NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,012 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 Boyhood
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,012 movie reviews
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The storytelling in Incendies strikes me as primal the way Greek tragedy is primal. Shattering. Cathartic. It is a breathtaking film.
  4. The film is gorgeous and abstract, leaping around in time and space, structured in movements and more like a symphony than a conventional narrative.
  5. 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.
  6. A film that captures the drama and suspense of real life as urgently as any picture released this year.
  7. 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.
  8. It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Romantic, action-packed and always held together by an intriguing social conscience, Slumdog Millionaire is a rapturous crowd pleaser.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  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. There are times when the title is more a wish than an action - because just as cocaine addicts are forever chasing that first high, there's always the hunger to recapture a lost feeling again, even for those who have spent years in recovery. Pity those who fall off the wagon.
  17. 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.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 95 Critic Score
    Dredd works because it's an action flick with wide appeal that takes risks it doesn't need to - in its delightfully off-putting violence and daring style - and those choices pay off in a singular and exhilarating movie experience. It's savage, beautiful and loads of fun.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. In Tabu, Portuguese writer-director Miguel Gomes spins a two-part tale examining love, loneliness and the power of memory.
  21. 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.
  22. As with Six by Sondheim, Tim's Vermeer works at capturing on film how artists work their miracles. And it will have you, long after the credits fade, puzzling out questions of invention, creativity, science, talent, painstaking craft, and the magic that comes of putting all that together.
  23. 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.
  24. If John Cassavetes had directed a jazz musical by Jacques Demy, it might have looked something like this.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. Grabs you by the eyeballs from the very first frame.
  28. 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.
  29. Its story ends up packing an emotional wallop as substantial as its title character.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. An exquisite, almost sensual grief suffuses every frame of A Single Man.
  33. 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.
  34. Greenberg is on every level the work of a more mature filmmaker, and quite possibly a happier man.
  35. Wild Grass is an elegant vessel for outlandish thoughts and troubling impulses. In his rejection of cinematic naturalism, Resnais has made a movie that's both utterly contrived and compellingly lifelike.
  36. It's hard to imagine anyone caring much why we're plunging ahead at warp speed, when the ride is so insanely satisfying.
  37. It's a classic Hollywood domestic comedy with a mischievous twist.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. Any film about a flashy criminal threatens to glamorize its protagonist, but both Mesrine episodes are careful to detail the many goofs made by the crook and his accomplices.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. 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.
  44. An animated western that's effortlessly the most exhilarating flight of computer-drawn fancy since "Ratatouille."
  45. And at its loony best, Wiig and Mumolo's script hurls a torrent of bridesmaid-zilla set pieces at us, playing out like a "Sex and the City 3" read-through gone deliciously awry.
  46. The latest bloom from the flourishing garden that is Romanian cinema, Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas chronicles the emotional fallout from a classic love triangle, but it unfolds with the agonizing tension of a suspense film.
  47. Boyega is absolutely riveting, leading with a stern glower, and constantly trying to prove himself. Yet Moses has a deep well of tenderness and honor beneath the façade, and Boyega almost single-handedly makes you care not just about his character, but about everyone in any gang that would align itself with him. He's that magnetic.
  48. What follows is something rarely seen in American movies: a sincerely humane examination of what it means to experience a crisis of faith. Tender, bittersweet and often gently comedic, Corinne's 20-year journey toward (and around, and away from) her God has a loose, searching rhythm that's engrossingly unpredictable.
    • 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.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    It's hard not to be both heartened and a little wistful about the fact that The Muppets is probably as good a Muppet project as it's possible to make without Jim Henson.
  49. Tuschi has made a docu-thriller of enormous narrative flair and visual smarts. It's a perfect fit for the blend of Greek tragedy, spaghetti Western and judicial farce that defines business and politics in the New Russia.
  50. The movie is anything but combative. Pariah is a tender, sporadically goofy, yet candid examination of emergent identity, a film whose lack of attitude sets it apart from much of the hard-bitten, thug-life storytelling that's dominated African-American cinema for decades.
