Jumanji

(Photo by Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection)

All Coen Brothers Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

Since their 1984 neo-noir debut Blood Simple, brother directors Joel and Ethan Coen have danced amok across American cinema with mordant tales of wayward souls and their crimes and misdemeanors. Among their achievements include making a generation-defining comedy (The Big Lebowski), revitalizing the Western (True Grit), and winning Best Picture (No Country For Old Men). They even brought back bluegrass, achieved through cultural Trojan horse O Brother, Where Are Thou?. Recently, Joel Coen struck out on his own with The Tragedy of Macbeth, included in this guide to all Coen brothers movies ranked by Tomatometer!

#19

The Ladykillers (2004)
54%

#19
Adjusted Score: 60979%
Critics Consensus: Hanks' performance in the lead role is inspired, but this is a relatively minor offering from the Coen brothers.
Synopsis: Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks), a courtly Southern gentleman, arrives at the home of devout, elderly Marva Munson (Irma P.... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 60643%
Critics Consensus: Intriguingly strange and visually distinctive, The Hudsucker Proxy is ultimately almost -- but not quite -- as smart and absorbing as it needs to be.
Synopsis: Greedy executive Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) hopes to take control of the company he works for by purchasing a... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 81382%
Critics Consensus: Though more mainstream than other Coen films, there are still funny oddball touches, and Clooney and Zeta-Jones sizzle like old-time movie stars.
Synopsis: Miles Massey (George Clooney) is an exceptional divorce lawyer who specializes in saving cheating husbands from having to pay expensive... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#16
Adjusted Score: 82824%
Critics Consensus: Though not as good as Coen brothers' classics such as Blood Simple, the delightfully loopy O Brother, Where Art Thou? is still a lot of fun.
Synopsis: Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is having difficulty adjusting to his hard-labor sentence in Mississippi. He scams his way off... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 88209%
Critics Consensus: With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.
Synopsis: When a disc containing memoirs of a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) falls into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 87178%
Critics Consensus: Stylish but emotionally distant, The Man Who Wasn't There is a clever tribute to the film noir genre.
Synopsis: A dark tale of infidelity and murder, crime and punishment. Set in a small northern California town of the late... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#13

The Big Lebowski (1998)
83%

#13
Adjusted Score: 89049%
Critics Consensus: Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges.
Synopsis: Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski who insists on being called "the Dude," a laid-back, easygoing burnout who happens to have... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#12

Hail, Caesar! (2016)
85%

#12
Adjusted Score: 108004%
Critics Consensus: Packed with period detail and perfectly cast, Hail, Caesar! finds the Coen brothers delivering an agreeably lightweight love letter to post-war Hollywood.
Synopsis: In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#11

A Serious Man (2009)
89%

#11
Adjusted Score: 97606%
Critics Consensus: Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.
Synopsis: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a physics professor at a 1960s university, but his life is coming apart at the... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#10
Adjusted Score: 103035%
Critics Consensus: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs avoids anthology pitfalls with a consistent collection tied together by the Coen brothers' signature blend of dark drama and black humor.
Synopsis: An anthology of six short films that take place in 19th-century post-Civil War era during the settling of the Old... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#9

Barton Fink (1991)
90%

#9
Adjusted Score: 94552%
Critics Consensus: Twisty and unsettling, the Coen brothers' satirical tale of a 1940s playwright struggling with writer's block is packed with their trademark sense of humor and terrific performances from its cast.
Synopsis: Set in 1941, an intellectual New York playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) accepts an offer to write movie scripts in... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#8

Raising Arizona (1987)
91%

#8
Adjusted Score: 95570%
Critics Consensus: A terrifically original, eccentric screwball comedy, Raising Arizona may not be the Coens' most disciplined movie, but it's one of their most purely entertaining.
Synopsis: An ex-con and an ex-cop meet, marry and long for a child of their own. When it is discovered that... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 95306%
Critics Consensus: Though possibly more notable for its distinctive style than an airtight story, this Coen brothers take on the classic gangster flick features sharp dialogue, impressive cinematography, and a typically quirky cast of characters.
Synopsis: When the Italian Mafia threatens to kill a crooked bookie (John Turturro), Irish mob boss Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) refuses... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 102850%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and profoundly melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the Coen brothers in fine form.
Synopsis: In 1961 New York City, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in hand, he struggles... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 105888%
Critics Consensus: Led by a stellar Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth strips the classic story down to its visual and narrative essentials.
Synopsis: Power-hungry Macbeth sets his sights on the Scottish throne after receiving a prophecy from three witches.... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 105781%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by powerful lead performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men finds the Coen brothers spinning cinematic gold out of Cormac McCarthy's grim, darkly funny novel.
Synopsis: While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#3

Fargo (1996)
94%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100374%
Critics Consensus: Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, Fargo delivers an original crime story and a wonderful performance by McDormand.
Synopsis: "Fargo" is a reality-based crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a car salesman... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#2

Blood Simple (1984)
94%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102888%
Critics Consensus: Brutally violent and shockingly funny in equal measure, Blood Simple offers early evidence of the Coen Brothers' twisted sensibilities and filmmaking ingenuity.
Synopsis: "Blood Simple" was the first feature film from Joel and Ethan Coen. This is the newly restored and re-edited director's... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#1

True Grit (2010)
95%

#1
Adjusted Score: 105673%
Critics Consensus: Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens' most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book.
Synopsis: After an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders her father, feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

(Photo by DreamWorks Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

All George Clooney Movies Ranked

Having the #1 TV show to fall back on when starting a movie career was a good thing for George Clooney, especially when he was alternately starring in groovy, off-beat genre flicks (From Dusk till Dawn, Out of Sight) and helping destroy a comic book franchise (Batman & Robin). But by 1999, Clooney was ready to cut the cord on ER, paving the way for immediate movie breakthroughs in comedy (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), blockbusters (Ocean’s Eleven), and even as a director himself, with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which we’re including on this list because he also stars.

As seen beginning with Confessions, the cross-section of politics and media would be a driving concern for Clooney’s acting choices, such as Syriana, Michael Clayton, The Ides of March, Money Monster, and Good Night, and Good Luck. Yet he also switches to the broad buffoon with ease, especially with the Coen brothers, as in O Brother, Burn After Reading, and Hail, Caesar!. Somewhere in between this Bawdy George and Serious George, you’ll find material that has drawn Clooney some of his highest marks: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up In the Air, and The Descendants, the latter two for which he was Best Actor Oscar-nominated.

Up until directing himself in 2020’s The Midnight Sky, Clooney hadn’t appeared in a narrative feature since 2016. Meanwhile, he got top billing in Grizzly II: Revenge, a film shot in 1983 that wasn’t completed and released until 2021. Will the movie finally restore Clooney’s rightful original career path as horror movie maven? We’ll just have to wait an see — until then, we’re looking back on all George Clooney movies, ranked by Tomatometer!

