The Coen Brothers Ranked
The Coen Brothers are some of my favorite film makers. They've created so many great films and they're incredily hardworking. My only quarrel in my relationship with them is that sadly not all of their movies are great. Luckily the good outweighs the bad and that's why I decided to rank all of their movies.
17. Intolerable Crueltly
I consider Intolerable Cruelty an experiment gone wrong. I applaud the fact that they wanted to try doing a romantic comedy but it just doesn’t work. The movie lacks laughs, it’s heavily unmemorable, the characters are atrocious & unlikable and the plot is convolutedly boring. Not only that it, its repetitive in its twists and drags on. What could have been a 10 minute plot has been extend to a feature film and it doesn’t work. I liked the idea of doing a romantic comedy in the world of divorce but the script is awful and for a comedy, the humor is severely lacking. It tries way too hard. The one thing I’ll give Intolerable, the cast is terrific but they’re put in cringeworthy scenes that don’t fully utilize their talent. Intolerable Cruelty is a disappointment because the Coens are capable of so much more and its fails heavily in comparison to their other movies. The only reason Intolerable Cruelty wasn’t entirely ignored, was because it has the Coen name.
16. The Hudsucker Proxy
The Hudsucker Proxy is another weird film from the Coens and I think another misfire. The satire and commentary are one of the higher points of the film but the execution and the acting of the movie comes off way too cartoony. And I think it’s their fakest looking film as everything looks like a set, the coloring is faded and the performances don’t feel genuine. And the comedy of the movie doesn’t feel like Coens either, it seems like they were trying to make the comedy goofier than they usually do and it doesn’t work. For me Hudsucker isn’t an atrocious movie, it has potential but it’s highly unmemorable. It also doesn’t help as I hadn’t seen this movie until recently.
15. Hail, Caesar!
Hail Caesar is one of the biggest disappointments of 2016 for me. It’s been a while since they worked with Carter Burwell and Roger Deakins but the film is super underwhelming. The film’s pacing is atrocious, the story is crap, the characters are underdeveloped and there are too many unnecessary stories going on that don’t relate to each other. Worst of all it doesn’t contain the suspense and humor that make Coen films great. It meanders along with random scene after scene. One of the big jokes in Coen films is that they are pointless, but at least they’re joyful. Instead Hail Caesar has no joy, there are lot of interesting directions they could have taken the movie in but it felt like the Coens made this because they were bored. They didn’t have a story to tell and I don’t think they took to the time to proof read the script and Hail Caesar is a failure on that point. I hope that the Coens haven’t run out of ideas but I have to say they’ve hit the same slow stride they had after Fargo & before No Country for Old Men.
14. The Man Who Wasn’t There
The Man Who Wasn’t There is a film you either hate or love. For fans of the movie, they rank Man Who Wasn’t There very high but I would consider myself the former. I feel the title is a perfect summary of how I felt with the movie. It all comes off so hollow. The characters are unlikeable & lifeless, the story is a bore and heavily lacking in suspense. It’s a well made movie full of symbolism but it’s hard to care when the movie doesn’t captivate you. As the story goes on, the sequence of events get more and more frustrating. And Billy Bob Thornton’s main character is a huge problem with the movie. He’s not interesting, he’s a bore and it’s very difficult to root for him. There’s nothing wrong with Billy Bob Thornton’s performance, he played the character as he was written but The Man Who Wasn’t There suffers because the Coens have created so many terrific exciting stories and Man Who Wasn’t There is lacking in many areas.
13. Miller’s Crossing
Another movie that might annoy people with my ranking of it, but I never understood people’s fascination with Miller’s Crossing. It’s not a bad movie but it’s another Coen story that isn’t that great and full of unlikable characters. Now the Coens are known to write unlikable characters but they’ve always managed to get you to cheer for them. Even though Albert Finney & Marcia Gay Harden are talented actors, their performances are less than stellar and that goes for a majority of the cast. The only people that stood out were Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi & John Turturro is arguably the star of the film. Funny enough, those 3 were brought back for future movies. Sadly the main character is played by Gabriel Byrne and even though you’re supposed to root for his character, Byrne is so wooden in his role that you rather cheer for Turturro. My favorite thing about Miller’s Crossing was the “Look into your heart” scene. That scene is absolutely incredible and the only bright star in what I call a lackluster movie.
