All 18 Movies by the Coen Brothers, Ranked

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The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have collaborated on 18 movies since their spectacular debut “Blood Simple” in 1984. Their films are marked by scintillating dialogue, quirky and sometimes doomed characters, and an alchemy of dark comedy and foreboding, where greed and revenge often culminate in a grisly end.  

To determine the best Coen brothers movies, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of September 2022. All ratings were weighted equally. Data on cast credits came from IMDb. Only movies directed jointly by both Coen brothers were considered, and their recent documentary about Jerry Lee Lewis was omitted.

The brothers’ cinematic craftsmanship has been rewarded at the box office with three films grossing more than $60 million each. Their version of “True Grit” brought in more than $171 million at the box office. In addition, critics routinely hail their artistic vision and singular style. Of the 18 movies on the list, eight have received a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score of 90% or higher, and three of them have garnered an IMDb user rating of 8.0 or above out of 10. (See 17 movie remakes to steam that are better than the original.)

Two Coens’ films have won Academy Awards – “No Country For Old Men” and “Fargo,” with the former film named as Best Picture in 2008, one of its four Oscars. Eight other Coen brothers’  movies have been nominated for Oscars. (“Fargo” has also been rated by the critics as one of the 100 best movies of the last 100 years.)

Like many filmmakers, the Coens have developed a company of actors they prefer to work with. Frances McDormand, who won a Best Actress Oscar for “Fargo” in 1997, has appeared in eight of their films (she is married to Joel). Some of the more frequent collaborators include John Goodman and Steve Buscemi (five films each) and John Turturro and George Clooney (four each).

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

18. The Ladykillers (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 6.2/10 (102,157 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 43% (65,713 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 54% (193 reviews)
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall

Inspired by the British comic caper movie of the same name from 1955, this film features Tom Hanks playing an eccentric Southern professor leading a gang posing as a classical music ensemble that plans to rob a casino while staying with an unsuspecting but indomitable landlady. David Edelstein of Slate called the film “a very pleasant cartoon for grown-ups.”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

17. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
> IMDb user rating: 6.2/10 (94,562 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 48% (66,701 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 76% (188 reviews)
> Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton

George Clooney is a top Beverly Hills divorce lawyer hired to discredit the gold digger ex-wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of his client – and of course he winds up falling in love with her. Critics cited the onscreen chemistry between Clooney and Zeta-Jones, with Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian saying the movie was “a date-movie with brain cells.”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

16. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 6.3/10 (128,760 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 44% (40,924 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 85% (361 reviews)
> Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich

“Hail, Caesar!” is based on the experiences of real-life Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix, played here by Josh Brolin. Besides solving the problems of actors, directors, and singing cowboys, Mannix faces his toughest task when star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped while in costume for period epic “Hail, Caesar!” The film was more of a favorite among critics than audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s Critics Consensus calling film “an agreeably lightweight love letter to post-war Hollywood.”

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

15. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (79,069 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (43,248 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 60% (45 reviews)
> Starring: Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh

As part of a plan to tank a company’s stock, a newly minted business graduate (Tim Robbins) is made president of a manufacturing firm by the company board led by an unscrupulous executive played by Paul Newman. But the plot backfires when the new president’s product, the hula hoop, takes off and sends the company’s shares soaring. Duane Byrge of Hollywood Reporter called the film “a visually arresting but emotionally uninvolving dark comedy.”

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

14. Burn After Reading (2008)
> IMDb user rating: 7.0/10 (320,674 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 65% (187,981 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 78% (250 reviews)
> Starring: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney

This is a zany comedy about a personal trainer (Brad Pitt) who thinks he’s struck gold when he finds a memoir written by a CIA agent. He and a co-worker (Frances McDormand) decide to sell what they believe is secret government information to the Russians. The Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus said the film was “clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.”

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

13. A Serious Man (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (138,097 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 68% (63,182 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (225 reviews)
> Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick

Michael Stuhlbarg stars as a university physics professor whose life is falling apart in this dark comedy. His wife is leaving him, his unemployed brother is moving in with him, and his efforts to get tenure are being sabotaged. Felicia Foster of the Charleston City Paper called it “painfully comic, rueful to its core.”

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

12. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (133,130 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77% (3,708 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (234 reviews)
> Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a six-story anthology about the Old West based on stories written by Jack London and featuring Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Tom Waits, and Tyne Daly. Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader said “the various stories are unified by an impressive sense of craft and a lamentable sense of smugness.”

