Coen Brothers - The Movies and the Ranking!

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I don't normally do requests, but @pukunui did ask me nicely. And I realized that not only would this be the third time I've done a ranking of a particular director's films (previously- Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson), but I enjoy the Coen Brothers so much that I once wrote a (brief) RPG about them! Okay, technically it was about Michael Bay time traveling to the past to use them to increase his prestige, with easily foreseeable and disastrous results, but still!

The rules, briefly-
It has to be a "Coen Brothers" movie. Now that they've split (temporarily?), I won't count their solo projects. Nothing for TV. No shorts. Just bona fide full movies. However, I am including streaming movies, so ... Buster Scruggs is in luck!

18. The Ladykillers. This ... look, I want to say I love everything they've done, but I just don't like this movie. It was a misfire from the second Tom Hanks opened his mouth. No bueno.

17. Intolerable Cruelty. It feels like this movie should be good, but ... it just doesn't work. They've made 18 movies, and while this isn't as bad as The Ladykillers, it also isn't good. Still, the next sixteen movies are all somewhere between good and great.

16. Blood Simple. A good film, and their debut film. It's a bit, um, simple compared to their later work, but it's still a solid and compelling film.

NOTE- All the rankings from this point on get REALLY REALLY hard. I think good arguments can be made for moving most of these movies around, depending on personal preferences. SO I EXPECT Y'ALL TO MAKE THOSE ARGUMENTS.

15. The Hudsucker Proxy. "You know, for kids!" I love this movie so much, and yet ... for all of its charm (and it has a lot of charm!) it can't place higher than the films that follow.

14. O Brother, Where Art Thou? A charming film that both had deep (but obvious) references to The Odyssey and also brought bluegrass back into the popular zeitgeist is always a fun go-to.

13. Burn After Reading. A film that was (unjustifiably) panned when it first came out as being too lightweight, it has just become more and more relevant over time. The Coen Brothers captured something essential about the moronic age we had entered.

12. Miller's Crossing. A movie that is undoubtedly cool, yet over time has appeared to value style over more meaningful substance. Still, one heck of a watch.

11. The Man Who Wasn't There. This is a personal favorite of mine, because it tells a simple story incredibly well, and Billy Bob Thornton gives an amazing performance that any lesser actor would have overacted. It's an austere film that will linger with you long after the credits fade.

10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The Coens do an anthology! While not every part is equally good, and sometimes it feels like they are just screwin' around with house (um, Netflix) money, it's leaves you wishing they would return to this form again.

9. True Grit. A great genre film that the Coen Brothers, unusually, play relatively straight.

8. Inside Llewyn Davis. This may be my most controversial choice; many people consider this a classic movie, perhaps their best (or one of them). I think it's good, and I appreciated it, but I never loved it like some of their other films.

7. Raising Arizona. NEVER GO FULL NIC CAGE! Okay, maybe here. While the Coens notable failed at over-the-top comedy twice, this is a funny, crazy success of a movie.

6. Fargo. There is little I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said. So instead I'll say this- have you seen Jon Hamm in season 5 of the Fargo TV series?

5. A Serious Man. Why do bad things happen to good people? This movie doesn't answer the question, but it poses it perfectly.

4. Hail, Caesar! Like Burn After Reading, this movie was unfairly tarnished when it was released, and I would argue is one of their finest movies. The genre-shifting within the movie (a movie about making movies) is absolutely perfect.

3. The Big Lebowski. The Dude Abides.

2. Barton Fink. Is this a movie about writer's block? About insanity? About creative compromise? About hell? Yes.

1. No Country For Old Man. Over that which we cannot speak, we must pass over in silence.
 

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the Jester

Legend
I'm surprised that I have seen only eight of those. I'd guess I'd rank them as follows, with the caveat that I haven't seen Blood Simple in decades and I remember really liking it, and if I rewatched it, it might make it higher on the list:


8. No Country for Old Men- Great until the ruinously bad and completely dissatisfying ending.
7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs- Pretty good but with boring stretches.
6. Blood Simple- Fantastic and with great tension building up throughout.
5. O Brother Where Art Thou?- Not really my type of movie, but amazing.
4. Fargo- One of the best movies that has ever kept me interested with that much of a slow burn pace.
3. Burn After Reading- Fantastic and hilarious, with some of my favorite performances from amazing actors.
2. True Grit- One of the best Westerns I have ever seen with some of the best performances I have ever seen.
1. The Big Lebowski- One of my favorite comedies ever, with some of my favorite actors who became some of my favorite actors because of this film.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
I've actually been working my way through them chronologically, True Grit is up next. So, as I have them on Letterboxd, with an asterisk for the ones I'm guessing where they'll land, ascending.

