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Ten screenwriting gems from the COEN BROTHERS

As you may or may not know, Paramount Pictures’ Suburbicon moves into theaters Friday, October 27. The dark crime drama stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac. A small quiet town is shocked to learn that there has been a home invasion in their perfect little utopia. Peace and quiet turns into murder and mayhem. George Clooney directs with Joel and Ethan Coen assisting on the writing duties. Is yet another macabre mystery masterpiece on the brink of discovery?

Joel and Ethan Coen are talented brothers who have a unique gift of bringing immersive layers, engaging characters and interesting story lines to all of their movies. When it comes to the involvement in their projects, no responsibility seems to be out of their comfort zone. Acting, directing, producing, writing. All facets are in their wheelhouse. Since their resumes are quite extensive, I figured I’d narrow it down a bit in order to put the focus on one area of their talent. Writing is our winner. We’re going to spotlight ten films that the duo wrote, all of which have “Certified Fresh” critic approval ratings above 80% according to the juggernaut review site, Rotten Tomatoes. Enjoy this arrangement of critically acclaimed movies.


Blood Simple (1985)

Blood Simple was the first feature film from Joel and Ethan Coen. The story begins deep in the heart of Texas, where a jealous saloon owner hires a cheap divorce detective to kill the saloon owner’s younger wife and her bartender lover. But the detective gets a better idea: he follows the two lovers, and from there this twisted tale takes off.


No Country for Old Men (2007)

While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he cannot resist the cash left behind and takes it with him. The hunter becomes the hunted when a merciless killer named Chigurh (Javier Bardem) picks up his trail. Also looking for Moss is Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), an aging lawman who reflects on a changing world and a dark secret of his own, as he tries to find and protect Moss.


Hail, Caesar! (2016)

In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and filmmakers at Capitol Pictures. His latest assignments involve a disgruntled director, a singing cowboy, a beautiful swimmer and a handsome dancer. As if all this wasn’t enough, Mannix faces his biggest challenge when Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) gets kidnapped while in costume for the swords-and-sandals epic “Hail, Caesar!” If the studio doesn’t pay $100,000, it’s the end of the line for the movie star.


Raising Arizona (1987)

An ex-con (Nicolas Cage) and an ex-cop (Holly Hunter) meet, marry and long for a child of their own. When it is discovered that Hi is unable to have children they decide to snatch a baby. They try to keep their crime a secret, while friends, co-workers and a bounty hunter look to use the child for their own purposes.


Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

In 1961 New York City, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in hand, he struggles against seemingly insurmountable obstacles to make a name for himself in the music world, but so far, success remains elusive. Relying on the kindness of both friends and strangers, Llewyn embarks on an odyssey that takes him from the streets of Greenwich Village to a Chicago club, where awaits a music mogul who could give him the big break that he desperately needs.


The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski who insists on being called “the Dude,” a laid-back, easygoing burnout who happens to have the same name as a millionaire whose wife owes a lot of dangerous people a whole bunch of money — resulting in the Dude having his rug soiled, sending him spiraling into the Los Angeles underworld.


Barton Fink (1991)

Set in 1941, an intellectual New York playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) accepts an offer to write movie scripts in L.A. He finds himself with writer’s block when required to do a B-movie script. His neighbor tries to help, but he continues to struggle as a bizarre sequence of events distracts him.


True Grit (2010)

After an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders her father, feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a boozy, trigger-happy lawman, to help her find Chaney and avenge her father. The bickering duo are not alone in their quest, for a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also tracking Chaney for reasons of his own. Together the unlikely trio ventures into hostile territory to dispense some Old West justice.


Bridge of Spies (2015)

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union captures U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers after shooting down his U-2 spy plane. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Powers’ only hope is New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), recruited by a CIA operative to negotiate his release. Donovan boards a plane to Berlin, hoping to win the young man’s freedom through a prisoner exchange. If all goes well, the Russians would get Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), the convicted spy who Donovan defended in court.


Fargo (1996)

Fargo is a reality-based crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a car salesman in Minneapolis who has gotten himself into debt and is so desperate for money that he hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi), (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his own wife. Jerry will collect the ransom from her wealthy father (Harve Presnell), paying the thugs a small portion and keeping the rest to satisfy his debts. The scheme collapses when the thugs shoot a state trooper.

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