#36
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The insane Dr. Gangrene develops a new strain of violent vegetable in this sequel to the 1977 cult classic.... [More]
Directed By: John De Bello

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 8271%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: All hell breaks loose when a 15-ft grizzly bear, reacting to the slaughter of her cub by poachers, seeks revenge... [More]
Directed By: Andre Szots

#34

Batman & Robin (1997)
12%

#34
Adjusted Score: 17001%
Critics Consensus: Joel Schumacher's tongue-in-cheek attitude hits an unbearable limit in Batman & Robin resulting in a frantic and mindless movie that's too jokey to care much for.
Synopsis: This superhero adventure finds Batman (George Clooney) and his partner, Robin (Chris O'Donnell), attempting to the foil the sinister schemes... [More]
Directed By: Joel Schumacher

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 40977%
Critics Consensus: Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men's stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative.
Synopsis: During World War II, the Nazis steal countless pieces of art and hide them away. Some over-the-hill art scholars, historians,... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#32

The Good German (2006)
34%

#32
Adjusted Score: 39241%
Critics Consensus: Though Steven Soderbergh succeeds in emulating the glossy look of 1940s noirs, The Good German ultimately ends up as a self-conscious exercise in style that forgets to develop compelling characters.
Synopsis: Jake Geismar (George Clooney), an Army correspondent, helps his former lover, Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), comb post-World War II Berlin... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 50982%
Critics Consensus: While the special effects are well done and quite impressive, this film suffers from any actual drama or characterization. The end result is a film that offers nifty eye-candy and nothing else.
Synopsis: Based on a true story, the film tells of the courageous men and women who risk their lives every working... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#30

Tomorrowland (2015)
50%

#30
Adjusted Score: 61493%
Critics Consensus: Ambitious and visually stunning, Tomorrowland is unfortunately weighted down by uneven storytelling.
Synopsis: Whenever Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) touches a lapel pin with the letter T on it, she finds herself transported to... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#29

The Midnight Sky (2020)
50%

#29
Adjusted Score: 67253%
Critics Consensus: The Midnight Sky lacks the dramatic heft to match its narrative scale, but its flaws are often balanced by thoughtful themes and a poignant performance from director-star George Clooney.
Synopsis: A lone scientist in the Arctic races to contact a crew of astronauts returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#28
Adjusted Score: 58922%
Critics Consensus: Though The Men Who Stare at Goats is a mostly entertaining, farcical glimpse of men at war, some may find its satire and dark humor less than edgy.
Synopsis: Struggling reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) gets the scoop of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), who... [More]
Directed By: Grant Heslov

#27

One Fine Day (1996)
51%

#27
Adjusted Score: 52505%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer) is an architect who needs to give a very important presentation. Jack Taylor (George Clooney) is... [More]
Directed By: Michael Hoffman

#26

Leatherheads (2008)
52%

#26
Adjusted Score: 57622%
Critics Consensus: Despite a good premise and strong cast, this pro football romcom is half screwball and half fumble.
Synopsis: Dodge Connolly (George Clooney), captain of a 1920s football team, wants to give the sagging sport a boost and capture... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#25

Ocean's Twelve (2004)
54%

#25
Adjusted Score: 60689%
Critics Consensus: While some have found the latest star-studded heist flick to be a fun, glossy star vehicle, others declare it's lazy, self-satisfied and illogical.
Synopsis: After successfully robbing five casinos in one night, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew of thieves have big problems.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 56538%
Critics Consensus: Contains some funny moments, but it's still a very lightweight comedy.
Synopsis: Five hapless misfits from the hard-luck streets of Cleveland band together to try and pull off the greatest job they've... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

#23

Money Monster (2016)
59%

#23
Adjusted Score: 77023%
Critics Consensus: Money Monster's strong cast and solidly written story ride a timely wave of socioeconomic anger that's powerful enough to overcome an occasionally muddled approach to its worthy themes.
Synopsis: Lee Gates is a Wall Street guru who picks hot stocks as host of the television show "Money Monster." Suddenly,... [More]
Directed By: Jodie Foster

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 64581%
Critics Consensus: A pulpy crime drama/vampire film hybrid, From Dusk Till Dawn is an uneven but often deliriously enjoyable B-movie.
Synopsis: On the run from a bank robbery that left several police officers dead, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his paranoid,... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#21

The American (2010)
66%

#21
Adjusted Score: 73593%
Critics Consensus: As beautifully shot as it is emotionally restrained, The American is an unusually divisive spy thriller -- and one that rests on an unusually subdued performance from George Clooney.
Synopsis: When an assignment in Sweden ends badly, master assassin Jack (George Clooney) retreats to the Italian countryside with the intention... [More]
Directed By: Anton Corbijn

#20

Solaris (2002)
66%

#20
Adjusted Score: 72958%
Critics Consensus: Slow-moving, cerebral, and ambiguous, Solaris is not a movie for everyone, but it offers intriguing issues to ponder.
Synopsis: Based on the classic science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem, "Solaris" centers on a psychologist (George Clooney) sent to investigate... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#19

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
69%

#19
Adjusted Score: 77666%
Critics Consensus: Ocean's Thirteen reverts to the formula of the first installment, and the result is another slick and entertaining heist film.
Synopsis: Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang hatch an ambitious plot for revenge after ruthless casino owner Willy Bank (Al... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#18

Syriana (2005)
73%

#18
Adjusted Score: 79849%
Critics Consensus: Ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience, Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.
Synopsis: The Middle Eastern oil industry is the backdrop of this tense drama, which weaves together numerous story lines. Bennett Holiday... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Gaghan

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 81382%
Critics Consensus: Though more mainstream than other Coen films, there are still funny oddball touches, and Clooney and Zeta-Jones sizzle like old-time movie stars.
Synopsis: Miles Massey (George Clooney) is an exceptional divorce lawyer who specializes in saving cheating husbands from having to pay expensive... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 88209%
Critics Consensus: With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.
Synopsis: When a disc containing memoirs of a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) falls into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#15
Adjusted Score: 82824%
Critics Consensus: Though not as good as Coen brothers' classics such as Blood Simple, the delightfully loopy O Brother, Where Art Thou? is still a lot of fun.
Synopsis: Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is having difficulty adjusting to his hard-labor sentence in Mississippi. He scams his way off... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#14
Adjusted Score: 83251%
Critics Consensus: Rockwell is spot-on as Barris, and Clooney directs with entertaining style and flair.
Synopsis: Game show television producer Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) is at the height of his career. His creation, "The Dating Game,"... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 85726%
Critics Consensus: The Thin Red Line is a daringly philosophical World War II film with an enormous cast of eager stars.
Synopsis: In 1942, Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) is a U.S. Army absconder living peacefully with the locals of a small South... [More]
Directed By: Terrence Malick

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 92727%
Critics Consensus: While not exactly exposing revelatory truths, The Ides of March is supremely well-acted drama that moves at a measured, confident clip.
Synopsis: As Ohio's Democratic primary nears, charming Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney) seems a shoo-in for the nomination over his opponent,... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#11

