The Coens, From 'Blood' to 'Grit'

Few filmmakers working today inspire opinions more varied, and more dearly held, than Joel and Ethan Coen. So in honor of True Grit (my review here), their first film to open wide for Christmas—O Brother, Where Art Thou had a limited release in 2000—I thought I'd offer families gathered for the holidays something better to argue over than the quality of Mom's ham or the appropriateness of brother's new girlfriend. My own best-to-worst list of the Coens' 15 feature films follows, with a few brief caveats.

First, the Coens have made several truly excellent films, and also several near-excellent ones. On any given day—at any given hour—I might place the first seven films on the list in somewhat different sequence; the same goes for the next seven films on the list. The only entry that is locked tight into its spot is The Ladykillers, which is, to my mind, their worst effort by a considerable margin. And, yes, before we even get started: my under-appreciation of The Big Lebowski—which I like a great deal, just not as much as those above it—is legendary and unconscionable.

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Christopher Orr is a senior editor and the principal film critic at The Atlantic. He has written on movies for The New Republic, LA Weekly, Salon, and The New York Sun, and has worked as an editor for numerous publications.

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