NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,016 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 60% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 37% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 4.2 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 Stories We Tell
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,016 movie reviews
  1. It seems almost odd to talk of performances when they're as natural and unforced as they are in Boyhood, but they're fascinating, with the adults nearly as physically altered by time as the kids.
  2. It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film.
  3. Cuaron and his son Jonas have felt the need not just to come up with ways to keep the characters talking — there's even a mildly sneery reference to NPR at one point — but to brush in backstory and motivation, quite as if the peril of being isolated in space with a limited supply of oxygen weren't sufficient rationale for the characters' actions.
  4. Terrific entertainment - an unlikely thriller that makes business ethics, class distinctions and intellectual-property arguments sexy, that zips through two hours quicker than you can say "relationship status," and that'll likely fascinate pretty much anyone not named Zuckerberg.
  5. Was the death of Osama bin Laden worth the moral price, the compromised ideals? The filmmakers could hardly avoid raising those questions, but they pointedly leave them for the audience to answer. This is not a triumphant story in their telling, but it is one uncommonly freighted with the weight of history.
  6. A film that captures the drama and suspense of real life as urgently as any picture released this year.
  7. Delpy and Hawke have never been more persuasive. Nor has the series.
  8. The adrenaline rush of war has been largely missing from Hollywood's Iraq, but it's certainly front and center in The Hurt Locker, the first war movie in a while that feels as if it could have starred John Wayne.
  9. The first hour of Wall-E is a crazily inventive, deliriously engaging and almost wordless silent comedy of the sort that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used to make.
  10. Most of the dialogue is invented, but the sweep of events is genuine.
  11. At his provocative best, though - in his brilliant, gorgeous 2009 film "The White Ribbon," a study of the roots of fascism in domestic tyranny, and now in Amour - Haneke implicates us in the full range of human capacity.
  12. In a movie set up to trap us within Llewyn's repetitive loop of failure, baiting us with hope before quashing it with quiet desperation again and again, something more than comic relief is needed to soften the blow a little, and the film's musical interludes are that pillow.
  13. Seriously, one of the most jaw-dropping revelations occurs halfway through the final credits. All of which makes the stories Sarah Polley tells in Stories We Tell an enormously intriguing lot.
  14. 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.
  15. If you pay close attention, there's also an exhilarating evocation of how art is stubbornly made, and arbitrary authority put in its place, under the most confining conditions. Rene Magritte, whose famous pipe painting is slyly honored in the movie's title, would be jazzed.
  16. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer is obviously treading on dicey moral ground here, empowering killers to tell their story when they've never been called to account for the barbarism that brought them to power.
  17. Quite aside from Shinto transformation parables or Buddhist reincarnation teachings, the final scene shows how family wisdom is conserved and recycled. It's a moment that might elicit a smile or a tear, or perhaps both.
  18. The delighted gasps in the theater will make you glad you took a chance on The Artist. Silent black-and-white movies are not coming back, but this one is such a rewarding labor of love by all of the artists involved that it just might make you wish they could.
  19. It's the relationship between the two men that makes the film work: Geoffrey Rush's teacher cracking the quip, and Colin Firth so persuasive as the panicky king that by the time he gets to his crucial speech about going to war, you'll be panicking right along with him.
  20. 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.
  21. All is Lost is as quiet as "Margin Call" was chatty; at a minimum, you might call this film a procedural. But like the best of the genre, its relentless focus on the material and the practical also gestures subtly at a life of the soul, however battered.
  22. 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.
  23. The Kid With a Bike feels as vulnerable as Cyril's unformed character. Within its tight 87 minutes, not a lot happens, unless you count the saving of a life.
    • 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.
  24. There's nothing unexpected in this well-made picture, aside from the name of the director: Takeshi Miike.
  25. This Lincoln isn't an abstracted, infallible ideal, but rather a deeply conflicted, often lonely leader simply trying to do the right thing - even if that means few wrong things along on the way.
  26. The Tillman Story is ferocious filmmaking, but it wouldn't have half the force it does if the director didn't also get at the complicated man Pat Tillman was.
  27. The filmmaker has crammed Nebraska with orneriness, humor, greed, Americana and performances so natural they seem like found objects — especially Dern's, which caps a career of character parts with a delicately nuanced character.
  28. Romantic, action-packed and always held together by an intriguing social conscience, Slumdog Millionaire is a rapturous crowd pleaser.
  29. It's a classic Hollywood domestic comedy with a mischievous twist.
  30. With its whispery conversations, sepulchral atmosphere and soothing play of light and shadow, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is probably best enjoyed in a chemically enhanced state of mind.
  31. ACT UP soldiers on today, as it must, given the lack of official attention to the resurgence of HIV among young American men in metropolitan areas.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's a movie that works its magic slowly, and on multiple levels; it's a historical drama, a mystery and a love story. And Hoss' performance is simply one of the finest of the year.
