Every Movie Directed by the Coen Brothers Ranked From Worst to Best

00
Newsweek

Joel and Ethan Coen (known simply as the Coen brothers) are perhaps the most consistently praised filmmakers in Hollywood. They have been nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won four: Best Original Screenplay for Fargo, and Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Director for No Country for Old Men.

They have been delighting and puzzling audiences for nearly 25 years, jumping from one genre to another—often in the same film or even the same scene. Sometimes criticized for being too clever, their creations are a film buff's delight, littered with cinematic homages and historical and cultural references.

The brutally violent and shockingly funny Blood Simple, their 1984 debut, was only a modest box office hit, but a critical smash. It is ranked number 98 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 most exciting, action-packed, suspenseful or frightening movies in American cinema.

They followed this dark thriller with a zany comedy (1987's Raising Arizona), a stylish Prohibition-era mob movie (1990's Miller's Crossing), a surreal head-scratcher (1991's Barton Fink) and a satire on corporate greed (1994's The Hudsucker Proxy).

In 1996, they released Fargo, a dark comedy involving bungling criminals, a pregnant police officer, misplaced ransom money and a gruesome woodchipper, all set in the snowy wastelands of the Coens’ native Minnesota. Fargo 's combination of zany characters and violent crime made it a hit with audiences and critics, receiving Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress, as well as a nomination for Best Film.

The brothers would have to wait until 2007 to finally win the Best Film Oscar. No Country for Old Men, a bleak modern western starring Tommy Lee Jones and an unforgettably weird Javier Bardem, received tons of awards and almost universal critical praise.

Since then, the Coen brothers have gone on to make a string of typically untypical movies, ranging from 1998’s slacker comedy The Big Lebowski to 2010’s remake of the John Wayne western True Grit. In 2018 Netflix released The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an anthology of six stories set in the Old West.

Join us as we look back at their varied career. Using data from critical review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, as well as user-submitted reviews from IMDb, we’ve ranked all of the movies directed by the Coen brothers. (Until 2003, Joel received sole credit for directing, while Ethan was credited as producer, because guild rules didn't allow multiple director credits.)

01 The Lady killers
Buena Vista Pictures

18. The Ladykillers (2004). Total score: 58.7%. IMDb users: 62. Metacritic: 56. Rotten Tomatoes: 61. Rotten Tomatoes users: 56.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall, J.K. Simmons.
Plot summary: An eccentric, if not charming Southern professor and his crew pose as a classical ensemble in order to rob a casino, all under the nose of his unsuspecting but sharp old landlady.
What the critics said: "Most of this stuff isn't worthy of the Farrelly brothers, let alone the Coen brothers." Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper.

02 The Hudsucker Proxy
Warner Bros.

17. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Total score: 62.5%. IMDb users: 73. Metacritic: 53. Rotten Tomatoes: 62. Rotten Tomatoes users: 72.
Starring: Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Charles Durning, John Mahoney.
Plot summary: A naive business graduate is installed as president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam.
What the critics said: "If something brilliant is happening in The Hudsucker Proxy—and you're meant to believe that it is—it's apparent only to Ethan and Joel Coen." Desson Thomson, Washington Post.

03 Intolerable Cruelty
Universal Pictures

16. Intolerable Cruelty (2003). Total score: 66.5%. IMDb users: 63. Metacritic: 71. Rotten Tomatoes: 68. Rotten Tomatoes users: 58.
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Richard Jenkins.
Plot summary: A beautiful gold digger matches wits with a shrewd Beverly Hills divorce lawyer who is increasingly attracted to her.
What the critics said: "Joel and Ethan are bounteously gifted filmmakers, but sometimes you just want them to lay off the irony and climb down here with the groundlings." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

04 Burn After Reading
Focus Features

15. Burn After Reading (2008). Total score: 66.7%. IMDb users: 70. Metacritic: 63. Rotten Tomatoes: 69. Rotten Tomatoes users: 66.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons.
Plot summary: A disk containing mysterious information from a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous and daft gym employees who attempt to sell it.
What the critics said: "These are functioning morons, they walk and work among us. And they are brilliant and funny and in spite of the screwball-comedy nature of the story, they are completely believable." Ben Mankiewicz, At the Movies.

05 Hail, Caesar
Universal Pictures

14. Hail, Caesar! (2016). Total score: 68.2%. IMDb users: 63. Metacritic: 72. Rotten Tomatoes: 72. Rotten Tomatoes users: 58.
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton.
Plot summary: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line.
What the critics said: "It's Coen lite, basically, but still filled with their best signatures: cracked humor, indelible characters, and cinematography so rich and saturated you want to dunk a cookie in it." Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly.

06 O Brother, Where Art Thou
Buena Vista Pictures

13. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Total score: 72%. IMDb users: 78. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 71. Rotten Tomatoes users: 74.
Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning.
Plot summary: In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.
What the critics said: "As a Coen brothers fan I hate to say this, but the movie's a collection of great bits and pieces rather than a complete work." Desson Thomson, Washington Post.

07 Raising Arizona
Twentieth Century Fox

12. Raising Arizona (1987). Total score: 72.3%. IMDb users: 74. Metacritic: 68. Rotten Tomatoes: 76. Rotten Tomatoes users: 72.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, Frances McDormand.
Plot summary: When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated.
What the critics said: "Starting from a point of delirious excess, the film leaps into dark and virtually uncharted territory to soar like a comet." Geoff Andrew, Time Out.

08 The Man Who Wasn't There
USA Films

11. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001). Total score: 73%. IMDb users: 76. Metacritic: 73. Rotten Tomatoes: 71. Rotten Tomatoes users: 74.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, James Gandolfini, Scarlett Johansson, Richard Jenkins.
Plot summary: A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.
What the critics said: "The Man Who Wasn't There is so assured and perceptive in its style, so loving, so intensely right, that if you can receive on that frequency, the film is like a voluptuous feast." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

 

09 Barton Fink
Twentieth Century Fox

10. Barton Fink (1991). Total score: 74.2%. IMDb users: 77. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 76. Rotten Tomatoes users: 78.
Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, John Mahoney, Steve Buscemi.
Plot summary: A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.
What the critics said: "The kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through." Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine.

10 The Big Lebowski
Gramercy Pictures

9. The Big Lebowski (1998). Total score: 75.2%. IMDb users: 81. Metacritic: 71. Rotten Tomatoes: 74. Rotten Tomatoes users: 80.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid.
Plot summary: Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire of the same name, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.
What the critics said: "The result is a lot of laughs and a feeling of awe toward the craftsmanship involved. I doubt that there'll be anything else like it the rest of this year." Andrew Sarris, Observer.

11 Miller's Crossing
Twentieth Century Fox

8. Miller's Crossing (1990). Total score: 75.7%. IMDb users: 78. Metacritic: 66. Rotten Tomatoes: 82. Rotten Tomatoes users: 80.
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Steve Buscemi.
Plot summary: Tom Regan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties.
What the critics said: "It's arguably the U.S. mainstream's first art movie since Days of Heaven; and quite wonderful." Geoff Andrew, Time Out.