And Now, For No Particular Reason, a List of My Top Ten Favorite Coen Brothers Films
Posted on April 3, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 97 Comments
Because why not. Note I use the word “favorite,” not the word “best,” although I would argue for the movie in my number one position being, if not the best, at least in the top three.
1. Miller’s Crossing
2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
3. Intolerable Cruelty
4. Raising Arizona
5. Barton Fink
6. The Hudsucker Proxy
8. The Big Lebowski
9. True Grit
10. Burn After Reading
For those wondering what’s at the bottom: The Ladykillers.
For those wondering where No Country For Old Men is: Hey, not every award winner is going to be everyone’s favorite.
Fascinating if only for how I feel like I’m one of the few people who defends Intolerable Cruelty, yet I don’t particularly care for Miller’s Crossing (but Albert Finney is showing a masterpiece of work in that). My #1, if you pressed me, would probably be Fargo, if only for having the best final scene of any of their movies. People do need that 2 cent stamp, after all.
The Big Lebowski should be 1st, blasphemer.
If you put a million Coen Brothers fans in the same room and ask them for their top ten lists, you will get a million different lists.
Fun list. But I am surprised not to see No Country for Old Men. Not criticizing what you decide are your own favorites–just surprised.
Big Lebowski at number eight?
That’s just, like, your opinion, man.
1. Barton Fink
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Miller’s Crossing
I’ve got a lot of love for most of their filmography, but these three are the ones that really speak to me. Barton Fink is one of the most claustrophobic films I’ve seen set in LA. Lebowski is flat out hilarious, and Miller’s Crossing is my favorite modern noir.
Here are mine:
2. yeah…cohen brothers…
3. who let these guys make movies again?
I like 0 of their movies. I like a song from O Brother Where Art Thou? That is all. It’s not that I don’t want to like them…it’s that I just don’t. I’m not ‘daring to be different’ and I’m not some hipster who likes obscure documentaries from the turn of the century.
I just…don’t…like…their…movies. They’re boring to me and often the dialogue feels forced and unnatural.
Anyway, just my 2 cents.
Hudsucker Proxy is my #1.
Burn After Reading.
O Brother seems so obvious to me, I didn’t rank it.
There IS no being wrong when it comes to Coen Bros. But people shouldn’t forget about The Man Who Wasn’t There, Blood Simple, A Serious Man, or Crimewave!
Have you seen “Inside Llewyn Davis” yet? It got a super limited release last year but wowed me. It also made me doubt everything I’m doing as a creative person. YAY!
I had a feeling you were going to get flack for your ranking of The Big Lebowski, but you know, this is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.
Personally, I’d rank Raising Arizona in the top three and genuinely hated Burn After Reading, but I’m always delighted when anyone gives Miller’s Crossing the love it deserves.
(By the way, does anyone else agree with my theory that that movie is essentially the Coens doing Kurosawa’s Yojimbo?)
“not every award winner is going to be everyone’s favorite.”
Tastes vary, award winners or not. I didn’t think I would like No Country for Old Men, but I did. My list would be:
No Country for Old Men
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Big Lebowski
I haven’t seen their others.
Yeah, I know, everybody loves The Big Lebowski. I happened to see it at a time in my life when a charming but feckless arrested adolescent male was not something I found amusing because of personal circumstances. People urge me to watch it again, I’m bound to like it. Maybe someday I will.
The thing about The Ladykillers is that it is not a bad film, in an absolute sense: many worse films than that are made each year, and are often defended.
It’s just that it is a worse film than other Coen brothers’ films, and it is vastly worse than the original Ealing comedy.
Also, Burn After Reading is a lot of fun but seems to be the result of an actual game of Fiasco.
Oops, I *did* forget Blood Simple, Pen Dragon. I’d put that before Miller’s Crossing.
Aside from True Grit being far too low, not a bad list all around.
Could not figure out why we were getting re-posts of relatively recent content. Then I realized John Scalzi and Grant Brisbee are not the same person. Though I think I could be forgiven for the confusion: the bookends of the lists are identical.
I’m also glad to see Intolerable Cruelty listed so high, I feel like that movie is sadly underrated. Likewise Hudsucker. Come to think of it, I wonder if both of those appeal to similar audiences, with their screwball vibe.
