This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Joel and Ethan Coen’s first film, “Blood Simple.” Since then, the pair have written or directed eighteen of the wackiest, funniest, and most memorable movies of all time. Here are seven of the greatest scenes from the Coens’ impressive catalogue:
1. Fargo – “He’s a little guy, kinda funny looking.”
After making two excellent crime films (“Blood Simple” and “Miller’s Crossing”), two screwball comedies (“Raising Arizona” and “The Hudsucker Proxy”), and an eerie drama (“Barton Fink”), the Coens tied it all together with “Fargo,” which won the Academy Award for best screenplay. Although this scene does not include the main characters played by Frances McDormand and William H. Macy, it encapsulates the humor of the Midwestern “singsong” accent, one of the famous aspects of the film.
2. Big Lebowski – “The Jesus”
“The Big Lebowski” is the definition of a cult classic. This scene depicts “the Jesus,” played by John Turturro – a character that isn’t as iconic in popular culture as “the Dude” but just as hilarious. Turturro came up with some of his character’s shtick, such as the backwards dance in slow motion. The scene also involves another crucial part of the film: the hysterically comic dynamic between John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, two actors featured in several of the Coens’ works.
3. No Country for Old Men – “The Coin Toss”
The Coens’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. This famous scene displays the intensity of psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh, played by a coldblooded, confident Javier Bardem. Like many other scenes in the film, this one explores themes of fate, chance, and morality through chilling suspense.
4. Burn After Reading – “I Got His Number!”
Leave it to the Coens to bring out Brad Pitt’s funny side. Pitt plays an over-eager gym trainer in this bizarre caper that might be the Coens’ strangest film. This scene will forever be remembered for Pitt’s snappy dance and how excited he is to blackmail John Malkovich’s character.
5. A Serious Man – “The Third Rabbi”
“A Serious Man” is by far the most Jewish of the Coens’ films, as it concerns a Jewish college professor whose life, similar to Job’s from the Bible, falls apart in every way. Larry Gopnik, played by the then-unknown (and still relatively unknown) actor Michael Stuhlbarg, visits three rabbis for advice. None of them offer him any tangible advice, but the way that this third rabbi refuses to speak with him is both hilarious and frustrating.
6. True Grit – “I’m a Texas Ranger”
The protagonist of this Western, Mattie Ross, is a thirteen-year-old intent on finding her father’s killer. She has no patience for Matt Damon’s character, who slyly announces that he is a Texas Ranger in this scene. “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements,” Damon’s character says. He’s right – there are few young characters that sling insults like Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie Ross.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis – “Please Mr. Kennedy”
This scene is one of the more positive moments from an incessantly bleak film about a 1960s folk singer trying to get his big break in New York City. Despite how miserable his life is, Llewyn Davis is a talented musician, and the music throughout the film offers the audience a reprieve from time to time. The lyrics of this song speak for themselves. And who would have thought that Adam Driver, who plays Adam on the popular HBO show “Girls,” could provide the goofy bass voice in a folk-singing trio?
This story "7 Best Scenes From Three Decades of Coen Brother Films" was written by Gabe Friedman.