-out strangeness. It's unlike any film you've seen.
  27. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Jun 26, 2012
    60
    How can a movie so steeped in post-Katrina imagery eschew even the smallest comment about social responsibility? Maybe that was deemed too earnest, a decision that makes zero sense when a twinkling score is ladled on like instant pathos. Real people aren't beasts, nor do they require starry-eyed glorification. Bring your liberal pity.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jul 6, 2012
    100
    Beasts of the Southern Wild is not only a wonderful story -- a portrait of intestinal fortitude in the face of enormous change -- but it's our story, forged in our own shared recent history and dripping with flood, sweat and tears.
  29. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Jul 19, 2012
    100
    It's hard not to see Beasts as an expression of post-affluent America. And here's the surprise: the grinding Great Recession may never offer up a movie as happy, or as inspired by poetry and dream, as this one. [23 July 2012, p.80]
  30. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Jun 27, 2012
    100
    Director Benh Zeitlin and his co-writer Lucy Alibar, a playwright whose "Juicy and Delicious" was the inspiration, have created characters that are wondrously indelible, distinctive of voice and set them inside a story that will unleash a devastating hurricane, and a flood of emotions, before it is done.
  31. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jun 25, 2012
    83
    If nothing else, this memorable effort eloquently displays Hushpuppy's fragile understanding of her world, where the only certainty is that nothing lasts forever. That makes "Beasts" into a gigantic triumph even when it falls apart.
  32. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Jul 25, 2012
    100
    Hushpuppy carries a lot of emotional weight on her slender shoulders, and Wallis makes one wish to climb into the screen to lighten the load with an embrace. Do not miss this performance, or this quietly astonishing, life-affirming masterpiece.
  33. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Jun 26, 2012
    88
    Don't miss this one. A brave and inspired antidote to time-wasting mainstream movies, it is unlike anything you've seen before or will likely ever see again. In short, it is unforgettable.
  34. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Oct 19, 2012
    80
    Beasts of the Southern Wild is a vividly poetic and maybe even therapeutic response to one of the most painful and mortifying episodes in modern American history, second only to 9/11.
  35. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Jun 26, 2012
    70
    In trying through incessant narration to make a six-year-old a prolix sage, Zeitlin can't avoid falling into sticky sentimentality.
  36. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Jun 28, 2012
    50
    It's hard not to admire Zeitlin's ambitious vision, his do-it-yourself aesthetic, and the commitment of his cast and crew - a kind of utopian collective whose jobs often overlapped, as the local, nonprofessional actors collaborated on set-building and other technical tasks. But that doesn't mean the result of their labor is exactly what you'd call a "good movie."
  37. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Jul 5, 2012
    100
    The film is its own beast, and it's a rare one.
  38. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Jun 29, 2012
    85
    The success of this exuberant, affecting debut feature from director Benh Zeitlin depends on his ability to universalize the particular, in this case by drawing us into the perspective of a six-year-old girl living in squalor and feeling and uncertainty in the Louisiana bayou, then telling our own story from behind it.
  39. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Jul 20, 2012
    100
    A cinematic miracle, a film that carves out a vivid space that has nothing to do with wizards or extraterrestrials, but quite a lot to say about the fantastical creatures that roam through the humanity in us all.
  40. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Oct 3, 2012
    100
    Beautiful, funny, timely and tender, this is the American arthouse movie of the year.
  41. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Jun 24, 2012
    88
    Benh Zeitlin's lived-in, almost abstract sense of social realism is partly what makes the film so refreshing and uniquely affecting.
  42. Reviewed by: Ray Greene
    Jun 22, 2012
    90
    Seek this one out though, because it's too unique and too defiantly strange to survive for long in today's Darwinian and consumerist exhibition environment.
  43. Reviewed by: Kate Stables
    Oct 1, 2012
    80
    Despite its hard-scrabble setting, eco-gloominess and dystopian story, this dark fairytale is engagingly vivid and life-affirming. An ambitious love letter to a Louisiana way of life that's being literally washed away.
  44. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Jun 22, 2012
    100
    A stunning debut that finds its dandelion-haired heroine fighting rising tides and fantastic creatures in a mythic battle against modernity.
User Score
7.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 243 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 47 out of 75
  2. Negative: 17 out of 75
  1. Jul 23, 2012
    1
    The elements of magic realism and the realistic depiction of squalor and hardcore alcoholism don't mesh. The movie celebrates the filth and garbage in which the characters live, while siding with them them as they shun proper medical treatment and a working sanitation system. The depiction of so-called noble savages is condescending and offensive. I don't understand why this film is so loved. When I wasn't feeling disgusted, I was both bored and exasperated by what I was watching on screen. I knew I should have opted for Moonrise Kingdom. Full Review »
  2. Jun 27, 2012
    10
    All I have to say is Give That Little Girl an Oscar. Her performance alone should be the reason why people need to see this film. She has a long career waiting for her. Full Review »
  3. Aug 7, 2012
    5
    I expected a great deal from this film, based on all the rave reviews, but this movie just did not "grab" me. Hush Puppy (the little girl) was wonderful, but it was very difficult to really care about anybody else, including her father, because they mostly behaved badly, and were pretty much non-functional where their best interests were involved. The hand held camera, used throughout, really turned me off. I felt like I was in a rocking boat most of the time. If that was the director's intention, he succeeded in that regard, to the overall detriment to the film. The plot had holes in it, especially concerning the travels of the whole Bathtub group to different locations throughout the film, their methods were not satisfactorily explained, as if the director just could not be bothered. My recommendation to anyone who is interested, is to wait for the DVD. Then you can turn it off if you have the same reaction that I did. Full Review »