My list would probably swap out The Man Who Wasn’t There for Burn After Reading which didn’t gel for me. An maybe move O Brother to the top, just because it’s the one that I can pretty much always put on and enjoy, whereas the rest of them move up or down the list depending on my mood :)
“Raising Arizona” is one of my favorite movies *ever*.
Holly Hunter! Nicolas Cage! Babies! The Lone Biker of the Apocolypse aka the Warthog from Hell! One of the longest intros in film history!
OK I’m going to to be voice of reason (probably not) “Oh Brother where art thou” combined SO many fun aspects. It was a literal trip to your early high school English classes and had some AMAZING performances. My wife still says George Clooney can NEVER be as cool as he was in that (he has been in amazing things since, but that is how much we like OBWAT!) The soundtrack and the interactions have lead me and the wife into conversations that others just don’t get!
While I like most Coen Bros movies, I got about 3 minutes of Tom Hank’s “southern gentleman” and couldn’t take any more of it…Fargo is definitely my favorite, with Raising Arizona a close second.
Ugh. meant to say “…Hank’s “southern gentleman” in Ladykillers…”
@Joseph Finn and other Intolerable Cruelty lovers – this actually just recently got a lot of chitter chatter about the belief that the movie is under-appreciated over at the April 1 Metafilter thread. There’s way more of you than it seems. (I recall it being just okay but may go back and revisit now… after my scheduled revisit of Blood Simple)
Would the list be in a different order if Mary R. K. has written it for you? Enquiring minds want to know.
Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother, and Fargo are probably my top 3. But I’m from Minnesota originally, so Fargo’s kind of a given. Hudsucker has the advantage of being both a Coen Bros movie and being a Tim Robbins movie.
Clearly, we now need top Tim Robbins movie lists. Mostly so that Bob Roberts can be on there.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is my first Coen brothers movie, and you always have a deep and lasting connection to your first. :) It’s really hard to rank them, because when you start going through their filmography there are always these hidden gems you’ve forgotten about and it gives you the singular joy of rediscovering them.
For me, that one movie is “The Man Who Wasn’t There”. It’s been sooo long since I’ve seen it but there’s so much of it I remember!
But for my top three:
2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
3. No Country for Old Men
At the risk of sounding like some pretentious git, Fargo is just…a perfect movie. Not a single misstep, great from start to finish. I can watch that movie over and over again.
I agree with previous commenter that each of their films has so many specific pleasures that very few fans will agree on favorites. I probably would make a list today that I wouldn’t even agree with tomorrow.
That said, I think Intolerable Cruelty was really overlooked when it came out, so I’m glad to see it on your list; and while it’s a difficult and strange movie, A Serious Man has many things going right for it, but will never be a crowd pleaser in the way of a Lebowski or a Miller’s Crossing.
Agree re: Miller’s Crossing. Agree that “Inside Llewyn Davis” should be nowhere near this list. But I’d put “Blood Simple” instead of “Hudsucker.”
Leaving out those that I haven’t seen – most of the newer ones – I’d of course put Raising Arizona on top. And then Fargo, and then Barton Fink. And finally, The Big Lebowski and Blood Simple. I know Miller’s Crossing is a very good film, but… just not mine. I would have loved to have seen their version of True Grit, to compare, having read the book and seen the John Wayne version.
…is Ladykillers a remake of the Alec Guinness film? If so, it deserves to be at the bottom.
@Stephen “(By the way, does anyone else agree with my theory that that movie is essentially the Coens doing Kurosawa’s Yojimbo?)”
There are a lot of similarities, but I think they went to the source: Dashiell Hammett’s book Red Harvest (which inspired Yojimbo, which in turn inspired A Fistful of Dollars). I suspect they took a long look at all three works, and took a lot of the best from them. It’s a worthy addition to the ranks, I’d say.
I agree with Miller’s Crossing, but I’d move True Grit a fair bit higher. I’m glad Inside Llewyn Davis wasn’t on the list.
Reblogged this on Big Blue Dot Y'all and commented:
My favorite is Raising Arizona. O Brother would be close behind.
