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Posterized: The Coen Brothers

Hail, Caesar!, opening in theaters nationwide today, marks the 17th feature film from the highly decorated and much cinephile-obsessed over sibling auteurs Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.  Joel is the elder by 3 years and after he worked as an assistant on Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, the brothers made their first feature, Blood Simple (1984) which caused a mini sensation at festivals and the arthouse. From there on out they slowly became more mainstream directors in the best way possible: they brought the mainstream to them rather than changing their genre-hopping singular ways. Thirty-two years later they're now a showbiz institution with four Oscars and actual big hits on their resume. 

Their seventeenth feature is only their second movie about movies. The first was the rather discomfiting Barton Fink (1991) which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Will Hail, Caesar! age as well? How many of their films have you seen? 

all the posters after after the jump...


Here's how I'd rank them...


  1. Fargo 
  2. Raising Arizona
  3. No Country For Old Men
          I can't live without those three. The fourth I don't love it as much as everyone else. But still...
  4. The Big Lebowski
          After those inarguable classics, three undervalued gems...
  5. Hudsucker Proxy 
  6. The Man Who Wasn't There
  7. Burn After Reading
         The one I'm always changing my mind about...
  8. Barton Fink
        The rest have good moments but feel overvalued as whole films...  
  9. Inside Llewyn Davis
  10. O Brother Where Art Thou? 
  11. True Grit
  12. A Serious Man
  13. Intolerable Cruelty

    I'd need to see Miller's Crossing and Blood Simple again before feeling comfortable ranking them (very foggy memories). The only one I haven't seen is The Ladykillers as reviews scared me away. And I'm off to Hail, Caesar! this weekend.


You? So how many have you seen? Do you like them best with noir, drama, or comedy? Do share in the comments.

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Reader Comments (40)

I've seen them all, some more times than others. They really are two of the best filmmakers of the past 30 years. There's a very idiosyncratic characteristic to all their films despite the genre hopping, and they always improve on repeat viewings. They(and their collaborators like Carter Burwell and Roger Deakins) make some of the most formally peerless films every year. Always look forward to what they do.

If I had to rank them today, pre-Hail, Caesar!

1. Miller's Crossing
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Fargo

these 3 are exactly what I'm talking about with "better with repeated viewings". The first viewings were vague enjoyment or confusion, but as I learned the lines and remembered the scenes and saw the thematic underpinning and formal elements of each, I'm convinced they're all excellent films.

4. No Country for Old Men
5. Inside Llewyn Davis

Two very good films from the turn of the century

6. Barton Fink - Steadily moves up the rankings over the year
7. Raising Arizona
8. Blood Simple - A little underrated, I feel! Just because its so unlike anything they've ever done, before they discovered their STYLE in Raising Arizona
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou
10. True Grit
11. Burn After Reading
12. Hudsucker Proxy
13. Intolerable Cruelty
14. The Ladykillers
15. A Serious Man
16. The Man Who Wasn't There - more like the movie who wasn't there, amirite

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

I've seen 12 (soon to be 13) of the 17. With Barton Fink being a minor player in my first year of Oscar watching, and Fargo being a key shake-me-to-the-core event in my early cinephilia, I really treasure them. They've kind of always been the coolest kids on the block.
Top tier:
1. Fargo
2. Blood Simple (I'm a sucker for a confident debut)
3. Raising Arizona
4. Barton Fink
5. No Country for Old Men
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
Middle tier:
7: The Big Lebowski
8. Burn After Reading
9. A Serious Man
10. True Grit
11. The Man Who Wasn't There
12. Intolerable Cruelty

Miller's Crossing is obviously a huge gap in my studies. I'll correct that soon.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I am ashamed to say that I have only seen 5 of these..
So far it's ranked:
1. Fargo
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Burn After Reading
4. No Country for Old Men
5. True Grit
Needless to say that I have to watch all of their films eventually.
Can't wait to watch Hail Caesar at the cinemas!

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I don't feel comfortable ranking them since a whole lot need rewatches but my top two are definitely Fargo/No Country which are the best films of their respective years. Bottom three are Hudsucker/Intolerable/Ladykillers which I outright don't like. The rest are great.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAR

I've seen 14/17, Ladykillers, The Man Who Wasn't There, and Hail Caesar remain to be seen.
I loved the British version of Ladykillers so I don't really want to see an imitation.

