Joel David Coen (born 1954) and Ethan Jesse Coen (born 1957) have been making films and thumbing their noses at traditional genre boundaries since 1984. Bouncing from Film Noir to screwball comedy, from quirky indies to big-budget studio pieces, they function as a two-man writer-director-producer-editor Sibling Team.The brothers are known for their meticulous planning, not least the incredibly detailed storyboards they create for every shot of every film. This saves time during production (as they can show their cinematographer exactly what they want done) and makes the films look unbelievably cool.Joel has been married to actress Frances McDormand - whom he met on the set of their first film Blood Simple - since 1984. She's since appeared in many of their films, including Fargo for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She said of the event "After all these years sleeping with the director, it's finally paid off." Ethan has been married to Tricia Cooke since 1990, who worked as an editor on several of the brothers' films.All of their films are scored by Carter Burwell. All of their films are edited by Roderick Jaynes. He doesn't exist. He is a pseudonym for the brothers themselves. They like to have creative control on their films. Yeah.
The Hudsucker Proxy very nearly killed their careers entirely. In response, they made Fargo, which not only revived their momentum completely but was nominated for several Oscars (including Best Picture) and winning for Best Original Screenplay.
Eagleland: Each of their movies so far is about a particular time and place in America, or in some respects the American Dream.
Easter Egg: They occasionally hide jokes in the credits; for example, No Country for Old Men has a credit for "the one right tool" (referencing a line from one of Chigurh's Hannibal Lectures during the film), and A Serious Man has a disclaimer at the end of the credits assuring the audience that "No Jews were harmed during the making of this film.", True Grit credits Ethan Coen's son Buster as ''Mr. Damon's Abs Double" and Burn After Reading credits "The Walrus".
The Hyena: The two of them have what's been referred to as a "collective laugh" and often get the other going when one of them starts it.
Idiot Ball: Their characters are notoriously known for carrying this, to the extent of pushing things to an Idiot Plot. This is however a prime example of Tropes Are Not Bad, though, because their work is actually better for it.
Subverted in Raising Arizona (I have your baby, simply because I want a baby.), Fargo (I have your wife, just like we planned.), and The Big Lebowski (I know your wife's missing and I'm strapped for cash.)
Played with twice in Burn After Reading: Chad and Linda try to pull this on Osbourne, whereupon Hilarity Ensues. Later, Linda tries to invoke this with the Russians to secure Chad's release not realizing that he's already been killed by Harry.
The Muse: Frances McDormand to Joel seems to have elements of this.
Narrator: Visser in Blood Simple., Hi in Raising Arizona, Moses in The Hudsucker Proxy, The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, Ed in The Man Who Wasn't There, Bell in No Country for Old Men, 40-Year-Old Mattie in True Grit.
No Ending: Another one of their favorite tropes, used in several films.
Playing Against Type: John Goodman typically plays a very violent character in Coen brothers films, in contrast to his other roles. They do, however, make good use of his ability to also be very genial in both Barton Fink and O Brother Where Art Thou?.
Production Posse: The amount of crew that changes from film to film can be in the single digits.
The Coens reuse actors very frequently, and have a reputation for being enjoyable to work with despite their perfectionism. The only film to feature little to none of their frequent collaborators is A Serious Man, in which they deliberately cast lesser-known actors to make the film feel more authentic. Michael Lerner from Barton Fink has a cameo as "Solomon Schlutz", though.
Psycho for Hire: Gaear Grimsrud and his spiritual successor, Anton Chigurh. Also Leonard Smalls. Eddie Dane too. Heck, even Wheezy Joe.
Perhaps the best example of this comes from Fargo. All of the jas and jeezes, as well as all of Jerry's stutters, were specifically written. Also, Peter Stormare first read the line "Where is pancakes house?" as "Where's the pancake house?", thinking it was a typo. The Coens put him in his place, saying "We don't make typos".
Played extremely and intentionally straight in True Grit; the diction itself (for instance, the lack of contractions) is in fact authentic, but the dialogue itself is practically Shakespearean.
The commemorative DVD releases of several of their films (such as Blood Simple and The Big Lebowski) contain introductions (and, in the case of Blood Simple, an entire commentary) by "Forever Young Films", a fictional organization dedicated to preserving "classic" films (but really the Coens' way of poking fun at self-important cinephiles and pretentious film critics).
The Coens like to make it seem like Roderick Jaynes, the credited editor on all their films, is a real person. It's really just the pseudonym they use due to guild restrictions on shared editing credit.
Self-Deprecation: A collection of their scripts had an introduction written by their "editor," Roderick Jaynes, which basically slagged off the brothers as incompetent film-makers. Roderick Jaynes is actually a pseudonym for the brothers themselves.
The Verse: Several of their films seem to take place in the same universe. The hotel fire from Barton Fink is referenced in a newspaper article in Miller's Crossing (Crossing was produced first, but the films were written simultaneously) and the law firm "Whitehall and Marsh" is mentioned in both Burn After Reading and A Serious Man. The mysterious blue volkswagon from Blood Simple reappears in The Big Lebowski.
Llewellyn Moss and Sheriff Ed Bell in No Country for Old Men are under the presumption that they don't live in a Crapsack World. Moss gets himself and his wife killed because of it, and Bell ends up realizing the world went to hell a long time ago, but he was too idealistic to accept it.