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Five Essential Movie Classics That Influenced the Coen Brothers

From Blood Simple to Fargo to No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers are known for creating instant classics. Their award-winning films invite critical debates, create cult audiences, and occasionally even fill the studio's pockets.

Despite being dismissed by some critics in the beginning, their style-over-substance, self-aware films have built something that will never be superseded. While many debates stick to their literary inspirations, their cinematic influences are equally important. 

Below are five films that influenced the award-winning filmmakers:

The Fortune (1975)

Two 1920s hustlers, Oscar (Jack Nicholson) and Nicky (Warren Beatty), try to gain the fortune an heiress named Freddie (Stockard Channing). According to the description, “nothing will stop them, not even murder.”

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

A harmonica-carrying stranger arrives to join forces with a notorious desperado in this film by Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Trilogy). Henry Fonda stars as Frank while Charles Bronson takes on the role of Harmonica. 

High and Low (1963)

From director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), High and Low tells the story of an executive at a shoe company who becomes the victim of extortion, once his chauffeur’s son is kidnapped for ransom. 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Nominated for four Oscars, this comedy from Stanley Kubrick (The Shining, A Clockwork Orange) follows an insane general who may begin a nuclear holocaust unless a room of generals and politicians can stop him. The film stars Peter Sellers and George C. Scott. 

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Simply put, the plot behind Cool Hand Luke is “a man refuses to conform to life in a rural prison,” but there’s so much more to the film. Paul Newman stars as Luke, the newest arrival at a 1950s-era prison, that’s meant to showcase physical and psychological punishment on a man who doesn’t know how to quit.