I’m a little surprised you didn’t rank “True Grit” higher. The language–which is largely taken verbatim from the Portis novel–was so powerful, and so beautifully delivered that we left the theater speaking in the cadences of the film.
I remember seeing Miller’s Crossing in the theaters. I want to go back and tell that me that in 25 years you’ll be able to make a list of top ten Coen Brothers movies and still leave off some very good films. It would make younger me very happy and content that the world is not TOTALLY going to crap.
I’m a huge fan of Intolerable Cruelty, and have been right from the start. For me, it’s a continuation of George Clooney’s channeling of Cary Grant (started with O Brother). Or should I say the Coen brothers using Clooney to channel Grant?
I too would put Lebowski higher on the list. And Hudsucker. And Raising Arizona.
Now all I want to do is watch their movies all day.
Definitely agree with your #1. Gawd, what a great film.
Stephen & John P. Murphy: And I can see a fair bit of Hammett’s THE GLASS KEY in MILLER’S CROSSING as well. Second-in-command sees boss making bad calls (partly due to woman with whom they’re both in love), has fight, defects to the enemy… and so forth.
For what it’s worth, here are my 10:
1. Miller’s Crossing
2. No Country For Old Men
4. Raising Arizona
5. The Big Lebowski
6. Blood Simple
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. True Grit
9. Barton Fink
10. Intolerable Cruelty
O Brother and Hudsucker never did much for me. I could juggle around the top six there and put them in any order and be reasonably happy, as long as Miller’s remained near the top. And Burn, Serious Man, and Man Who Wasn’t There could easily be on the list, but damn, guys, come on.
I’m with you on Ladykillers, though. Everyone has their honker.
Wow. There are a decent number of Coen Bros. movies I haven’t gotten to yet that I’d like to (A Serious Man, Burn After Reading). But now I kind of want to see Intolerable Cruelty now. Everyone else has scared me away from it.
Personally, I think O Brother and Lebowski are at the top, just because of sheer rewatchability. Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, No Country, True Grit are all somewhere under them.
Oh, and Ladykillers? Definitely at the bottom of the list :)
Does this mean I need to check out the rest of their movies? I remember liking Fargo and Hudsucker, think I’ve seen several others that were mentioned, but have no memory of watching, and don’t recognize the rest, at all. In general, though, I’m not big on movies, so there you go.
Tragically underrating Fargo and The Big Lebowski, man!!!
The failure of The Ladykillers puzzled me. Why didn’t the thing come together?
Look into your haht! Big Lebowski is bigger than a movie, Scalzi. (But MC is also super sweet). Here is where I take a moment to be thankful for the Coen Bros.
I would comment but I know I don’t know nuthin’ and would just be speculatin’ on a proposition.
I think The Ladykillers was trying just a little too hard — they wanted to make the O Brother Where Art Thou of Dixieland jazz or something.
I’d put Llewyn Davis in my top 10 solely on the strength of the soundtrack.
The biggest problem with The Ladykillers is Tom Hanks. The role should have gone to John Goodman. I also disliked The Man Who Wasn’t There, as it seemed pointless. Usually when the Coens are cruel to a character it says something, but Billy Bob was such a tabula rasa that I didn’t care about him and couldn’t find meaning in it.
The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and O Brother are definitely my top 3. It’s no coincidence that these are the movies with both Johns (Turturro and Goodman).
I came here ready to squawk at you for Miller’s Crossing being so far down your list and Big Lebowski being too far up. Thank you for disappointing me so deliciously. Miller’s Crossing is my favorite movie ever.
“The failure of The Ladykillers puzzled me. Why didn’t the thing come together?”
In the UK because nearly everyone had seen the original, and nothing is going to come close to matching Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and the rest of the cast from that version.
As long as you correctly placed Miller’s Crossing in the number one spot, everything else is forgivable error.
Raising Arizona comes first here. So great. O, Brother, second. Lebowski. Barton Fink and then True Grit. The rest fill the bottom slots at random depending on mood, time of year and weather.
I never have gotten around to seeing Hudsucker. I’ve heard good things.