  51. A horror-movie attic sale is, in essence, exactly what Cabin in the Woods is, an attempt to exorcise the genre of its formulaic possession by stuffing the movie full of its most overused and predictable elements - and then dumping them through clever skewering.
  52. 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.
  53. Judged by the ideological terms on which it was founded, you could say the kibbutz experiment has failed. I, for one, could never have made a permanent home there. Yet the sense of community was real, and those cavernous dining halls supply some of the happiest memories of my youth.
  54. Intentionally or not, Searching for Sugar Man catches all that - the fleeting moments of triumph and the years of endurance, the accumulation of family and the unquenched dreams - and doesn't presume to sew it all up for us.
  55. 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.
    • 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.
  56. This astonishingly effective environmental nightmare is based on reasoning that, if you've been following the science, seems all too possible.
  57. Replace the toy box with the arcade machine, and Wreck-It Ralph is basically a repurposed "Toy Story" movie, suffused with the same mix of adventure and nostalgia and themes of friendship and the existential crises that come with age. A cynic might dismiss the film as reheated leftovers. But that cynic would be wrong, because those leftovers are delicious.
  58. 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.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone is an unapologetic melodrama rendered in what you might call semi-stylized neo-expressionistic realism, and it works like gangbusters.
  59. Its greatest advantage over the book is that this is a story well-documented in moving pictures. In addition to recent interviews with the five, the filmmakers deftly marshal news footage, clips from the supposed confessions, and trenchant analysis.
  60. 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.
  61. 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.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    Django Unchained is by turns exhilarating, hilarious, horrifying and poetic.
  62. Funny, exuberant and shamelessly seductive, Yossi is an unabashedly populist entertainment with a spirit conciliatory enough to melt the heart of any naysayer.
  63. Resolution is really a less self-conscious cousin to last year's "Cabin in the Woods"; both are hugely satisfying exercises in examining the way in which stories are told. Cabin succeeded by deconstructing horror without ever intending to be scary itself. Resolution takes the opposite path: When Benson and Moorhead voyeuristically suggest that someone or something is watching Mike and Chris, the chilling effect is marrow-deep.
  64. Delpy and Hawke have never been more persuasive. Nor has the series.
  65. Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio is one horror film that opts to skip the usual frolic among those metaphorical monsters in favor of a deeply unsettling dive into the subconscious.
  66. Horrific and uplifting.
    • 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.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 90 Critic Score
    If The Heat is about more than being a well-oiled delivery system for impressive and effective comedy, it's in part about what it means to be a good cop — including the question of how gender does or doesn't factor into that.
  67. 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.
    • 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.
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. 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.
  71. 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.
  72. A Touch of Sin is the most dramatic and even lurid of writer-director Jia Zhangke's movies. The film-festival star hasn't quite become a Chinese Tarantino, however.
  73. 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.
  74. 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.
  75. Tautly written by Rona Segal and expertly observed by Jonathan Gurfinkel, a documentarian and TV producer who worked on the hilarious Israeli satire Eretz Nehederet, S#x Acts operates almost exclusively at the behavioral level. Suspended between titillation and despair, the movie firmly implicates us in its voyeurism.
  76. 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.
  77. Murmelstein died in Rome in 1989, and having witnessed the terrible dilemmas he suffered and the mass rescues he pulled off, we can only be glad that he escaped the snap judgments of the social-media age.
  78. 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."
  79. 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.
  80. 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.
  81. 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."
  82. 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.
  83. The film's greatest accomplishment is its ability to change tone at least three times without losing the audience.
  84. 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.
  85. 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.
  86. While the story pivots on an actual girl-who-cried-wolf incident, this elegantly constructed movie is about much more than that.
  87. The movie is a curiosity, of course. Both Marc and Kim have decidedly unusual life stories.
  88. 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?
  89. It's a surprisingly nuanced and sober tale of brotherhood and betrayal.

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