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The Films of The Coen Brothers, Ranked From Worst to Best

The Films of The Coen Brothers, Ranked From Worst to Best

A Coen Brothers film has a certain singular rhythm, a certain irreverently acute love for Greek tragedy and Homeric adventures. In “Barton Fink,” a Hollywood producer demands that his film have “that Barton Fink Feeling.” The Coen Brothers’ films all have that Coen Brothers Feeling: the malaise of modernity, an endless fascination with losers and emasculated men.
To celebrate the legendary filmmaking duo, we ranked all of the films Joel directed or co-directed with Ethan. And since they’ve never helmed a bad film, even the bottom-ranking entries are better than most other filmmakers’ best offerings.

READ MORE: The Films of Alfonso Cuaraon, Ranked From Worst to Best

16. “True Grit” (2010)

The Coens remain more faithful to the Charles Portis novel than the 1969 Henry Hathway/John Wayne film, but something feels flat and lifeless here. Jeff Bridges’s grumpy, groggy Rooster Cogburn is a sight to behold, though one can’t help but see the spectral presence of John Wayne lingering. Wayne, one of the screen’s great inimitable but endlessly imitated personas, wasn’t much of an actor, yet his mere presence was often captivating. That presence, that grand feeling, is absent here. The Coens, for all their formidable formal maneuvers and stylistic inclinations, fail to conjure any real mystery or awe. Regardless, we get a few stunning set pieces, Bridges is obviously a much better actor than Wayne, and Hailee Steinfeld does an admirable job as the young girl who hires Cogburn. Not a bad film by any means, but certainly not up to par with the Coens’ others.

15. “Intolerable Cruelty” (2003)

George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones lead a typically stacked lineup of Coen regulars in this story of divorce attorneys and scheming women. Clooney has that old school Cary Grant-esque smarmy charm, and his performance is a slick as his salt-and-pepper hair. Zeta-Jones matches him beat by seductive beat, but the movie never feels as significant or daring as the Coens’ better comedies. 

14. “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994)

Tim Robbins plays an eccentric, jocular man who is appointed president (and proxy) of a sinking company by its insidious board leader (Paul Newman), and subsequently invents the hulahoop. I can’t think of a more Coen Brothers-y a subject for a film. Between this and Altman’s “The Player,” Robbins put in some of his best work in the early-’90s, and the scene in which he tries to explain the gyrating apparatus to a befuddled board of geriatric white men (“Does it have rules?” “What if you get tired?” “Is it a game?” “Will it break?” “It better break eventually!”) is typical Coens: sharp, syncopated dialogue and an almost existential longing on Robbins’ part (in this scene he never stops hulahooping). It also has Paul Newman, which automatically makes “The Hudsucker Proxy” decent at worst, brilliant at best.  

13. “The Ladykillers” (2004)

A group of criminal idiots plot to kill an old, church-going African American lady, played by Irma Hall (I don’t point out her ethnicity arbitrarily—it plays a significant part in the story) so they can use her basement to tunnel into a nearby casino. But these are the most incompetent criminals ever, and their every attempt fails miserably. The most underappreciated movie of the brothers’ career, this tar-black remake of a far more affable, less contentious ’50s British comedy starring Alec Guiness is ruthless in its pursuit of laughs. It’s so mean and insensitive, a lot of moviegoers dismissed it, and it’s often regulated to the bottom of the Coens’ filmography. Tom Hanks throws himself completely into the role of a sinister southern gentleman with awful facial hair and an even worse laugh; tapping the darkness of his turn in Sam Mendes’ gorgeous “The Road to Perdition” and the slapstick insanity of his early career comedies, Hanks gives one of his best performances. The whole motley crew, which includes J.K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Ma, and Ryan Hurst, is uproarious.

12. “Blood Simple” (1984)

Joel and Ethan’s debut feature, a blood-soaked neo-noir on a shoestring budget, contains many of the visual and thematic motifs that permeate their lustrous career. With playful trick shots (the camera gliding along a bar, hoping over a passed-out drunkard on the way to its eventual destination) and that sharp Coen humor, “Blood Simple” establishes the ingenuity the filmmakers have continually used to accentuate the eccentricities of American lowlifes. The story is familiar: a guy (John Getz) and a girl (Frances McDormand) plan to run off together; her husband (Dan Hedaya) doesn’t like that, so he hires a two-timing private eye-cum-killer (E. Emmett Walsh, spectacularly slimy) to take care of things. A handful of moments imbued with genuine suspense still rank among the most memorable in the post-noir film canon, especially those final moments.  

