Joel David Coen (November 29, 1954) and Ethan Jesse Coen (September 21, 1957), collectively referred to as the Coen Brothers, are American filmmakers. Their films span many genres and styles, which they frequently subvert or parody. They first gained attention with their debut feature Blood Simple (1984), a neo noir starring John Getz, Frances McDormand (whom Joel is married to), Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmett Walsh. They followed that up with the fast paced comedy Raising Arizona (1987), with Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman (his first of several collaborations with them), and William Forsythe.
Films in the 1990s include Miller’s Crossing (1990), with Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, and Albert Finney; Barton Fink (1991), with Turturro, Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, and Polito; The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), with Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Newman; Fargo (1996), with McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, and Harve Presnell; The Big Lebowski (1998), with Jeff Bridges, Goodman, Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Sam Elliott.
Films in the 2000s include O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), with George Clooney, Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson; The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), with Billy Bob Thornton, McDormand, Michael Badalucco, Richard Jenkins, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub, and James Gandolfini; Intolerable Cruelty (2003), with Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Paul Adelstein, Jenkins, and Thornton; The Ladykillers (2004), with Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma and Ryan Hurst; No Country for Old Men (2007), with Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, and Woody Harrelson; Burn After Reading (2008), with Clooney, McDormand, John Malkovich, Jenkins; Tilda Swinton, and Brad Pitt; and A Serious Man (2009), with Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Alan Mandell, Adam Arkin, George Wyner, Simon Helberg, and Amy Landecker.
Films in the 2010s include True Grit (2010), with Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Domhnall Gleeson; Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver; Hai, Caesar! (2016), with Brolin, Clooney, Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Johansson, McDormand, Swinton, Channing Tatum, and Christopher Lambert; and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), with James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson, Nelson, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Harry Melling, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, and Saul Rubinek.
The brothers write, direct and produce their films jointly, although until The Ladykillers (2004) Joel received sole credit for directing and Ethan for producing. They often alternate top billing for their screenplays while sharing editing credits under the alias Roderick Jaynes. They have been nominated for 13 Academy Awards together, and individually for one award each, winning Best Original Screenplay for Fargo and Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for No Country for Old Men. The duo also won the Palme d’Or for Barton Fink (1991).
The Coens have written a number of films they did not direct, including Angelina Jolie’s biographical war drama Unbroken (2014), with Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi, and Finn Wittrock; Steven Spielberg‘s historical legal thriller Bridge of Spies (2015), with Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda; and Clooney’s Suburbicon (2017), with Damon, Moore, Noah Jupe, and Isaac; and lesser-known, commercially unsuccessful comedies such as Sam Raimi‘s Crimewave (1985), with Louise Lasser, Paul L. Smith, Brion James, Sheree J. Wilson, Edward R. Pressman, Bruce Campbell, and Reed Birney; J. Todd Anderson’s The Naked Man (1998), with Michael Rapaport, Michael Jeter, John Carroll Lynch, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Arija Bareikis; and Gambit (2012), with Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, and Stanley Tucci. Ethan is also a writer of short stories, theater and poetry. Known for many distinctive stylistic trademarks including genre hybridity, the brothers’ films No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man and Inside Llewyn Davis have been ranked in the BBC’s 2016 poll of the greatest motion pictures since 2000.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Blood Simple (1984)
- Crimewave (1985) – directed by Sam Raimi – co-writers
- Raising Arizona (1987)
- Miller’s Crossing (1990)
- Barton Fink (1991)
- The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
- Fargo (1996)**
- The Big Lebowski (1998)**
- The Naked Man (1998) – directed by J. Todd Anderson – co-written by Ethan
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
- The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)*
- The Ladykillers (2004)
- Paris, je t’aime (2006) – directed by Emmanuel Benbihy, Nobuhiro Suwa, Olivier Assayas, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardie, Sylvain Chomet, Vincenzo Natali, Richard LaGravenese, Tom Tykwer, Isabel Coixet Castillo, Christopher Doyle, Alexander Payne, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Alfonso Cuarón, Bruno Podalydès, Oliver Schmitz, & Wes Craven – anthology
- No Country for Old Men (2007)*
- To Each His Own Cinema (2007) – directed with Raymond Depardon, Takashi Kitano, Andrei Konchalovsky, Nanni Moretti, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Zhang Yimou, Atom Egoyan, Aki Kaurismäki, Yousef Chahine, Tsai Ming-liang, Lars von Trier, Raoul Ruiz, Claude Lelouch, Gus Van Sant, Roman Polanski, Michael Cimino, David Cronenberg, Wong Kar-wai, Abbas Kiarostami, Billie August, Elia Suleiman, Manoel de Oliveira, Walter Salles, Wim Wenders, Chen Kaige, Ken Loach, & David Lynch – anthology
- Burn After Reading (2008)*
- A Serious Man (2009)*
- True Grit (2010)*
- Gambit (2012) – directed by Michael Hoffman – co-writers
- Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)*
- Unbroken (2014) – directed by Angelina Jolie – co-writer
- Bridge of Spies (2015) – directed by Steven Spielberg – co-writers
- Hail, Caesar! (2016)*
- Suburbicon (2017) – directed by George Clooney – co-writers
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)