You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

The Criticwire Survey: Soderbergh’s Best Movie

The Criticwire Survey: Soderbergh's Best Movie

Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week’s question:

Q: What is Steven Soderbergh’s best film?

The critics’ answers:

Alan ZilbermanBrightest Young Things/Tiny Mix Tapes:

“Steven Soderbergh’s best film is ‘Out of Sight.’ Its fractured timeline is nonetheless elegant, it’s funny and sexy, plus there are so many memorable minor characters. Soderbergh took the Elmore Leonard novel and found a way to make it his own. Oh, David Holmes’ score and all the musical cues are flawless.  But while ‘Out of Sight’ is Soderbergh’s best, my favorite is still ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Few films combine style, comedy, and cinema is such an inventive, taut way.”

Mark YoungSound on Sight/New York Movie Klub:

“I thought about being contrarian and defending ‘Contagion,’ which I think is a fine film that received a raw deal from both critics and audiences in 2011. But, let’s face it, that one isn’t my favorite. My favorite is ‘Out of Sight,’ and by such a wide margin that a supercut of Don Cheadle’s scenes might win by itself.”

Stephen WhittyThe Star-Ledger:

“A difficult question, because they’re all so different — is ‘The Limey’ better than ‘Che?’ I’m very fond of ‘Traffic,’ though, a film which elegantly manages to cut among several different narratives yet never loses track of what it’s saying, or what the audience is really seeing. For a director who sometimes seemed to chafe at the conventions of Hollywood storytelling, Soderbergh managed to be both artful and accessible here.”

Andrew WelchAdventures in Cinema:

“I don’t think I’ve seen Soderbergh’s best film. There are several I would say are good to very good — the ‘Ocean’s’ series, for instance, or ‘Haywire,’ ‘The Informant!’ or ‘Traffic’ — but I can’t fully embrace any one of these in particular. His work is always visually interesting, but there’s also a coldness to it that’s off-putting. I generally come away from his work wanting to like it more than I do. Which, again, doesn’t mean that I don’t like him or his movies. It only means that nothing stands about. His best film is probably among the many I still haven’t seen yet.”

Max WeissBaltimore Magazine:

“I’m partial to ‘Out of Sight.’ It’s really the film that made George Clooney a movie star. So for that, I will be forever in its debt. Plus it had smarts to burn, that hella sexy trunk scene, and gripping action. Plus, Soderbergh managed to pull off the greatest directorial trick known to mankind: He made J.Lo seem like a real actress.”

Ignatiy VishnevetskyMUBI:

“Soderbergh has such an eclectic, varied body of work that it seems unfair to pick just one; therefore, I’ll pick three: ‘Schizopolis,’ an uncharacteristically personal film which presents Soderbergh at his most freewheeling; ‘Ocean’s Twelve‘ (or possibly ‘Out of Sight’ — really depends on my mood), which is goddamn goofy fun and presents Soderbergh as a master visual showman; and ‘The Informant!,’ which perfectly balances his intelligence and his ability to entertain while also showcasing his talent as a great director of actors.”

Anne-Katrin TitzeEye For Film:

“‘Contagion‘ is unquestionably the Soderbergh film that crosses my mind, uninvited, in the most mundane situations. A splendid inquiry into human behavior under stress and what happens when love-thy-neighbor turns deadly, the movie makes you question quotidian actions, not merely have you fear coughs or peanuts. What ultimately is more dangerous, the lethal airborne virus or the uncaring lie?”

Andreas StoehrPussy Goes Grrr:

“I still have a lot of catching up to do, but right now my favorite is ‘Out of Sight.’ A skilled ensemble, tangled plot, and sizzling sexual chemistry: these are the makings of rich genre entertainment, made one-of-a-kind through the addition of Soderbergh’s visual flair. (Between this and my ‘Jackie Brown’ answer for the Tarantino question, it seems like I really have a thing for Elmore Leonard adaptations!)”

Jason ShawhanNashville Scene/Interface 2037:

“For the longest time it was ‘King of the Hill.’ Then ‘Out of Sight’ took over for a while. It’s been ‘Solaris‘ for quite a bit now, but what makes the man’s work fascinating is that he always manages to surprise me. It’s my sincere hope that he’ll release the original, more radical cut of ‘Solaris’ like he said he might in the long, long ago. But, as always with him, you never 100% know.”

