The Coen Brothers Project

If you ask me to name my favorite movie director my kneejerk answer would be the Coen Brothers. If you gave me time to think about it my answer would still be the Coen Brothers. They are the only directors for whom I can say I have seen every film in their catalogue and for whom I will make every effort to see their latest release in theaters when it comes out, regardless of how the previews may or may not make me feel. I’m not 100% sure why this is. I think it has something to do with their unique style, both visually and in the stories they tell. Even when I don’t love what they do I can always find aspects of a given film that I enjoy. So yeah, they’re my favorites.
 

I’ve been in the habit lately of throwing up random Top 10 list of musicians and actors on Facebook lately in an attempt to drive conversation towards something I enjoy (and thus providing a distraction from our current political and social woes). Most of the time I just toss the list up without too much thought and then just see where the conversation goes. It’s been fun. Naturally the day came when I decided to do it for the Coen Brothers, but instead of limiting myself to a top 10 I decided to rank all 17 of their films since I felt I could reasonably do so. Here are my initial rankings:
 

17) Hail, Caesar!

16) Intolerable Cruelty

15) Barton Fink

14) The Ladykillers

13) A Serious Man

12) Raising Arizona*

11) Blood Simple

10) O Brother, Where Art Thou?

9) Inside Llewyn Davis

8) True Grit

7) The Man Who Wasn’t There

6) Miller’s Crossing

5) Burn After Reading

4) The Hudsucker Proxy

3) No Country For Old Men

2) Fargo

1) The Big Lebowski
 

I threw an asterisk up on Raising Arizona because I was willing to concede that it should probably be higher, but the fact was I hadn’t seen it in over 20 years and it was the only film of theirs I don’t have proper context for. I had watched it a handful of times around 1988 when it was on regular cable rotation, but that was a time long before it meant anything to *be* a “Coen Brothers” film, to me or anybody else. I hadn’t seen it since.
 

After posting my rankings I did a quick Google search and found that there were several such rankings already posted online from a variety of different sources, all but one of which were done recently enough to have included all of their films (and that one only omitted Hail Caesar!). They are as follows:
 

GQ

IndieWire

Metacritic

MLive

Washington Post

Vulture
 

Turns out there are others, but I didn’t dig any deeper at the time. Anyway, being the nerd that I am I copied down these various rankings into a spreadsheet and combined them with my own as well as a ranking based on IMDB user ratings to come up with a cumulative ranking. That ended up as follows:
 

17) The Ladykillers

16) Intolerable Cruelty

15) The Hudsucker Proxy

14) Burn After Reading

13) Hail, Caesar!

12) A Serious Man

11) True Grit

10) O Brother, Where Art Thou?

9) The Man Who Wasn’t There

8) Barton Fink

7) Miller’s Crossing

6) Blood Simple

5) Raising Arizona

4) Inside Llewyn Davis

3) The Big Lebowski

2) No Country For Old Men

1) Fargo
 

About the only thing I was able to draw from this is that I enjoyed Hudsucker and Burn After Reading way more than most others and that they enjoyed Barton Fink more so than I. Oh, and my Raising Arizona asterisk seemed warranted. Of course this got me thinking. Given that I have almost half of the Coen’s catalogue at my immediate disposal via DVD and can find a few more readily available to stream through Netflix or HBOGo, I thought now seemed like the perfect time give their films a proper run-through in order to really cement my rankings. Because what is life without time consuming hobbies that ultimately mean nothing?
 

My goal over the next couple of weeks is to watch each film in order of their original release and provide a quick recap of my general thoughts. For added fun I thought I might do a Coen Brothers Oscars list at the end, providing 5 nominees and 1 winner in each of the major categories using only their films as the nomination pool. I’m already excited.
 

 

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