Rankings: I don't really care because that's always changing. My favourites are Lebowski, Fargo, True Grit, and >The Hudsucker Proxy. Love all of the actors but Paul Newman was priceless in this.
Misses: For some reason I find Raising Arizona more annoying than funny. (just me)
I love Intolerable Cruelty because I'm a sucker for smooth George Clooney.
The Coen Brothers are simply wonderful.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

No Country for Old Men is the best (I can feel my heart skipping a beat just by remembering the TENSION they've managed to create there), but I adore most of them, including underrated pictures like Burn After Reading, The Man Who Wasn't There and The Hudsucker Proxy.

Of course everyone first remembers their thrillers, but their comedies are pure gold.

My rank would be like this


1 No Country for Old Men
2 Barton Fink
3 A Serious Man


4 Fargo
5 Miller's Crossing
6 The Man Who Wasn't There
7 The Hudsucker Proxy

Very good

8 Raising Arizona
9 Burn After Reading
10 Intolerable Cruelty
11 True Grit

I don't get

12 Blood Simple
13 The Big Lebowski
14 The Ladykillers

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I forgot O Brother. That would be a very good, my number 10

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

My favorite living filmmakers, hands down.

1. Barton Fink
2. Miller's Crossing
3. Fargo
4. A Serious Man

5. No Country for Old Men
6. Burn After Reading
7. The Big Lebowski (I always get grumpy at how "overrated" it is, then I rewatch it, and it's of course completely great)

8. The Hudsucker Proxy (it took me ages to get into it, but now I can't imagine their career path without it)
9. Raising Arizona
10. Inside Llewyn Davis

11. Hail, Caesar! (we'll see what it does after multiple viewings and more reflection)
12. Blood Simple
13. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

14. The Man Who Wasn't There
15. True Grit

16. Intolerable Cruelty

17. The Ladykillers

February 6, 2016 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

I've only seen 6, actually, which is curious considering I have never seen a Coen Bros movie I did not at least like. I really should strive to see more. How I'd rank the 6 I've seen:
1. Fargo
2. No Country For Old Men
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. True Grit
5. Intolerable Cruelty
6. Ladykillers

Ranking my top 5 performances:
1. Francis McDormand in Fargo ("...and for a little bit of money!")
2. John Goodman in Inside Llewyn Davis (WHO DOES THAT????")
3. Richard Jenkins ("Uuuuuh... Poetry reciting?" or "Still a little sissy")
4. William H. Macy in Fargo (pretty much every scene once his plan starts falling apart)
5. Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men (that final monologue)
Steve Buscemi and Javier Bardem are quite impressive too, and I like Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit as well (despite category fraud issues).

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

1. A Serious Man
2. Barton Fink
3. Fargo

4. No Country for Old Men
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

6. The Big Lebowski
7. True Grit
8. The Man Who Wasn't There

9. Burn After Reading

Haven't seen the rest.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo Elechiguerra

Spoilers for Tim Brayton's 8/10 review in this comment section!

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Well, we know Hail Caesar! Is already a flop. Clooney has lost all movie star magic. His gig on Ellen was painful

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Boils

I think my top 5 would be:
1. Fargo
2. A Serious Man
3. No Country For Old Men
4. Barton Fink
5. Inside Llewyn Davis/Blood Simple

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

1. Miller's Crossing
2. A Serious Man
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. True Grit
5. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
6. Blood Simple
7. Burn After Reading
8. The Big Lebowski
9. No Country For Old Men
10. Fargo
11. The Ladykillers
12. Barton Fink
13. The Hudsucker Proxy
14. Intolerable Cruelty
15. Hail, Caesar!
16. Raising Arizona

The Man Who Wasn't There is the only one I haven't seen (I plan to rent that from iTunes in the near future, just to complete the set).

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

I've seen 15/17 (only missing the latest and "Miller's"). Of those, I'd say most underrated is "The Man who Wasn't there". Most overrated, by far: "A Serious Man", which I assume would have been called "Intolerable Cruelty" if they hadn't already used it.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I've seen them all except for The Man Who Wasn't There and the new one. I don't usually do these kinds of lists, but there are Coen films I think are beyond brilliant... and some that just don't work for me at all.