Josh SpiegelMousterpiece Cinema/Sound on Sight:

“Though Steven Soderbergh has made some truly exceptional films, I’m going with ‘The Limey.’ Terence Stamp’s performance as the gruff, tortured ex-con Wilson is excellent — and Soderbergh’s choice to use so-called ‘flashback’ footage from ‘Poor Cow,’ one of Stamp’s first films, isn’t terribly distracting. And ‘The Limey’ features the best use of the elliptical visuals and storytelling format that Soderbergh has expanded upon in the last 15 years. Even now, it’s an arresting, starkly beautiful, and emotional piece of work.”

Matt RorabeckMovie Knight:

“Steven Soderbergh is one of the best in the business, with a fairly good track record when it comes to putting out solid films consistently. While some are clearly better than others and you could probably choose a handful of his filmography and call it his ‘best,’ in my opinion that title should belong to 2011’s ‘Contagion.’ It’s a smart, scary, disaster film with outstanding performances from it’s ensemble cast. Soderbergh’s storytelling is at an all-time high and the score by Cliff Martinez is wonderful. It will truly be a shame if ‘Side Effects’ is his last feature film.”

Andrew RobinsongmanReviews:

“So much to chose from. There’s ‘Traffic,’ ‘Che,’ ‘Haywire,’ ‘Out of Sight’ and even ‘The Limey.’ These are all films I love, and partially expect a lot of the other respondents to bring up. But I’m going to put my head on the potential chopping block and nominate ‘Kafka‘ as his best film. It’s the film I feel is most representative of his career’s efforts. It blends genre, pays specific homage to a love of his, and barely warrants an explanation as to what’s actually going on in the bigger picture. Forever live Jeremy Irons.”

Katey RichCinema Blend:

“This is such a cruel question, and I don’t honestly know how anyone can answer it with confidence. Do you choose the perfect Hollywood movie, ‘Ocean’s Eleven?’ Do you choose the other perfect Hollywood movie, ‘Out of Sight?’ Do you choose the committed, goofy brilliance of ‘The Informant!?’ Do you choose the still surprisingly effective ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape?’ Do you go with the will of Matthew McConaughey and choose ‘Magic Mike?’ I’m pretty sure I’d answer this differently any time you asked me, and I’m already sweating about how long it’s been since I saw ‘Erin Brockovich’ or ‘Traffic.’ I’m just gonna say ‘The Informant!‘ and then kick myself tomorrow for not saying ‘Out of Sight.'”

Jordan RaupThe Film Stage:

“‘The Informant!‘ The true story could have taken a wildly different direction under any other director, but it’s equally hilarious and heartbreaking with Soderbergh’s innovative vision.”

Matt PriggePhiladelphia Weekly:

“I’m an ‘Out of Sight’ man, with ‘Schizopolis’ a close second. But I feel someone has to stick up for one of the runts in his litter: ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Most of my friends not only dislike it but despise it, and they look at me funny when I say I’ve probably watched it more than most Soderberghs, if not all. (It’s one of my go-to sick days movies, which should explain that.) But just as I somewhat prefer ‘Help!’ to ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ I somewhat prefer the goofier ‘Twelve’ to its slicker, more of-a-piece predecessor. (Same with, for the record, the franchise’s underrated threequel.) Both ‘Help!’ and ‘Twelve’ are, as one commentator described the latter, vacations for people who don’t need them. There’s a lack of urgency this time around; the need to prove something is gone. (Not that the star-studded ‘Eleven’ had much to prove, except that someone, including a man just nominated for two separate Director Oscars, could make a hugely entertaining entertainment.) But rather than just sit back and lazily ape the original, Soderbergh and his game cast — like Richard Lester and the Beatles — indulge the weirder areas of their various senses of humor. Non-sequiturs reign supreme, including the scene where Clooney, Pitt and Robbie Coltrane confound Damon by speaking in an impenetrable code comprised of nonsense one-liners. And I’d be surprised if Damon, even counting his inevitable Oscar perf, will ever top the moment where he, with great sincerity and self-doubt, responds to Fake Julia Roberts’ charge that it’s wrong to pose as The Real Julia Roberts by furrowing his brow and asking, ‘You mean…morally?’ I dig the muddled look of the film, too: harsh maroons in darkened rooms, the actors often fading into the palette — a far cry from the perhaps overly crisp ‘Eleven.’ Ditto the ’70s Eurotrash vibe, plus Vincent Cassel, plus Catherine Zeta-Jones at her toughest and, not coincidentally, sexiest. Seriously, to the people who ask what’s wrong with me when I speak up for it: what’s wrong with you? (Now, would someone smart *please* defend ‘Full Frontal,’ a Soderbergh even I can’t stick up for but would one day love to.)”

