NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,065 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 61% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 36% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 3.6 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 67
Highest review score: 100 The Tree of Life
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1065 movie reviews
  1. It's a classic Hollywood domestic comedy with a mischievous twist.
  2. In a story built on ugly secrets and lifetimes of terrible events, small moments of beauty and redemption sneak through - proving that sometimes utilizing those bitter remnants of charred memories can prove more fruitful than Earl Gray thought.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Laurence Anyways flows naturally, both thematically and stylistically, from Dolan's previous movies; here, though, he succeeds more than ever at incorporating his visual idiosyncrasies into the narrative. In "I Killed My Mother" and even more so in "Heartbeats," the director's long slow-motion sequences and overbearing, eclectic soundtracks could feel like crutches, overused particularly during characters' moments of vulnerability.
  3. The film's tension comes partly from a raft of terrific performances — everyone's good, and Fassbender's stellar — and partly from juxtaposing Jobs' public and private personas. He could make cheering audiences believe he was changing the world, but backstage ... not so much.
  4. You don't have to believe in the transmigration of souls to fall languorously in love with the Thai film that won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
  5. Cianfrance and his actors, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, have not made a cold or schematic film. They aim instead for raw emotional experience, one that's full of insight into the ways a relationship can go astray, but mostly feels like a slow-motion punch to the gut.
  6. An animated western that's effortlessly the most exhilarating flight of computer-drawn fancy since "Ratatouille."
  7. Anderson has the ability to control our emotions just as expertly as his camera.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 88 Critic Score
    The movie surges ahead, moving nimbly through a series of action set-pieces that owe more to films like "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Guns of Navarone" than they do to, say, "The Green Hornet."
  8. On its face, Winter's Bone, like "Down to the Bone," is a bleakly realist drama about a community decimated by poverty and hopelessness, yet bound together by deep ties of class, gender and blood.
  9. Yet in the end it's less the climactic madness and mayhem in White Material that sear the memory than it is the silent, balletic creep of child soldiers, grabbed out of school and sent with machetes and rifles through a forest to exact revenge for decades of repression.
  10. Selick puts his real faith not in the gimmickry that Coraline's audiences will think they've shown up for, but in the stronger virtues that they'd likely view as old-fashioned: character, and story, and handmade figures, handmade milkshakes, handmade blades of grass, each one moving utterly persuasively as he and his animators tweak it, frame by frame.
  11. The director makes clear that everyone means well — the headmistress, protective of her students; the parents, trying to shield children from things they shouldn't know about just yet; the investigators asking questions carefully, trying to see their way through ambiguous answers.
  12. The truth may not be quite that simple, but Kapadia's slightly ecstatic version of it makes for gripping viewing.
  13. The movie is a curiosity, of course. Both Marc and Kim have decidedly unusual life stories.
  14. Never one to take a back seat in his movies, Broomfield projects a shambling, Columbo-style bonhomie that gains him access to people who should be very afraid of letting him cross their threshold.
  15. One thing Doueiri didn't get from Tarantino is smirky attitude; The Attack is sad and resigned, but also tender.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    Silent House is smart about its scares as well as its delivery method.
  16. The movie is not a story but a text, and Cedar is its playfully intrusive interpreter.
  17. God Bless America ends with a couple of tale-twisting bullet orgies designed to take your preconceptions, as well as your nerve-endings, by surprise.
  18. The Secret in Their Eyes finds secrets everywhere -- even in what's driving Ben and Irene as they separately examine the decisions they made back in the 1970s. For both of them, as for their country, accurate remembrance of that period is crucial.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    Prince Avalanche speaks insightfully to the joys and costs of being alone, and of the risk that comes with letting another person in. Bittersweet and deeply felt, it also shows with confidence the estimable and still surprising talents of its cast and director.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    It's jaw-droppingly cool stuff, explained with admirable clarity by an affable physicist tour-guide, David E. Kaplan, and wedded to the tale of a massive technological undertaking like nothing in history. ("The biggest machine ever built by human beings," as one scientist puts it.) And it's flat-out thrilling.
  19. As captured by the Safdies, they are — one and all — persuasive, arresting and fiercely in the moment, whether scamming or shooting up or doing heaven knows what to get by.
  20. In the end what drives the movie is the hip young filmmaker's struggle with himself -- his showman's need to toy with our anxieties threatening to overwhelm his desire to make amends to all the servants he took for granted growing up.
  21. As its brilliantly choreographed -- and appropriately modest -- climax proves, given the right ingredients, even the simplest story can leave you gasping.
  22. It's fair to say that men in general and ardent Catholics in particular don't come off well. Yet even they are humanized by the movie's merciful temper, and by a cast of damaged ancillary characters wearing eccentric goodwill on their sleeves.