Ocean's Eleven (2001)
83%

#11
Adjusted Score: 90209%
Critics Consensus: As fast-paced, witty, and entertaining as it is star-studded and coolly stylish, Ocean's Eleven offers a well-seasoned serving of popcorn entertainment.
Synopsis: Dapper Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man of action. Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#10

Hail, Caesar! (2016)
85%

#10
Adjusted Score: 108004%
Critics Consensus: Packed with period detail and perfectly cast, Hail, Caesar! finds the Coen brothers delivering an agreeably lightweight love letter to post-war Hollywood.
Synopsis: In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#9

The Descendants (2011)
87%

#9
Adjusted Score: 96589%
Critics Consensus: Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace.
Synopsis: Native islander Matt King (George Clooney) lives with his family in Hawaii. Their world shatters when a tragic accident leaves... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Payne

#8

Up in the Air (2009)
90%

#8
Adjusted Score: 102108%
Critics Consensus: Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge for mainstream audiences.
Synopsis: An idea from a young, new co-worker (Anna Kendrick) would put an end to the constant travel of corporate downsizer... [More]
Directed By: Jason Reitman

#7

Michael Clayton (2007)
91%

#7
Adjusted Score: 98814%
Critics Consensus: Michael Clayton is one of the most sharply scripted films of 2007, with an engrossing premise and faultless acting. Director Tony Gilroy succeeds not only in capturing the audience's attention, but holding it until the credits roll.
Synopsis: Former prosecutor Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works as a "fixer" at the corporate law firm of Kenner, Bach and Ledeen,... [More]
Directed By: Tony Gilroy

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 102151%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal -- and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.
Synopsis: After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#5
Adjusted Score: 102101%
Critics Consensus: A passionate and concise cinematic civics lesson, Good Night, And Good Luck has plenty to say about today's political and cultural climate, and its ensemble cast is stellar.
Synopsis: When Senator Joseph McCarthy begins his foolhardy campaign to root out Communists in America, CBS News impresario Edward R. Murrow... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#4

Out of Sight (1998)
93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 97885%
Critics Consensus: Steven Soderbergh's intelligently crafted adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel is witty, sexy, suprisingly entertaining, and a star-making turn for George Clooney.
Synopsis: Meet Jack Foley (George Clooney), the most successful bank robber in the country. On the day he busts out of... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#3

Three Kings (1999)
94%

#3
Adjusted Score: 98633%
Critics Consensus: Three Kings successfully blends elements of action, drama, and comedy into a thoughtful, exciting movie on the Gulf War.
Synopsis: Just after the end of the Gulf War, four American soldiers decide to steal a cache of Saddam Hussein's hidden... [More]
Directed By: David O. Russell

#2

Gravity (2013)
96%

#2
Adjusted Score: 109984%
Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that's masterfully directed and visually stunning.
Synopsis: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Her commander is veteran astronaut Matt... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#1

Fail Safe (2000)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 22155%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: During the 1960s, a computer error in Nebraska unwittingly sets off a perilous chain of events leading to a Cold... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Frears

In Bruges

(Photo by Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: New World/courtesy Everett Collection; Neon / courtesy Everett Collection.)

The 60 Best Black Comedies, Ranked By Tomatometer

Let’s say you’re the type to laugh while handling the darkest subject matters: Murder, doomsday, blackmail, and maybe even a lil’ tasty cannibalism. If so, twisted friend, you sure have arrived at the right spot to get your gallows guffaws: The 60 Best Dark Comedies, Ranked by Tomatometer!

All this dark material ranges in variation of glib macabre glee, different styles that we’ll touch upon in our selection of the best-reviewed funny black comedies. Most common are movies about murder and the subsequent covering-up, especially when the corpses have a habit of popping up at the most inconvenient times. Think Best Picture-winning Parasite, Fargo, Burn After Reading, and Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry.

Another style of the black comedy movie: Mining jokes out of political fallout when millions of lives are at stake, as seen in Dr. Strangelove, In the Loop, and The Producers. Or how about movies that get you on the serial killer’s side, like being on the ride for The Voices or Monsieur Verdoux. They twist you around enough to make you feel amusingly guilty hoping they’ll get away with it all.

The emergence of the black comedy movie seemed to come around in the 1940s, when filmmaking had evolved enough to artistically interpret real-world horrors (e.g. World War II) with mordant humor, as seen in To Be or Not to Be and Arsenic and Old Lace. Of course, how would they have known their groundbreaking path through the dark side would eventually come to the taboo of cannibalism, as seen in appetizing films like Delicatessen and Eating Raoul? And lest you assume we’re not in touch with our more subtle side when it comes to comedy of the damned, we’ve included philosophical destroyers Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?, Carnage, and the brilliant Withnail and I.

Major players in the realm of dark comedies include status quo-defecating John Waters (Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos), Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Todd Solondz (Happiness, Welcome to the Dollhouse), and the devilish Danny DeVito (The War of the Roses, Ruthless People). Our final stipulation for their movies and everything else on the list is that each had to be rated Fresh, and have at least 20 reviews, to ensure enough critics have shared in the gleeful discomfort.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad (feel free to keep adding more) world out there these days: Grab life by the ruffled lapel and throw it into the wood chipper with The 60 Best Black Comedies, Ranked!

#60

Adam's Apples (2005)
70%

#60
Adjusted Score: 70571%
Critics Consensus: Good and evil collide with interesting results in Adam's Apples, a dark Biblical allegory that's alternatively funny and shocking.
Synopsis: Following a stint in jail, Adam (Ulrich Thomsen), a former neo-Nazi, is temporarily assigned to live in a religious enclave.... [More]
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen

#59

Carnage (2011)
70%

#59
Adjusted Score: 77315%
Critics Consensus: It isn't as compelling on the screen as it was on the stage, but Carnage makes up for its flaws with Polanski's smooth direction and assured performances from Winslet and Foster.
Synopsis: When some roughhousing between two 11-year-old boys named Zachary and Ethan erupts into real violence, Ethan loses two teeth. Zachary's... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#58

The Ref (1994)
72%

#58
Adjusted Score: 75276%
Critics Consensus: Undeniably uneven and too dark for some, The Ref nonetheless boasts strong turns from Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey, as well as a sharply funny script.
Synopsis: Bickering spouses (Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey) annoy the cat burglar (Denis Leary) who takes them hostage in their Connecticut home.... [More]
Directed By: Ted Demme

#57

The Voices (2014)
74%

#57
Adjusted Score: 77393%
Critics Consensus: The Voices gives Ryan Reynolds an opportunity to deliver a highlight-reel performance -- and offers an off-kilter treat for fans of black comedies.
Synopsis: A mentally unhinged factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) must decide whether to listen to his talking cat and become a killer,... [More]
Directed By: Marjane Satrapi

#56

Better Off Dead (1985)
76%

#56
Adjusted Score: 77438%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
Synopsis: Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a bizarre fixation with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda... [More]
Directed By: Savage Steve Holland

