Ethan and his older brother Joel Coen are the filmmakers responsible for darkly quirky movies like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country for Old Men. His sister-in-law is Frances McDormand.
As little kids, Ethan and his older brother Joel made super-8 remakes of Hollywood movies. Ethan left high school in Minnesota early to attend Simon's Rock, and went on to study philosophy at Princeton. He spent time writing for the TV show Cagney & Lacey before he and his brother made their official filmmaking debut in 1984 with the dark comedy Blood Simple. They followed up with the 1987 madcap comedy Raising Arizona, gangster flick Miller's Crossing, and1991's dark Hollywood comedy Barton Fink, which won the Palme d'Or that year. After an uninterrupted string of indie successes, the brothers' big-budget debut, 1994's The Hudsucker Proxy, turned out to be a critical and commercial disappointment. But they quickly rebounded with a couple of their most popular films: 1996's Fargo, which won Frances McDormand an Oscar for Best Actress and was awarded Best Screenplay as well; and 1998's The Big Lebowski, which became a cult classic. O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000 wasn't quite as popular (although the soundtrack was a hit). Nor were their subsequent pics, The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty, and Ladykillers, which all lacked the box-office firepower of their late '90s faves. But they rallied in a major way in 2007 with their wildly-praised adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, which netted them Oscar statues for Best Director and Best Picture, and subsequent filmsBurn After Reading and True Grit continued their winning stretch.
Although Joel gets credited as director and Ethan as producer, it's widely known that the pair write, direct, and produce their movies in tandem. (They also edit their films together under the alias "Roderick Jaynes.") Stylistically, the Coen brothers' calling cards include ingeniously twisting plots, dark humor, a penchant for violent visual gags (like the scenes in Big Lebowski revolving around a severed toe) as well as overtones of film noir and Americana. The brothers work with a stable of regular actors that includes Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, John Goodman, George Clooney, and Joel's wife Frances McDormand. [Image via Getty]