The 10 most dangerous villains in the films of the Coen brothers

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This year marks the 15th anniversary of There is no country for old menthe Coen brothers’ neo-western that was released in November 2007. The film established them as two of the best directors in modern Hollywood and introduced who is the most memorable character in any of their films: Anton Chigurh.

Terrifying and dangerous, Chigurh is one of cinema’s best villains, but he’s far from the only menacing character in the Coens’ filmography. From criminals to violent contract killers, the Coens have delivered some of the most dangerous and memorable villains in recent film history.


Thora and Thessaly Thacker – Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Thora Thacker looking to her left at Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar! is one of the Coens’ weakest films. The plot is about a Hollywood fixer who investigates the disappearance of an actor while dealing with various other situations. Tilda Swinton is part of the film’s large cast, playing feuding twin sisters and gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker.

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Based on the infamous rivalry between Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, Thora and Thessaly are unscrupulous and ruthless. There’s nothing they won’t do for a story and there’s no line they won’t cross to get a scoop. The twins ruin lives with their poisonous items, becoming feared among the Hollywood community.

Jesús Quintana – The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jesus holding a bowling ball in The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is one of John Turturro’s best films. The film follows The Dude, who gets involved in a kidnapping after a case of mistaken identity. Turturro, a regular Coen collaborator, has a minor role in the film, but his participation is no less memorable.

Jesús Quintana is a convicted sex offender who exposed himself to a child. The character is creepy and disgusting, even with just a few minutes of screen time. Quintana’s crimes may happen off screen, but his crimes are too great to ignore, making him a danger to society.

Sheriff Cooley – Oh brother, where are you? (2000)

Sheriff Cooley looks up in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

oh brother where are you is one of the best Coen Brothers films of all time. A modern retelling of Homer’s classic poem, odysseythe film follows three escaped convicts who search for hidden treasure while being chased by a vicious sheriff in the Prohibition-era Deep South.

Sheriff Cooley is relentless in his quest to apprehend the convicts. His determination leads him to commit several cruel acts, including torture. Cooley really enjoys hunting convicts, relishing the prospect of killing them rather than returning them to prison. Few things are scarier or more dangerous than a man who uses the law to satisfy his wild instincts.

Linda Litzke – Burn After Reading (2009)

Linda Litzke looking serious and attentive in Burn After Reading

Black comedy Burn after reading features a mix of highly incompetent characters trying to gain the upper hand. The plot follows two dimwitted gym employees who stumble upon the memoirs of a retired CIA analyst and, mistaking them for government secrets, attempt to sell them to the highest bidder.

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In her seventh collaboration with the Coens, Frances McDormand plays Linda, one half of the gym duo. Although very incompetent, Linda is manipulative and shameless in her pursuit of wealth. She is willing to sell what she believes are government secrets to anyone willing to pay regardless of the possible consequences. Sometimes the most modest people are the most dangerous.

Gaear Grimsrud – Fargo (1996)

Gaear looks to his right as he smokes Fargo

Fargo has some of the best characters of any Coen Brothers film, including Gaear Grimsrud. The plot centers on a desperate car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife and the pregnant police chief who investigates the crime.

Of the two criminals, Gaer is the more intimidating. He is calm and thoughtful, but has no problem resorting to violence to deal with all inconveniences, including the most minor and meaningless ones. Gaer kills without remorse and is unstoppable in his pursuit of money, showing no allegiance or loyalty of any kind.

Lady Macbeth – The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Lady Macbeth looking up in The Tragedy of Macbeth

Frances McDormand’s most recent collaboration with the Coens was in 2021 The tragedy of Macbeth. A minimalist retelling of the Scottish play, the film follows the now-classic story of Lord Macbeth, who, encouraged by his manipulative wife, pursues the throne of Scotland after receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches

Lady Macbeth is one of the best female roles in history. Driven by ambition, she convinces her husband to commit regicide, become queen, and witness her husband’s descent into tyranny. Lady Macbeth is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, but her cruelty makes her very dangerous.

Tom Chaney – True Grit (2010)

Tom Chaney looks tired as he stands alone in a deserted space in True Grit

Josh Brolin starred alongside Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld in the Coens’ 2010 film True courage, one of the best modern westerns. The plot follows a fourteen-year-old girl who hires a lawman to hunt down the outlaw who killed her father. Brolin plays the said outlaw, the ruthless Tom Chaney.

While far from brave or impressive (in fact, Tom is quite the coward), he is also manipulative and witty, making him a dangerous foe. Tom is heartless and willing to do anything to avoid capture, including killing anyone in his path.

Tom Reagan – Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Tom sitting in a chair and looking serious in Miller's Crossing.

Miller Crossing follows Tom Reagan, the right-hand man of an Irish mobster who finds himself caught between two warring gangs and decides to play both sides. Although not one of the Coen’s most famous films, Miller Crossing he has one of his most cunning characters in Tom.

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Played by the always underrated Gabriel Byrne, Tom is intelligent, calculating and ambitious. He shows a natural gift for manipulation, successfully tricking and pitting both gangs against each other. Tom is dangerous because of his witty and cunning nature. His shifting loyalties and shifting moral compass add to his already infamous reputation.

Charlie Meadows – Barton Fink (1991)

Charlie sits on the bed while talking to Barton at Barton Fink.

John Goodman is famous for his funny roles that show his affable persona. He seems kind and approachable, the last person on Earth capable of committing a crime. Logically, the Coens cast him against type in their 1991 dark comedy psychological thriller. Barton Fink. The film centers on the titular character, a playwright who moves to Hollywood to write screenplays, only to find himself aimless and struggling.

Goodman plays Charlie Meadows, Fink’s neighbor who hides a scary secret. The plot twist is worth it for Goodman’s excellent performance, making Meadows a figure of chaos and confusion. Menacing and adaptable, Meadows is one of the Coens’ most disturbing creations.

Anton Chigurh – No Country for Old Men (2007)

Anton Chigurh at a fas station looking serious a

Few film characters have been as disturbing as Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in the 2007 film There is no country for old men. The plot centers on a war veteran who stumbles upon a pile of money and becomes the target of a violent hitman tasked with recovering it.

Chigurh is the best villain in the history of modern cinema. Restless, precise and utterly terrifying, he is a ruthless and unstoppable killing machine. Bardem, who won an Oscar for his performance, manages to make Chigurh an extremely realistic psychopath, creating a ruthless creature of pure purpose and remorse that will haunt viewers’ nightmares.

NEXT: All the Movies Written (But Not Directed) by the Coen Brothers, Ranked by IMDb

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