Dan PersonsMighty Movie Podcast:

“‘The Limey.’ (Surprised?)” 

Scott NyeRail of Tomorrow:

“The one film that continues to stand out, year after year, through thick and thin, and give me more to consider with each day, honestly, is ‘Che.’ Soderbergh’s beyond unconventional, bordering on pointedly provocative decision to boil down the story of Che Guevara to two revolutionary campaigns (and a U.N. visit) ends up being much more revelatory than any simple biopic, even if he were to also shoot that across two films. We get to sit with Che in the most mundane of circumstances, watch him negotiate problems, and go through each campaign with a strict methodology that provides almost a manual for guerrilla warfare without, you know, giving one the idea to launch one’s own campaign. Che stands at once alongside efforts to turn the man into an icon, even as it questions that movement (the soldiers attitudes towards him in ‘Part II’ are especially noteworthy here), and Soderbergh invests the film with indelible imagery that expands on his themes without being terribly overbearing (in ‘Part I,’ the group moving through water, their minor struggles rippling outward beyond their control). I only wish I had four-and-a-half hours free more often to revisit it.”

Amy NicholsonMovieline:

“‘Out of Sight‘ isn’t just Steven Soderbergh’s best movie — it’s also Elmore Leonard’s. Both men have the same problem bringing their stories to the screen: their films are perilously close to being too cool and too slick. But under the surface, they roil with energy and pain and heat. Anguish is in every frame of ‘The Girlfriend Experience’ but it’s blunted by the billionth shot of Sasha Grey looking blank behind her giant sunglasses. Blame it on Grey — I’m sure you’d be half-right — but a dozen good directors have also failed to bring Jennifer Lopez to life. Not Soderbergh. All of Lopez’s qualities that flummox most filmmakers — her leonine good looks, her control freak composure, her apologetic aggressiveness — combine in Karen Sisco, and because of it, she’s tried to duplicate the role over and over again in a series of stern psychologists and career women who fall for crooks. ‘Out of Sight’ is the rare heist thriller that people watch for the love story. It’s confident, smart and funny — the hallmarks of a perfect popcorn film — with the charm to win over every audience: art housers, action fans, readers of the Wall Street Journal, and readers of Cosmo. And not only did Soderbergh take a pop star and a TV hunk and crown them Hollywood royalty, ‘Out of Sight’ let the at-the-time floundering indie filmmaker prove he was ready for the big leagues. Or as George Clooney’s Jack Foley says, ‘You’d be surprised about what you can get, if you ask for it the right way.'”

Mike McGranaghanThe Aisle Seat:

“Given that Soderbergh moves back and forth between mainstream fare and experimental works, I feel that I have to give two answers to this question. His best mainstream film is ‘Traffic,’ which looks at our country’s drug problem from multiple angles and finds that it may be unsolvable. The movie is provocative, giving you a lot of ideas to contemplate when it’s over, yet also stylish and very entertaining, with solid turns from the all-star cast. As far as his experimental stuff goes, I’ve always had a fondness for ‘Bubble,’ a creepy, shot-on-digital video thriller about the desperate lives of blue collar workers laboring in a doll-making factory. Soderbergh perfectly creates an unsettling mood, coaxing convincing performances from his cast of nonprofessional actors. In one of the most memorable sequences, he shows how doll heads are made. Under his careful direction, the process seems like the eeriest thing in the world. ‘Traffic’ and ‘Bubble’ give a nice overview of Soderbergh’s diversity as a filmmaker, both in terms of subject matter and technical approach. I haven’t liked all of his pictures, but his ambitiousness ensures that I eagerly await each new project he unveils.”