Source: Courtesy of USA Films

11. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (106,748 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (41,282 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 81% (160 reviews)
> Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco

The crime drama is about a barber (Billy Bob Thornton) in Northern California who uses the discovery of his wife’s infidelity as an opportunity for blackmail – but gets more than he bargained for. Kim Newman of Empire Magazine described the film as “a gripping, unusual and challenging work from the most consistently brilliant filmmakers of the last decade.”

Source: Courtesy of CBS Films

10. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (146,256 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 74% (45,114 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (286 reviews)
> Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman

Oscar Isaac plays a singer in the folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1961 who finds his path to success filled with obstacles. He leaves the clubs of the Village for Chicago hoping a music executive there will give him a break. Brian Eggert of Deep Focus Review opined that the “sharply observed tale” was “filled with darkly comic and cynical observations about its period and its soulful performer.”

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

9. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (298,246 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (256,798 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 78% (154 reviews)
> Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson

The first of four collaborations between George Clooney and the Coen brothers is about the journey of chain-gang escapees in 1930s Deep South searching for hidden treasure. Ads for the movie likened it to a latter-day telling of Homer’s “Odyssey.” Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus called the film “delightfully loopy.”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

8. Raising Arizona (1987)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (132,298 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (89,264 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (58 reviews)
> Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson

In “Raising Arizona,” Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter play a couple who are unable to have children and decide to kidnap a baby. The film, which New Yorker critic Pauline Kael said had a “rambunctious charm,” was the first of five collaborations between John Goodman and the Coens.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

7. True Grit (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (323,355 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (158,421 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (275 reviews)
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld

The movie is more of a film version of the original Charles Portis novel than a remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western based on the book. It’s about a teenage farm girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who recruits lawman Reuben Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her bring to justice the man who killed her father. The motion picture was nominated for 10 Academy Awards but failed to win any. Cory Woodroof of Lumination Network said the “Coen Brothers’ adaptation takes a darker, more solemn approach to the subject matter, which works perfectly.”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

6. Barton Fink (1991)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (117,023 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (45,410 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (61 reviews)
> Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis

John Turturro plays the titular character, a well-known New York playwright who gets writer’s block trying to write B-movie scripts in 1940s Hollywood. That turns out to be the least of his problems. Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus called the film “twisty and unsettling” and hailed the performances of the cast, which included John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, and Tony Shalhoub.

Source: Courtesy of Circle Films

5. Blood Simple (1984)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (92,147 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (39,229 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (104 reviews)
> Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya

“Blood Simple,” the first feature film directed by the Coens, won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1985. The stylish crime thriller is about a bar owner who hires a low-rent divorce detective to kill his cheating wife and her lover, and how the plot careens out of control. Adam Nayman of The Ringer said “what holds up best about ‘Blood Simple,’ besides its vice-tight plotting and the rotten charisma of M. Emmet Walsh’s evil, manipulative private eye Visser, is the sheer exuberance of the Coens’ visual style.”

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

4. The Big Lebowski (1998)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (766,228 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (356,600 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 83% (109 reviews)
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore

Memorable performances by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi helped propel “The Big Lebowski” to cult status. Bridges plays Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a middle-aged slacker in Los Angeles who likes to drink White Russians, bowl, and drive his 1973 Ford Gran Torino. Unfortunately for him, he has the same name as a millionaire whose wife owes money to dangerous people.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

3. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (130,940 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (50,596 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (61 reviews)
> Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro

“Miller’s Crossing” was lauded by some critics as the best gangster film since the “Godfather” movies. Boasting an impressive cast that included Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, and Marcia Gay Harden, the story takes place during Prohibition and involves a power struggle between competing gangs over liquor distribution. “The Coens’ take on Depression-era gangster flicks looks gorgeous and showcases John Turturro’s best acting ever,” said Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.

Source: Courtesy of Hispanic Education And Media Group

2. No Country for Old Men (2007)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (900,943 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (399,547 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (288 reviews)
> Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin

Spun out of Cormac McCarthy’s dark novel, this four-time Oscar winner starred Josh Brolin as a hunter who stumbles on the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad and pockets the cash left behind. Javier Bardem is a killer tasked with finding the hunter and the cash, and Tommy Lee Jones is an aging lawman trying to protect the hunter. Tom Charity of CNN.com called Bardem – who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role – “the most original bogeyman to bloody up the screen in a while.”

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

1. Fargo (1996)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (643,417 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (234,520 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (102 reviews)
> Starring: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi

A comedy about as dark as they come, “Fargo” won Oscars for the Coens for Best Writing and for Frances McDormand for Best Actress. The plot is set in the desolate winter landscape of Fargo, North Dakota, and revolves around an indebted car salesman (William H. Macy) who hires two thugs to kidnap his wife and hold her for ransom to be paid by her rich father. The scheme falls apart when the thugs shoot a state trooper.

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