#55

Used Cars (1980)
77%

#55
Adjusted Score: 78210%
Critics Consensus: Robert Zemeckis' pitch-black satire of American culture doesn't always hit the mark, but it's got enough manic comic energy to warrant a spin.
Synopsis: Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell) is an unscrupulous car salesman who aspires to become a politician. In the meantime, however, Rudy... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#54

Freeway (1996)
77%

#54
Adjusted Score: 78079%
Critics Consensus: A modern update on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Freeway is an audacious black comedy with a star-making performance from the young Reese Witherspoon.
Synopsis: Following the arrest of her mother, Ramona (Amanda Plummer), young Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) decides to go in search of... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Bright

#53

Bad Santa (2003)
78%

#53
Adjusted Score: 85678%
Critics Consensus: A gloriously rude and gleefully offensive black comedy, Bad Santa isn't for everyone, but grinches will find it uproariously funny.
Synopsis: In this dark comedy, the crotchety Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner (Tony Cox) reunite once a... [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 88209%
Critics Consensus: With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.
Synopsis: When a disc containing memoirs of a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) falls into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#51

Catch-22 (1970)
79%

#51
Adjusted Score: 81496%
Critics Consensus: Catch-22 takes entertainingly chaotic aim at the insanity of armed conflict, supported by a terrific cast and smart, funny work from Buck Henry and Mike Nichols.
Synopsis: This scathing war satire follows Capt. John Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a pilot stationed in the Mediterranean who flies bombing missions... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#50

Killer Joe (2011)
80%

#50
Adjusted Score: 86092%
Critics Consensus: Violent, darkly comic, and full of strong performances, Killer Joe proves William Friedkin hasn't lost his touch, even if the plot may be too lurid for some.
Synopsis: A cop (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hit man agrees to kill the hated mother of a desperate drug... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#49

Pink Flamingos (1972)
81%

#49
Adjusted Score: 85347%
Critics Consensus: Uproarious and appalling, Pink Flamingos is transgressive camp that proves as entertaining as it does shocking.
Synopsis: A bizarre fat woman (Divine) and her misfit family compete with a Baltimore couple (David Lochary, Mink Stole) to be... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 84383%
Critics Consensus: A high-concept high school reunion movie with an adroitly cast John Cusack and armed with a script of incisive wit.
Synopsis: After assassin Martin Blank (John Cusack) has trouble focusing on his work, resulting in a failed assignment, he returns to... [More]
Directed By: George Armitage

#47

Happiness (1998)
82%

#47
Adjusted Score: 83169%
Critics Consensus: Happiness is far from a cheerful viewing experience, but its grimly humorous script and fearless performances produce a perversely moving search for humanity within everyday depravity.
Synopsis: This dark ensemble-comedy is centered on the three Jordan sisters. Joy (Jane Adams) moves through lackluster jobs with no sense... [More]
Directed By: Todd Solondz

#46

T2 Trainspotting (2017)
81%

#46
Adjusted Score: 99788%
Critics Consensus: T2 Trainspotting adds an intoxicating, emotionally resonant postscript to its classic predecessor, even without fully recapturing the original's fresh, subversive thrill.
Synopsis: First there was an opportunity, then there was a betrayal. Twenty years later, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 91298%
Critics Consensus: Seven Psychopaths delivers sly cinematic commentary while serving up a heaping helping of sharp dialogue and gleeful violence.
Synopsis: Boozy writer Marty (Colin Farrell) is a man in search of a screenplay. He has a catchy title but no... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 85121%
Critics Consensus: The Brand New Testament takes a surreal, subversive, and funny look at Biblical themes through a modern -- and refreshingly original -- lens.
Synopsis: God is discovered living in Brussels with his daughter.... [More]
Directed By: Jaco Van Dormael

#43

Men & Chicken (2015)
84%

#43
Adjusted Score: 86857%
Critics Consensus: Men & Chicken's bizarre setup only skims the surface of a challenging, well-acted comedy with a warm heart to match its grotesque visuals and dark themes.
Synopsis: Two outcast brothers get to know their biological family and discover the horrible truth about themselves and their relatives.... [More]
Directed By: Anders Thomas Jensen

#42

Four Lions (2009)
83%

#42
Adjusted Score: 86988%
Critics Consensus: Its premise suggests brazenly tasteless humor, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth.
Synopsis: A group of young Muslim men living in Sheffield decide to wage jihad, and they hatch an inept plan to... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Morris

#41

Harold and Maude (1971)
85%

#41
Adjusted Score: 89691%
Critics Consensus: Hal Ashby's comedy is too dark and twisted for some, and occasionally oversteps its bounds, but there's no denying the film's warm humor and big heart.
Synopsis: Cult classic pairs Cort as a dead-pan disillusioned 20-year-old obsessed with suicide and a loveable Gordon as a fun-loving 80-year-old... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 92897%
Critics Consensus: The Art of Self-Defense grapples compellingly with modern American masculinity -- and serves as an outstanding calling card for writer-director Riley Stearns.
Synopsis: After getting attacked on the street, Casey enlists in a local dojo that's led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei.... [More]
Directed By: Riley Stearns

#39

In Bruges (2008)
84%

#39
Adjusted Score: 91012%
Critics Consensus: Featuring witty dialogue and deft performances, In Bruges is an effective mix of dark comedy and crime thriller elements.
Synopsis: After a particularly difficult job, hit men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) head to Belgium to hide out... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: 87883%
Critics Consensus: The War of the Roses is a black comedy made even funnier by hanging onto its caustic convictions -- and further distinguished by Danny DeVito's stylish direction.
Synopsis: After 17 years of marriage, Barbara (Kathleen Turner) and Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) want out. The trouble is, neither one... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 92176%
Critics Consensus: Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage.
Synopsis: Two-bit crook Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) stumbles into an audition for a mystery film while on the run from... [More]
Directed By: Shane Black

#36

Game Night (2018)
85%

#36
Adjusted Score: 99575%
Critics Consensus: With a talented cast turned loose on a loaded premise -- and a sharp script loaded with dark comedy and unexpected twists -- Game Night might be more fun than the real thing.
Synopsis: Max and Annie's weekly game night gets kicked up a notch when Max's brother Brooks arranges a murder mystery party... [More]

#35

Eating Raoul (1982)
86%

#35
Adjusted Score: 86133%
Critics Consensus: Eating Raoul serves up its spectacularly lurid tale with a healthy heaping of pitch-black humor and anarchic vigor.
Synopsis: The absurd Blands (Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov) lure swingers home to be conked by a skillet, robbed and removed by... [More]
Directed By: Paul Bartel

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 89320%
Critics Consensus: In Order of Disappearance's black comedy doesn't always hit its targets, but on the whole, it still adds up to a sly, entertaining revenge thriller.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Hans Petter Moland

#33

Ingrid Goes West (2017)
86%

#33
Adjusted Score: 99466%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong performances from Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, Ingrid Goes West delivers smart, topical humor underlined by timely social observations.
Synopsis: Following the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, young Ingrid Thorburn escapes a humdrum existence by... [More]
Directed By: Matt Spicer