I loathe Burn After Reading. One of my top ten least favorite movies of all time. I’m still pissed about the two hours, lost and irretrievable :-(
What a sad, banal place modern U.S. cinema would be without the Coens, Wes Anderson, and The Wachowski Brothers (who probably made more money, yet might be considered less cinematically impressionistic than the others).
Obviously this from sidarous: “The Big Lebowski should be 1st, blasphemer.”
For me, it is the only comedy that can comfortably sit in the same realm of excellence as the original “Blues Brothers.”
Also, it had Tara Reid’s breasts before she got old…
Wow. What these lists really tell me is… I need to see more Coen brothers movies! I have really enjoyed their work, but through whatever circumstances, I don’t think I have even seen 10 of their movies.
Now I know what I’m doing this weekend. Thanks!
I can’t edit my posts but discovered this bit of treasure!!!
Just as a personal note, The Hudsucker Proxy is the only feature film I’m aware of that explicitly encompasses the day I was born.
I was born 2 January 1959. If I recall correctly, The Hudsucker Proxy begins in mid-December 1958, and concludes some days after New Year’s Day 1959.
That said, Raising Arizona FTW. “I don’t know, they got Yodas and shit on ’em.”
That’s like just your opinion, man!
1) Raising Arizona
2) Big Lebowski
3) True Grit
4) Oh Brother
6) Serious Man
7) No Country
8) Blood Simple
10) Fink or Miller’s
Serious Man is great, but not happy enough. But it might be their best bit of “art.”
I hated Ladykillers, Man Who Wasn’t There (except for Shaloub) and Intolerable Cruelty.
I found Burn After Reading fluff, but not as bad as people said it was.
I have not seen Llewellyn Davies.
Sometimes while working I will simply listen to Fargo at listentoamovie.com; it’s so nutritious (the script, the acting, the music by Carter Burwell) that I don’t even need the pictures. (It probably helps that I lived in Minnesota during the 1980s and early ’90s, and experienced such things as the windshield-scraping scene for myself; also went to a show at the Carlton Celebrity Room, where the Jose Feliciano scene takes place.) I’ve tried the same with a few others on the list, but merely listening to them wasn’t very satisfactory.
Fans may enjoy Ethan Coen’s late-1990s collection of mostly-first-person stories and radio-plays-in-print, Gates of Eden; the stories in the audio version (which omits the radio plays) have well-chosen readers including Goodman, Buscemi, Macy, et al.
Barton Fink is probably the best movie I have ever watched, but I have no interest in ever watching it again.
Barton Fink is my favorite. Very disappointed by the new one.
Everyone who likes The Big Lebowski (which would appear to be most of you) need to by a copy of “Two Gentleman of Lebowski” which is exactly what you probably think it is – The Big Lebowski as written by Shakespeare. Yes, it’s a one joke play, but if the joke is good enough and told well enough then that doesn’t matter…
WALTER: In sooth, then, faithful friend, this was a rug of value? Thou wouldst call it not a rug among ordinary rugs, but a rug of purpose? A star in a firmament, in step with the fashion alike to the Whitsun morris-dance? A worthy rug, a rug of consequence, sir?
THE KNAVE: It was of consequence, I should think; verily, it tied the room together, gather’d its qualities as the sweet lovers’ spring grass doth the morning dew or the rough scythe the first of autumn harvests. It sat between the four sides of the room, making substance of a square, respecting each wall in equal harmony,in geometer’s cap; a great reckoning in a little room. Verily, it transform’d the room from the space between four walls presented, to the harbour of a man’s monarchy.
I would divide the Coen’s works into two lists, comedies and dramas. Top comedy: Raising Arizona. Top drama: Miller’s Crossing.
Of your list, I’ve seen all except Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading. (By sheer coincidence, a Netflix disk of Burn After Reading is awaiting viewing over by the tv as I write.)
Even the least appealing of the Coen movies have memorable lines in them. (Barton Fink: “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” — John Goodman, with a shotgun.)
My Coen list:
1. Anything with John Goodman in it.
2-10 Everything else.
I thought Intolerable Cruelty was just meh. I haven’t seen Miller’s Crossing yet. I would add No Country For Old Men to my list. I still want to see Inside Llewyn Davis. Never saw The Ladykillers. I believed the reviews. I would rearrange the order, putting Barton Fink at the top.
