Your Top Three: Coen Brothers Movies

Your Top Three: Coen Brothers Movies

Dec 07, 2013

Your Top Three is a series here at where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.

There aren't many filmmakers as consistently great as Joel and Ethan Coen. They make movies of a certain style all their own, and so it's hard to be a fan of one and not be a fan of them all. Or at least most. Yes, they have had a couple less favored works, namely Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, but for the most part their oeuvre is of a quality that should make today's Top Three discussion a difficult one. It'd be easier just to pick a single favorite than to pick out a trio of movies exclusively better the rest. 

Another thing that would probably be easier is to separate the more ridiculous efforts from the more serious. I just don't know we can pit even their first two features, Blood Simple and Raising Arizona, against each other. One is a modern noir masterpiece, the other a cartoonishly broad yet still brilliant caper. The only thing they really have in common is crime. Likewise, it's tough to balance their two musicals, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the brand new Inside Llewyn Davis, the latter of which I haven't yet seen so can't properly rank anyway.

For me, selecting the top three is more about choosing those I return to the most (as in their being rewatchable, something we've discussed in the past) rather than picking which is the best. I think Fargo is the one I admire most as a great work of cinema, but I burned out on it early on and haven't seen it in a while. I tend to want to like Barton Fink more than I actually do like it, on account of my middle name being Barton, which is a dumb reason. And I believe The Man Who Wasn't There to be their most underrated film and a more effective one aimed at a feeling of an era than either The Big Lebowski or The Hudsucker Proxy (which as you'll see below is still one of my favorites).

Oh, but Miller's Crossing has some of the best character scenes and A Serious Man has one of my choices for greatest endings of all time. I've never seen The Ladykillers or True Grit and I am certain I need to give Burn After Reading another chance after being disappointed when it came out.

So, for now at least, the following are my picks for the top three Coen brothers movies:

1. Raising Arizona

Maybe it's because I grew up with it, or maybe it's because after 25 years I both (think I) know it completely by heart and yet also notice something I've never spotted before with each viewing. Like all my top three picks, this one is preferred for its wild performances -- this probably being the movie that made me appreciate nonrealistic acting that serves the story -- more than for the script. Except for this line, which I've always loved so much:

2. The Hudsucker Proxy

I blame my love of Capra for my love of this flawed yet fantastically alluring film. It's the one I have the strangest relationship with in that I tend to not love watching it as much as I think I will or do. And while I'm conscious of that issue, I can't stop watching it and rewatching it. One of the reasons is that I do at least have a great fondness for the production design... and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

One of the reasons I'm set on revisiting Burn After Reading someday is that I didn't love this one at first either (same goes for Lebowski and Intolerable -- the latter I've never wanted to retry, though). It's not only grown on me, but it's now the one that makes me laugh the most. I think it's helped that I've become a fan of Sturges and other Depression era films (besides Capra's) since it came out. 


Your Picks (the top three being FargoThe Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men):




















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