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 85400%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the... [More]
Directed By: Frank Capra

#31

Female Trouble (1975)
88%

#31
Adjusted Score: 89817%
Critics Consensus: Director John Waters' affection for camp brings texture to societal transgression in Female Trouble, a brazenly subversive dive into celebrity and mayhem.
Synopsis: An obese woman (Divine) gives birth to an obnoxious child and embarks upon a bizarre and violent life of crime.... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#30

Cheap Thrills (2013)
88%

#30
Adjusted Score: 91698%
Critics Consensus: Gleefully nasty and darkly hilarious, Cheap Thrills lives down to its title in the best possible way.
Synopsis: A series of escalating bets pits recently reunited friends against each other.... [More]
Directed By: E.L. Katz

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 92407%
Critics Consensus: World's Greatest Dad is a risky, deadpan, dark comedy that effectively explores the nature of posthumous cults of celebrity.
Synopsis: When the son of high school English teacher Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) accidentally kills himself, Clayton writes a fake suicide... [More]
Directed By: Bobcat Goldthwait

#28

The Lobster (2015)
87%

#28
Adjusted Score: 102624%
Critics Consensus: As strange as it is thrillingly ambitious, The Lobster is definitely an acquired taste -- but for viewers with the fortitude to crack through Yorgos Lanthimos' offbeat sensibilities, it should prove a savory cinematic treat.
Synopsis: In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of... [More]
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

#27

After Hours (1985)
89%

#27
Adjusted Score: 93557%
Critics Consensus: Bursting with frantic energy and tinged with black humor, After Hours is a masterful -- and often overlooked -- detour in Martin Scorsese's filmography.
Synopsis: In a Manhattan cafe, word processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) meets and talks literature with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Later that... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#26

Delicatessen (1991)
89%

#26
Adjusted Score: 92930%
Critics Consensus: Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet deftly combines horror, sci-fi, and humor in Delicatessen, a morbid comedy set in a visually ravishing futuristic dystopia.
Synopsis: Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) is a butcher who owns a run-down apartment building in post-apocalyptic France. The building is in constant... [More]

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 92961%
Critics Consensus: An outstanding sophomore feature, Welcome to the Dollhouse sees writer-director Todd Solondz mining suburban teen angst for black, biting comedy.
Synopsis: Middle-school student Dawn Weiner (Heather Matarazzo) faces degradation at school -- where she is teased constantly -- and at home.... [More]
Directed By: Todd Solondz

#24

The Producers (1968)
90%

#24
Adjusted Score: 98628%
Critics Consensus: A hilarious satire of the business side of Hollywood, The Producers is one of Mel Brooks' finest, as well as funniest films, featuring standout performances by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.
Synopsis: Down and out producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who was once the toast of Broadway, trades sexual favors with old... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#23

A Serious Man (2009)
89%

#23
Adjusted Score: 97606%
Critics Consensus: Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.
Synopsis: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a physics professor at a 1960s university, but his life is coming apart at the... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#22
Adjusted Score: 121116%
Critics Consensus: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deftly balances black comedy against searing drama -- and draws unforgettable performances from its veteran cast along the way.
Synopsis: After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three... [More]
Directed By: Martin McDonagh

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 88598%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a local man's corpse appears on a nearby hillside, no one is quite sure what happened to him. Many... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

#20

Polyester (1981)
93%

#20
Adjusted Score: 93581%
Critics Consensus: As proudly tacky as its titular fabric, Polyester finds writer-director John Waters moving ever so slightly into the mainstream without losing any of his subversive charm.
Synopsis: A frustrated housewife, Francine Fishpaw (Divine), tries to maintain her sanity while taking care of her dysfunctional household. Elmer (David... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 90214%
Critics Consensus: The Firemen's Ball is an uproarious comedy of incompetence, mining laughs and sharp satire from an allegory that is amusing and distressing in equal measure.
Synopsis: In Milos Forman's satire on Communism set in a small Czechoslovakian town in the 1960s, the local firemen decide to... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#18

Trainspotting (1996)
91%

#18
Adjusted Score: 95299%
Critics Consensus: A brutal, often times funny, other times terrifying portrayal of drug addiction in Edinburgh. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth viewing as a realistic and entertaining reminder of the horrors of drug use.
Synopsis: Heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) stumbles through bad ideas and sobriety attempts with his unreliable friends -- Sick Boy... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#17
Adjusted Score: 105954%
Critics Consensus: A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.
Synopsis: Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life... [More]

#16

Heathers (1989)
93%

#16
Adjusted Score: 96433%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Synopsis: Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the most popular clique at her high school, but she disapproves of the other... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#15

Fargo (1996)
94%

#15
Adjusted Score: 100374%
Critics Consensus: Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, Fargo delivers an original crime story and a wonderful performance by McDormand.
Synopsis: "Fargo" is a reality-based crime drama set in Minnesota in 1987. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is a car salesman... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#14

Withnail and I (1987)
94%

#14
Adjusted Score: 94615%
Critics Consensus: Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann prove irresistibly hilarious as two misanthropic slackers in Withnail and I, a biting examination of artists living on the fringes of prosperity and good taste.
Synopsis: Two out-of-work actors -- the anxious, luckless Marwood (Paul McGann) and his acerbic, alcoholic friend, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) --... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Robinson

#13

Ruthless People (1986)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 96663%
Critics Consensus: It's sometimes crude and tasteless, but Ruthless People wrings acid-soaked laughs out of its dark premise and gleefully misanthropic characters.
Synopsis: Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) hates his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), so much that he wants her dead. He's ecstatic when... [More]

#12

In the Loop (2009)
94%

#12
Adjusted Score: 99598%
Critics Consensus: In the Loop is an uncommonly funny political satire that blends Dr. Strangelove with Spinal Tap for the Iraq war era.
Synopsis: During an interview, British Cabinet Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) delivers an off-the-cuff remark that war in the Middle East... [More]
Directed By: Armando Iannucci

#11
Adjusted Score: 100088%
Critics Consensus: Led by a volcanic performance from Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a scathing adaptation of the Edward Albee play that serves as a brilliant calling card for debuting director Mike Nichols.
Synopsis: History professor George (Richard Burton) and his boozy wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), return late one Saturday night from a cocktail... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 108998%
Critics Consensus: The Death of Stalin finds director/co-writer Arnando Iannucci in riotous form, bringing his scabrous political humor to bear on a chapter in history with painfully timely parallels.
Synopsis: When tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin dies in 1953, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to become... [More]
Directed By: Armando Iannucci

#9

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
97%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102023%
Critics Consensus: Charles Chaplin adds an undercurrent of malice to his comedic persona in Monsieur Verdoux, an unsettling satire that subverts the tramp's image to perversely amusing effect.
Synopsis: Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin) is a dapper Parisian family man who loses his job as a bank clerk. In order... [More]
Directed By: Charles Chaplin