11. “Miller’s Crossing” (1990)

People who don’t love the Coens usually love “Miller’s Crossing”: it has a lighter, airier touch than the brothers’ subsequent gangster-noirs, and flows fluidly and confidently, like an old river, but doesn’t delve into hysteria like “Raising Arizona” or “The Big Lebowski.” It also lacks that Coen Brothers left turn, as Leonard Maltin calls it. Gabriel Byrne, doing his best work maybe ever, is a double-, triple-, quadruple-crossing gangster whose long-time boss, played by the great Albert Finney, goes to war with his hot-heated Italian rival, played by Jon Polito, because Polito wants to kill John Turturro’s shyster Jewish bookie. Marcia Gay Harden, Turturro’s sister, is sleeping with a few of them, which complicates matters. A transcendent experience that admittedly hits the occasional snag, this marks the beginning of the Coens’ insanely impressive ’90s output.

10. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001)

It seems a bit odd that it took the Coens almost 20 years before they experimented with black-and-white photography, since their films exclusively exist in the gray synapse between the bright light and pitch darkness. Filmed in color and converted post-production, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” is one of their most visually eloquent productions. Billy Bob Thornton, who chewed into his villainous role on FX’s fantastic “Fargo” with relish, is the title character, a fleshy shell of a man. Expunged of life, he’s a barber with a monotone voice in a monochrome world. His wife (Frances McDormand) and her boss (James Gandolfini, still in the beginning of “The Sopranos” when he filmed this) are sneaking around not-so-subtly behind his back, while a young Scarlett Johansson looks to him as a fatherly sage, and maybe more. A serene jaunt into sin, this has long been a favorite of the Coens’ devout followers. Whereas most neo-noirs are overly concerned with emulating the remorseless violence of noir, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” is concerned with consequences. It feels like a relic from the vault of Robert Aldrich.

9. “Burn After Reading” (2008)

The Coens create a reality inhabited exclusively by self-centered, paranoid ingrates, all of whom are deeply afflicted with the most vainglorious kind of ineptitude. Idiocy is a plague, according to John Malkovich, clearly having sardonic fun as the henpecked husband who gets fired from his CIA job because he had a drinking problem. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Frances McDormand are all at their funniest, but J.K. Simmons as a CIA administrator steals both of his brief scenes, and really the whole film, the kicker of the whole flick being that the CIA can’t even make sense of the rampant stupidity of the world, nor do they seem to care. Plus, dildo rocking chair.

8. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)

Channeling Homer as well as “Sullivan’s Travels,” this musical/crime capper/road picture/fairy tale hodgepodge is the Coens at their most scattershot, as well as their most adventurous. George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson are three chain gang escapees who serendipitously encounter various people of varying fictitiousness, from Baby Face Nelson to a black man who sold his soul to Old Scratch in order to play the guitar, on their way to finding hidden treasure (but really to stop Clooney’s ex-wife from getting remarried). Imbued with sepia-toned folk magnificence and rooted in magical realism, the film wrangles together virtually every possible genre known to man; if the results are messy, that’s fine, since it’s such a delightful, life-affirming mess.  

7. “A Serious Man” (2009)

Michael Stuhlbarg is Larry Gopnik, a sometimes-physics professor and full-time Jew having a life crisis. His wife wants a get (Jewish divorce) so she can marry another guy, and Larry finds himself slipping deeper into desolation. The Coens’ most Jewish movie (Larry has more than a bit of Job in him), “A Serious Man” tackles issues afflicting the Jewish Diaspora, but without ostracizing non-Jewish viewers. The opening, with the wicked-good character actor Fyvush Finkel, has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and almost feels like a Mario Bava short, but it’s nonetheless enthralling; and that ending shot…   

6. “Raising Arizona” (1987)

Nicolas Cage has rarely been so lovable as the a wild-haired small-time criminal with a big heart and modest ambitions. Stare in bewilderment as Cage taps into that affable sort of crazy that he still occasionally conjures when he’s not scrounging for money at the bottom of a third-tier action flick. Marvelously paired with Holly Hunter, Cage plays the role with innocent, rambunctious charm, in a sweaty Hawaiian shirt. The hellish biker scenes in particular are outstanding fun.  

