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
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.
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.