Wow. I haven’t seen a single one of these movies. Not only John’s list, but none of the ones the rest of you have mentioned. I haven’t seen either version of True Grit, though I did see Rooster Cogburn (it was playing at the movie theatre I worked at as a teen, and besides, Katharine Hepburn).
I’m not sure quite how this happened. I guess they just never really appealed. I don’t go to tons of movies, and the ones I do go to tend to be SFF, but still this is a pretty big hole.
Blood Simple — Simply #1
I’m pleased to see that you and a number of commenters listed O Brother among your top Coen Films. It received very lackluster criticism. And, most people I know still don’t think too highly of it. I think that it may well out last many of their other films.
It is certainly one of the most effective modern retellings of the Odysseus tale I have ever encountered and, the music is really wonderful. Campbell acknowledges it as one of the archetypal myths and, its wonders have entertained readers, writers and viewers for millenia’
Thanks, that was interesting.
I love the Coens, best movie makers around in my opinion. My favorite Coen Brothers’ movies, based on a histogram of times watched or most quoted:
1. Raising Arizona
Gale: We’re going to rob banks until we either get a million dollars or get caught
Evelle: We figure, either way we’re set for life.
Plus I loved the firestorm of controversy when the movie came out about the car approaching the baby scene.
2. Blood Simple
3. Intolerable Cruelty
Miles (to gasping thug he has never met): Are you … Wheezy Joe?
4. The Big Lebowski
Walter: “This isn’t Vietnam Donny, there are rules here.”
5. tie for the rest. Always worth a re-watching.
BTW, I am convinced the Big Lebowski is nothing but a two hour long Coen Brothers joke about … well, the Dude reveals the clue in the move.
1. Man Who Wasn’t There
2. O Brother Where Art Though
3. Blood Simple
6. Miller’s Crossing
7. Romance and Cigarettes *Didn’t actually direct, but still heavily involved.
The rest I find mediocre with Serious Man and Ladykillers tied for awfullest.
Then where would Fargo fit? I don’t think you can quantify the Coen brothers quite that neatly.
“Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
“No Donny, these men are Nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Raising Arizona freaking rocks. As does Fargo and No Country and Burn After Reading, but I’m a huge fan. HUGE. See the capital letters? Big fan.
2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
3. No Country for Old Men
Fargo for the absolutely perfect performances and having McDormand, Macy and Buscemi. And the fact that my then-teenage daughter was driven from the room by the Minnesota verbal affectations.- which i loved. O Brother for the performances and the wonderful music. Old Country for the most malevolent villain in modern cinema.
My wife also likes 0 Cohen brother movies. I married her anyway.
Raising Arizona blew my young mind the first time I saw it. True Grit is by far my favourite. It is a beautiful piece of art.
LOATHE “The Big Lebowski”. Just not funny to me.
It’s interesting. I was just trying to explain to — well, you people, but also to myself — why I love “The Big Lebowski” so much, and I’m finding that I can’t.
I mean, I love the acting, I love the dialogue, I love the generous use of irony, and I love the Dashiell-Hammett-in-a-bathrobe pastiche. But that really doesn’t explain why I come unspooled laughing at this movie. Maybe I just saw it at the right time in my life.
I haven’t seen enough of the Coen’s movies to have a top ten, but I love “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “No Country For Old Men,” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There” too. “Fargo”‘s okay, but I’m not as into it as their other movies I’ve seen. I own “True Grit” and look forward to seeing it, but as the father of a toddler, Grownup Entertainment Time is pretty limited. Oh, well.
Growing up in Minnesota in the 50’s I heard a lot of people doing the dialog from Fargo, not just the accent. That scene where Marge is getting up & does not want breakfast but Norm insists on making one played out in my life so many times in so many ways as a kid. That bumps Fargo up the list a lot for me. Although it seems there is no love for it here I liked Ladykillers but it would still not be at the top of my list. Hudsucker would not, for some reason I did not like that movie.
I had not seen True Grit until this last Tuesday. I was home, sick, and it popped up. I love the movie, the acting was fantastic and the dialog so ‘Cohen-memorable’. But man did it make it obvious what a crappy actor John Wayne was.