James McCormickCriterion Cast:

“Thinking about my favorite Soderbergh was much easier than I thought. I love the director, but in my odd opinion (according to many people), I don’t think he’s made many masterpieces throughout his career. He’s made crowd-pleasers, head-scratchers, experimental films and everything else in between and that is a commendable career in any profession, let alone filmmaking. But his best film, one that I revisit repeatedly and push on people when they say they haven’t seen it due to one of the co-stars is ‘Out of Sight.’ I adore this film. The film that, to me, proved George Clooney had what it took to be a Hollywood leading man and showed Jennifer Lopez was more than a pretty face (which is sad considering she never really matched this performance afterward. Gobble gobble). But besides them, you have a stellar supporting ensemble consisting of Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina and Michael Keaton (which for anyone who doesn’t realize, plays the same character he does in Jackie Brown which is a whole other amazing coincidence). It led to a TV series in 2003 (‘Karen Sisco’ for you Googlers out there). It’s an amazing adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, which in the ’90s we luckily had a few worthy film adaptations. And that’s why it’s not only my favorite Soderbergh film, but the best one he’s made overall.”

Joey MagidsonThe Awards Circuit:

“There are a few worthy choices here, but I have to say that I think his best might actually be ‘Magic Mike.’ I say that because that movie has no right to be as good as it is, and I believe a lot of that credit goes to Steven Soderbergh and his filmmaking skill.  There’s a movie that works on multiple levels, when it probably shouldn’t have worked at all. I dig a number of Soderbergh’s flicks, but this one is his most impressive to me.”

Germain Lussier/Film:

“‘Out of Sight.’ Slicker than the ‘Ocean’s’ films, and tighter than ‘Traffic,’ this is just Soderbergh clicking on all cylinders.”

John LichmanFreelance:

“‘The Hunger Games.'”

Shawn LevyThe Oregonian:

“‘The Limey‘ is kind of a perfect film in its size, form, impact. ‘Traffic’ is an amazing exercise in multi-thread narrative, ‘Out of Sight’ is an exquisite thriller, I adore and advocate for ‘King of the Hill’ all the time, and there’s great fun to be had in perhaps ten other Soderbergh titles. But ‘The Limey’ is one of only a handful of movies I’ve ever seen that I can’t imagine changing a jot of.”

Christy LemireAssociated Press/What The Flick?!:

“I did a list of what I thought were the five best Soderbergh films when ‘Contagion’ came out in 2011 and picked ‘Traffic‘ as No. 1. I was (and still am) so impressed by how ambitious and sprawling it is, how expertly he gets his arms around the complicated topic of the international drug trade from so many angles, so stylishly, while juggling such a great ensemble cast. But man, I love ‘The Limey.’ It’s so cool and dangerous and darkly funny, and Terence Stamp is just such a badass.”

Josh LarsenLarsen On Film/Filmspotting:

“Keeping in mind the embarrassing admission that I haven’t seen all of his work, I vote for ‘Out of Sight.’ His first, least self-conscious attempt at playing studio stylist.”

Joanna LangfieldThe Movie Minute:

“I will always have a special place in my heart for ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape,’ the movie that not just put Soderbergh on the map, but stunned audiences and energized the independent film movement of the ’90s. So while that is arguably his ‘best’ film, I’d like to remind fans about ‘Out of Sight,’ a dandy little caper with all-round terrific performances led by George Clooney and, yes, Jennifer Lopez. There have been several Elmore Leonard adaptations, far fancier and pumped up, but this one, by far, is the driest and sliest. An all-round treat.”

Peter LabuzaLabuzaMovies.com/The Cinephiliacs:

“Can I say them all? They’re all great if not excellent. Even the misfires are incalculably more fascinating than most independent or Hollywood features. And those that have gotten mixed reactions (‘Ocean’s Twelve,’ ‘Solaris,’ ‘The Good German’), I rank among some of his best. I couldn’t even do a Top 5 without forgetting something that is key to the Soderbergh canon. For me, he is the most audacious filmmaker of the 2000s, and his filmmaking styles have only evolved into something more complex and more wonderful. I will say that ‘Side Effects’ ranks among his best.”

Gary KramerGay City News:

“‘Schizopolis,’ but ‘King of the Hill’ is a personal favorite.”