5. “Barton Fink” (1991)

Penned while the brothers were struggling with “Miller’s Crossing,” this seething, surreal indictment of artists (something they’d revisit with “Inside Llewyn Davis”) spews venom at Hollywood sell-outs as well as self-important writers. (Faulkner gets an especially lacerating depiction, masterfully performed by John Mahoney.) John Turturro plays the title character, a left-wing playwright who claims to be a champion of the people but who never seems to actually give a shit about the people. John Goodman, that big ol- cuddly, sweaty bear in suspenders, plays his neighbor, Charlie, a door-to-door salesman who has some stories to tell, if Barton ever listens. The hotel in which Barton and Charlie live is as much a character as either of those men, with its oozing, secreting walls and long, ominous halls. One of the more polarizing Coen flicks, “Barton Fink” doesn’t pretend to peddle in bankability, as it revels in literary allusions and abrupt changes in tone and timbre. It’s also notable for being the first Coen film shot by God—er, I mean Roger Deakins — as well as being responsible for Cannes changing its rules to limit films to one major award, as “Barton Fink” nabbed Best Picture, Actor, and Director unanimously. 

4. “The Big Lebowski” (1998)

Remember when this Chandler-esque non-mystery flopped in 1998? No, you were probably still a child who, like most of its dearly devoted, discovered “The Big Lebowski” on DVD in the early-aughts. While many of its fanatics seem to belie the whole post-modern detective farce at the heart of the film in favor of brandishing its more latent stoner tendencies, “The Big Lebowski” is nonetheless a masterpiece of absurdism, that rare entity that, while fervidly beloved by masses (there’s even a Lebowski shop in New York’s SoHo), still feels fresh and hip. While not as visually imaginative as their subsequent films (that musical dream sequence notwithstanding), the tale of The Dude (Jeff Bridges), his Vietnam Vet chum Walter (John Goodman), and the gregarious Donny (Steve Buscemi) is dense with layers and entendres. Plus, Philip Seymour Hoffman has the most awkward laugh this side of Jeff Goldblum. If you burn too much of the Devil’s lettuce before watching, the myriad nods to George Bush (the first one) and the Gulf War may go right over your head, man.

3. “Fargo” (1996)

As good as FX’s television reimagining is, the original film is a certifiable classic. Let’s just name a few of the film’s accomplishments: Frances McDormand’s pregnant police chief Marge Grunderson has more humanity and depth than most films manage to convey with an entire array of characters. William H. Macy’s myriad stutters and stammers are all scripted, showing the careful consideration the Coens put into their films. Carter Burwell’s score evokes the despondent feeling of trying to reach out and grab nebulous whorls of breath in the frigid Minnesota air. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare’s clashing lowlifes could be comedic relief in a lesser film, but are here equally essential to the mood and narrative (while still providing some riotous laughs). And has there been a more wonderful depiction of marriage than Marge and Norm (Carroll Lynch)? The (not true) story concerns an idiot trying to coerce money from his stingy father-in-law by having his own wife kidnapped, which, of course, goes immediately awry. Rarely has violence been used with such fierce conviction: rather than dwelling on the bloodshed, the Coens use murder as a means to advance a story. Human lives matter in “Fargo,” and killing only ever creates more problems. To lift the tagline from another Coens film, “There Are No Clean Getaways.”     

2. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)

Imbued with an all-pervading melancholy, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a cryptic, poetic ode to art and the artists that make it. Oscar Isaac is the titular folk singer, who embarks on an Ouroboros of an adventure, seemingly designed by Sisyphus himself. Oscar is one of the great film assholes of recent memory. No other Coens character is so deeply rooted in, and such an unmistakable product of his world. Oscar’s ashen, icy New York is a turgid concrete tundra rendered in grayscale. Everything is the color of stale cigarette smoke. The most important aspect of Oscar’s plateau-like arc is that Oscar isn’t a genius; if he was, the movie would be a different kind of tragic, the familiar story of a brilliant artist whose work goes unappreciated until, suddenly, it doesn’t. Oscar is good, but so is virtually every other musician we meet here. The brief digression with John Goodman as a cankerous, heroin-addled jazz musician may seem arbitrary and pointless, but it still elicits a singular morose feeling. Most great comedies make you laugh and then make you cry, and then make you laugh; “Inside Llewyn Davis” makes you laugh while you’re crying.

1. “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

Staying painstakingly faithful to Cormac McCarthy’s bleak-as-fuck novel, the Coens crafted one of the most enthralling, elusive works of cinematic art of the last decade in the guise of a neo-western. With shades of Howard Hawks, the filmmakers eschew their usual flamboyance and use the vast beige landscape of southern Texas, its purported normality and dusty nothingness, as a kind of self-contained purgatory from which the characters can never escape. The violence hits as hard as in a Peckinpah film, but without the self-conscious deprivation. Josh Brolin is really good as the blue collar Vietnam vet who stumbles upon a vast sum of drug money; Javier Bardem (nabbing Supporting Actor honors) is even better as the enigmatic killer on his trail, a murderous apparition who adheres to his own unique code; and Tommy Lee Jones is incredible as the veteran sheriff chasing after both men. From his opening narration, delivered in a measured rhythm with subtle inflections and deadpan irreverence, Jones captivates with his usual sapient demeanor, calm and considered but still baffled by the ineffable violence erupting around him. Featuring some of the Coens’ most articulate framing, careful and calculated camerawork, and lucid photography, “No Country for Old Men” exists on a plane separate from their other films. It lacks a true musical score, yet its sparse dialogue, purged of anything even resembling superfluity, maintains the syncopated rhythm typical of a Coens’ film. On a technical level, this is as close to perfect as movies get. 