Lebowski has its glitches, but I think it’s the best comedy of at least the decade (any decade …) and the quote is:
“Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
The rhythm of that speech is why I find Lebowski so funny.
Fargo is the better film; sublime episodes like the discussion with the bartender in the periscope parka.
And I’d put Blood Simple in the top five
I think the Coen Brothers are in an enviable position, being able to go in any direction they want and make movies that cover such a wide range. They have something for everyone, it seems, and don’t try to please everyone any half the time.
For instance, a cased in point: I find it incredible that the team that brought us such gems as Fargo could make such an incomprehensible thing as The Big Lebowski, which is one of only a half dozen films I’ve never been able to sit through to the end. Incredible but not incomprehensible, since they did Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (which is brilliant).
Puzzled that “A Serious Man” doesn’t get more recognition. Maybe only one stereotypical Coen moment in it (the parking lot riff) but quite an emotional sucker punch overall. Their most mature film maybe?
Whatever, I’d take Hudsucker, Fargo and Lebowski on that one way trip to Mars, maybe smuggle Man Who… and Oh Brother… in my space age underwear too.
I am a man of constant sorrow!
First time i saw big liebowski, i was flipping through channels and it had started maybe 5 minutes prior. Turns out those 5 minutes make a huge difference. Unfortunately it kind of ruined my experience of the film.
@PrivateIron This is also my list. True Grit really just did it for me. Love of Westerns + Jeff Bridges + scrappy little girl = awesome.
I’ve not seen some of the Coen Canon, but Raising Arizona is probably my favorite. The Ladykillers seems to fall into the category of “projects that looked a lot better on paper than on film.”
I really didn’t like “The Big Lebowski” and have never really understood what other people liked so much. I found it by turns boring and incomprehensible, with brief hits of humor. Somehow, I can’t turn it into a story. Possibly the movie is just much smarter than I am.
On the other hand, I utterly adore “Fargo.” When it came out, I was (actually still am) living in Minneapolis, and my comment to the various bits of local outrage was, “Now you know how New Yorkers feel.” The very funny thing about that was that many people did not understand what I meant, and got even further offended when I explained. But honestly, geography all wrong and accents too broad? Yep, check and check. And the fact that, coming from out of state, I really do think that Minnesotans sound like that (though I understand that they don’t sound like that to themselves), very, very funny.
The Coen brothers are the only people that have been able to make me say, “Remember that really terrible, gruesome murder back there about an hour ago? Can we go back there? It was better there, really.” And make me laugh while doing so.
I clearly need to watch more Coen brothers movies. Thanks for the reminder.
“I’m not gonna debate you, Jerry. I’m not gonna sit here and debate.”
My personal top 10:
2) The Big Lebowski
3) No Country For Old Men
4) The Man Who Wasn’t There
5) Miller’s Crossing
6) Inside Llewyn Davis
7) Barton Fink
8) O Brother, Where Art Thou?
9) The Hudsucker Proxy
10) Raising Arizona
Inside Llewyn Davis must be seen. It has its flaws which is why it doesn’t make my top 5, but it is desperately sad and hilariously funny at the same time.
Just to be clear, on an absolute scale, I think all of my top 11 are great movies. Millers Crossing and Barton Fink are great movies. How many people make 1 great movie? Their consistency is amazing.
H D Lynn: if a Coen Brother movie list is any sort of psychological litmus test, then you are a deeply disturbed individual : )
After I finished watching The Man Who Wasn’t There, I felt like they had made the entire movie just to have that one image near the end of the film. It was one of the few times I felt like they were just forcing the weird, instead of chronicling natural weirdness.
I know that Turturro; Buscemi and Goodman are the actors that most people think of when they think of the iconic Coen Brothers actor. But Bridges is just so perfect in his two roles, as is Cage. (Remember when we thought Cage was going to be one of the greats; there was a reason.) I was also very affected by Kelly McDonald in No Country. Her short confrontation with Bardem packed a pretty dense punch in a movie that was often too dissipated and detached to really get to me.
Kudos to all the O Brother fans. That movie should get a lot more love.
“If you put a million Coen Brothers fans in the same room and ask them for their top ten lists, you will get a million different lists.”
