Metascore
72

Generally favorable reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
  1. 100
    Spielberg has been ridiculed for shooting his actors from below against impossibly Spielbergian skies and a denouement that lays the love on copiously. But there's nothing simpleminded about how he uses movie magic, as a spell to dispel nihilism, to save us from the worst of ourselves by summoning up the best.
  2. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Dec 26, 2011
    100
    There isn't a moment in the movie where you don't feel Spielberg's passion, and this time, the film is worthy of his enthusiasm. It's a knockout.
  3. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Dec 23, 2011
    100
    It's not a knock on Steven Spielberg to say he is history's finest maker of children's movies. His capacity to evoke simplicity, awe, beauty and unconditional love are his genius, and his vision of the children's story War Horse is a gorgeous, majestic fable about a boy who yearns to be reunited with his steed.
  4. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Dec 23, 2011
    100
    An entirely fitting Christmas Day release -- filled as it is with magic and talk of miracles -- and easily one of the best films of 2011.
  5. Reviewed by: Keith Phipps
    Dec 22, 2011
    100
    To create his disarmingly earnest film, Spielberg draws from the past. Its tone is humanistic and its technique classic.
  6. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Dec 20, 2011
    100
    War Horse is a don't-miss Spielberg classic that reaches true perfection.
  7. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Dec 19, 2011
    100
    In his most painterly film, Spielberg has appropriated the lavish visual palette of John Ford movies: "The Quiet Man" for the rural settings, "The Horse Soldiers" for the war scenes. Boldly emotional, nakedly heartfelt, War Horse will leave only the stoniest hearts untouched.
  8. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Dec 16, 2011
    91
    This is a beautifully built, classically framed movie, shot with the unshowy natural expressiveness of a John Ford Western by Spielberg's great cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski.
  9. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Dec 22, 2011
    90
    You may find yourself resisting this sentimental pageant of early-20th-century rural English life, replete with verdant fields, muddy tweeds and damp turnips, but my strong advice is to surrender.
  10. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Dec 22, 2011
    88
    War Horse gets to you. It's one from the heart.
  11. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Dec 21, 2011
    88
    War Horse is bold, not afraid of sentiment and lets out all the stops in magnificently staged action sequences. Its characters are clearly defined and strongly played by charismatic actors. Its message is a universal one.
  12. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Dec 26, 2011
    85
    For all its borrowing from old Hollywood, I don't think War Horse is particularly nostalgic. The word I'd use is wistful. It's the largest, most lavish handful of wistfulness money can buy, and sometimes it's too much. Yet it's nice to know that even Steven Spielberg can still wish for something.
  13. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Dec 26, 2011
    83
    War Horse takes time reaching its full emotional gallop with a late sequence combining man, beast and barbed wire. Yet it remains a technically magnificent ride throughout, and a checklist of visual influences from "All Quiet on the Western Front" to "Gone with the Wind."
  14. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Dec 22, 2011
    83
    Pieces of War Horse that may charm some eyes might well bore others to tears.
  15. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    Jan 9, 2012
    80
    War Horse is bold, exquisite family filmmaking in the grandest Hollywood tradition. Be warned: whether you're a hippophile or not, it's a four-hankie moviegoing experience.
  16. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Dec 22, 2011
    80
    It's very much an old-time moviegoing experience; the film could have been made in 1940, and that's a compliment.
  17. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Dec 20, 2011
    80
    What's missing, then? There's no fiery central performance in the mix (the horse doesn't count), and once Emily Watson's hardscrabble mom is rotated out of the action, you yearn for an anchor.
  18. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Dec 26, 2011
    75
    While the PG-13 approach to the most brutally sustained war the world has ever known makes it suitable for mature children, some cynical adults may resent the tug of the reins. Me, I cried like a grandmother.
  19. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Dec 23, 2011
    75
    War Horse's primary attraction is not the story of how it makes us feel but its impressive re-creation of the Great War's battlefields and some stunningly beautiful camerawork by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
  20. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    War Horse will likely take its place alongside beloved family films. But that doesn't mean sitting through it is pure pleasure. It's a long slog at almost 2½ hours, and occasionally it resorts to obvious sentimentality. At times it's hard to escape the sense that we're watching "Saving Private Ryan"-meets-"The Black Stallion."
  21. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    There are extraordinary and beautiful things in War Horse, enough of them to make the movie a pleasure and a worthwhile experience, though not enough to trick the eye or get you believing this movie hangs together.
  22. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    Spielberg has created an appropriate showcase for the magnificent creature that emerges, one that recalls the great movie horses of yore in a story guaranteed to pluck, grab and wring viewers' hearts, but thankfully not break them.