2 Stars
The Ladykillers - I was honestly surprised this actually lived down to the poor expectations I had from what I'd heard. Glimmers of fun, but they're few and far between.

3.5 Stars
The Hudsucker Proxy - Just a bit too free wheeling, broad, and chaotic, but the dialogue sparkles the whole way through.
True Grit - Workman like, fine, nothing wrong, well acted and produced, but little of their characteristic zest.

4 Stars
Miller's Crossing - A little over plotted for me, and less emotionally engaging, but nonetheless an impressive piece with some truly striking set pieces, especially the title location.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs*
Intolerable Cruelty - Honestly surpassed my expectations, compared to Ladykillers. I'm a sucker for screwball comedies, and Clooney and Zeta-Jones fall into the rhythms of the genre nigh perfectly.
Hail, Caesar!*
The Man Who Wasn't There - Truly captivating, with Thornton threading the difficult needle of the lead role like an ace, and absolutely knockout cinematography from Deakins making full use of the noir color and lighting.
Barton Fink - What a fever dream, in the best way. It fascinates me in the same way Twin Peaks does.
Blood Simple - As far as debut films go, how confident! Even in the fundraising trailer, so much of the fundamental, iconic scenes are already present. Very interesting to finally see this after so many of their other works, and note the seeds of their style that would develop over time.

4.5 Stars
Raising Arizona - Stunning that this is what they follow up Blood Simple with. Love the mythic tone the opening sequence sets up, foreshadowing some of O Brother's style well in advance. A bit of nostalgia bias on this one, and I won't apologize.
Burn After Reading - I was worried this was going to age poorly, but on my re-watch, I was blown away by how still present-tense it is. Some of my favorite dialogue of their entire filmography, which is no small statement.
A Serious Man - Every time I watch this, I come away with a different facet to obsess about. So much meaning, such little hand holding. Accept the mystery.
The Big Lewboski - What can I really say? Even being quite familiar with it, it never fails to impress, especially given what a shaggy dog story it fundamentally it is.

5 Stars
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The movie I've seen the most, by far. Gorgeous, languid in the best ways, it's a odyssey I'll happily go on again and again and again.
No Country For Old Men - Absolutely nothing wasted here. Economic filmmaking to a stunning degree.
Inside Llewyn Davis - A vibrant, rich tapestry of a week, or an eternity, depending on how you look at it. Depth to be pulled out of every performance, line, song.
Fargo - And for what? For a little bit of money? There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it.
 
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payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I decided to peak at Rotten Tomatoes rankings and was pleasantly surprised to see Blood Simple at #2. Lot of good films and I think pretty hard to rank them (with exception of Lady Killers what happened here?) I'd certainly put Blood Simple, Fargo, Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men in the top.

6. Fargo. There is little I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said. So instead I'll say this- have you seen Jon Hamm in season 5 of the Fargo TV series?
I have, unfortunately. I'm not sure if its the writing or Hamm's inability to do an accent or what. It's not really working for me. I did enjoy seeing Jennifer Jason Leigh, but felt similar for her character. This 5th season is better than 4th season's disappointment, but I feel the magic for the Fargo series is over. It's like the writers are just trying to shoe horn as many quirky characters as possible into a single story. I expected season 1 to be like this, but was happily proven wrong.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I don't normally do requests, but @pukunui did ask me nicely. And I realized that not only would this be the third time I've done a ranking of a particular director's films (previously- Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson), but I enjoy the Coen Brothers so much that I once wrote a (brief) RPG about them! Okay, technically it was about Michael Bay time traveling to the past to use them to increase his prestige, with easily foreseeable and disastrous results, but still!

