Joel and Ethan Coen, brothers that were born to make movies. Splitting up screenwriting and directing credits for nearly twenty films, the brothers have been the driving force behind some of the greatest movies of the past two and a half decades. Any Coen Brothers movie is worth the watch but here are 7 that are a must see, whether you’re a diehard fan or just getting into their films.
#7 True Grit
“You go for a man hard enough and fast enough, he don’t have time to think about how many’s with him; he thinks about himself, and how he might get clear of that wrath that’s about to set down on him”
Some people may not agree with this placement but I thought this movie was fantastic. A remake of a John Wayne classic, True Grit marks the Brother’s foray into the Western genre. Shot in the beautiful Santa Fe, True Grit is a well done remake. What makes it a must see are the incredible performances present throughout the film. Jeff Bridges gives the gruff Rooster Cogburn true grit and Matt Damon turns Laboeuf into an amusingly pathetic character. While Bridges and Damen were great, Hailee Steinfeld steals the show as Mattie Ross. A fiercely assertive and determined girl, Hailee’s performance overshadowed every character in the film.
#6 Raising Arizona
“And this here’s the TV. Two hours a day, either education or football, so you don’t ruin your appreciation of the finer things.”
One of the Coen Brothers’ earlier films, the story surrounds H.I. McDunnough and Edwina ‘Ed’ McDunnough, played by Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter, decision to steal a child. Much like Shakespeare’s plays, most of the Coen Brothers’ films can be classified as comedy or drama. The drams are darkly comedic and the comedies are dark with a flair for the dramatic. Raising Arizona is twistedly hilarious, proving that even when they were young, The Coen Brothers could make some damn good films.
#5 No Country For Old Men
“Yeah, I’m going to bring you something, alright. I decided to make you a special project of mine. You ain’t going to have to come looking for me at all.”
The story of a man’s discovery of money and drugs and the aftermath that follows, No Country For Old Men is a dark film full of unique characters. While hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a murder scene complete with a bag of money and a bag of drugs. Taking the items, Llewelyn becomes the target of the insane Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Leaving a trail of luck tainted gore behind him, Bardem’s portrayal of the twisted killer is the highlight of the film. Amidst the wake of destruction rippling across Texas, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) desperately tries to keep law and order. Using no background music, the film is eerily intense and riveting from beginning to end.
#4 O Brother Where Art Thou?
“Me an’ the old lady are gonna pick up the pieces and retie the knot, mixaphorically speaking.”
In my opinion the pinnacle of the Brother’s screenplays, this film takes the story of Homer’s Odyssey and sets it in the deep South. Playing three men escaped from a chain gang, George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson star as Everett McGill, Pete Hogwallop and Delmar O’Donnell. Charmingly amusing, the Brothers prove their true brilliance as they weave scenes from the epic poem into a drastically different tone, period and setting. The literary references are not limited to the Odyssey as the Brother’s spoof many works including the Wizard of Oz and Moby Dick. Complete with a kickass soundtrack, this film shows that wit and literary savvy can go a long way in creating a brilliant film.
#3 Burn After Reading
“Report back to me when it makes sense.”
My favorite of the Coen Brother’s films, Burn After Reading is another story that revolves around a misunderstanding. When alcoholic CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovitch) retires to write his memoirs, a misplace copy of his rough draft falls into the hands of two gym workers, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Misunderstanding the memoirs to be important information Linda and Chad attempt to negotiate a reward from Cox for finding the CD. Not getting what they want, the two employees take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile Cox’s wife (Tilda Swinton) has been having an affair with a paranoid U.S. Marshal (George Clooney) who inevitably runs into the gym employees. The misunderstandings grow to unmanageable sizes and violence ensues. Brad Pitt shines through the six amazing performances in the film a s one of his most ridiculous and eccentric characters to date. This film though violent and dark (seeing a theme with their movies?) is hilariously entertaining and has one of the most shocking death scenes I’ve seen in years.
#2 The Big Lebowski
“That rug really tied the room together.”
Arguably one of the greatest cult classic movies of all time with one of the greatest cinematic characters of all time, The Big Lebowski is easily the Coen Brothers’ funniest movie. Starring John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and of course Jeff Bridges as the Dude, the film delivers an awkward laugh a minute. Bowling, nihilists, bath robes, money, pot and piss stained rugs lead the Dude through an adventure he doesn’t want to deal with. The movie itself is amazing but the real reason to watch is to become acquainted with the coolest character in cinema, the Dude. So, if you haven’t seen this movie, toss on your bathrobe, mix up a White Russian, light a J and prepare to meet the Dude.
“Oh, I just think I’m gonna barf…Well,that passed. Now I’m hungry again.”
Have you even asked yourself what would happen if a man hired two men to kidnap his wife so that he could collect on the ransom from his asshole father in law? If your answer was a body in a wood chipper then you are correct! Set in Fargo North Dakota, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) dreams of bigger things but can’t quite fin the cash to make them happen. Upset with every aspect of his life, Jerry hires two men, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and the murderous Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife. The plan was for Jerry to collect on the ransom money while his wife was unharmed. What he didn’t plan for was the blood thirsty killings of Gaear. Throwing the plan into a tailspin, Jerry finds himself dealing with an irrational killer. As the body count grows, the police get involved in the form of Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). If the Minnesotan accents don’t make you smile then the dry humor certainly will. Fargo is a shining example of the brother’s inherent ability to meld drama and comedy. Violent and hilarious, to be a Coen Brothers fan, this is the film you must see.