Top 10 Best Coen Brothers Movies (Video Edition)
Joel and Ethan Coen's latest film, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, is looking to be yet another winning combination of comedy and drama from the award-winning sibling directors. Over a thirty year career that shows no signs of slowing, the Coens have given us multiple lasting cinematic memories that both make us laugh and scared shitless. Of the sixteen movies they have made together there are ten that clearly stand above the rest. So, here is the ranking of the top ten best Coen Brothers movies. If your favorite didn't make the cut, add it to the Talk Back below.
An under-appreciated screwball comedy from 1994, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is what I would categorize in the wacky category of Coen Brothers movies. The surreal period film was a bomb upon it's release but is memorable for being a collaboration between the Coens and Sam Raimi, who also served as second unit director. THE HUDSUCKER PROXY shares a lot in common with the films of Terry Gilliam and remains one of the most underseen of all the Coen Brothers films.
The debut from the Coens is a noir film of the highest order. Featuring all of their signature camera styles and witty writing, BLOOD SIMPLE is frighteningly funny in places but remains as close to a horror movie as the Coens have made. The DVD of the film is especially cool as it has "fake" bonus features with actors portraying film experts discussing the movie. The Director's Cut is also unique in that it is actually shorter than the theatrical version since the Coens decided to tighten the editing of the film.
The Coens made their most Hitchcockian film in BARTON FINK which was actually the product of writing issues during the creation of MILLER'S CROSSING. This movie is quite possibly the Coens' deepest film with numerous allusions and references to film, writing, and more. A very Kafka-esque comedy involving John Turturro's title character and a serial killer, BARTON FINK is a movie that many have heard of but not as many have seen. Definitely a must watch if you have never seen it.
For their third film, the Coens abandoned comedy entirely and embraced the gangster genre, turning in what remains one of the best crime films of all time. Gabriel Byrne is exceptional in this movie while John Turturro plays a character very different from his turn in BARTON FINK. MILLER'S CROSSING serves as proof yet again that there are few filmmakers out there as in touch with the noir genre than the Coens.
Many argue that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is overrated, but I disagree. Harkening back to their noir days, the Coen Brothers embraced the masterpiece that was Cormac McCarthy's novel and brought to life one of the most terrifying villains in the history of the movies. While the screenplay is almost identical to the novel, the Coens are responsible for the gorgeous way the movie is filmed and personifying Anton Chigurh. Definitely worthy of Best Picture.
For their second movie, the Coens kept elements of the noir genre but created one of the funniest movies ever made. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter and amazing in this comedy of errors that also marks the Coens' first collaboration with John Goodman. I defy you not to laugh your ass off during this movie.
After the box office failure of THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, the Coens rebounded with their critically acclaimed FARGO. Another mix of comedy and noir, FARGO put Frances McDormand (Joel Coen's wife) and William H. Macy on the map. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare steal the show as the criminals hired to kill Macy's wife, but it is the Minnesota accents and surreal setting of FARGO that makes it so memorable. Donchaknow, yah!
The most recent Coen Brothers film is also another critical darling. Nominated for countless awards it manages to not only respect the original John Wayne version of the Charles Portis novel but also improves on it. Great turns from Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin, and Matt Damon compliment the Coens' reunion with Jeff Bridges, but it is the debut of Hailee Steinfeld that steals the show. A western of the highest caliber, TRUE GRIT also proves you cannot give the Coens a genre they cannot master.
Probably the single most quotable movie of the last thirty years, THE BIG LEBOWSKI has gone beyond being a movie and has become a cult. Fans gather annually for Lebowski Fest to celebrate this great movie. Part western, part noir, and all hilarious, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is unlike any other movie and that is what makes it so damn great. Every role, including Tara Reid, is played to perfection and there is no way you leave this movie without a smile on your face. In the Coen Brothers career, it is THE BIG LEBOWSKI that really ties the room together.
The Coens set the challenge for themselves to adapt Homerís Odyssey and turned it into a musical extravaganza set in the late 1930s. It also marked George Clooney's break from expected leading man roles and showed the true range of talent he possessed. Bringing back Coen greats like John Turturro, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and John Goodman, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? is an amazing movie that has to be seen. The soundtrack remains one of the best ever assembled and this movie will remain atop the Coen Brothers filmography for years to come.