1. A Serious Man (*)
2. Miller's Crossing
3. Barton Fink
4. O Brother Where Art Thou
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. Fargo
7. The Hudsucker Proxy
8. No Country For Old Men
9. The Big Lebowski
10. True Grit
11. Blood Simple
12. Intolerable Cruelty
13. Burn After Reading
14. The Ladykillers

(* I know A Serious Man is widely misunderstood and underrated, but besides being a brilliant and serious meditation on life/God/fate/family/etc. - and simultaneously VERY funny - I am the same age of the Coens, and I have to tell you: their depiction of a 1967 suburban Jewish community/congregation is ASTOUNDINGLY accurate in every way!)

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

A shameful 7 (soon to be 8) of 17:

Favorites: No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, Fargo

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Whoops, I forgot Raising Arizona! Frankly, it's near the bottom. Not a fave.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

Have seen them all but I'm still high off of Hail Caesar! so I need to wait a bit. I think that will wind up in my top 5, for sure.

The only ones I disliked were Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

I think I'd rank my top 5 like this, but the fifth spot could easily change. Also numbers 2 and 3 are almost interchangeable.

1. Raising Arizona
2. No Country for Old Men
3. A Serious Man
4. Blood Simple
5. The Big Lebowski

I haven't seen The Hudsucker Proxy, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers or Hail Caesar yet. None of them saw any Oscar attention so I don't know when I'll get around to them. As for Fargo, I watched it again recently and I can admire the acting and signature Coen Brothers tone, but it's such a slimy movie. It's hard to feel good about myself at all while watching it because every character (save Frances McDormand and her husband) is absolutely deplorable. I'm probably the only person left who's happy The English Patient won in 1996, but that's how it goes.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

I've seen them all; the Coen's are about as idiosyncratic a couple of filmmakers you'll every find as even their poor movies have something interesting going on (other than The Ladykillers, which was painful to get through).

I haven't watched any in years but I distinctly remember loving Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, and A Serious Man.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

My rankings would be exactly the same as yours (same sentiments even) but just switch the orders between "No Country for Old Men" and "The Big Lebowski." I really like the former but can't quite love it as much as Lebowski or the top 2. Also, I know Cage is amazing in "Raising Arizona" but isn't Hunter also just as great in that? I actually nominate her for this movie instead of "Broadcast News," where she's also great.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

You know, just today I was thinking to myself, "Just how many movies have the Coens made, anyway?" And presto, here's your fab list. I've only seen 8 of the 17. Not really into ranking movies, but Fargo is one of my very favorites–I know it practically by heart. Inside Llewyn Davis, No Country, and a Serious Man are all really good too. I have to see Blood Simple, Barton Fink, and Raising Arizona again–liked them but can't remember them very well; True Grit was fine, well-made but not terribly emotionally involving, as I recall. But even when I don't hugely like what they are doing, I honor & appreciate the Coens. They are true originals. Def going to see Hail Cesar, but has to wait 'til next week (finally seeing Room tomorrow).

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I've only seen nine all the way through. Here's how I'd rank them:

1. A Serious Man
2. Inside Llewyn Davis

Very good:
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Fargo

5. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
6. True Grit
7. Barton Fink

Not for me:
8. The Hudsucker Proxy
9. The Man Who Wasn't There

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

1. Fargo
2. Blood Simple (the blueprint for parts of Fargo, especially in terms of setting and atmosphere)
3. Raising Arizona
4. No Country for Old Men
5. A Serious Man
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Barton Fink
9. Miller's Crossing (been a long time since I've seen this)
10. The Big Lebowski
11. True Grit
12. The Ladykillers
13. The Man Who Wasn't There
14. Burn After Reading

15. The Hudsucker Proxy (not sure why I haven't seen this)
15. Intolerable Cruelty
15. Hail Caesar!

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

No ranking here except to defend Intolerable Cruelty, which may be a bad Coen Brothers movie, but is a wonderful and fairly witty genre rom-com with terrific performances from both leads. For some reason I've accidentally watched it twice e.g. on tv or a plane and it's always lots of fun.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

I love that most people here love A Serious Man.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I've seen all but the first 3, an omission I really must get around to correcting. I tried RAISING ARIZONA once but I obviously wasn't in the mood, so I thought I'd leave it till I could appreciate it a bit better.

