I said at the beginning I would do an updated ranking of the 16 films at the end, so here it is. The number in brackets is where I had the films (minus Inside Llewyn Davis, which I had not seen at the time) last time to show you the movement (and there was some movement) since I started this re-watch. The Coens filmography, more than most, is one that doesn’t always lend itself to consensus – ask five different Coen fans for a list of their top five films, and you’re likely to see every film they’ve ever made (minus Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty) show up on someone’s.
16. (15) Raising Arizona (1987) – Still the film of The Coens I just don’t like – it’s a comedy where the Coens try to add in some serious elements, and it doesn’t work. Whenever one looks to take over, and a scene develop in a logical fashion, the other comes in and ruins it. I’ve seen it 4 or 5 times now – and I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never like a film that many think is among their best.
15. (13) The Ladykillers (2004) – A goofy lark of a film, with two great performances by Tom Hanks and Irma P. Hall, and not a whole lot else. It was fun the first time through, less so the second.
14. (14) Intolerable Cruelty (2003) – This actually improved a little on second viewing – it still seems like the Coens cruising, but it was a lot of fun.
13. (12) The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – The charges of this being all style and little substance are true – but what wonderful style!
12. (11) Burn After Reading (2008) – An underrated, hilarious, extremely cynical farce. Would be a triumph for most filmmakers, but is minor only when compared to the Coen’s masterpieces.
11. (7) Miller's Crossing (1990) - A stylistic masterwork, that left me a little cold on this most recent viewing. John Turturro is still great though, and that coldness is deliberate.
10. (10) True Grit (2010) – Perhaps the least personal of all Coen films, but still an exciting Western, and a necessary corrective to the John Wayne film. Most filmmakers couldn’t do this at all, so while it isn’t as “Coen-esque” as most of their work, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
9. (9) Blood Simple (1984) – A brilliant debut – a stylistic tour-de-force that announced a major new voice in American film, and still works as a film unto itself.
8. (5) O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) - A hilarious, stylistic masterwork, taking a cue from Preston Sturges, another from Homer, and delivering something wholly unique – and consistently entertaining.
7. (4) The Big Lebowski (1998) – The funniest film the Coens have ever made – and one of the funniest anyone has – an endless rewatchable film that is almost all diversions, subplots and out of left field plot twists, that somehow works amazingly well – and gave us The Dude.
6. (6) The Man Who Wasn`t There (2001) – Outwardly, a typical film noir, whose detours that many disliked are actually what make it a much better, much deeper film that it gets credit for.
5. (3) A Serious Man (2009) – The book of Job is 1967 Minnesota, with poor Larry Gopnik cannot catch a break, and ends up destroying us all.
4. (8) Barton Fink (1991) – The film most “improved” on a second viewing for me – a Hollywood horror story, a surrealistic nightmare – and the only film of the Coens that I hope the Coens make a sequel to (there has been talk).
3. (2) No Country for Old Men (2007) - A perfect film that seems like a crime thriller, but is really so much more than that – a wonderful combination of the work of Cormac McCarthy and the Coens.
2. (-) Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – The Coens saddest, most deeply felt film. I may well end up moving this even further up the list in the years to come.
1. (1) Fargo (1996) – My first Coen film is also my favorite. One of the reasons I fell in love with movies in the first place, and a movie that works as well on the 20th viewing as it did on the first.
So that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading this series of reviews on the Cones as much as I enjoyed watching their movies and writing about them. I hope to start another series, on another director, shortly.