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A perfect list. I would have put "A Serious Man" nearer to "No Country", but I thought you did it justice.

shale Brownstein md

do a Zionism film–like spotlight
do "spotlight" on zionism
killing palestinian kids etc intifada I to start…..include zochrot and uri avnery
…I am 82 and was at gesher ziv in 1951
can you do Zionism???? palestinian kids? rabin?
born 7/15/33


worst list ever


Liked some of your choices (True Grit at 16, Inside Llewyn Davis at 2) but you lose credibility by ranking Barton Fink at 5 – that movie is unwatchable.


Big Lewbowski

Jamey DuVall

I don’t agree with the order of any of the films on this list, but why should I expect to? Personal preferences are not to be confused with facts. Don’t people know how to read criticism anymore? Why does everyone get pissed when the critic’s perspective isn’t the exact match of their own? Are readers really that lazy and self-inflating?

Mike Mennonno

The author is, like, 12. Whatever.


Ladykillers three places above True Grit. Ridiculous.

Lance Manyon

Is Cwik Armenian for full of crap?

Jeanne Marie Wiestling

Always fun to critique the critic. Wonderfully written, well-considered ranking. Not the way I’d do it, but I didn’t come here looking for my opinion to be validated, but in seeking to appreciate that which I may have missed due to the timing/circumstance of my first viewing of the Coens’ many worthy films. Thank you.


Oh dear, oh dear …. "Blood Simple" ….. near the bottom ….. really ??

Jim T

Miller’s Crossing is #11? What is Indiewire smoking?


With you on True Grit, Miles. Well, I don’t necessarily agree "far and away their best", but definitely in the top five. My favorite of the pure dramas. Whoever made this list needs to watch True Grit again.


I love True Grit and hate Inside Llewyn Davis. Also, what the hell is Raising Arizona doing above O Brother? I know Arizona has become a classic, but that doesn’t mean it’s better than some of those others.


This really is a terrible list. The movies are way out of order but from a fans standpoint, you are dropping some of their better films to the lowest point because they may not have been a success on the theater.

matt henry

No, no, no. Ture Grit was bad, as was Intolerable Cruelty but…. the only movies with real non-tent pole soul were Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, A Serious Man and Inside Llelewyn Davies. The rest were bad or comic book. Still to have made four films as good as this… genius.


Seems like the author of this list bit off more than he could chew, particularly regarding the ranking. My guess is that every single person reading this would have found an alternate ranking for all of the movies. For example, I would have put Raising Arizona at number 1 and Inside Llewyn Davis at the bottom. Maybe that’s the genius of the Coen Bros.: their ability to reach all different audience tastes. What may work for you in their latest won’t work for others, and vice versa for their next. FWIW, my order would have been: 1 – Raising Arizona, 2 – The Big Lebowski, 3 – Fargo, 4 – No Country, 5 – O Brother Where Art Thou, 6 – Hudsucker Proxy, 7 – Blood Simple, 8 – The Man Who Wasn’t There, 9 – Barton Fink, 10 – The Ladykillers….and the rest I just didn’t like at all.


The most enjoyable to me, The Big Lebowski. A movie I can watch over and over and pick up at any point. No Country and Fargo, wow, how can you say one is better than the other, each a master piece. But for those that rate movies, I think Fargo will climb the list of best ever higher than No Country.


As all have said, clever wording of critique but useless insight into the Coen Brogthers legacy. A fool in print is what results from this sad review. Do not waste time reading.