  23. On its own terms, Tamara Drewe is a hugely exuberant black comedy, unfolding over four scenic seasons at a writer's retreat set in a rose-strewn village overrun by city bobos in search of authenticity.
  24. Although it's the fourth documentary about the West Memphis Three, West of Memphis doesn't feel superfluous. This bizarre case rates at least 18 documentaries - one for each year Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley spent in prison for murders they clearly didn't commit.
  25. As odd as it sounds, director Ruben Ostlund manages to make Tomas's crisis of masculinity — his not having lived up to expectations that even he shares — as funny as it is appalling.
  26. Beautiful Boy is the antithesis of melodrama. Painfully perceptive and relentlessly raw, this intimate observation of a couple in extremis plays out with such subdued intensity that, by the end, audiences will very likely feel as wrung out as its embattled stars.
  27. Ruiz, whose best-known films include his 1999 adaptation of Proust's "Time Regained," coolly roams the ambiguous territories between tragedy and soap opera, and between the traditional and the modern.
  28. Psihoyos describes his troops as a kind of "Ocean's 11" team, and that's apt enough: He's making a real-life action caper, a heist with potential consequences in the real world. The buildup to getting the shots they want has a good deal of natural tension. And the payoff -- well, let's just say it's devastating.
  29. More than anything, though, Living in Emergency leaves us wanting to know more about what makes these four people tick differently from the rest of us -- we who balk at anything riskier than signing petitions and joining Facebook protest groups.
  30. What is singular about Inhale is the intelligent way in which plot and character keep opening up the moral landscape so as to complicate our responses to Paul's multiplying dilemmas.
  31. This workplace-as-hellscape is not new territory, exactly — the story's based on Dostoevsky, plays like Kafka, and looks like an Orwellian nightmare. But who'd complain, since it lets Jesse Eisenberg offer what amounts to an acting master-class.
  32. While the story pivots on an actual girl-who-cried-wolf incident, this elegantly constructed movie is about much more than that.
  33. Beneath the noirish topicality of Elena, which won a special jury prize at Cannes last year, lies a bone-deep existential unease and spiritual alienation, a preoccupation with sin that is at once quintessentially Russian and wholly archaic.
  34. Stranger by the Lake has become a psychosexually intriguing blend of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and William Friedkin's "Cruising" — one in which sex gets intertwined with murder, fear battles desire, and the police discover that voyeurs don't necessarily make good witnesses if no one ever exchanges names or phone numbers.
  35. The film's director, Sebastian Lelio, is up to all kinds of mischief, the least of which is Gloria's abundant hairdo and outsized spectacles, which give her a slight but unmistakable resemblance to Dustin Hoffman in Sydney Pollack's beloved 1982 comedy, "Tootsie." The movie puts her through hell, but make no mistake: Gloria is a celebration.
  36. According to Hava Nagila: The Movie, an infectiously high-spirited new documentary by Roberta Grossman, the most cornball song in the Jewish repertoire has a colorful history that has carried Ashkenazi Jews through the joy and sorrow of 150 years of being thrown around the world.
  37. Mitchell brings respect, tenderness and a generous helping of his antic wit to Rabbit Hole, not to mention a rare gift for adding visual radiance to a talky stage play.
  38. Like all her (Holofcener) movies, Please Give is multitonal, as tenderly sympathetic as it is tough toward all its tortured, even unlikable characters.
  39. An action flick entertaining enough to justify the more than $100 million it took to make it come alive on-screen. And come alive, Deepwater Horizon does, in 107 minutes of terse, tight storytelling, a good 95 of which are white-knuckle tense.
  40. Even the movie's title, or rather the source of it, is a surprise. Not to spoil the fun, but it's neither Assange nor one of his allies who nonchalantly acknowledges that "we steal secrets."
    • 75 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    A swift-moving, character-rich biopic whose kinetic Grand Prix sequences are constantly being overshadowed by genuinely riveting scenes of ... people talking.
  41. Burshtein refuses to engage with the culture wars that flare fiercely between secular and religious types in Israel; in fact she's trying to avoid types of any kind, which may be why secular audiences and critics have embraced her rapturous depiction of a community living its life, more separate from than at odds with the society beyond.
  42. Only the genre's most studious followers will be able to watch Muscle Shoals without being regularly astonished: Even if it sometimes gets lost in its byways, Greg "Freddy" Camalier's documentary tells an extraordinary story.
  43. Mickle and co-writer Nick Damici gutted Grau's story to the bone. And they not only built something entirely new on that skeleton — they managed to equal and in many ways surpass the dark, bloody beauty of their source material.
  44. We Have a Pope is not the filmmaker's next assault on a Roman patriarch. It's a half-sweet, half-rueful existential drama in which the satire comes secondary.
