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The Coen Brother's Films

Updated on January 26, 2015

A Guide to the Coen Brothers

The Coen Brothers are without a doubt two of the most original and artistic filmmakers you will ever come across. Because their films are so different from the average Hollywood fair, people tend to either love their work unconditionally or hate it with extreme prejudice. But Joel and Ethan Coen go their own way every time and although they have won many awards, including directing and best picture Oscars, they don't seem to pick their projects based on what they believe will be commercially or critically successful. They just make great movies time and time again.

It's important to understand that while Joel Coen is often listed as the director of the movies, both Joel and Ethan are equally responsible for what ends up on the screen. In reading about them and viewing behind the scenes footage from their movies, it is apparent that Ethan is just as involved on the set as Joel. It's the two-headed monster of exceptional film making.

If you don't know much about this film making pair, hopefully this page will give you some insight into their work and inspire you to view more of their movies.

Click the picture to check out the Joel Coen IMDB page.
Click the picture to check out the Joel Coen IMDB page.

Coen movie list

A brief rundown of the movies written and directed by the Coen Brothers

"Blood Simple" (1984)

"Raising Arizona" (1987)

"Miller's Crossing" (1990)

"Barton Fink" (1991)

"The Hudsucker Proxy" (1994)

"Fargo" (1996)

"The Big Lebowski" (1998)

"O Brother, Where Art Thou" (2000)

"The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001)

"Intolerable Cruelty" (2003)

"The Ladykillers" (2004)

"Paris, I Love You" (English Title - 2006 - Segment "Tuileries")

"No Country For Old Men" (2007)

"To Each His Own Cinema" (English Title - 2007 - Segment "World Cinema")

"Burn After Reading" (2008)

"A Serious Man" (2009)

"True Grit" (2010)

"Inside Llewyn Davis" (2013)

"Hail Ceasar!" (Currently in production)

Recommended Coen Brothers Viewing


Following are my top 5 favorite Coen Brother's movies. These are the movies that I would recommend to someone interested in exploring the works of these incredible film makers further. Coen Brothers lovers all have different lists and different reasons for loving different movies. But this is my Coen Brother's page, so these are my picks.

5. "No Country For Old Men"

(Starring Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin)

According to the Academy, this is the Coen Brothers best movie winning Oscars for best adapted screenplay, best supporting actor, best directing and best picture.

This movie is adapted from the book by Cormac McCarthy. It's the story of a regular Texas hunter who stumbles across what appears to be a botched drug deal in the desert. Bodies are strewn around the scene and automatic weapons lay by their sides. But someone got away and the hunter tracks him to find his body resting against a tree and a case full of money by him. When the hunter decides to take the case of money, he unintentionally makes himself the mark of one of the most terrifying men he, or anyone else in this world, will ever encounter.

The ending of this movie gets a lot of discussion and some people are really put off by the whole thing because of it. While it does seem open ended, If you think back to everything you've seen, and haven't seen, throughout the movie, I think you'll realize that it's pretty well wrapped up. Just maybe not wrapped up the way most audiences are used to.

"No Country For Old Men" Trailer

4. "Blood Simple"

(Starring Frances McDormand, John Getz and Dan Hedaya)

Blood Simple is the brilliant debut of the Coen Brothers. It's a film noir thriller set in Texas in the 1980s. If you haven't watched a lot of Coen Brothers movies, it's great to start with this one. You can see the themes and style that the Coens have gone on to explore throughout the two and half decades since they made this movie.

When a man finds out that his wife is cheating on him with one of his employees, he hires a hit man to take care of them. But contrary to the title, things just aren't that simple. M. Emmet Walsh is great as the hitman in question and turns in the quirkiest performance of the movie. It's a trait more an more characters of the Coen Brothers take on throughout their film making career.

Look for some elements in this movie that show up in the other movies made by the Coen Brothers including a complete remake of one of the scenes in Fargo.

"Blood Simple" Trailer

3. "Fargo"

(Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi)

I love the simple and beautiful pleasure that is Fargo. A movie where the bleak, snow covered landscape becomes just as much a character as anyone else in the film. This one is straight forward, funny, exciting and powerful. Frances McDormand won a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson and Joel and Ethan took home Oscars for the screenplay. It was no joke. This is a brilliant film.

One of the interesting things about Fargo is that Marge, the main character, isn't even introduced until about a half hour into the movie. But by the time you meet her and Norm, and see their peaceful way of life, the contrast is so stark between her and the evil men she will pursue for the rest of the movie.

"Fargo" Trailer

2. "The Big Lebowski"

(Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi)

Lebowski is one of the funniest movies ever made. It is also one of the most quotable movies. However, you'll find you have to censor yourself in certain situations when quoting this one as I don't believe I've ever seen a movie that used the F-word as much. Somehow it all sounds like poetry coming out of The Dude and Walter's mouths.

The Dude got his rug peed on by some guys that mistook him for another Lebowski. The big Lebowski. All the Dude wants is a replacement for his rug because it really tied the room together. But in his quest, he gets tied up in a kidnapping and ransom situation that is really way out of his element. But the Dude abides.

Like any Coen movie, this one has a lot of characters and a lot of angles. But the characters are so much fun to watch and the plot keeps you on your toes making it not only hilarious, but immensely entertaining from beginning to end.

"The Big Lebowski" Trailer

1. "Miller's Crossing"

(Starring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney and John Turturro)

Ah yes, my #1 Coen Brothers pick. This is the movie I fell in love with first. Set in the prohibition era, this masterpiece is right on par with any great mafia movie including "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas".

Miller's Crossing is about Tom Reagan, the man behind the man. Tom attempts to keep the peace between Leo and Johnny Caspar, the two main bosses. But that peace is short lived and Tom finds himself in the middle of a complex war where "Up is down. Black is white". Tom finds it harder to play the angles he's set up and the whole house of cards threatens to fall around him at any moment. But in this game, the price for losing is your life.

This movie is absolutely beautiful in every way. The dialogue is fantastic. The images are stunning. Even the graphic violence is artfully done. It all creates a world so rich, I find myself wanting to go back to it about 3 or 4 times a year. And so I have, watching this movie since the first time I saw it more than any other Coen Brother's film.

"Miller's Crossing" Trailer

The Raimi Connection

Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers owe a lot to each other when it comes to getting their respective film careers off the ground. For those who don't know, Sam Raimi is the exceptionally talented director of such films as the "Evil Dead" series, "Spiderman" series, "A SImple Plan", "The Gift" and "Drag Me To Hell".

The Coen Brothers worked with Raimi on "The Evil Dead" in 1981 and are credited as assistant editors. The influence Raimi's style had on the Brothers is most noticeable in their comedy, "Raising Arizona". The frantically kinetic camera movements that Raimi established made their way into "Raising Arizona" and the Coen's openly give props to Raimi for inspiration.

But the collaboration didn't stop there. The Coen Brothers went on to write two sceenplays with Raimi, "Crivewave" and "The Hudsucker Proxy". "Crimewave" was directed by Sam Raimi and didn't turn into the best of the two co-written works. But "Hudsucker", directed by the Coens, is a great movie.

It's another fun activity to watch these movies and pick out the cross over themes and elements that would go on to become staples of both the Coen Brothers and Raimi. Another fun thing to watch for is the cameo appearance by Joel Coen in Raimi's "Crimewave" and the return cameo of Raimi in the Coen Brother's "Miller's Crossing".

A Great Compilation of the Coen Brother's Movies

This video will give you a little taste of the entire Coen Brother's collection.

The Coen Poll

What's your favorite Coen Brother's movie?

See results


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