Ranking the Coens: From “Llewyn” to “Cruelty”

inside l d

The Coen Bros.’ Inside Llewyn Davis is high on my list of 2013 favorites, even if it was too late for my Film Stage top 10. Watching it again, I got to thinking about the directors’ stunningly unique filmography. Bearing in mind that this could change on a daily basis, here is my top-to-bottom ranking of their features:

  1. Fargo (1996): Too high? I doubt it. While I have not watched Fargo in some time, I cannot imagine its style and humor have lessened over the past (gulp) two decades.
  2. The Big Lebowski (1998): Like many, I severely underrated Lebowski upon release; I liked it, but did not love it. Years of re-watching has made it one of my favorite films, period.
  3. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): Yep, Llewyn Davis, to me, is among the brothers’ finest films.
  4. Blood Simple (1984): The first, and nearly the best. I still think of the film’s final scene, and the Temptations’ song that accompanies it, often.
  5. No Country for Old Men (2007): A brutal, efficient comeback after “the dark years.”
  6. Miller’s Crossing (1990): Visually, the Coens’ most beautiful film, and also one of their most ambitious.
  7. Barton Fink (1991): How fitting that Polanski’s jury awarded Fink the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
  8. A Serious Man (2009): I loved this oddity upon release, but have forgotten it, somewhat. I aim to watch it again soon.
  9. Raising Arizona (1987): Some don’t find it funny. But I do.
  10. The Man Who Wasn’t There   (2001): We are starting to enter difficult territory. I think I forgive some of this film’s failings because I love the black-and-white look so much.
  11. Burn After Reading (2008): Good? Certainly. I enjoyed it. Great? Despite what David Thomson says, I don’t think so.
  12. True Grit (2010): The Coens’ film is less a remake of the John Wayne film, more a fresh adaptation of the fine novel. A sturdy, if unmemorable entry.
  13. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) : The Coens directing Paul Newman? Delightful. But a bit exhausting, and never as funny as it thinks it is.
  14. O Brother, Where Art Thou?  (2000): Similarly, never as clever as it thinks it is.
  15. The Ladykillers (2004): Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruetly are, to me, the only real duds on the list. What is interesting is that I recall seeing and enjoying both on the big screen. But we are talking Coens, and in this bunch, they just don’t fare well.
  16. Intolerable Cruelty (2003): Someone had to come in last …