  32. Although the monks don't seek death, Of Gods And Men can be seen as an ode to religiously motivated self-sacrifice. But Beauvois deliberately leaves the story open-ended. The value of these men's lives, he's noting, is not defined by how they ended.
  33. The ghost of Federico Fellini hovers wickedly over The Great Beauty, a fantastic journey around contemporary Rome and a riot of lush imagery juggling past and present, sacred and profane, gorgeous and grotesque.
  34. Evil cannot triumph in a movie made in China, but Drug War's ultimate scene nonetheless manages to astonish, revealing both Choi's character and the nature of mainland justice. Rather than dodging the harshness of Chinese authority, To depicts it implacably. He does exactly what the censors want, and yet subverts their worldview.
  35. By its final fade, Argo feels like more than just a thriller - even a thriller with real thrills and serious Oscar buzz. It feels like a window on events that led to the world we live in now.
  36. Without ever saying so, the movie adds up to nothing less than a social psychology of the nervous, spiritually questing geist of post-World War II America.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Ernest & Celestine is a tale of found family, sweetly realized and supported by clever writing and talented voice work, but it's the animation that really makes this Academy Award-nominated movie
  37. Frequently moving and quietly enlightening, Last Train Home is about love and exploitation, sacrifice and endurance.
  38. The movie ends powerfully, with a sudden pileup of fright, death and a disconcerting glimpse of beauty. If Lebanon's goal is to keep the viewer on edge and off balance, its final minutes are exemplary.
  39. The screenplay, by Peter Straughan and his late wife, Bridget O'Connor, is debonair. Alfredson's mastery of tone and ambiance is flawless. The bloodletting is brief and necessarily appalling, the comedy mordant: I guarantee you will never sing along to "Mr. Woo" in quite the same way again.
  40. Vincere, which comes as close to grand opera as can be achieved without anyone actually bursting into song, feels like a big movie -- handsomely mounted, full of dark shadows counterpointed with stray shafts of light, with dramatic close-ups of faces driven by passion and madness and heavy silences brutally interrupted by clashing tympani.
  41. The last 30 seconds of the film — wrenching, startling, utterly transformative of everything that precedes them — has haunted me for months. The Past will, I'm guessing, haunt me for years.
  42. The film is gorgeous and abstract, leaping around in time and space, structured in movements and more like a symphony than a conventional narrative.
  43. 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.
  44. Fruitvale Station isn't really a surprising film, except insofar as it's rare to see such a warmly emotional big-screen portrait of black family life.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Holy Motors - exhilarating, mournful and always stunning to look at - makes no sense at all if you have your heart set on narrative comprehensibility or even plain old thematic cohesion. It could almost be a film made in a time before language, a rendering of modern life - or modern lives - as a kind of cinematic cave painting. With songs. And a white stretch limo. And Kylie Minogue.
  45. Anderson has the ability to control our emotions just as expertly as his camera.
  46. Writer-director Martin Provost tells much of Seraphine's true-life story without words, lingering here on the process by which she makes paints, there on the obsessive single-mindedness she brings to her art.
  47. What sets this film entertainingly apart from most civil-rights sagas, though, are a slew of relaxed, offhandedly persuasive performances, along with the flamboyance of hippie-era San Francisco.
  48. If John Cassavetes had directed a jazz musical by Jacques Demy, it might have looked something like this.
  49. The movie falls somewhere between the austere and the playful.
  50. Looper, a cocky sci-fi tale with more brass than substance, is rife with these "Say what?" moments.
  51. The director recut the movie several times as events overtook it. She may yet do so again — although if more major changes occur, they could merit beginning another documentary. As The Square makes clear, Noujaim would not hesitate to rush back into the fray.
  52. So relentlessly upbeat that it won't take long before you're wondering just how the director plans to wipe the smile off her face.
  53. McConaughey's flirty drawl and rowdy energy have never been put to better dramatic use than they are in Dallas Buyers Club.
  54. 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.
  55. The performances are explosively funny, from Hollander's increasingly bewildered and way-out-of-his-depth Simon to Chris Addison's hapless PR fledgling. But the star is Peter Capaldi.
  56. It's hard to imagine anyone caring much why we're plunging ahead at warp speed, when the ride is so insanely satisfying.
  57. Those who don't savor Cohen's leisurely rhythms will probably not respond to Museum Hours, and even the movie's admirers will admit that it could be a little tighter. One scene that might be trimmed is the one where museum-goers pose, naked as the people on the canvases around them. The interlude certainly isn't dull, but it is a little brazen for a film that encourages its viewers to find the beauty in more commonplace sights.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The film, it should be said, does not blame Tilikum for his actions. It posits instead that, like a disenfranchised youth driven to a life of crime, Tilikum is a product of his upbringing.
  58. Fellag, a comedian and himself an exile from Algeria, makes Lazhar both a sensitive and an amusing figure. And the kids are just terrific, especially Emilien Neron as a boy who carries the guilt of the whole school on his shoulders.
