The Coen Brothers Consider This Their Worst Movie

Starting with their feature film debut in 1984, Joel and Ethan Coen have been power players in the world of American indie cinema. Throughout the late '80s and the whole of the '90s, the filmmakers put out a ling string of critically revered and Award-winning films. Their 1996 film "Fargo" still tops lists of the best films of its decade, "Barton Fink" has been called one of the best films ever made about screenwriting, and both 1986's "Raising Arizona" and 1998's "The Big Lebowski" are still on regular rotation at midnight movie houses. 2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," a 1930s retelling of "The Odyssey," boasts one of the best soundtracks of all time and after a series of debated letdowns in the early 2000s, they won the Oscar for Best Picture with "No Country for Old Men."

Collectively, the Coen brothers' films have garnered 39 Oscar nominations and 6 wins. Editorial: It should have been 7, as "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" from "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" was a great, great song.) But how do the filmmaking duo rank their own movies, and which one do they think is the worst? 

The Crude One

The aforementioned 1984 debut was "Blood Simple," a crime film made for a mere $1.5 million, starring John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh, Dan Hedaya, and Frances McDormand in her own film debut. It tells the story of a bar owner, an affair, and a string of bloody vengeful killings. The film climaxes with a tense cat-and-mouse sequence with McDormand and Walsh ... and I will not reveal anything more, as the twists and turns of "Blood Simple" are a large part of the fun. 

The film is still largely celebrated, and was given very positive reviews when it came out. Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times called it "A dazzling comedie noire, a dynamic, virtuoso display by a couple of talented fledgling filmmakers who give the conventions of the genre such a thorough workout that the result is a movie that's fresh and exhilarating." /Film even declared "Blood Simple" to be one of the best films in the history of the Sundance Film Festival. In 2016, "Blood Simple" was given the Tiffany treatment by The Criterion Collection

This is the film, however, that The Coen Brothers consider their worst, and have described as "pretty damn bad."

'Pretty Damn Bad'

In the 2000 book "My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk About Their First Film," edited by Stephen Lowestein, Joel Coen was interviewed about "Blood Simple" and he revealed his ambivalence toward his debut. Like all debut filmmakers, the Coens were evidently still learning the ins and outs of filmmaking, and, to Joel's eyes, still had a way to go. Ethan went so far as to describe the film as "crude, there's no getting around it." Joel continued, clarifying: "On the other hand, it's all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience ... You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don't know. It's a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it's pretty damn bad!"

Anyone who makes art can likely relate. You may not like what you made, but you can be grateful for the effort it took, the growth you went through, and the overall experience of assembling something yourself. They may not want to watch it or celebrate it the way critics do, but the Coens still appreciate it as a learning exercise.