All Coen Brothers’ Movies Ranked, From Worst to Best (Photos)
TheWrap’s Dan Callahan assesses the directorial body of work of Joel and Ethan Coen, from “Fargo” to “No Country for Old Men” to “Hail, Caesar!”
Dan Callahan | February 4, 2016 @ 2:01 PM
Last Updated: February 5, 2016 @ 3:44 PM
Buena Vista Pictures
17. The Ladykillers (2004)
A very poor remake of a classic 1950s British comedy starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, this film is unnecessary and off in every way.
16. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
A disaster where every rhythm and line reading feels horribly off, this period comedy gave Coen critics all the ammunition they would need to write them off as sarcastic pastiche artists giggling over private jokes.
15. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
A self-consciously arty tale of existential despair, shot in black and white, that could also be called "The Film That Wasn't There."
20th Century Fox
14. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
A perfectly nice movie with lots of music, where George Clooney gets a chance to sing, but nowhere near their best work.
13. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
This is as close to a standard commercial movie as the Coens have ever come, a sharp-edged romantic comedy vehicle for George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, enjoyable but not fully theirs (the script was worked on by other writers).
12. Blood Simple (1984)
The first Coen movie is a now-neglected noir, well-shot and well-played, but mainly a hint of things to come.
20th Century Fox
11. Raising Arizona (1987)
The Coens' second film, a boisterous comedy, is a real love-it-or-hate-it proposition. It's noisy and cartoonish and obnoxious, and it seems either delightful or awful based upon the mood you are in when you see it.
20th Century Fox
10. Barton Fink (1991)
An odd film about a Clifford Odets-like writer (John Turturro) trying to keep his integrity in old Hollywood, most memorable for the fearsome performance of John Goodman as insurance salesman Charlie Meadows.
9. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Mercilessly accurate, inventive, and cold look at old Hollywood, filled with obscure inferences and references. Many poetic ideas, like having gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons split up into two sisters played by Tilda Swinton, a homoerotic musical sailor number with Channing Tatum that is notable for the distant and unenthused way it's filmed, and George Clooney at his best as a dim Robert Taylor-like movie star. Is it religiously conservative or just misanthropic? Time will tell.
8. True Grit (2010)
Unexpected and very graceful, this loving adaptation of Charles Portis' wordy novel displayed the Coens' eye for period detail and their love for unusual wordplay. The last half hour or so is as beautiful and deadly as anything they have ever done.
20th Century Fox
7. Miller's Crossing (1990)
The Coen brothers' third movie, a tale of gangsters and crime in the Prohibition era, was a first glimpse of their pared-down strength and their tough treatment of dramatic material, nowhere more apparent than in the extended scene where John Turturro's character begs for his life.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
This bleak and unforgiving tale of a non-popular musician (Oscar Isaac) trying to make his way in the 1960s folk scene in Greenwich Village has the internal logic and forward progression of a cut-to-the-bone first-person novel. It makes you feel what it's like to be far from success or comfort, as epitomized by the moment when Isaac's Llewyn steps into a cold puddle as he walks on a wintry street and gets a shoe and sock all wet.
5. The Big Lebowski (1998)
A fan favorite, this shaggy dog story made a stoner icon out of Jeff Bridges's The Dude. Best pot-fuddled line reading from Bridges: "Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man!"
4. Fargo (1996)
An instant classic, a tale of violence in a small town that was an early indicator of just how fresh and unexpected a Coen brothers movie could be. Who can forget the scene where Mike Yanagita (Steve Park), an old school friend of police officer Marge (Frances McDormand), suddenly confesses his love for her?
3. A Serious Man (2009)
The dark comedy is suffused with a slow-burning and Kafka-esque dread, and it bears comparison to any similar Saul Bellow or Philip Roth novel of the late 1960s and early 1970s in its clear-eyed moral rigor.
2. Burn After Reading (2008)
A broad and unsettling comedy that is loose and instinctive and moves like a dream. Brad Pitt was never better or funnier than as gym trainer Chad Feldheimer, a dumb guy who lets the equally dumb Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand, hilarious) draw him into a CIA plot. The way the Coens toy with audience expectation is masterful.
1. No Country for Old Men (2007)
An unforgettable noir suffused with existential dread. Javier Bardem's bowl-cutted killer entered the cultural zeitgeist, but Tommy Lee Jones's final monologue is equally memorable in its decent-minded and fed-up despair. Plus, the dog that chases Josh Brolin over water is like something out of a nightmare.