  59. 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.
  60. First-time writer/director David Michod reportedly worked for eight years on his screenplay, deepening its tale of a violently dysfunctional family until its gangster conventions feel as if they're in the service of a modern-day Greek tragedy.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    There is much to observe, for Hugo (the film) is a marvel of spectacle, a sensory feast steeped in cinematic lore that proves pure joy is attainable in three dimensions.
  61. Hanks and Abdi are so compellingly matched that unlike with most thrillers, it won't be the action climax in Captain Phillips that'll stick with you. It'll be that aftermath, which gets at the emotional toll of terrorism in a way few movies have.
  62. 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.
  63. As Arbor, nonprofessional actor Chapman gives one of the fiercest performances of this kind since Martin Compston's turn as a different sort of teenage entrepreneur in Loach's 2002 film "Sweet Sixteen." He's riveting, even in his final moment of calm.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    What results is a film that takes on the vicissitudes of life and love with honest concern, but also with a shrug of the shoulders — a movie that leaves us with a smile on our faces but also more than a few thoughts in our heads.
  64. Even by my super-wimp standards, Aron's exit is surprisingly coy, coming from a filmmaker who gets his kicks from goosing the hell out of his audiences.
  65. The storytelling in Incendies strikes me as primal the way Greek tragedy is primal. Shattering. Cathartic. It is a breathtaking film.
  66. Propriety and recklessness make for uneasy bedfellows in The Deep Blue Sea, a shimmering exploration of romantic obsession and the tension between fitting in and flying free.
  67. What might seem on paper a cloyingly sentimental heartwarmer becomes, in Cretton's hands, a briskly believable, often funny, always invigorating and ultimately wrenching story of emotional fortitude.
  68. The filmmakers have mostly cast from Dominican playing fields rather than from acting studios -- Algenis Perez Soto, the accomplished first-time performer who plays Miguel Sugar Santos, was himself a teen ballplayer -- so game and practice sequences have an easy authenticity from the start.
  69. Running through the streets of New York for the sheer hell of it, Frances has the gift of joy to her very marrow. As for Greta Gerwig, I get the feeling she's just gearing up.
  70. A Hijacking is mostly about the excruciating process of getting to "yes" when language is the least of the barriers between two very different mindsets.
  71. These guys are a hoot, and The Trip is a trip and a half.
  72. The movie is not a story but a text, and Cedar is its playfully intrusive interpreter.
  73. Stylistically unremarkable, playing it safe with structure, the film is still quietly revelatory.
  74. The real relationship here is between a Batman in existential crisis and a Joker who'd love to leap with him into the abyss -- tight-a--ed yin and anarchist yang in a fantasy franchise that Nolan has made as riveting for its psychological heft as for the adrenaline rushes it inspires at regular intervals.
  75. As its brilliantly choreographed -- and appropriately modest -- climax proves, given the right ingredients, even the simplest story can leave you gasping.
  76. 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.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    The Lego Movie maybe be one giant advertisement, but all the way to its plastic-mat foundation, it's an earnest piece of work — a cash grab with a heart. Made for, with and about Legos, the movie is also made for, with and about imagination, and when that association seems completely natural, it's a win all around.
  77. Brimming over with sadism and the occasional touch of kink, Blancanieves piles on the pathology that's the birthright of any fairy tale worth its salt. Yet it's still a tale of lost innocence, and Berger keeps faith with a prototype revered by the Disneys and the Grimms alike: the resilient, enterprising girl who overcomes wave after wave of adversity.
  78. 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.
  79. 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.
  80. A dramedy laying out the dueling coaching philosophies of guys who doubtless meant a great deal to fans, but of whom I'd been blissfully unaware for decades -- is enormously engaging. Enormously.
  81. 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.
  82. 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.
  83. 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.
  84. 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?
  85. 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The result is a self-conscious tone poem concocted from oblique camera angles, shots held longer than it takes a tadpole to reach maturity and nighttime images enhanced with a psychedelic glow. An alternate title for it might be "David Lynch, Gone Fishin'."
  86. Andrea Arnold has crafted a scene that approaches a literal embodiment of the term "kitchen-sink drama" here is most likely coincidence; nevertheless, her film is a bold new entry in that long-standing British tradition of disquieting social realism.
  87. Police, Adjective has considerable power, and the issues it raises linger in the mind.
  88. Sister offers several reasons why the boy can't or won't return to ski-resort robbery next winter. But the movie also quietly suggests that, whatever he does, Simon will always be the boy from down below, boldly impersonating someone born to the heights.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Django Unchained is by turns exhilarating, hilarious, horrifying and poetic.
  89. The stars and the explosions are backed up by plenty of class - Ralph Fiennes as M's new boss, Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe as a couple of the requisite Bond beauties, and Judi Dench finally given the space to turn M into a full-bodied character.
  90. 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.

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