  23. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    War Horse, despite its excellences, is a supreme demonstration of a director phoning it in.
  24. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    Spielberg and his team - composer John Williams, as always, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, screenwriter Richard Curtis - never forget their mission: to pull at heart strings, jerk some tears.
  25. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    War Horse is the best film of the year. The year, unfortunately, is 1942.
  26. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Dec 19, 2011
    75
    For certain movies, the adjectives "formulaic" and "predictable" are complimentary. War Horse is one of them.
  27. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Dec 15, 2011
    70
    Whatever its missteps, this is a film that kids, middle-aged adults and grandparents can all see -- together or separately -- and get something out of in their own ways. There are precious few films that fit this description today and hats off to Spielberg for making one.
  28. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Dec 26, 2011
    63
    Sumptuous and schmaltzy, Steven Spielberg's First World War drama, War Horse, is a strange beast of a film.
  29. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Dec 22, 2011
    63
    Take the theatrical flourish away from this story, however, and the story's thinness becomes apparent.
  30. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Dec 29, 2011
    60
    The result is a film that may stay in the mind's eye longer than it lingers in the heart.
  31. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Dec 26, 2011
    60
    Has the sweep of a classic John Ford movie, the sentiment of Frank Capra and a spirited steed named Joey who will steal your heart. The film itself is more difficult to love.
  32. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Dec 22, 2011
    60
    While the Tony-winning play based on the same book creates unexpected impact through strikingly inventive puppetry, Spielberg is at a disadvantage in employing such a literal approach. Not even animals as beautiful as these can substitute for human ingenuity and imagination.
  33. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Dec 15, 2011
    60
    This beautifully composed picture brings a robust physicality to tried-and-true source material, but falls short of the sustained narrative involvement and emotional drive its resolutely old-fashioned storytelling demands.
  34. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Dec 26, 2011
    50
    It's almost a great war movie in one direction, and almost a piece of irredeemable cheese in the other, and there you have it.
  35. Reviewed by: Ben Sachs
    Dec 22, 2011
    50
    This may seem slick and sentimental, but beneath the surface is a film every bit as morbid as "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," which also used a nonhuman protagonist to contemplate human death on a mass scale.
  36. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Dec 22, 2011
    50
    Spielberg's typically emotive storytelling only comes to the fore in a few of the film's pivotal action scenes, a couple of which are truly spectacular and remind us only all too well of what this film might have been.
  37. Reviewed by: Jaime N. Christley
    Dec 21, 2011
    50
    What ultimately hobbles War Horse is a two-pronged attack, with Spielberg's soft-sell producing an unfortunately dramatic flatness in almost every scene, while an 11th-hour scramble for picture-book catharsis doesn't seem to work either.
  38. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Dec 27, 2011
    40
    War Horse is a bland, bizarrely unimaginative piece of work. [2 Jan. 2012, p.79]
  39. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Dec 20, 2011
    40
    Since he's (Spielberg) a director largely incapable of understatement, War Horse is served up with a self-aggrandizing, distracting surplus of Norman Rockwell backlighting, aerial landscape shots designed to out-swoop David Lean's, and an aggravated sense of doggone wonderment amplified by the director's dependence on John Williams's bombastic score.
  40. Reviewed by: Amy Nicholson
    Dec 16, 2011
    40
    Director Steven Spielberg doesn't have a steady grip on War Horse's careening tone, but he'll be damned if there's not 15 minutes in there for everyone.
User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 281 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 74 out of 120
  2. Negative: 30 out of 120
  1. Dec 26, 2011
    2
    SPOILERS - This war film insults my intelligence. They attack the German camp - which has zero guards and protection. After storming through they are met in the woods with a batterie of German cannon that are inexplicably pointed directly at the German Camp. Were the Germans planning on firing upon themselves just before the English attacked? If they want to win the horse in the second auction, why do they wash and dress the horse to make it look attractive to buyers? Why not make the horse appear lame and get him cheap? Full Review »
  2. Dec 25, 2011
    2
    Well, what do you know. Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' is a stunningly bad movie, from beginning to the end. Is it beautifully made? Sure, it is Spielberg, after all. Does it matter? Not one single bit. Because from the amazingly bad plot concept to its ultimately pointless conclusion, this is Spielberg at his worst. It is one of the Worst movies of the year. Full Review »
  3. Dec 26, 2011
    2
    I do not recommend to go see this movie, I expected much more from a Spielberg direction. Bad plot, unexplained solutions... Where is Private Ryan?.... The scenery is indeed beautiful however it does not make up for the bad script and painful shortcuts. No, No and No. Full Review »