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 100310%
Critics Consensus: A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.
Synopsis: Acting couple Joseph (Jack Benny) and Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) are managing a theatrical troupe when the Nazis invade Poland.... [More]
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch

#7

Brazil (1985)
98%

#7
Adjusted Score: 100777%
Critics Consensus: Brazil, Terry Gilliam's visionary Orwellian fantasy, is an audacious dark comedy, filled with strange, imaginative visuals.
Synopsis: Low-level bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes the monotony of his day-to-day life through a recurring daydream of himself as... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#6
Adjusted Score: 106035%
Critics Consensus: Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Cold War satire remains as funny and razor-sharp today as it was in 1964.
Synopsis: A film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button -- and it played the situation... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#5

Parasite (2019)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 127464%
Critics Consensus: An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.
Synopsis: Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

#4

Multiple Maniacs (1970)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101532%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Cavalcade of Perversion, a traveling freak-show, is a front for a band of psychotic kidnappers and murderers.... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#3

The Ladykillers (1955)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 102466%
Critics Consensus: The Ladykillers is a macabre slow-burn with quirky performances of even quirkier characters.
Synopsis: Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) likes to report suspicious behavior to the police. Unaware of her reputation, the dapper thief Professor... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick

#2

A New Leaf (1971)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103262%
Critics Consensus: Elaine May is a comedic dynamo both behind and in front of the camera in this viciously funny screwball farce, with able support provided by Walter Matthau.
Synopsis: A spoiled and self-absorbed man who has squandered his inheritance, Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) is desperate to find a way... [More]
Directed By: Elaine May

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 104434%
Critics Consensus: Performed with chameleonic brio by Alec Guinness, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a triumphant farce.
Synopsis: When his mother eloped with an Italian opera singer, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) was cut off from her aristocratic family.... [More]
Directed By: Robert Hamer

(Photo by © Focus Features)

The Coen Brothers are known for making madcap comedies full of self-defeating characters and packed with jabs at the world that they, and we, inhabit. In that regard, Burn After Reading is among their craftiest works.

And yet, while the film became their third biggest box office earner following its release on September 12, 2008, it isn’t nearly as fondly remembered as the likes of The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, or Fargo. It resonated with critics (78% on the Tomatometer) and carries an Audience Score of 64%, but in most assessments of the Coen Bros. canon, it sits firmly in the middle – if not at the very bottom.

The film has a very Coens-y premise: Gym associates discover a CD containing secret government documents, which they use to try to nab a reward from the CIA; when that doesn’t work, they go to the Russians. What they don’t know is that the CD was planted by a CIA officer’s vengeful wife, and that they have inadvertently lit the fuse on a powder keg of affairs and covert operations. Hijinks ensue. Lots and lots of hijinks.

After more than a decade of sitting in the under-appreciated drawer, we think it’s time people pulled it out, brushed the dust off, and started holding this should-be Coen Bros. classic in higher regard. Here’s why.


BRAD PITT IS HYSTERICAL AS CHAD FELDHEIMER

No character better embodies the vibe and subversive smarts of Burn After Reading than Brad Pitt’s Chad Feldheimer, an airhead gym trainer whose douchebro swagger was immortalized from the very first trailer for the film (you’ll recall his exuberant, fist-pumping treadmill dance). Chad’s short attention span and surface-level interactions make him a big dumb Labrador with impeccably conditioned hair. He brings that same goofiness to the world of covert affairs, attempting to sell CIA documents using all he knows: spy tropes he’s seen on TV – if he remembers them well enough.

Pitt played him like kazoo, all over-the-top guffaws, oblivious smirks, and vacant stares. Which was totally against type, at least for Pitt at the time. This was ’00s Brad, not early ’90s surfer Brad – slick and suave in Ocean’s Eleven, rugged cowboy in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. In Reading, Brad Pitt broke brand to spoof Brad Pitt.


AND FRANCES MCDORMAND IS EVEN BETTER

Who could forget Frances McDormand’s legendary Oscar-winning turn as Marge Gunderson in Fargo? McDormand won our hearts with the wholesome-and-competent cop just so she could trample them as Linda Litzke in Burn After Reading.

The obsessive Litzke is hellbent on getting cosmetic surgery so she can meet – and keep – the guy of her dreams. Where Marge was patient and kind, Litzke is anything but, her eyes sharp and judgmental, her laughter uncaring, her every gesture quick, rigid and controlled. She’s cutthroat, insipid, egotistical, and that’s just the start of why we love to hate her (and it’s mostly love). Just like her boss, Richard Jenkins as Ted Treffon.

RIP, Ted.


IT’S A HILARIOUS COMEDY CLUSTERF–K

More than one character in Burn After Reading uses the word “clusterf–k” to describe the situation they find themselves in, and it’s a perfect way to describe the film itself, a comedy of errors begetting errors begetting errors. What was your favorite f—k up in the cluster? John Malkovich’s pretentious Osbourne Cox, a notoriously short-fused CIA agent, deluding himself into thinking people care about his hackneyed memoir? Chad Feldheimer learning why you should never hide in a CIA agent’s closet? Or something else?

Burn After Reading delivers on a ton of comedy levels – wordplay, non sequiturs, slapstick, and more. Perhaps the best element of all is U.S. Marshall Harry Pfarrer’s (George Clooney) mysterious invention. Just as he gets wind of the cloak-and-dagger affair, he begins building something in his garage, always keeping it hidden from his wife, always under a tarp. When he finally reveals it to Linda, and to us, we are treated to a glorious contraption made of shining steel, luxurious leather… and a dildo.

And that sex machine winds up being emblematic of the whole movie.


IT TAKES AIM AT – AND HITS – HOLLYWOOD AND THE CIA…

At the Coens’ request, composer Carter Burwell created a bombastic, percussive score that was “something sounding important but absolutely meaningless,” which fit the bill for the introduction and revelation of Harry’s sex machine. In the same way, the movie’s spy caper is a mysterious, convoluted nothing-burger by design: Its characters are vapid, self-serving idiots, despite their delusions of grandeur, and its central concern is a stack of CIA documents that are nothing more than a character’s disjointed autobiography.

The Coens let the air out of the spycraft movie, one of Hollywood’s oldest and most frequently revisited genres. Their film suggests that movie government agents rarely know what’s going on, generally overreact to crises, and tend to squabble with other agencies – and maybe not just movie government agents.


…AND THE COENS THEMSELVES

Every Coen Bros. movie is a statement on the world and upon itself. The Big Lebowski subtly meditates on the Bush administration. Hail, Caesar! asks if Hollywood success is really worth the effort. Burn After Reading, as much as any of their other works, and maybe more so, reflects on the Coen Bros. themselves as storytellers.

Consider that Burn After Reading is populated by characters who are spoofs or inversions of the actors who play them: Pitt as the dumb douche Chad, McDormand as driven and tough, Clooney as a vapid goof, and – again – Malkovich as a storyteller with nothing to say. And then consider that the film is an almost-spoof of the Coen Bros. body of work – ordinary people caught up in unordinary dealings.