I actually found this list right on, and I had faith in it from the beginning. But.. my current favorite is Inside Llewyn. That said, I’d say the list is perfect, clearly created by somebody who has paid full attention to the work of the directors. In comedy right now, I’d say the Cohens, Wes Anderson and Ben Stiller are my favorite directors.

hansraj meena

Add your voice to the conversation…





Booker T

All forms of art, artists of any kind, and lists (top guitarists – whatever) are totally subjective in nature, so while I disagree with this list, I wouldn’t be as rash to call it a bad one. Love the Coen Brothers. Here’s mine: (I am embarrassed to say I’ve never seen Blood Simple though I’ve sought it out. I saw Miller’s Crossing when I was very young and did not care to watch all of it. I also saw Barton Fink when I was young and did not care for it, but I feel both are worth re-watching before ranking.
13. Inside Llewyn Davis – This guy’s second favorite is my least. Thoroughly unlikable. Except for the John Goodman sequence, it’s the least Coen Bros.- esque movie of any (even less than the two adapted works – True Grit & No Country for Old Men).
12. Intolerable Cruelty – Just doesn’t deliver watch you expect from these guys. Formulaic.
11. – The Ladykillers – I liked Hanks’s performance and enjoyed Irma P. Hall and J.K. Simmons, but I have to believe this will be the only time I see the words Marlon Wayans and uproarious in the same sentence.
The next four movies I only saw once so, again, not sure how to properly rank them – A Serious Man (interesting), Burn After Reading (not great, but memorable moments. Clooney and McDormand are always in sync with the Coen Bros., and Malkovich is great in their world), The Hudsucker Proxy (Leigh can be a little much at times, but commend her and them for going all out), and the black and white Noir The Man Who Wasn’t There with Thornton are two that I’d also like to revisit.
6. True Grit – One of the most pleasurable movie theatre experiences for me in the last decade. Loved Bridges and Steinfeld who was far more than just "admirable".
5. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? – As a Mississippian, I was excited to see a film by two of my favorite film makers made in my home state. What stood out most, at first, was the soundtrack, but this has been run on television arguably more than any other of their films and on each viewing, I enjoy it more and more. Very dense & layered.
4. No Country for Old Men – Arguably the best film they ever made, but since it’s not original, it also isn’t quite as unique and doesn’t have as much charm as some of their others. It also seemed to have one or two too many endings, but it’s still fantastic.
3. The Big Lebowski – So much (including a cool soundtrack); but dude, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman – need I say more?
3. Fargo – I have to say that as much as I thought of this movie, I absolutely LOVED the miniseries which of course wouldn’t have been possible without this great, unforgettable film, and I think my admiration for the TV show has raised my respect for the film.
1. Raising Arizona – My introduction to the Coen Brothers and a movie that, despite the fact I own it, I have to watch anytime it’s on TV. Regulars Goodman & McDormand shine, but every single cast member is a delight especially leads Nicolas Cage & Holly Hunter. Everything (the camera work, the music, the dialogue, the acting) just blew my mind, and it is still one of my favorite movies of all time.


terrible ranking in my view. Don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t think The Big Lebowski is the best Coen Brothers movie of all time and possibly one of the best movies of all time period. Always thought NCFOM was overrated. And O Brother…8?? Really? Boy this list makes no sense.


I haven’t seen The Hudsucker Proxy or The Man Who Wasn’t There, but here’s my list of the 14 I have seen (best to worst).

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


I don’t agree with everything here, but I like the list. Many people are afraid of considering No Country their best because it has already been so recognized and it is big and seemingly expensive and it is less "out there" than others and so it seems smarter to pick Barton Fink or Blood Simple, or sometimes my favorite with No Country: Fargo. I do think True Grit, though more conventional, is genius even in its conventionalism (though I wouldn’t place it in the top 5). Intolerable Cruelty is still down there and it deserves. I do think Blood Simple is their only movie that though loved for it being obscure and indie looking and so it sounds smart and sophisticated to place it at the top, is their least perfect and less confident outing. Yet, it is amazing in certain details and important in movie history as a whole, better for sure than Cruelty and maybe Ladykillers. In the end all their stuff is pretty great and it is better to say from their good to their best in such a list than using the term "worst".


If you (indiewire) haven’t can you please rank Michael Haneke’s films


While "No Country for Old Men" was set in Texas, the movie was filmed in New Mexico. Give the Land of Enchantment the credit it deserves!


    Part of it was filmed in Texas. They had to cancel shooting for a day because PTA was filming TWBB oil explosion scene and the smoke was in the backround.


One does not simply rate Coen brothers flicks..


Great to see the Cohen brothers’ list. Key players in modern cinema. For me, Blood Simple and Fargo are exceptional among a collection of films outside the ordinary.


Funny to see so many archly held, yet contrasting, opinions about two of the most innovative, idiosyncratic filmmakers ever to wield a camera. That True Grit would rank at the end of one list and rest atop another says everything. For my part, and just to add to the argument, I think the Indiewire list vastly underrates Miller’s Crossing.