  45. These guys are a hoot, and The Trip is a trip and a half.
  46. While it's lavish and lush in all the expected costume-drama ways, A Royal Affair never bogs down in period detail. What drives the film, along with great acting, is the appetite of director Nikolaj Arcel and his boisterous co-writer Rasmus Heisterberg ("I want a fun queen!" wails Christian) for the queasy workings of political gamesmanship both above and below board.
  47. Jagged and gentle, shocking and sweet, Life During Wartime finds the King of Cringe more concerned than usual about forgiveness: who deserves it, and who is capable of bestowing it. True to form, though, he's not telling.
  48. In Hollywood these days, such epic transformations are rendered with computers and called "morphing." Offering a lesson both to filmmakers and climate-change deniers, Chasing Ice demonstrates how much more powerful it is to capture the real thing.
  49. It's a surprisingly nuanced and sober tale of brotherhood and betrayal.
  50. Nim's suffering is heartbreaking, but Marsh's melodramatic style, with its re-enactments and intense score, sometimes feels bombastic and overblown for a group of people who, aside from the frighteningly detached and morally careless Terrace, seem to be garden-variety neurotics and narcissists, more clueless than willfully cruel.
  51. There's something kind of captivating about a film that's been painstakingly drawn to glorify the craft of illustration, and that's comfortable using retro techniques. Because after all, what else makes sense for bringing to life the gold and scarlet ornamentation in ancient manuscripts?
  52. From the opening moments, the one thing clear about It Follows is that it will not follow in everyone else's footsteps.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    The movie finds its warmest and its best comedic moments exploring the dynamic between this unlikely trio: the shy, uncertain kid; the sex-obsessed cad who couldn't care at all about him; and the uncle who's trying to care but has no idea how to connect with him.
  53. What you'll carry away is the film's austere sympathy for the struggles of its benighted characters and its bleak conviction that justice and resolution mostly happen in movies.
  54. The hipster moment may have faded fast through repression and attrition, but in Todorovsky's reading, it was crucially formative on today's Russian youth.
  55. Like "The Big Sleep," Micmacs tells a tangled story that may be just too much for some viewers. But the film moves nimbly, has an exuberant sense of style and is leavened by comic asides, many of them strictly visual. (The movie would be plenty of fun even without the subtitles.)
  56. Ai is a great movie subject for many reasons, but one is that he understands the power of appearing larger than life on the silver screen.
  57. Messengers with the worst possible message, they nonetheless manage to be human and alive, humorous and lively. In a film that itself bears such sad tidings about the costs of war, that is an affirming, even an inspiring, gift.
  58. Nathan's film gets at a difficult and sobering fact: Pug's world is one that often rewards only hard detachment and distrust. That's a cultural tradition perhaps even more entrenched than the dirt bikes, and one from which it's more difficult to find release.
  59. The film has some fairly grisly violence, but also considerable humor and the sort of intricate, thought-through storytelling you'd expect from Hitchcock or the Coen brothers.
  60. Though these two really grow on you, what's almost more remarkable than Nick, Norah or their playlist (which may not be infinite, but really does include some great music) is the quirky, melting-pot world director Peter Sollett creates around them.
  61. The climax Shortland offers us is much harder to take than Seiffert's gentler vision, yet far more evocative of the bitter price paid by the children of the Third Reich for the sins of their parents.
  62. The wonder of Black's performance here is its empathy and balance: inasmuch as he can disappear into any role, he dissolves into this one with no hint of mocking remove. It's a beautiful thing to see.
  63. McConaughey's flirty drawl and rowdy energy have never been put to better dramatic use than they are in Dallas Buyers Club.
  64. 12
    The title is shorter, but that's the only thing remotely diminished about 12, Nikita Mikhalkov's exuberantly Russian reworking of Reginald Rose's 1950s jury-room play, "12 Angry Men."
  65. This hugely entertaining movie is about the wisdom and - with trenchant wit and sympathy - the human flaws in one of America's most idealized heads of state.
  66. Most of the dialogue is invented, but the sweep of events is genuine.
  67. The film's greatest accomplishment is its ability to change tone at least three times without losing the audience.
  68. The beguiling Computer Chess is about the dawn — one of many, but that's another story — of the tech revolution. It's also a reminder that you don't need state-of-the-art toys to make a formally playful comedy about man versus machine.
  69. Crialese is a sentimentalist at heart, but a fine one, and his compassion for the wretched of the earth is thrillingly amped by the movie's ecstatic imagery.