Dan KoisSlate:

“I watched them all, even the shorts, TV episodes, and ‘9012LIVE,’ and my answer is 100% ‘Out of Sight.'”

Chris KlimekWashington Post:

“I’ll confess I haven’t seen most of Soderbergh’s no-budget, nonprofessional actor experiments, or ‘Schizopolis,’ which I will certainly seek out when his new cut of it surfaces. Allowing for all that, ‘The Limey‘ narrowly edges out ‘Out of Sight’ as my favorite Soderbergh joint. Tell me about Jenny!”

Glenn KennyMSN Movies/Some Came Running:

“You gotta be kidding me.”

Adam KempenaarFilmspotting:

“‘Out of Sight.’ Because of Don Cheadle (‘you don’t got to give me no tone of voice’), Steve Zahn and his sunglasses, the Clooney-Rhames chemistry, and oh, that love scene.”

John Keefer51Deep.com:

“Any movie that gives you the line ‘ice cream for freaks’ must be recognized so I’ll say ‘Out of Sight.'”

Sean HutchinsonLatino Review:

“The variety of Steven Soderbergh’s filmography as a whole is perhaps more interesting than the films themselves. His style is that he has no style, and his chameleon-like shifts from a one-for-them, one-for-me mentality made for interesting chatter if not for interesting movies. That said, his best film is most likely ‘Traffic,’ a far-reaching movie that toes the line between putting a personal directorial stamp on an otherwise star studded — albeit gritty — ensemble that tried to say a lot but in the end only ended up looking really pretty. It’s perhaps his most aesthetically defined movie to date, and one that doesn’t get lost in its own experiments. It has a few good performances, including Michael Douglas as the weary and newly appointed U.S. drug czar and his addict daughter played by Erika Christensen, but Benicio del Toro’s understated turn as a Mexican police officer torn between right and wrong is a real gem.”

Drew HuntChicago Reader/The Talking Pictures:

“Jesus, what a question. Is there even answer? His filmography is perhaps the richest of any contemporary filmmaker, filled with disparate yet no less cohesive flavors, tones, and styles. I suppose my immediate answer is ‘The Limey,’ but as soon as I send this email I know I’ll change my mind to one of these: ‘Contagion,’ ‘The Girlfriend Experience,’ ‘King of the Hill,’ ‘And Everything is Going Fine,’ ‘Schizopolis,’ ‘Haywire,’ ‘Che,’ or ‘Kafka.'”

Peter HowellToronto Star:

“It’s tough to choose a favorite from Soderbergh’s diverse and potent output. But I think ‘The Limey‘ tops the lot. It hits the sweet spot between his art house and mainstream sensibilities, and features Peter Fonda and Terence Stamp in career-peak performances. Extra kudos for clever use of Stamp flashbacks from ‘Poor Cow.'”

Jordan HoffmanFilm.com/ScreenCrush:

“I find merit even in Soderbergh’s lesser films, but the artistic stride he was in from 1996 (‘Schizopolis’) through 2004 (his segment in the ‘Eros’ anthology) is simply unprecedented. The apex, for me, was his all-too-forgotten HBO series from autumn 2003, ‘K Street.’ These ten 30 minute episodes (all shot by Peter Andrews and cut by Mary Ann Bernard) represented Soderbergh as a total filmmaker, and one who could pull miracles out of his hat in record time. The show’s gimmick was to build a story that incorporated that week’s news (and what a time for news!) into the overarching story, so the blending of scripted drama and ‘guest opp’ (there were some members of Congress who used ‘K Street’ as a soap box) is jaw-dropping. On an aesthetic level, ‘K Street’ is where Soderbergh cut his teeth on video, a format I had hitherto poo-pooed, but I now recognize it as a viable method of visual storytelling, indeed the correct method for Soderbergh’s sensibility. ‘K Street’ is not on Blu-ray, but you can buy a used DVD copy off Amazon for as low as $1.56 (I just checked). The news being what it is, the unqualified references to Jayson Blair, the question of who leaked Valarie Plame’s name or jokes about rabble-rousing comments from Philadelphia’s then-mayor John Street will have none of the resonance, but, no doubt, the distance will only make our eternally tumultuous political class seem all the more ludicrous.”