Yeah this is a really bad list.


WRONG! Lebowski is 1… Llewyn belongs at the bottom. nice try though.


i also don’t see a point in having a list. That’s purely their opinion and there’s no reason why people need to agree with that ranking. What a waste of time…


Have to join in…a truly terrible and pointless list. That Intolerable Cruelty would rank above True Grit is ridiculous, and that Inside LD would be in second place is equally so. But, maybe the bigger point to make is that ranking them at all is to discredit the people who made this amazing body of work, not "honor" them.

James Edwards

Stopped reading when it listed Blood Simple as #12. Congrats to Mr. Cwik on his recent discovery of the Coen Brothers. You sure you don’t want to list Jackie Brown as the best Tarantino film as well?

Dennis Wild

Cant believe True Grit is at the bottom. And Fargo may actually be my top equal with "No Country for Old Men"


Once upon a time, Indiewire didn’t suck. That was a long time ago.


So basically, you just put random numbers in front of Coen Bros movies and called it good, right? I know opinions are opinions, but putting O Brother at 8, putting Llewyn at 2, and putting pretty much anything below Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty or Burn After Reading just borders on some kind of insanity.


Inside lewyn Davis: #2. That is a travesty.


    It’s so funny how no matter what the list would be, there would be people coming on here trying to throw shade at the author. It’s an opinion. I agree heavily with the high ranking of ILD (it would actually be #1 for me), and disagree with the low placement of Miller’s Crossing. I’m sure if ANY of you posted your ranked Coen’s list, there would be a bunch of people tearing you to shreds too and saying that you have no credibility. That’s the thing about the Coens. Their movies are so good that someone’s favorite is someone else’s least favorite and visa-versa.

chris solarz


Sam A

The top two on this list are infuriating. Inside Llewyn Davis should barely crack the top ten. And No Country for Old Men is top 6, at best (the film did nothing that McCarthy’s novel didn’t do twice as well). I’d put top three as (1) Fargo, (2) Lebowski, (3) Fink. Also agree with DT that Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing should be much higher up.

Ronnie Pudding

This list is the worst thing that’s ever happened. On an internet listicle of horrible things I’d rank it above 9/11.

Robin Martin

This type of article is a pretentious fraud, and a dreadful exhibition of a wannabe filmmaker who never got beyond talking about it.

odd grythe

Great list. True Grit is horrible. Look forward to check out the few films I have missed.


I’ll side with the majority here. Terrible list. Way to fail indiewire. It works as clickbait but what braindead intern did you get to write this article? Here, I’ll work gratis and do a better job in 5 minutes…

16) Inside Llewyn Davis
15) Burn After Reading
14) Hudsucker Proxy
13) Intolerable Cruelty
12) The Man Who Wasn’t There
11) Miller’s Crossing
10) Blood Simple
9) Ladykillers
8) True Grit
7) Barton Fink
6) Fargo
5) Raising Arizona
4) A Serious Man
3) No Country For Old Men
2) The Big Lebowski
1) O Brother Where Art Thou?

Every list is subjective of course. My top 5 could flip-flop on any given day, but Llewyn Davis is not even a top ten contender.


"…and Tommy Lee Jones is incredible as the veteran sheriff…"
Surely, the journalist here meant to use a word other than ‘incredible’?


oh how very indie


A two-tiered list, instead: Intolerable Cruelty as the worst–the only "worst." And everything else as remarkable or even great…


this may be the worst ranking ever. Llewelyn Davis at the top?

Rich Horton

Pointless to comment I suppose … as other have noticed, the list seems purposely wrongheaded. The best Coen Brothers film is MILLER’S CROSSING, in my opinion, but I could see arguments for FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, even TRUE GRIT, NO BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, and BLOOD SIMPLE. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is a step below. My choice for favorite "bad" Coen Brothers film is THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, which I loved but I can see it’s a mess. And the worst are INTOLERABLE CRUELTY and THE LADYKILLERS (with BARTON FINK a problematic weird thing that some might love but that I could not get into).


Bad list! Or for critics only rather than film lovers.


As a late entry to the Coen brothers fan following, I’m a little biased to their later works. No Country.. agreed, deserves to be in the top three. But show True Grit a little more love.

Bill, The Regular Guy

It’s great that Greg Cwik has a job, but it’s obvious why indiewire. Dude, Ladykillers is the worst.


No Country should live near the bottom..It was excellent until the scene where dude escapes the chasing dogs. Then it’s as if it was handed to the staff writers. It was a heavy handed moral commentary about time with a creepy villain. So what? I’m a huge CB fan, but this list is pretty much on par with the relevance of my opinion of it.


