The Coen Brothers' Greatest Scenes

Charles Graham Dixon

With the Coen-penned Gambit about to be released, along with their next directorial feature, Inside Llewelyn Davies, in post-production, now seems as good a time as ever to give a rundown of some of the most memorable Coen Brothers scenes.

Mike Yanagita in Fargo (1996)

Has there ever been a screen character quite as pathetic as Mike Yanagita? This scene is as funny as it is awkward. Mike lies about having a wife that died from leukemia and doesn’t take kindly to being asked to move back to his seat when he sidles up next to Marge Gunderson.

Coin toss scene in No Country for Old Men (2007)

By the time Anton Chigurh walks into this remote Texas gas station, we know that the unfortunate clerk inside may be about to serve his last customer. With terrifying intensity, a seemingly mundane scene involving the outcome of a coin toss becomes a life and death situation. Literally. Also, watch out for the candy wrapper- it’s strangely hypnotic. 

Harry’s pleasure chair in Burn After Reading (2008)

Just what is treasury analyst and US Marshall Harry Pfarrer working on in his basement workshop? It could be anything. This is a man of power and influence after all. Carter Burwell’s score raises itself to a crescendo only for all the suspense to be deflated as the centrepiece of Harry’s creation wobbles with a whimper and not a bang.

Meeting Jesus in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Hip-thrusting, tongue-twiddling Hispanic bowling maestro (and pederast), Jesus, makes bowling banter akin to the gunfight at The O.K. Corral. Meanwhile, The Gypsy King’s version of Hotel California provides the soundtrack to a scene that encapsulates the Coen’s comedic talents. 

‘Clive’ in A Serious Man (2009)

You have to admire Korean scholarship student, Clive Park’s, persistence and audacity. After failing his maths midterm, Clive confronts his teacher, Larry, who asks him what other alternative there is. ‘Passing grade’ says Clive as though this option is perfectly reasonable. Next he suggests a ‘secret, hush-hush test.’ 

Nihilists interrupt The Dude’s bath in The Big Lebowski (1998)

As The Dude smokes a bath-time joint, his ‘private residence’ is invaded by leather-clad German nihilists claiming to ‘believe in nothing.’ It’s the small moments with the Coens such as seeing one of the nihilists attacking a small table with a cricket bat and their pet ferret wearing a lead that doubles up as an s&m bondage collar. 

Hula-hoop montage in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Norville Barnes’s hula-hoop isn’t a hit with the kids. First the toy store reduces its price then it offers a hula-hoop for free with every purchase until one day things begin to change. This is a beautifully shot, scored and edited scene that communicates itself perfectly without any dialogue.

The wood chipper scene in Fargo (1996)

Like many Coen’s films, Fargo treads the line between comedy and drama expertly. When Marge encounters Coens' favourite Peter Stormare disposing of Steve Buscemi in an industrial wood chipper, the tension reaches a climax. Are we shocked or amused? It’s hard to tell.    

‘I am a Man of Constant Sorrow’ in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

This scene had to be included because it simply feels so good to watch and is a damn good song.  

The hotel showdown in No Country for Old Men (2007)

Chigurh has finally tracked down Llewlyn Moss in this unbearably tense scene. As we see Chigurh’s shadow settle outside Moss’s door bedroom door and we hear the dull thud of his canister hit the ground, the end seems near. 

Follow Charles on Twitter: @CharlesGD

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