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

“To me, Steven Soderbergh’s best film isn’t the one with the most pedigree or directorial wizardry. His best film is the one that had me on the edge of my seat and tensely invested in the outcome of the story, ‘Contagion.’ Though my brain can probably admit that ‘Contagion’ is probably not the film most would hold up as quintessential Soderbergh, my gut is pretty adamant that it is the film that could be held up as the most effective. Or maybe I’m just nervous about other people’s sneezes.”

Scott FoundasThe Village Voice:

“It’s tempting to say ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape,’ because it came as such a jolt. Soderbergh was so young and yet seemingly so fully formed. It’s still one of his best, of course, but if I had to pick just one to take to the desert island, it would be ‘Out of Sight,’ which is both deliriously pleasurable and seemed to announce the second, great, unexpected phase of Soderbergh’s career, as the last of the great Hollywood craftsmen.”

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

“‘Out of Sight,’ which is also George Clooney’s best film, Jennifer Lopez’s best film, the best screen treatment of an Elmore Leonard story, and one of the great American movies of the 1990s.”

Edward DouglasComing Soon:

“I’d probably have to go with ‘Traffic‘ just because that was such a powerful drama and really ahead of its time, which is probably why he won an Oscar for it. But I’m just as big a fan of ‘Contagion’ and ‘The Girlfriend Experience,’ which fall on the opposite range of budgets in which Soderbergh tends to work.”

Billy DonnellyAin’t It Cool News:

“Hands down, it has to be ‘Out of Sight,’ and not just because no other film has been able to get Jennifer Lopez anywhere near as great, which is a feat in and of itself. ‘Out of Sight’ is cool, stylish and sexy (not an easy mix to pull off), with plenty of substance to go with it between its smart story and rich characters. Just go down the cast, and you’ll find actor after actor who have their strengths showcased by Soderbergh, whether it’s the quiet and cool calm of Clooney or the attitude of Don Cheadle or the sleaziness of Albert Brooks; each character lands the perfect match to bring them to life. ‘Out of Sight’ certainly is the most re-watchable of Soderbergh’s films, as you won’t find me changing the channel anytime I come across it, and with the added chemistry of Clooney and Lopez bringing that flirtatious aspect of ‘Out of Sight’ together in full force, this is the one film that Soderbergh seems to nail from beginning to end. There are no weak spots here.”

John DeCarliFilmCapsule:

“My favorite Soderbergh film is still ‘Traffic.’ I hope his impending retirement isn’t permanent, because, year after year, you could always count on Soderbergh to deliver either thought-provoking artistically daring films or extremely entertaining popcorn films, or both. One of the things I most appreciate about Soderbergh is his range, and while I like almost all to some degree, ‘Traffic’ is for me his most successful. It combines his aesthetic and narrative inventiveness with an extremely deft touch at juggling a complex story, multiple interwoven themes, and an ensemble cast. You need only look at other ‘hyperlink’ films like ‘Crash’ and ‘Babel’ to realize how difficult it is to pull off a project like this without resorting to preaching and platitudes. Soderbergh will be missed.”

Tony DayoubCinema Viewfinder/Press Play:

“‘Out of Sight‘ and ‘The Limey‘ made for a phenomenal one-two punch when originally released in the late ’90s. Both utilize a cut-up editing style — rarely used effectively by anyone other than Nicolas Roeg — to enhance what are otherwise rather timeworn genre tales. Each film also manages to elevate their respective leads to iconic movie star status. In the case of ‘Out of Sight”s Jennifer Lopez, some may say undeservedly. But most would agree that as far as ‘The Limey”s Terence Stamp is concerned, it was a long time coming.”

Michael DaltonMovie Parliament:

“‘Ocean’s Eleven.’ Not only Soderbergh’s best film but one of the best — if not the best — remakes of all time.”

Jake ColeNot Just Movies:

“Gotta be ‘The Limey.’ Soderbergh has gotten great performances out of his actors over the years, but none tops Terence Stamp’s alternately terrifying and rending work as the hardened con searching for answers about his dead daughter. The constant subversion of expectations fuels both reactions: when Soderbergh keeps his camera outside the warehouse Stamp shoots up, he makes the old man’s reemergence and his strained yell, ‘You tell him I’m fucking coming!’ all the more forceful. Meanwhile, flashbacks culled from script fragments and Stamp’s own creative past lay the foundation for the film’s hardest blow, the realization that vengeance serves only to redirect one’s own sense of culpability for a tragedy.”