The mark of a great film is one that you can return to again and again and still get something out of them.
1. The Big Lebowski
2. The Man Who Wasn’t There
3. True Grit (I don’t consider it a masterpiece)


This list sucks.


Actually I appreciated this list. I don’t like Inside Llewyn Davis and I probably won’t, but this is articulate for a brief worst to best, and some of your observations are spot on—No Country, for example. Thanks for posting.


True Grit is actually quite a good film. I’d put Hudsucker Proxy at the bottom. Also Blood Simple and Miler’s Crossing are such good films that if the Coen brothers had stopped making films in the early 90’s they would be cult classics.


Are you kidding??? Hudsucker Proxy worse than lady killers AND Burn After Reading?? Ladykillers is without a doubt their absolute worst. Hudsucker is aces!


Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the worst movies I have ever suffered. I only watched it because of the NPR piece about the cat. It is not even on the same planet as the big lebowski


Whatever your opinion of the Coen’s oeuvre, I’m surprised it’s not universally agreed upon "The Ladykillers" is their worst. That film is a disaster.


A terrible list. I’m a huge fan and I disagree with the order completely. Inside Llewwyn Davis is not a great movie, though it has great acting, and some fantastic scenes. Miller’s Crossing is far better. That’s just a start. You could crowdsource and get a better list in 15 minutes.


Barton Fink? No Country For Old Men? Inside Llewyn Davis? Come on. This is precisely what’s wrong with critics. Let’s see. No resolution. No character arc and a big "What’s the point," unless you go to the movies to be bummed out. Now, "Fargo", "True Grit", "The Big Lebowski" and "Raising Arizona" are wonderful, entertaining films.


Why is the writer suggesting that Fargo is a )not true) story? It is completely based on fact. Only the names were changed. BUt I do agree with the other posters–this seems to be a meaningless list.


my thoughts:
1-4 (top of the line): fargo, raising arizona, no country for old men, barton fink (this one for the cinephile)
5-10 (in no order, all equally great in different ways) miller’s crossing, big lebowski, true grit, blood simple, a serious man
10 (flawed masterpiece?) o brother where art thou?
11 (peculiarly flawed) hudsucker proxy
12 (thin movie) ladykillers
13 (not a very good movie) burn after reading

i haven’t seen intolerable cruelty, inside llewyn davis or man who wasn’t there


The point of lists like these is to provoke thought and debate and generously remind readers that these filmmakers possess an enviable canon of masterpieces. Whether you agree or not with the order, [and of course, I don’t] you have to appreciate the warmth and goodwill of the commentary. In fact, this is some of the finest writing on the Coen’s I’ve seen. I particularly like ‘nebulous whorls of breath’. Greg Cwik should be congratulated for formulating such a considered analysis in such a short space, instead of being attacked for daring to have an opinion that doesn’t exactly conform to your own, equally valid opinions. That is all.


A Serious Man is their best film.


Worst List Ever. Who on earth would rank True Grit below some of these others? It only serves to disqualify this ‘critic’s’ (who isn’t) opinion.


This list is terrible. Did a monkey write this?


I’m also surprised to see True Grit so low, though it’s not so egregious as a few people have said it is. Otherwise, the list is reasonably close to what I have: 1) The Big Lebowski, 2) Fargo, 3) Blood Simple, 4) Raising Arizona, 5) No Country For Old Men, 6) Inside Llewyn Davis, 7) Barton Fink, 8) O Brother Where Art Thou, 9) A Serious Man, 10) True Grit, 11) Burn After Reading (I haven’t seen the other 5)


I never understand why people get so mad if a list of rankings doesnt match their own. Isnt that the beauty of a great director’s movies? That one person’s least favorite can be someone else’s number 1? If anything, it just goes to show how rich and varied the coens’ filmography is. Just make your own goddam list, people! And on that note, here’s mine: 1) Miller’s Crossing; 2) No Country; 3) Big Lebowski 4) True Grit; 5) Fargo; 6) The Hudsucker Proxy; 7) Inside Llewyn Davis; 8) Blood Simple; 9) Barton Fink; 10) Raising Arizona; 11) O Brother Where Art Thou; 12) A Serious Man; 13) Burn After Reading; 14) Man who Wasn’t There; 15) Intolerable Cruelty; 16) The Ladykillers (and to my mind, these are all good-to-great movies, even number 16!)

