Coen Brothers - The Movies and the Ranking!

MGibster

Legend
I agree with your #1 but would put "O Brother" at the bottom of the ones I've seen and Lebowski is pretty low in my estimation too.
I didn't particularly care for Lebowski either. Cohen movie are hit or miss with me, but when they hit they tend to hit it out of the park. Even when I don't particularly care for them I don't think they're bad though.
 

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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.
I haven't seen nearly enough Coen Brothers movies. So I will do a paired down list from the ones I have seen

6. Raising Arizona: I watched this movie a lot as a kid because it must have been on HBO or something. Maybe if I rewatched it now, it would get a much higher ranking. But I just can't bring myself to watch it again because something about the memories I have of this movie. I don't know what it is, call it reverse nostalgia, but that puts this lower on the list for me than it probably ought to be.

5. Hudsucker Proxy: This too was on HBO a lot (or a similar channel). But the difference is I was probably in highschool at this point. I remember loving this movie. I remember really loving Jennifer Jason Leigh in it. But it is a bit corny, so lower on the list.

4. Burn After Reading: I loved this movie. Didn't see it until years after it came out. I am glad I waited because all the negative attention it got at the time wasn't on my mind when I saw it. Genuinely funny film. Especially if you are into anything dealing with intelligence agencies ( and lack thereof in this case). And the characters in this one. They are just wonderfully dumb but charming. Every character in this film pops.

3. Miller's Crossing: This could easily have been 1 or 2 for me. Talk about a good movie. I love gangster films. And this is such an unusual gangster movie. I haven't seen it as much as I should. But it is one of those films I go back to in my mind all the time. Also I have never had a movie make me feel like I was marching into the woods to be shot the way this movie did. This is also one of my favorite Gabriel Byrne Roles (Uther Pendragon in Excalibur would be another).

2. Fargo: This is I think the best movie of theirs I have seen in terms of film making. It is just stunning. The use of the winter landscape adds so much to the story. Every part of the story just works. It would be number one, but it isn't the kind of movie I want to pop in all the time.

1. Big Lewboski: This gets number one because it is the most rewatchable for me. I love spending time with the characters. It is the perfect hangout movie, but it still has plot. The humor, the music, the mood, everything works for me.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Even when I don't particularly care for them I don't think they're bad though.
I never said they were bad. I just wasn't into them and never had a desire to watch them again - while others (like Fargo, Old Country, Barton Fink, Hudsucker) I have watched multiple times.
 

Evaniel

Filthy Casual (he/him)
And now I have to watch the ones I haven't seen so I can weigh in. And I'd better re-watch the ones I haven't seen in awhile. To avoid recency bias, I'll need to watch those I've seen more recently. Darn. ;)

I haven't seen all of them, so I can't speak to those. I'd agree with Snarf that No Country is probably the best, and it does what Blood Simple does but much, much better. That said, The Big Lebowski is my favorite. It's in my top 4 or 5 movies, and it's a huge comfort food movie for me. Any time I'm depressed, TBL or the Karate Kid just hit the spot and lift me out of it.
 

pukunui

Legend
Thanks @Snarf Zagyg for doing this thread. I didn't realize that I've only seen just over half of the Coen Brothers' oeuvre. I don't think

O Brother, Where Art Thou? If I had to pick a #1, this would be it, not just because of the film itself (which is a masterpiece) but also because of the memories surrounding it. I was in college at the time, and my friends and I got into the soundtrack big time - to the point that we learned and performed "I am a Man of Constant Sorrow" several times.

True Grit: Brilliant film that introduced the world to Hailee Steinfeld (now the MCU's Kate Bishop).

The Hudsucker Proxy: This is one of my faves. I think it's also one of my dad's favorite movies.

Fargo: Excellent film! Frances McDormand is fantastic.

No Country for Old Men: I think I get this story on an intellectual level, but I didn't really enjoy it (neither the screenplay novel nor the movie). It left me feeling dissatisfied, which I guess is the point.

Blood Simple: While I know I've seen this one, it was a long time ago, and I don't remember anything about it.

Burn After Reading: I seem to recall mostly enjoying this one, although I think there was something about it that I didn't like, but I honestly can't remember what it was. Does Brad Pitt's character get shot while hiding in a closet?

The Big Lebowski: I think this was the first Coen Bros film I saw. I remember loving it as a teenager. But when I watched it again as an adult, I didn't enjoy it as much. I particularly didn't like John Goodman's Jewish-convert Vietnam vet. I just found that character offensive rather than funny. I'm not sure if I could bring myself to watch it again. I think the whole thing hasn't aged well -- for instance, the younger generations aren't going to recognize Saddam Hussein in the drug trip sequence.

Raising Arizona: I know that this is a good film, and I really enjoyed it when I first saw it, but when I tried watching it again after having my own children, I just found the entire premise of stealing someone else's child to be awful. I found myself sympathizing more with the rich guy whose child is kidnapped than with Cage and Hunter's protagonists. So while I do think it's well written and acted, I just don't think I can watch it again.
 

messy

Explorer
All the love for burn (which I hated) and hate for ladykillers (which I loved) is shocking. My top five are ladykillers, lubawsky, fargo, brother, and arizona. Love the screwball comedies!
 

All the love for burn (which I hated)

I haven't seen it enough times to really break down why I like it, but off the top of my head one of the reasons I do is I laughed harder watching this film than virtually any other of their movies I have seen except maybe Big Lebowski. Part of that is the writing, part of that is the performances. The John Malkovich performance for example. Also I really liked the Clooney character, and I loved how he basically said what was going to happen in the closet scene because of his training but the implication is he is trained entirely to take action and kill someone but doesn't have any sense or schooling on how to use that judicially or know what to do about it after. All the characters are uniquely dumb in some way that is just so funny to me. And the cuts to the scenes with JK Simmons and David Rasche (who is one of those actors I always loved but you kind of forget about) were perfect. It relies so much on humor and a peculiar premise I just think it is one of these naturally divisive films. I know a lot of people who can't stand it or found it very average. But I know an equal number of people who love it and don't understand the negative reaction it got. Also it came out on the heels of the post 9/11 and 24 era and I think if you watched shows like that, which I did, it made for a good lampooning (also came on the heels of us realizing there was a lot of bad intelligence during that period too)
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
While I've got a few to go yet, I feel pleased as punch upon revisiting Inside Llewyn Davis that it was just as wonderful and rich as I remembered, and as I predicted, ended up right there next to Fargo as one of their strongest films. I don't think anything is likely to displace it for a while.

They're two for two on musicals! They've gotta make more!
 

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