Top 5 Coen Brothers Films
We love the Coen Brothers. Famously less interested in plot than they are eccentric characters and the absurdity of situations, the Coen Brothers’ style pays tribute to classic American cinema while still keeping a distinct postmodern ambience, with the use wry humour, irony and often brutal violence.
To celebrate the release of the Coen Brothers new comedy satire Hail, Caesar starring George Clooney among a load of others, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane. So kick back, grab a White Russian and enjoy our run-down of what we think are their best films to date!
5. Raising Arizona
In our opinion, almost certainly Joel and Ethan Coen’s most overlooked film, Raising Arizona followed their brilliant 1984 directorial debut in Blood Simple. The screwball comedy was a bit of a surprise at the time having followed a tense thriller, but ever refusing to be pigeon-holed, Raising Arizona packs bags of comic energy and probably one of Nicolas Cage’s best ever performances.
Set in the deep American Southwest, the whirlwind follows Cage and his wife as they help themselves to one of another family’s quintuplets. Thus ensues a tale about love, family and crime. It’s frantic, a little demented but very, very funny.
4. Burn After Reading
Less frantic that Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading showcases the Coen’s slow-burning off-beat humour better than anything else on our list. In true Coen fashion, the plot for Burn After Reading is brilliantly ridiculous; a disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two gym employees, played by Brad Pitt and Coen regular Frances McDormand. They attempt to sell it.
Burn After Reading’s strangeness won’t be for everyone but for us it’s everything that’s brilliant about the Coens. John Malkovich is as angry as you’d want and it’s probably Brad Pitt’s funniest ever role. The Coen’s even manage to make you cackle a beat after Pitt is shot in the head – an achievement in itself.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is far lower in key than much of the Coen’s work but it’s no less poignant. The incessantly bleak film follows a folk singer, played by Oscar Isaac, as he tries to find his big break in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1960’s New York City, all the while carrying around a stray cat.
On paper, Llewyn Davis is fairly miserable film but like all good films with sad material, the Coen’s nail profound melancholy note perfectly. The music is superb and Isaac brings an incredible sense of empathy to the role.
Having made two brilliant crime films in Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing and two off-the-wall comedies in Raising Arizona and The Hudsucker Proxy, Ethan and Joel decided to tie the two genres together and came up with the eerily, beautiful dark-comedy Fargo, which won the Academy Award for best screenplay.
Fargo sees a heavily pregnant police officer (Frances McDormand) investigating murders that ensue after a struggling car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in order to get a ransom from her wealthy father. It’s violent, quirky and darkly funny. No wonder they made a TV series out of it!
1. The Big Lebowski
While the others are all brilliant, top spot on our best Coen Brothers film list could only be taken by The Big Lebowski. In what is the definition of a cult classic, The Big Lebowski follows the exploits of enigmatic bowling-extraordinaire ‘The Dude’ (Jeff Bridges). Thanks to a series of mistaken identities, The Dude is asked by millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski to deliver a ransom to criminals who have stolen his trophy wife.
The Big Lebowski is all the performances and there are plenty of them here. Jeff Bridges has never been so perfect as The Dude who packs all the nonchalant grace you wouldn’t expect from such a giant, while John Goodman angry is about the funniest thing you’ll ever seen in cinema. No one does it like the Coen’s and The Big Lebowski is the peak for their thirst for the weird in Americana.
Hail, Caesar is released in UK cinemas today (4th March 2016).