  70. If the movie's mix of nihilistic violence and snarky attitude suggests "In Bruges," it's a family resemblance. The writer-director of that film, which also starred Gleeson, is Martin McDonagh, the younger brother of this one's. Despite the similarities, the older McDonagh has a lighter touch. Where "In Bruges" ultimately became a mechanical bloodbath, The Guard scampers quickly through the action scenes, delivering commentary on genre conventions as it goes.
  71. The Turin Horse is an absolute vision, masterly and enveloping in a way that less personal, more conventional movies are not. The film doesn't seduce; it commands.
  72. The star of the film is a matter-of-fact, highly perceptive Indian woman, Soma Mukhopadhyay, whose autistic adult son is now a published author.
  73. The elephant in the room of any discussion of Poland and the Jews is that country's less-than-glorious record of betrayal and collaboration with the Nazis. Holland, who is half-Jewish and whose mother was active in the Polish Resistance, doesn't shrink from that legacy.
  74. Sergio Leone learns to speak Korean in The Good, the Bad, the Weird, an exuberant tale of greed, vengeance and, well, weirdness.
  75. The picture's real achievement though, is the warmth it brings to the music that animates the lives of these Afro-Cuban characters.
  76. The film, though, is as sure-footed as their partnership is not - a nuanced portrait of emotional turmoil, persuasively acted, richly sensual one moment, wrenching the next, and unlike so many films centering on gay characters, not particularly concerned with things like coming out or HIV.
  77. The Empire State's eminent domain laws are unusually loose, but most of the rest of this story is pertinent far beyond New York. Change a few names and add the next credit bubble, and a Brooklyn-style Battle could be headed to a neighborhood near you.
  78. As you might expect from the creator of "Inception" and "Memento," there are surprises both in the story and in the storytelling. But the biggest surprise may just be how satisfying Nolan has made his farewell to a Dark Knight trilogy that many fans will wish he'd extend to a 10-part series, at least.
  79. Wadjda offers an interesting contrast to films made in Iran. Where the latter country has a long cinematic tradition, Mansour's is the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
  80. Frequently moving and quietly enlightening, Last Train Home is about love and exploitation, sacrifice and endurance.
  81. Leon isn't a flashy director, but he has an excellent sense of proportion. Gimme the Loot unfolds in a series of loose, funny, naturalistic scenes, but they never trail off into improvisational vapors.
  82. Costa-Gavras' film excels as a meticulously researched procedural that goes deep into the grime of greed, deception and cynical exploitation. But it is also a wickedly clever character analysis of a man more divided against himself than his preternatural calm suggests.
  83. Kings of Pastry is about the craft, the teaching and learning, the collaborative work, the tedium, the heartbreak and emotional backbone it takes to make something lovely, even if that something is destined to disappear down a gullet in seconds - and even if the maker ends up a noble failure.
  84. Greenfield's refusal to pass judgment on the Siegels lends her subjects and their marriage unexpected complexity and depth - especially Jackie, a true force of nature.
  85. As the film demonstrates over the course of a full year with her, and not a great year by any stretch -- there is more to this particular hard-charging, egomaniacal, joke machine than gets revealed onstage.
  86. All I can add to the discussion is the fervent hope that any parents, teachers, administrators or students who see it will immediately start clamoring for it to be shown at their next PTA meeting.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    In the end, Looking For Eric is about nothing less than trying to do the right thing when life keeps doing you wrong.
  87. If Meek's Cutoff is every inch a Western, it's an art-film mutant of the genre, inching along with intensely naturalistic obsession for detail that courts tedium even as it dares us not to pay attention.
  88. Big Star was essentially Chris Bell's band, and emotionally, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is Bell's movie. Joining rock's dead-at-27 club via a 1978 car crash, he left behind a fine, then-unreleased album and two siblings who tell his story movingly. As they recount his final years, the sadness in Bell's songs comes to seem eerily prescient.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 85 Critic Score
    About Time is ... about time: It asks us to reflect on how we all use that resource, how the hours and minutes that make up a day or a life align with our intentions and values.
  89. Director Dean DeBlois has been saying this installment is the middle movie in a How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. It's clear that he took inspiration from the first Star Wars trilogy — not a bad model for breathing new life, and yes, a bit of fire, into one of Hollywood's more nuanced animated franchises.
  90. The movie revisits the themes (and some of the same characters) of Amy Berg's chilling 2006 chronicle "Deliver Us from Evil." But it reaches further, expanding from one American diocese to Ireland, Italy, the Vatican and the career of the current pope.
  91. Filmmaker Francois Ozon is a young writer/director known for provocative work with mature stars — Kristin Scott Thomas was in his last picture, Catherine Deneuve in the one before that. And in Young and Beautiful, he establishes that you don't have to be young to be beautiful by having a still stunning Charlotte Rampling drop by to give his young star a life lesson. Or six.

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