… So I took a moment to make sure it was mathematically possible to construct a million different top 10 lists out of the Coen Brothers’ work. Wikipedia lists 18 films for them, and Wolfram Alpha gives me 18p10 = 158,789,030,400. So yes, it is possible.
I wouldn’t put The Ladykillers that high.
I’ve watched Miller’s Crossing on numerous occasions, if only to actually understand what the hell the movie was about. A pretty decent hit for Gabriel Byrnes.
Still can’t watch “O. Brother Where Art Thou” if only for the annoying lip synching that George Clooney does in the movie.
PrivateIron: “Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink are great movies.”
Not only that, they were written at much the same time; indeed Barton’s writer’s block grew out of their own experience trying to write Miller’s Crossing. I don’t actually need to see either one more often than every 5 years or so, but own them both.
Barton Fink is the only movie I know with a plot that emulates a Klein bottle.
Fargo for Great Movie.
Raising Arizona for Good Movie.
True Grit for “Holy Crap, how did they make it better than the original?!?” movie.
I’d have to put “No Country for Old Men” as the best Coen Bros. film by my estimation. It’s an incredibly tight movie, one where you just get sucked into the story and become totally involved. I’m an old theater tech, so I usually have a bit of distance from a story, a slight hitch in my ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ that comes from being behind the scenes for too long. “No Country” overcame that entirely, which is an event so rare that it always makes an impression on me.
For the others, the only ones I haven’t liked a lot are (of course) “The Ladykillers” and “Intolerable Cruelty”, with “The Man Who wasn’t There” somewhere in between (not enough there to dislike, but not exactly great either.) I’d put “Oh Brother” at #2, followed by “True Grit”, “Big Lebowski”, “Fargo”, and “Raising Arizona” for my top five. I still use “Oh Brother” to help me teach “The Odyssey” to my high school students, showing them how a story can be manipulated and yet remain the same essential story.
The Hudsucker Proxy is the one I’ve seen most frequently. It’s not perfect but it’s so delightfully weird I can’t get it out of my head. Haven’t seen A Simple Man. The Ladykillers annoyed me. Oh, Brother is just plain fun, and a far ‘better’ piece of work than the story absolutely required. I respect that. I liked Burn After Reading and can’t actually recall Intolerable Cruelty very well. Fargo is a well made film but exceeds my personal squick factor tolerance by a significant margin. Same with No Country for Old Men. Too creepy violent.
I was a latecomer to the Cult of Lebowski. I appreciate how an apparently slack doper does a respectable job of unraveling an obscure mystery. And he just won’t give up.
I loved Raising Arizona when it came out but haven’t seen it since. I think Cage’s subsequent work might spoil my enjoyment of it today. It was the oddest, most hilarious thing I’d ever seen at the time.
Late to the party here, but I couldn’t resist commenting as I’ve been a huge Coen fan for a couple decades.
My number one is The Hudsucker Proxy. I wrote a paper in college deconstructing the symbolism in the film: (e.g. characters are constantly juxtaposing “fall” with “fail” to the point that when Norville is literally falling through the air, reading the blue letter, he consistently confuses the words. The film pits the 20th century notion of progress against older notions of cyclical history — karma –, with the building and elevator as clear symbols of progress and the clock and many other circles in the movies representing karma, etc etc etc.) Everything about THP is excellent: Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Robbins, Steve “mahtinis are for squayahs” Buscemi, even Bruce Campbell. Beautiful sets, snappy dialog, Coen weirdness (e.g. the epic fistfight inside the clockworks, which ends with chattering false teeth. It’s just perfect.
After THP, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, and Fargo are the ones I’ve returned to the most. TBL and Fargo are movies that get funnier every time I see them. I can’t suggest going out to breakfast without “Where is pancakes house? . . . I’m fuckin’ hungry now, ya know.” But there’s not a movie of theirs that I don’t like (caveat: I haven’t seen Ladykillers). I thoroughly enjoyed Llewyn Davis, Simple Man had one of the best endings of any movie I’ve seen, Burn After Reading put a huge grin on my face. (Has there ever been a better role for JK Simmons?) I love ’em all. God (or whatever) bless the Coens.