Marc CiafardiniGoSeeTalk.com:

“‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ to me, easily stands out as Soderbergh’s best film mainly for the style, elegance, swagger, and sophistication running rampant in every frame. It’s lighter fare than most of his other work but that’s what helps keep it from getting bogged down with the complexity of the plot. Of course a lot of that can be chalked up to the amazing cast (which tend to go hand in hand with a Soderbergh film). But while films like ‘The Limey,’ ‘Traffic,’ ‘Out of Sight,’ ‘Contagion’ and recently ‘Haywire’ are all well-crafted and solid films he does get a little too heavy and convoluted. Not to say he’s full of himself or pretentious but his films tend to be a little more serious than they need be. Maybe that’s just me but for the balanced, light and slightly carefree film fan in me, it’s gotta be ‘Ocean’s Eleven.’ Let’s just pretend ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ doesn’t exist, okay?”

Sean ChavelFlick Minute:

“‘King of the Hill‘ is the best film Steven Soderbergh has ever made, and oddly the best film never to get a DVD release (it’s Soderbergh’s fault due to his non-participation in allowing it to happen — he doesn’t like ‘looking back’ at any of his old movies). More than John Steinbeck ever achieved (yes, that would mean ‘The Grapes of Wrath’), ‘King’ is a powerful story of surviving the Great Depression. Jesse Bradford, at 14, plays the kid who has to make ends meet on loose change. Few films touch me on repeat viewings as much as this one. Soderbergh’s film can be found on Instant Netflix and it’s often on HBO cable.”

Sean M. BurnsPhiladelphia Weekly/The Improper Bostonian:

“I’m probably not alone in choosing ‘Out of Sight,’ because it’s the perfect synthesis of Soderbergh’s jazzy, experimental techniques with his knack for canny, populist storytelling. Also, if you watch this movie on a date there’s no way you’re not getting laid afterwards.”

Danny BowesTor.com/Movies By Bowes:

“I’m going with a four-way tie between ‘Out of Sight,’ ‘Schizopolis,’ ‘The Limey,’ and ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Trying to pick just one best Soderbergh film is like trying to pick one best orgasm. And, as with orgasms, one should not neglect the impulse to get a little weird and go for more than one when picking a best Soderbergh. I like Steven Soderbergh, is what I’m saying.”

William BibbianiCrave Online:

“‘The Limey.’ Always.”

Nicholas BellIONCINEMA:

“Soderbergh’s best has to be his 1991 film ‘Kafka,’ in which the author’s work becomes his life. Jeremy Irons stars as the victim of his own Kafkaesque insanity and the film features an awesome supporting cast features Joel Grey, Ian Holm, Alec Guinness, Armin Mueller-Stahl and a still promising post-Roeg Theresa Russell.”

Adam BattyHope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second:

“I hold ‘Schizopolis‘ up as one of the great pieces of hyper-personal cinema. Such is the combination of a liberatingly low budget and the casting of Betsy Brantley, Soderbergh’s own ex-wife, in the role of the female lead. It reminds you of just how brave a filmmaker Soderbergh can be, too. It’s difficult to name another piece of work (‘The Master’ aside) that explores the subject of alternative lifestyle-type religions quite as well as ‘Schizopolis,’ in spite of (or perhaps because of?) its zany and unconventional approach.” 

Edwin ArnaudinAshvegas:

“‘Ocean’s Eleven‘ is Soderbergh at his most confident and liberated. Though the heist plot and big-name cast make it easy to dismiss as fluff, the work is an art film through and through. Soderbergh’s technical wizardry elevates an already stellar script and ensemble dynamic, and that he was able to put his signature on such an overtly Hollywood project is a con just as impressive as the one executed by Danny Ocean & Co. Far more than a star-studded victory lap after his Best Director win for ‘Traffic’ (though certainly that, as well), it’s his most focused and entertaining work, and therefore his best.”

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on February 4th, 2013:
The Most Popular Response: Zero Dark Thirty” 
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: Amour,” Django Unchained,”  “Argo,” “Tabu.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox