Remember books? Those old-ass things your grandma’s history professor used to read? They suck, right? Movies are way better. It’s just a fact. But, you know what? Calm down. Sometimes books show up in movies. That sort of makes them cool, right? Check out my Top 5.


No, I’m not ranking the brothers (I always preferred Joel over Ethan, just because), I’m ranking their movies. The Coens are one of very few directors whose work I’ve seen in the entirety. They were the first directors I ever really took notice of and, whilst they’ve made a few sub-par movies, I’ll happily watch anything they do. Here’s my ranking of all 16 of their films to date:



The Coen brothers have many defining aspects to their movies, one of which is their use of character actors, many of whom enjoy working with the brothers so much that they do so time and again. This is a list of my favourite Coen brothers regulars, who have all worked with the duo at least three times. First, however, here’s a few notable actors who have appeared as yet only twice in their movies: M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona), John Mahoney (Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy), Tony Shalhoub (Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t There), Charles Durning (The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Peter Stormare (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), Billy Bob Thornton (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty), Michael Lerner (Barton Fink, A Serious Man), Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, True Grit), Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men, True Grit).


#11 / Michael Badalucco (Miller’s Crossing, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There)

Badalucco scrapes his way onto this list with a tiny role I can’t actually remember as Caspar’s driver in Miller’s Crossing, but it still counts. He earns his place for his work as Baby-Face Nelson in O Brother, and as Billy Bob Thornton’s brother-in-law and fellow barber in The Man Who Wasn’t There. He has a knack for playing characters that would be annoying if you knew them in real life, but are entertaining when on film.


#10 / Holly Hunter (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

Another one in on a technicality, as apparently Holly Hunter has a voice credit in Blood Simple. Even if she wasn’t there, I’d have debated including her because of her stellar work in Raising Arizona as the baby-crazy Ed McDunnough. I don’t remember her impressing that much as the object of George Clooney’s quest in O Brother, but she really is maybe the best thing about Raising Arizona. It’s a difficult character to make funny, but Hunter manages it, and I love her breaking down delivery of, post-kidnapping, screaming through tears “I love him so much!”


#09 / Richard Jenkins (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading)

Richard Jenkins is great in absolutely everything he’s ever done, even Hall Pass. The Coen brothers make great use of Jenkins’ true strong point of playing pathetic, sad sacks for whom life hasn’t worked out exactly to plan, be it as Scarlett Johansson’s oblivious father in The Man Who Wasn’t There, a useless lawyer in Intolerable Cruelty or a gym employee with a hopeless crush on a colleague in Burn After Reading.


#08 / J. K. Simmons (The Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, True Grit)

Like Holly Hunter, Simmons’ third Coen appearance is a voice credit, this time in True Grit as a lawyer, but Simmons deserves a spot on any list of this variety because the guy is all-around awesome, and that’s coming from someone who still hasn’t seen Whiplash. The Ladykillers is easily amongst my least favourite of the Coens’ work (expect a fully ranked list before the end of the month), and Simmons’ character, an explosives expert suffering from gastroenteritis, cannot be amongst his best work by any means, but he still gives it his all. His best work with the Coens will have been the hour or two he spent on Burn After Reading as CIA Superior, who gets to sit behind a desk and try to make sense of the ridiculous exploits that occur within that film.


#07 / Stephen Root (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers, No Country For Old Men)

Stephen Root may have more acting credits to his name than perhaps any other actor working today, especially if you can’t each individual episode of a TV show he’s been on, because then you’ve got the likes of 256 episodes of NewsRadio and King of the Hill to add to the list. With the Coens, Root started out playing one of their more eccentric characters, a blind record producer who only records with artists of a specific ethnicity in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Elsewhere he has a very small role in The Ladykillers, but in No Country For Old Men he has a great, although perhaps too limited, amount of screen time as Anton Chigurh’s boss, who manages to put across a real state of fear towards the man in his charge.


#06 / George Clooney (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading)

Whilst it’s not unusual for the Coen’s to re-use their supporting cast members, it is all but unheard of for them to re-use their stars, with the lead role generally being offered to an actor they’ve never worked with before, or whom has only been a lower-billed supporting actor with them in the past, but there’s obviously something about George Clooney that the Coens enjoy working with, and who came blame them? The worst anybody ever has to say about the guy is he’s a practical joker on set, and often I’d think that would help to alleviate what could at times be a stressful environment. All three characters Clooney has played have been some variation on a buffoon who believes himself to be a lot smarter and more in control of the situation than he probably is, and there are few actors who can portray false bravado better than Clooney. And when he gets loose with those ever-so-bouncy eyebrows of his, hilarity always ensues.