Their work has really grown on me over the years. I'd liked a lot of their films but it was only with A SERIOUS MAN and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS that I realised I had really become a fan and was committed now to seeing everything they did.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

01. raising arizona
02. inside llewyn davis
03. blood simple
04. miller's crossing
05. fargo
06. o brother where art thou
07. true grit
08. the man who wasn't there
09. no country for old men
10. the hudsucker proxy
11. barton fink
12. burn after reading
13. the big lebowski
14. the ladykillers
15. intolerable cruelty

yet to see: a serious man, hail caesar

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I've seen them all, of course, and all of them are at least very good, but Fargo and Inside Llewyn Davis are the two best.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I have seen 8 and this post has highlighted that I don't connect with the Coens' films. I would not rate any of them higher than B and I really hate Inside Llewyn Davis.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered Commentervaus

I've seen them all. Fargo is my absolute favorite, but Hudsucker Proxy and Raising Arizona are the ones I've seen more times.

The Ladykillers is awful. You can totally skip it.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Concur with Suzanne. Intolerable Cruelty is also pleasurable. The others seem too exhausting to watch again.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Boils

<I>The Ladykillers</I> is a terrible movie! Do not even bother watching it.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

I've seen 'em all except Hail, Caesar, which I'll see this week.

I liked Llewyn and A Serous Man more than you did, less so Hudsucker/ Man Who Wasn't/ Burn After.

And as a Lundegaard, my vote counts twice.

February 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErik

With "Hail, Caesar", I've now seen 10.

We're going to be seeing clips from "Hail, Caesar" for years, since the movie-star parts of it are such fun, and eminently clippable. Johanssen, Clooney, and Tatum are delightful. And of course, I love Alden Ehrenrich, one of the most satisfying characters in a Coen brothers movie.

Movie within a movie I'd like to see more of: "Merrily We Dance", with Ehrenrich, Jack Huston, Emily Beecham, Agyness Deyn, as directed by Ralph Fiennes.

Cons: poorly conceived and written - the kidnapping scenes (poor George). Zero interest -
Josh Brolin (sorry, Josh).

February 7, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

1. No Country For Old Men
2. Fargo
3. The Big Lebowski
4. The Man Who Wasn't There
5. O Brother Where Art Thou
6. A Serious Man
7. Burn After Reading
8. Raising Arizona
9. Intolerable Cruelty
10. Barton Fink
11. True Grit
12. The Ladykillers

I tried to watch Miller's Crossing, and Hudsucker Proxy but I quickly got bored, ditto Inside Llwellyn Davis and I still haven't seen Hail Caesar, but I have high hopes because the Coens always bring out the best in George Clooney.

February 7, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkris

Updating my list after seeing Hail Caesar!, which I think is better in parts than overall - it reminded me of The Hudsucker Proxy, a fantastic, elaborate production in support of a not-quite-working story. (Note that I still haven't seen The Man Who Wasn't There.)

1. A Serious Man
2. Miller's Crossing
3. Barton Fink
4. O Brother Where Art Thou
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. Fargo
7. The Hudsucker Proxy
8. No Country For Old Men
9. The Big Lebowski
10. Hail Caesar!
11. True Grit
12. Blood Simple
13. Intolerable Cruelty
14. Raising Arizona
15. Burn After Reading
16. The Ladykillers

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

Miller’s Crossing
Barton Fink
O Brother Where Art Thou

No Country For Old Men
Intolerable Cruely
True Grit

Blood Simple

Raising Arizona
The Man Who Wasn’t There

Burn After Reading
A Serious Man
Inside Llewyn Davis
Hail Caesar

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Just saw Hail Caesar. Somewhat underwhelmed but not terrible. Maybe the Coen bros are just not my thing.

I wish someone could explain to me why people rate Fargo so highly. I despised it - one of the dullest films ever. Worst Coen bros picture ever. I'd rather sit through Shymalan's The Happening. The funny accents are funny for about 12 seconds and the rest of the movie is a waste of time. Random scenes that make no sense. I've always expected that Siskel & Ebert were just experimenting to see that if they lavished incredible praise on an awful movie, how many people would jump on the bandwagon. I get the feeling it is an "Emperors New Clothes" thing, people just feel they have to say how great it is.

February 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEddie

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