The Coen Brothers

by Craig B.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen got their first shot in movies by helping their friend Sam Raimi edit his first film The Evil Dead in 1981. Three years later, Raimi, now a cult darling, convinced the Coen Brothers to shoot a pitch trailer for a script they’d written but hadn’t filmed yet. Bruce Campbell, the star of The Evil Dead, offered to play the lead for the trailer. The pitch worked, and in 1984, the Coen Brothers had their debut film, Blood Simple. Thirty five years later, the duo are still going strong and are considered among the most iconic filmmakers of our time. Following is a list of some of my favorite Coen Brothers films.

Miller’s Crossing

There’s a small contingent of Coen-Heads who believe the Brothers’ best film to date is the darkly comedic gangster film Miller’s Crossing. I am among that small contingent. It not only demands, but rewards multiple viewings. The plot is complex and baffling. Yet, the more you crack its secrets, the more you realize how deliciously airtight it is. Clues litter this movie’s lush noir landscape and Hammett-heavy dialogue. If flatfooting for leads isn’t your gig, just relax and drink in the powerhouse performances of Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, and Albert Finney.


The Coen brothers have a knack for elevating the mundane into fine art, and no movie emphasizes this better than Fargo. Our heroes (and villains) are blue collar plebs, and every cranny of this film drips with quirky Minnesotan pragmatism. Frances McDormand won the Best Actress Oscar for her lovably colloquial portrayal of Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson.

No Country for Old Men

It’s hard to separate the aesthetics from the script in a Coen Brothers movie. Typically, Joel and Ethan control both the writing and direction for their films. This gives their art a consistent and complimentary narrative vision. When they decided to adapt Cormac McCarthy’s sere neo-noir western, they didn’t have that luxury. And yet, they managed to create one of the most faithfully atmospheric book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever seen.


True Grit 

And I thought No Country for Old Men was a great film adaptation! Charles Portis’ idiomatic western gets the Coen Brothers treatment. Once again, they remain fairly faithful to the source material. They also manage to give the classic 1969 adaptation a few nods. The performances are uniformly excellent, but none as splendid as Hailee Steinfeld, who takes her role and wears it like a second skin.

I hope you enjoy these titles! Be sure to comment with any additional titles you discover so I can add them to my list.

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2 responses to “The Coen Brothers”

  1. LindaHG says:

    I had no idea that ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’ was a Coen production. We loved that movie and have watched it repeatedly – something very unusual for me! I’ll have to place a hold on some of their others. Looking forward to some very enjoyable future movie nights. Thanks for these suggestions!

    • Craig Burgess says:

      It’s my pleasure! I love their films their films so much. They are an incredible mixture of excellent dialogue and beautiful cinematography. If you liked “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” a lot, then “Hail, Caesar!” would be a close cousin in both lightheartedness and goofiness.

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