#05 / John Turturro (Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

OK, now we’re into the top five, and the real regular players who crop up time and time again. Strangely enough, Turturro is one of only two remaining who could arguably be described as having played a lead character in a Coen movie, playing the eponymous struggling writer in Barton Fink, but his more famous appearance must surely be as Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski who, it should be noted, nobody fucks with. The guy licks a bowling ball. That is all you need to know. Turturro can play anything, from snivelling wretch in Miller’s Crossing to bitter dingbat in O Brother, Where Art Thou, but I doubt he’ll ever beat the completely purple Jesus.


#04 / Jon Polito (Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn’t There)

I love Jon Polito in these movies, and it saddens me that I see him so little outside of the Coen’s work. His work in Miller’s Crossing is astounding, as no-one gets quite as angry as Polito. He’s like an old-fashioned kettle you’d boil on a stove, simmering and bubbling until finally his top shoots off and he starts pouring steam all over the place. And then he crops up in Barton Fink as the most downtrodden assistant in history. And then he’s in The Man Who Wasn’t There, as an enigmatic wig salesman, who misreads signals from Billy Bob Thornton and makes a sly move on him. I can’t understand why Polito doesn’t appear in more films. It was a delight to see him crop up in Gangster Squad recently, but other than that he seems to be stuck in some kind of TV movie Hell. Please break free Mr. Polito, and please contact the Coens again, I’m sure they’d throw you a bone.


#03 / Steve Buscemi (Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Paris Je T’aime)

Buscemi, character actor of all character actors, got his start with the Coens in one very short scene in Miller’s Crossing, and was hired purely because he could say the dialogue faster than all of the other actors that auditioned, but it’s led to one of the most enduring relationships the Coens have had with an actor. Half his work has been very minor characters – Mink in Miller’s Crossing, eager hotel porter Chet (Chet. His name is Chet. Chet.) in Barton Fink, or the laconic bartender in the beatnik bar in The Hudsucker Proxy, but he earned prime roles as polar opposite characters in Fargo and The Big Lebowski (in the latter of which he is constantly told to shut up based on how much he spoke in the former) and the Coens even opted to bring him along for their wonderful segment of Paris Je T’aime, as an unfortunate tourist in a metro station.


#02 / John Goodman (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Inside Llewyn Davis)

Of all the recurring actors on this list, John Goodman has been working for the brothers the longest. He appeared in their second film, Raising Arizona, as prison escapee and professional screamer Gale Snoats, but was also in their most recent piece as the arrogant and irritable jazz musician Roland Turner in Inside Llewyn Davis. Be it a disillusioned Vietnam veteran, a one-eyed bigot or a travelling salesman/reincarnation of the devil, as long as the character doesn’t have to be thin Goodman can play him. I hope he keeps cropping up in supporting roles for the Coens in the future and, who knows, maybe he’ll get a lead role from them one day.


#01 / Frances McDormand (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Burn After Reading)

When I compiled this list, there was only ever one candidate for the number one spot. Not only has Frances McDormand appeared in six of the Coen brothers’ movies to date (tying with Goodman and Buscemi), she’s also married to one of them, having married Joel Coen the same year that Blood Simple was released. Of all the people on this list, she is the only one to have won a much-deserved Oscar for her work, as Marge Gundersson in Fargo in the lead actress role, despite not showing up until a third of the way into the movie. Granted, in the likes of Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing she only had the smallest of roles in a scene or two, but she’s in there. She cuold also be considered to be the sympathetic heart of Burn After Reading, and is pretty much the only character you can try and root for in Blood Simple, especially once M. Emmet Walsh’s Loren Visser comes calling. She is scheduled for her seventh collaboration next year in the upcoming Hail, Caesar! alongside fellow former Coen actors George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Fred Melamed and Tilda Swinton, so I hope she gets a decent role to sink her teeth into. I find it odd she hasn’t cropped up in more since her last appearance in Burn After Reading, but I look forward to her next work nonetheless.

Did I miss anyone out? Who is your favourite Coen regular? Let us know in the comments!