Joel and Ethan Coen have long earned indisputable authority in the world of cinema as not only directors but also screenwriters and producers of most of their collaborations. They chose the path of life in childhood. Schoolchildren began to try their hand, starting with adaptations and later to film the first original short film. The boys earned money on camera by mowing lawns. Coen’s also invites friends as actors.
Since then, the creative tandem has achieved recognition not only in Hollywood but throughout the world. Four Oscars and awards from major international film festivals are a vivid confirmation of this. The recognizable “handwriting” has long become their calling card. We bring to your attention the ten best films of the Coen brothers. Some you have probably heard, and, perhaps, seen, even without being fans of their work.
10. Raising Arizona (1987)
This picture became their second professional directorial work. Even though the public learned about the Coen brothers after the film’s release, they decided to continue their ascent with a comedy, which, according to the American Film Institute, took 31st place in the list of the 100 funniest films in the country XX century.
A story on the verge of a farce tells the story of the love of a recidivist thief named High (Nicolas Cage) and police officer Ed (Holly Hunter). For the sake of love, the criminal decides to tie up with a criminal past. The only obstacle to quiet family life in a secluded trailer in a semi-desert is the unfulfilled desire to have children. Ed is sterile, and Huy’s biography does not allow adopting a child. Hearing on television that a local businessman had five babies, the couple kidnaps one of them, hoping that the father of many children will not notice. Happiness should have overtaken the newly-made parents, but something went wrong.
9. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The 66th Cannes Film Festival first presented the musical tragicomedy based on the American folk musician Dave Van Ronk’s memoirs. In the same place, the picture was awarded the Grand Prix by the jury, and after that, it received many nominations and awards of various prizes.
The film takes the viewer to 1961: Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) – former sailor, now a little-known talented musician. Greenwich Village club gigs and occasional radio recordings are not getting the desired success. He barely makes ends meet. Having no money, no home, entangled in love, and almost losing his family, he is still trying to find himself, despite all the difficulties and failures. All he has is music. Will she be his salvation?
8. Burn after reading (2008)
Like the previous one, this film entered the top 10 films of the year according to the US National Council of Film Critics. A crime comedy in which deliberate idiocy is off-scale may remain incomprehensible if you take what you see literally. Black humor had already become a hallmark of the Coen brothers’ projects by that time.
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) loses his position in the CIA, after which he decides to sit down to write a memoir based on his life. In a US Treasury officer’s arms, his wife, Cathy (Tilda Swinton), dreams of a divorce. She steals a disk with Osborne’s memories, believing that it may contain information about her husband’s bank accounts. Further, the carrier from the hands of the attorney’s secretary leading the divorce proceedings accidentally falls into the hands of gym instructor Chad (Brad Pitt) and his frivolous girlfriend Linda (Frances McDormand). Thinking that the find is of public interest, the couple decides to make money on it. Only now blackmail does not produce the expected effect at first.
7. True Grit (2010)
True Grit is another contender of the Coen brothers for the Oscar in as many as ten nominations, only now in the western genre. The film became the highest-grossing film among directors and one of the highest-grossing Westerns in cinema history.
The gunman Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin) killed the father of 14-year-old girl Matty Ross (Hayley Steinfield). Without waiting for results from the local sheriff, she finds accomplices in Marshal Cogburn’s person (Jeff Bridges) and Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon) and goes with them in search of the killer. Payback awaits everyone.
6. Blood Simple (1984)
The low-budget neo-noir thriller became the debut work. The creators managed to get good reviews. A characteristic style is already emerging here: respect for the traditions of the genre, unexpected development of events against the background of a simple plot, black humor. Later it will become evident that they are ready to realize all these are entirely different pictures.
Bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) suspected his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) of cheating with a bartender named Ray (John Getz). To make sure of this, finally, he hires private detective Lauren (Michael Emmet Walsh). Having received direct evidence, Marty asks Lauren to kill the traitor and her lover for a monetary reward. Lauren agrees but prepares his plan. The situation quickly spirals out of control of the cunning sleuth. Will it be possible to stop a series of bloody misunderstandings?
5. Fargo (1996)
Another crime thriller in the creators’ treasury has won incredible commercial success and won several dozen film awards, including two Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and the lead female role played by the same Frances McDormand. Do not be surprised that the name of the actress has already sounded more than once. Since 1984, she has been married to the Coen brothers’ eldest, which says it all.
Timid and inconspicuous Jerry (William Macy), who works as a regular car salesman for his father-in-law, is experiencing severe financial difficulties. Not thinking of anything better, he finds two accomplices, with whose hands he wants to crank up a fictitious kidnapping of his wife for the ransom. He is sure that a wealthy father-in-law will give his daughter any amount, which means he will provide him with a comfortable life. As planned, everything goes awry.
4. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
One of the best films of the Coen brothers is Miller’s Crossing. Time magazine has included this gangster drama in the 100 best movies ever made.
America. The 30s. Time of “dry law.” The confrontation between criminal clans in the fight for control over the supply of illegal alcohol. Smart and immoral Tom (Gabriel Byrne), as an advisor, recommends crime boss Leo fulfill another mafioso’s usual request in these circles to get rid of Bernie’s objectionable traitor. Leo refuses, citing the fact that he pays him for protection. In reality, he doesn’t want to lose his beloved sister Bernie. Tom thinks this is a mistake. Meanwhile, his problems intertwined with the growing conflict of interest.
3. Barton Fink (1991)
The surreal black comedy, named after the protagonist, is considered one of the Coen brothers’ most successful films by experts. The experience of cooperation with the operator Roger Deakins resulted in partnership over the next 15 years.
Playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) signs a contract with a famous Hollywood film studio to write a wrestling movie script. In addition to the fact that he does not understand anything about the given topic, the terrible cheap hotel he is staying in does not dispose of productive work. He tries unsuccessfully to come up with something extraordinary. What could be more interesting than life itself?
2. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, the thriller received 98 top film awards (an incredible number), including 4 Oscars and 2 Golden Globes, as well as 48 nominations. In the Los Angeles Film Critics Association rating, he entered the top ten films of the first decade of the 21st century and took fifth place. It is rightfully considered a classic of modern cinema.
Simple welder Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin), while hunting antelope in the desert of western Texas, discovers mountains of corpses, a truck full of heroin, and a suitcase with two million dollars. The man could not resist such a sum. He embezzled the money, not even suspecting that the cold-blooded, ruthless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) had already stepped on his trail. Is he ready to lose a fortune when life is at stake?
1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski is widely regarded as the Coen Brothers’ most excellent film ever. And although the film did not receive great commercial success, it did not receive unanimous critical acclaim, but it became genuinely cult, given the audience’s incredible love. The script is based on the novel “Deep Sleep” by Raymond Chandler, although many original scenes and the plot moves in the film.
Jeffrey Lebowski, nicknamed The Dude (Jeff Bridges), lives an utterly carefree life in which he is most interested in bowling and drinking. By chance coincidence, he finds himself in the epicenter of a criminal adventure. Bandits burst into his house, demanding to return his wife’s enormous debt, whom the Dude never had. They soon realize that they have confused him with a wealthy namesake. At parting, one of the extortionists urinated in the middle of the room, right on the carpet. In search of compensation for the harm caused, the Dude decides to go to his namesake.