“Who’d want to hear your story?!” Tilda Swinton’s Katie Cox asks Osbourne, her husband, at one point. It’s a question many storytellers ask themselves, and every Burn After Reading character deludes themselves into thinking the answer is “everyone,” when everything is ultimately “utterly meaningless.” You can almost hear the brothers Coen asking us to consider whether there is meaning in the movie itself, and the movies they made before it. And then asking us as follow-up: If there isn’t meaning in the work, does that make them necessarily meaningless?

Which is the big takeaway from the film. Recall the movie’s last few lines: “What did we learn? …I guess we learned not to do it again.” The characters may have taken the lesson to heart – we await any kind of sequel – but to our delight, the Coen Bros. did not.


Burn After Reading was released September 12, 2008

Warm up your electrified fooling machine: April 1st is here! Once you’re done putting ice buckets atop doors, gluing your co-workers’ stuff to their desks, and faking your death in a car explosion and then disappearing for years afterwards, come check out this week’s gallery of the 24 biggest, greatest fools from movie history!

This week on streaming services, we’ve got an animated hit, an Oscar-nominated sports drama, well-received films from Spike Lee and the Coen brothers, a few underseen indies, and some worthy TV. Read on for the full list.


New on Netflix

 

Paddington (2014) 97%

Ben Whishaw voices the titular talking bear, who arrives in London after stowing away on a boat and is taken in by the Brown family. Unfortunately, he also draws the attention of a devious taxidermist.

Available now on: Netflix


Tikkun (2015) 95%

This suspenseful drama follows an ultra-orthodox scholar in Jerusalem who experiences an awakening in his body after a near-death experience and begins to question his path in life.

Available now on: Netflix


Summertime (2015) 91%

This French-Belgian period romance centers on a love affair between two women amidst the rise of feminism in 1970s France.

Available now on: Netflix


The 100: Season 3 (2016) 83%

The CW’s sci-fi drama follows a group of imprisoned teens who are returned to Earth from a space station, years after the planet has been devastated by nuclear war.

Available now on: Netflix


Cosmos (2015) 81%

This French-Portugese drama, based on the Polish novel of the same name, follows the eccentric inhabitants of a bed and breakfast.

Available now on: Netflix


He Got Game (1998) 81%

Denzel Washington and Ray Allen star in Spike Lee’s drama about a prison inmate who attempts to convince his talented son to play basketball for the governor of New York’s alma mater in exchange for an early release.

Available now on: Netflix


Burn After Reading (2008) 78%

George Clooney and Frances McDormand lead an all-star cast in the Coen brothers’ crime comedy about a pair of fitness center employees who attempt to extort money from a CIA analyst on the outs when they discover his unpublished memoirs.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

Creed (2015) 95%

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone star in this continuation of the Rocky franchise, which finds the iconic screen boxer taking Apollo Creed’s son under his wing.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Grantchester: Season 2 (2016) 86%

This period crime drama series from the UK follows an Anglican priest who forms an unlikely partnership with a local detective.

Available 11/17  on: Amazon Prime


Available to Purchase

 

The Secret Life of Pets (2016) 72%

Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart lead an ensemble voice cast in this animated tale about a jealous Jack Russell terrier who must befriend his owner’s new dog when the two of them find themselves stuck in the streets.

Available now on: Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 

Hart and Johnson: The world’s two unlikeliest megastars join forces this week for Central Intelligence, playing former high school classmates who reunite and get embroiled in international action courtesy of the CIA. Since its inception in 1947, Hollywood has committed plenty of celluloid around the agency’s foundation of espionage and top-secret missions, inspiring this week’s gallery: the best and worst CIA agents in movie history.

RT Interview: Tilda Swinton on Julia

One of the most diverse and celebrated talents of her generation, the directors on Tilda Swinton‘s CV represent a veritable who’s who of independent cinema and include David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Cameron Crowe, the Coen Brothers and Jim Jarmusch. Few who’ve seen Sally Potter‘s adaptation of Orlando, with Swinton in the title role, will forget the power of her performance, a power she brings to every role she tackles, from Constantine to Burn After Reading. Her supporting role in Michael Clayton earned her an Oscar, but her performance in Julia, out now on DVD, went largely unnoticed despite its impact on those who saw it. Out now on DVD, Swinton sits down with RT to talk about the film.


Julia

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What was it about Julia as a character that made you want to play her?

Tilda Swinton: She reminds me of so many of the great drunks I have known and loved in my life, who have always felt so unlike the kind of loser character often put forward in cinema portrayals.

Is there a particular appeal to exploring characters as unglamorous and as unrelentingly real as Julia?

TS: It certainly does one good to notice how extreme ‘unrelenting realness’ very often is; how far from any concept of good taste or subtlety. When we were developing this film, we went out of our way to be clear with ourselves just how far we needed to go. People like Kate del Castillo‘s character really are that unhinged, desperate people with guns and insanely ferocious dogs do shout that loud, people like Julia do drink that much and that often, the effort to appear sober the morning after drinking as much as she does does involve that much overacting, look that forced and feel that wierd to be around.

Julia

Tilda Swinton in Julia

What are the real challenges and areas of consideration when you’re taking on a character afflicted by something like alcoholism?

TS:The responsibility of going far enough. The resistence to stopping short of the mark for the sake of modesty.

What was the experience of working with Erick Zonca like?

TS: Exhilarating. Multilingual. Random. Addictive. He has to be the least cerebral filmmaker I have ever worked with; he directs outside of any formal or literary concerns whatsoever. He directs energy – nothing less – and is not interested in anything except the authentic. His constant request is for ‘something of different’, ‘something of fantasy’ and, of me in particular, ‘more ugly, Tilda, make more ugly faces’. His allergy to generica and his passion are truly infectious and a tonic to be around. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

Continue onto the next page as Tilda Swinton talks about working with children and on location and tells us more about her upcoming reteaming with Jim Jarmusch.

RT Interview: Tilda Swinton on Julia


Julia

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Aidan Gould is remarkable as Tom, what are the joys and challenges of working with children?

TS: I can only think of joys. That they know the proper value of play. That they are up for the practical artifice of pretend; I’ve yet to meet a child of nine burdened with any concept of a method, or the pressure of taking their character home with them or all that displacement stuff. That they are in touch with the fun of making things up. That they are in no screwed-up battle with their dignity all the while. Altogether, in combination with the need for children to work restricted hours, it’s grace.

There’s an incredible amount of location work involved here and some striking locations — do you prefer working on location?

TS: Possibly. It makes for a completely different texture to what you actually shoot, let’s face it, and in the land of realness, or semi-realness, as in Julia, there is a kind of ease that comes with walking into real places surrounded by energies other than that of the film. Real walls, real pavement, real sky all help hold down the make believe and pin it into place.

Julia

Tilda Swinton in Julia

We’re soon to see you in another Jim Jarmusch film, could you tell us a little about your character and the film itself?