12. True Grit
After No Country for Old Men, it was exciting to see Coens do another western and update an outdated film that could do with a remake. Sadly, the Coens do their best with outdated source material but the film isn’t daring and the characters still aren’t interesting besides Mattie. The story of True Grit really isn’t anything to rave about and the Coens did very little to change it. The only likable qualities that come from the movie are the cinematography and performances by the cast. Unfortunately at the end, the film only comes off plain and lackluster compared to other Coen efforts.
11. The Ladykillers
The Ladykillers gets a lot of hate from Coen fans but I wouldn’t say its an awful film or even a bad movie. Ladykillers’ problems are its pacing, forced humor and sometimes bad dialogue. It takes forever for the movie to get going as it doesn’t get interesting till the last half an hour where things get really interesting. But Ladykillers has its moments of greatness, there’s a lot good vs evil themes going on, a lot of symbolism, the cinematography is outrageous and Tom Hanks is superb & sadly it’s the only time he’s worked with the Coens. Even the supporting cast is great, and there’s some laugh out loud moments. But in the end, Ladykillers suffers from being inconsistent even though there are great ideas floating in it. It’s a film that needed to be retooled a little bit before being made but the good parts of Ladykillers rank up there with some of the top Coen films.
10. Burn After Reading
Compared to other Coen films, Burn After Reading is very paper thin and dumb. Some may say it doesn’t even deserved to be ranked this high but I disagree. The plot of Burn After Reading is terrible and has no point but it’s a joyous adventure to watch because of the cast. The movie is quite hilarious from beginning to end. Most the humorous moments coming from the true star of the movie, Brad Pitt. He brings the biggest laughs but sadly the Coens didn’t utilize his character to his full potential. Brad only plays a minor role and when he exits the movie, the movie starts to lose a lot of steam and it shows. The humor slows down a bit and the movie feels to drag. There was opportunity to do more with the plot and it’s disappointing to see them follow No Country for Old Men with this but it’s a funny entertaining film and I give it points for that alone.
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
It took me a long time to warm up to O Brother Where Art Thou? And after a while I figured out what was wrong with it, but I also learned to accept it and enjoy it. As an adult now, I appreciate some of the jokes more, and I think this is one of Roger Deakin’s best work. The movie is absolutely gorgeous and the characters are all interesting. Also George Clooney is great in this! For people who criticize his acting, they should watch this. It’s a good story but the problems with O Brother are that it’s a bit too long, it drags on bit and I think T-Bone’s score is lame compared to Carter Burwell’s work. I think Burwell would have come up with something better but it’s a very well directed movie that’s very entertaining even if it has its faults. Though I cannot stop raving about the cinematography.
8. Blood Simple
Director Debuts are always a tricky thing. Directors have improved and learned so much since then but Blood Simple stills holds up remarkably well today. Of course the Coens direction isn’t what it is today and that’s what holds it back a little bit. Blood Simple still has the same tricks and techniques that made the Coens great. The script is absolutely superb, it’s tense, full of symbolism and the climax is very fitting. Blood Simple might come off as being old and cheap but again it contains the elements of a great Coens film and Blood Simple is the perfect way to establish their filmography.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coens had taken a 3 year break before releasing Inside Llewyn Davis. It was odd since they were releasing movies for 4 consecutive years, but I think they wanted to take a time to retool a bit. Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t a perfect movie but it was more of a statement how they weren’t done making original films. Coen films are broken down into 3 categories, screwball comedies, symbolic films, and thrillers. Most of the time they’ll combine elements from all three but with Inside they were heavily focused on symbolism. They didn’t forget the story though, as Llewyn’s journey is an interesting one and it’s one of the best films to capture the struggling of being a musician or even an artist. It’s a strong story with meaningful themes and its great to watch a movie that gets you thinking.