Dic Peip

I’ve seen some bad listicles in my day, but this one takes the cake. I’ve been following this author for a while – and it’s obvious he knows nothing about movies. And to publish such a travesty in honor of the birth of one of our nation’s most important and celebrated directors is simply offensive. I mean… he left out Daylight! How you gonna make a list like this and leave out Daylight?!? Has Mr. Cwik even seen a Cohen movie?! I can understand omitting The Fast and the Furious, as the film is more a prologue to a much greater body of work (much in the way the first Jaws film arguably stood solely to introduce audiences to the journey the shark would take over the course of the subsequent four films), though I expect and look forward to a comprehensive ranking of the Fast and Furious films next from Cwik… And I assume Stealth was overlooked for political reasons (and salute Indiewire for respecting the fragile state of affairs in the Koreas).

Mr Cwik, I recommend you leave the basement every now and then and see some actual daylight. Maybe that’ll give you some insight into what real people value in filmmaking. Also, what do you think of the new Star Wars trailer?

Keegan Walker

It’s not an easy task to rank their impressive filmography, but I really must disagree with some of these choices. True Grit is an impressive film, although it is certainly lacking in much ‘mystery or awe’, but is it significantly better than ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’, or ‘The Ladykillers’. It’s a better effort than ‘Burn After Reading’ as well. I would argue that ‘Miller’s Crossing’ and ‘Blood Simple’ are both stronger than ‘Burn After Reading’ and ‘Raising Arizona’ is actually a relatively weak effort as a film, even if wildly enjoyable. I definitely agree with the top four, though. My list would have to be: 1. No Country for Old Men, 2. Inside Llewyn Davis, 3. Fargo, 4. The Big Lebowski, 5. Barton Fink, 6. A Serious Man, 7. Miller’s Crossing, 8. Raising Arizona, 9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?, 10. The Man Who Wasn’t There, 11. Blood Simple, 12. True Grit, 13. Burn After Reading, 14. Intolerable Cruelty, 15. The Ladykillers, 16. The Hudsucker Proxy.


I haven’t seen ILD, but Millers Crossing is their most perfect film, especially the Art Direction. And The Ladykillers was a living abortion.


What? Another pointless exercise in pomposity? These 16 films are better than the so-called movies being slapped together today. Why bother with a list? But, as long as we are going to debate the obvious, Fargo is #1. Period.


What a load of sh*t. Have you watched any of these Films? or are you just trying to get the Guinness Book of Records ‘Most comments for a crap article’.


The point of these arbitrary lists is to generate comments


I’ve seen every single Coen movie (except "No Country for Old Men"). I can’t watch the extreme violence that takes place. But I have been assured b my husband that it is a great movie. Looking forward to the next Coen offering!


Guys what is the point in bashing their lists? So what if they’re not the same as yours? Who care? Just because "most people" see Ladykillers as one of the worst doesn’t mean everyone does (and it wasn’t even very high anyway)

Anyway great top 3, Fargo, Llewyn Davis and No Country are my favourite Coen films too. Oh and Big Lebowski :)

Greg Tulonen

Miller’s Crossing doesn’t crack the top ten? Well, everyone is of course entitled to an opinion, but this one is wrong.


In awe that True Grit ended up at the very bottom of this list given that it’s far and away the best film the Coen Brothers have ever made.


agree with david. this is a poor list. most people see blood simple as an early master piece, and the ladykillers as one of their worst. also inside llewyn davis has been considered "slight" by many. fargo should at least trump that if not be at the absolute top. it’s brilliant mix of black humour and violence has never been surpassed, not by scorcese, tarantino or anyone. the reason? because the coen brothers also manage to make their character human and loveable, especially marge, one of the most unforgettable female character to grace the screen in decades. yes, decades! lovely, smart, hilarious. what a tour de force. for that reason alone, perhaps, she should top the list. after all, barde’s character is just the embodiment of death and chance. it’s much more difficult to depict an independent, smart and cool human female – apparently! the coens did it smashingly in fargo. it’s my top pick for sure.


What’s the point of ranking their films? I’d make my own points about why so many choices on here miss the mark but I don’t want to give the satisfaction. There has got to be a more clever way to celebrate these guys on one of their birthdays that speaks to the void they fill in a world of watered down popular film. Generic lists should be left for generic filmmakers. The Coens deserve better.

David Topper

What a bad list. Seriously all your new lists on Cuaron, Kathryn and now this are horribly wrong. Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing at the bottom?


Just watched Blood Simple again after many years and was astounded how good they were in every way, back then. I’m ready for another, astounding film.


I’m sorry but I couldn’t take this list seriously when True Grit is behind The Ladykillers, in fact I can’t take it seriously when Ladykillers isn’t dead last, in fact it shouldn’t even be mentioned. What a terrible film. Definitely their lowest point.

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