TS: Pretty much nothing, I’m afraid. Isaach de Bankole wears sensational shiny suits. I wear a white wig and cowboy hat. Paz de la Huerta wears – mainly – not a stitch. We are all in Spain. Isaach meets us there, on an unexplained mission, as he does Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Youki Kudoh and others. We hand him cryptic messages in matchboxes and expound on art, music, science, hallucinogenics and sex. My subject is cinema. Isaach keeps moving. It’s a mystery story with a protagonist so calm, so opaque, that we can rest in his company – go along for the ride in blissful ignorance, perhaps even give up on impatience in the beauty of this landscape, under the umberella of this soundtrack. Credit crunch, eco-friendly, existential travel for the price of a cinema seat and minimal carbon footprint.

Julia is on DVD now.

The 14th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards were given on January 8, 2009, to honor the finest achievements in 2008 filmmaking. A list of nominees follows below, with winners in bold:

Best Picture:
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E
The Wrestler

Best Actor:
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress (Tie):
Kate Beckinsale, Nothing But the Truth
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Best Supporting Actor:
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

James Franco, Milk

Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Acting Ensemble:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Milk

Rachel Getting Married

Best Director:
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Best Writer:
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Best Animated Feature:
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Wall-E
Waltz With Bashir

Best Young Actor/Actress:
Dakota Fanning, The Secret Life of Bees
David Kross, The Reader
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire

Brandon Walters, Australia

Best Action Movie:
The Dark Knight

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Quantum of Solace
Wanted

Best Comedy Movie:
Burn After Reading
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Role Models
Tropic Thunder

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Christmas Tale
Gomorrah
I’ve Loved You So Long
Let the Right One In
Mongol
Waltz With Bashir

Best Documentary Feature:
I.O.U.S.A.
Man On Wire

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
Standard Operating Procedure
Young At Heart

Source: Broadcast Film Critics Association

“Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Reader,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Slumdog Millionaire” battle it out for Best Drama while “Burn After Reading,” “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “In Bruges,” “Mamma Mia! and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” fight for Best Comedy or Musical at this year’s Golden Globes — the nominations were announced today.

Best Motion Picture (Drama)
1. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
2. Frost/Nixon
3. The Reader
4. Revolutionary Road
5. Slumdog Millionaire

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture (Drama)

1. Anne Hathaway — Rachel Getting Married
2. Angelina Jolie — Changeling
3. Meryl Streep — Doubt
4. Kristin Scott Thomas — I’ve Loved You So Long (Il Y A Longtemps Que Je T’aime)

5. Kate Winslet — Revolutionary Road

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture (Drama)
1. Leonardo Dicaprio — Revolutionary Road
2. Frank Langella — Frost/Nixon
3. Sean Penn — Milk
4. Brad Pitt — The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
5. Mickey RourkeThe Wrestler

Best Motion Picture (Comedy Or Musical)
1. Burn After Reading
2. Happy-Go-Lucky
3. In Bruges
4. Mamma Mia!
5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture (Comedy Or Musical)
1. Rebecca Hall — Vicky Cristina Barcelona
2. Sally Hawkins — Happy-Go-Lucky
3. Frances Mcdormand — Burn After Reading

4. Meryl Streep — Mamma Mia!
5. Emma Thompson — Last Chance Harvey

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture (Comedy Or Musical)
1. Javier Bardem — Vicky Cristina Barcelona
2. Colin Farrell — In Bruges
3. James Franco — Pineapple Express

4. Brendan Gleeson — In Bruges
5. Dustin Hoffman — Last Chance Harvey

Best Animated Feature Film
1. Bolt
2. Kung Fu Panda

3. Wall-E

Best Foreign Language Film
1. The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
2. Everlasting Moments (Sweden/Denmark)
3. Gomorrah (Italy)
4. I’ve Loved You So Long (France)
5. Waltz With Bashir (Israel)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture
1. Amy Adams — Doubt
2. Penelope Cruz — Vicky Cristina Barcelona

3. Viola Davis — Doubt
4. Marisa Tomei — The Wrestler

5. Kate Winslet — The Reader

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture
1. Tom Cruise — Tropic Thunder
2. Robert Downey Jr. — Tropic Thunder

3. Ralph Fiennes — The Duchess
4. Philip Seymour Hoffman — Doubt
5. Heath Ledger — The Dark Knight

Best Director (Motion Picture)
1. Danny Boyle — Slumdog Millionaire
2. Stephen Daldry — The Reader
3. David Fincher — The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
4. Ron Howard — Frost/Nixon
5. Sam Mendes — Revolutionary Road

Best Screenplay (Motion Picture)
1. Simon Beaufoy — Slumdog Millionaire
2. David Hare — The Reader
3. Peter Morgan — Frost/Nixon
4. Eric Roth — The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
5. John Patrick Shanley — Doubt

Best Original Score — Motion Picture
1. Alexandre Desplat —The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
2. Clint Eastwood — Changeling
3. James Newton Howard — Defiance
4. A. R. Rahman — Slumdog Millionaire
5. Hans Zimmer — Frost/Nixon

Best Original Song — Motion Picture
1. “Down To Earth” – Wall-E
2. “Gran Torino” – Gran Torino
3. “I Thought I Lost You” – Bolt
4. “Once In A Lifetime” – Cadillac Records
5. “The Wrestler” – The Wrestler

Nominations By Motion Picture Studios And Television Networks
Warner Bros. Pictures — 11
Universal Pictures — 9
The Weinstein Company — 8
Fox Searchlight Pictures — 7
Miramax Films — 7
Dreamworks Pictures — 6
Focus Features — 6
Paramount Pictures — 6
Paramount Vantage — 6
BBC Films — 5
Sony Pictures Classics — 4
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures — 4
IFC Films — 2
Overture Films — 2
Sony Pictures Releasing — 2
Studio Canal — 2
Pathe — 1
Summit Entertainment — 1
Village Roadshow — 1

Nominations By Motion Picture
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button — 5
Doubt — 5
Frost/Nixon — 5
The Reader — 4
Revolutionary Road — 4
Slumdog Millionaire — 4
Vicky Cristina Barcelona — 4
In Bruges — 3
The Wrestler — 3
Bolt — 2
Burn After Reading — 2
Changeling — 2
Happy-Go-Lucky — 2
I’ve Loved You So Long (Il Y A Longtemps Que Je T’aime) — 2
Last Chance Harvey — 2
Mamma Mia! — 2
Tropic Thunder — 2
Wall-E — 2
Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Badder Meinhof Komplex) — 1
Cadillac Records — 1
The Dark Knight — 1
Defiance — 1
The Duchess — 1
Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons Eviga Ögonblick) — 1
Gomorrah (Gomorra) — 1
Gran Torino — 1
Kung Fu Panda — 1
Milk — 1
Pineapple Express — 1
Rachel Getting Married — 1
Waltz With Bashir — 1

Source: HFPA

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