The rules, briefly-
It has to be a "Coen Brothers" movie. Now that they've split (temporarily?), I won't count their solo projects. Nothing for TV. No shorts. Just bona fide full movies. However, I am including streaming movies, so ... Buster Scruggs is in luck!

18. The Ladykillers. This ... look, I want to say I love everything they've done, but I just don't like this movie. It was a misfire from the second Tom Hanks opened his mouth. No bueno.

17. Intolerable Cruelty. It feels like this movie should be good, but ... it just doesn't work. They've made 18 movies, and while this isn't as bad as The Ladykillers, it also isn't good. Still, the next sixteen movies are all somewhere between good and great.

16. Blood Simple. A good film, and their debut film. It's a bit, um, simple compared to their later work, but it's still a solid and compelling film.

NOTE- All the rankings from this point on get REALLY REALLY hard. I think good arguments can be made for moving most of these movies around, depending on personal preferences. SO I EXPECT Y'ALL TO MAKE THOSE ARGUMENTS.

15. The Hudsucker Proxy. "You know, for kids!" I love this movie so much, and yet ... for all of its charm (and it has a lot of charm!) it can't place higher than the films that follow.

14. O Brother, Where Art Thou? A charming film that both had deep (but obvious) references to The Odyssey and also brought bluegrass back into the popular zeitgeist is always a fun go-to.

13. Burn After Reading. A film that was (unjustifiably) panned when it first came out as being too lightweight, it has just become more and more relevant over time. The Coen Brothers captured something essential about the moronic age we had entered.

12. Miller's Crossing. A movie that is undoubtedly cool, yet over time has appeared to value style over more meaningful substance. Still, one heck of a watch.

11. The Man Who Wasn't There. This is a personal favorite of mine, because it tells a simple story incredibly well, and Billy Bob Thornton gives an amazing performance that any lesser actor would have overacted. It's an austere film that will linger with you long after the credits fade.

10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The Coens do an anthology! While not every part is equally good, and sometimes it feels like they are just screwin' around with house (um, Netflix) money, it's leaves you wishing they would return to this form again.

9. True Grit. A great genre film that the Coen Brothers, unusually, play relatively straight.

8. Inside Llewyn Davis. This may be my most controversial choice; many people consider this a classic movie, perhaps their best (or one of them). I think it's good, and I appreciated it, but I never loved it like some of their other films.

7. Raising Arizona. NEVER GO FULL NIC CAGE! Okay, maybe here. While the Coens notable failed at over-the-top comedy twice, this is a funny, crazy success of a movie.

6. Fargo. There is little I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said. So instead I'll say this- have you seen Jon Hamm in season 5 of the Fargo TV series?

5. A Serious Man. Why do bad things happen to good people? This movie doesn't answer the question, but it poses it perfectly.

4. Hail, Caesar! Like Burn After Reading, this movie was unfairly tarnished when it was released, and I would argue is one of their finest movies. The genre-shifting within the movie (a movie about making movies) is absolutely perfect.

3. The Big Lebowski. The Dude Abides.

2. Barton Fink. Is this a movie about writer's block? About insanity? About creative compromise? About hell? Yes.

1. No Country For Old Man. Over that which we cannot speak, we must pass over in silence.
What I'm getting from this list is that you're not a big fan of screwball comedy. You have ranked Intolerable Cruelty, Hudsucker Proxy, the transcendent O, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Raising Arizona way too low as a result.

Also, you like depressing movies, which isn't what I would have guessed.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
What I'm getting from this list is that you're not a big fan of screwball comedy. You have ranked Intolerable Cruelty, Hudsucker Proxy, the transcendent O, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Raising Arizona way too low as a result.

Also, you like depressing movies, which isn't what I would have guessed.
Tone preference aside, its pretty hard to argue against No Country, Fargo, Blood Simple as some of the best Cohen.
 

MGibster

Legend
Hail, Caesar! Like Burn After Reading, this movie was unfairly tarnished when it was released, and I would argue is one of their finest movies. The genre-shifting within the movie (a movie about making movies) is absolutely perfect.
This one didn't work for me. The actors were great as were a lot of the scenes, but after watching it I couldn't help but think, "What was the point?"
 


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