6. A Serious Man
On an initial view, I was disappointed by A Serious Man as I didn’t have experience with their symbolic films and I assumed this would be one of their screwball comedies. Bad marketing right there. Once the film ended, it stood with me and I thought what was it all about? After a month I had figured out what the movie was and I was so impressed on how deep the movie is. It’s a movie about faith & religion and I think it’s so relevant to world of the day. It has its moments but once you watch the film, it’s astounding how much meaning all the scenes in the movie have. A Serious Man is an example of a how fun it can be to pick movies apart and figure out what they mean. It’s like a fun puzzle.
5. Raising Arizona
Raising Arizona was still part of the learning process for the Coen Brothers but again they craft a terrific story with Raising Arizona. The Coens raised the stakes up a bit. It’s their first movie to have their trademark screwball comedy and goes full fledged on symbolism. It isn’t a laugh riot like their other movies but the characters are so lovable you go along with it. It’s a heartwarming story with a strong ending that should appeal to a lot of people. I’ll admit it does feel a bit outdated compared to other Coen films but that shouldn’t discount how clever it is. Overall it’s still a great piece that some Coen fans claim to be their favorite.
4. Barton Fink
Barton Fink is the best out of the symbolic films. It contains some of the best performances in John Turturro’s & John Goodman’s careers. Barton Fink is a very weird movie that might alienate viewers but it’s all about trying to figure out what every scene means. The film does tend to be slow. For an early 90s movie, Deakins’ cinematography still shines with older technology. Especially the ending beach scene and the climax is one of the best in a Coens film. Serious Man is about the struggle of faith, Inside Llewyn Davis is about the struggle of an artist and Barton Fink is the struggle of a writer. Barton Fink was being written at the same time as Miller’s Crossing. Fink was supposed to be about how difficult it was writing Miller’s Crossing and yet Barton Fink is superior in every way. It’s a very meta film that any writer could relate too and maybe that’s why it spoke out to me so much.
3. No Country For Old Men
No Country for Old Men is an absolutely terrific movie. Its crazy how insanely good 2007 was for film and it was a huge feat to be one of the best movies of 2007. It wasn’t my favorite film of 2007 but it was close. It’s one of the few best picture films that people still recommend to this very day. I could go and on on why this is a great movie, but all you need to know is it has the best of the Coen techniques. It’s a nonstop thriller from beginning to end, it’s relentless in its pacing and it has a powerful message about the state of world we live in. All I can say if you haven’t seen No Country for Old Men, I highly recommend you watch it as it’s an amazing thriller.
Fargo might be a little older than No Country for Old Men but it’s almost the same on technical level. I give it a couple of more points because of the story and originality. Fargo changed the way directors made thrillers and so many film makers have tried to replicate the style Fargo made. It contains elements of symbolism, screwball and thriller and it meshed so well that Fargo is one of the classics of 90s cinema.
1. The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski is one of my favorite comedies of all time and my first exposure to the Coen Brothers. Unfortunately Big Lebowski has ruined their other comedies for me as I doubt they’ll ever have the same success. Big Lebowski is a weird follow up to Fargo and it is a weird movie in its own right. On an exterior level, the film might come off dumb but it’s an incredibly deep story about friendship. It’s beautifully shot and directed and the music choices are terrific. Big Lebowski even has an interesting thrilling story which is a rarity for comedies (some may call it dumb but I think they’re missing the point) and it’s a laugh riot from beginning to end. It even has a fun climax. Most of all, it has the best characters the Coens have created. Jesus Qunitana only has 5 minutes but is a fan favorite character for a lot of people. My personal favorite is Walter. That’s all I’ll say. The Big Lebowski has spawned such a cult following that there’s a Lebowski fest held every year and that’s a wonderful feat for any movie to accomplish.