Coen Brothers: Ranking Their Films From Worst To Best

There are other American masters, but few hold a candle to the consistent brilliance of Joel and Ethan Coen.

New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein said it best as preface to a 2007 article: "Writing about the Coens - and mining their oeuvre for Big Ideas - is a sure way of looking like an ass." Their films are simultaneously straightforward and arduously-intricate, enjoyable in the casual moment while encouraging deeper analysis. Attempts to elicit answers from the brothers regarding any messages or meanings to their movies are met only with smiles and shrugs. In short, even a "bad" film from Joel and Ethan Coen will be able to make your head hurt. One thing is for certain: even a bad Coen Brothers film is good, and the distinction "Worst" is used only in relation to the rest of their filmography. Their first feature, the thriller Blood Simple, came in 1984, and since then the brothers have enjoyed strings of successful movies. They won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1996 for Fargo and a whole truckload of Oscars for No Country for Old Men in 2007, and after 16 features people only seem to want more. Throughout their canon, the Coens use things again and again: actors (Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman), wide-open sets (from Minnesota to Texas), and notable stylistic trademarks (the use of animals, sudden spurts of violence). Despite this, the recycling of these always feels fresh and untouched. Somehow, though many of their movies are nearly entirely devoid of anything resembling a plot, the Coens always manage to make compelling cinema. There are other American masters, but few hold a candle to the consistent brilliance of Joel and Ethan Coen. Because of this consistent care in their movies, ordering their films in terms of greatness is almost an exercise in futility - I expect, and welcome, criticism in the comments section below. All of their films are worth watching, but there are a few times when the Coens have outdone even themselves. Without further ado, these are the films of the Coen Brothers ranked worst to best. Enjoy!

Matt is a writer and musician living in Boston. Read his film reviews at