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George Clooney
John Turturro
Tim Blake Nelson
Charles Durning
John Goodman
Michael Badalucco
Holly Hunter.
Joel Coen.
Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Ethan Cohen.
Running Time
107 minutes

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Among the Coens most purely pleasurable films. The nearest thing to a real feelgood musical the movies have pulled off in years.

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The Coen brothers splice Homer's Odyssey with Preston Sturges and Depression era America and come up with a road movie-cum-screwball comedy.

Like most Coen movies, it isn't quite the way they used to make them, but is deeply in love not just with the films of the past, but all of popular culture, from product packaging (principally Dapper Dan hair pomade) through period pop music to modes of dress and politics. Though its downhome numbers are states away from the glamour of vintage Hollywood, this even manages to be the nearest thing to a real feelgood musical the movies have pulled off in years.

While earlier Coen movies pay homage to Dashiell Hammett (Blood Simple, 1983), William Faulkner (Barton Fink, 1991) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Lebowski, 1998), the touchstone here is short story-writer and fabulist Howard Waldrop (who has a character named after him). In his novel, A Dozen Tough Jobs, Waldrop retold the story of Hercules in the rural South in the 1920s. Here, the Coens use the Waldropian approach by replaying the story of Ulysses' long journey home from the Trojan Wars to Ithaca against the backdrop of Depression-era Mississippi.

Our heroes are: Ulysses Everett McGill, a fast-talking, fastidious wiseguy who says he's after treasure but really wants to get back together with his wife, Penny, and brood of daughters; Delmar, a slow-witted tag-along who wants to buy back the family farm from the bank; and Pete, a tearaway with ambitions to be a maitre d'. On their trail is a typical Coen demon villain, posse-leader Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen), and in the background is an electoral contest between the genially corrupt incumbent Governor, Pappy O'Daniel (Charles Durning), and the reform-minded Homer Stokes (Wayne Duvall). Along the way, they fall in with Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) - a bluesman who has swapped his soul for musical talent, which leads the runaways into a profitable detour as a recording sensation - and manic depressive gunman George Nelson, who hates cows as much as cops.

Confidently cinematic in classical and modern terms, layered with subtleties but also a straight-ahead, crowd-pleasing comedy, with more witty lines and bits of visual imagination than a dozen regular movies, O Brother is where thou shouldst be.

With their annual output now as eagerly anticipated as that of Woody Allen, the Coen brothers are cinema's most precious gift: unbending auteurs and cultural magpies, who find poetry in tins of hair-wax and livestock marooned on rooftops. Cherish them.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Empire Star Rating

"You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains."

Based loosely on Homer's The Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is funny, warm-hearted and entertaining, with a little bit of violence thrown in for good measure. Score another one for The Brothers Coen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 01:15, 20 December 2012 | Report This Post


Classic Coen brother comedy genius! Absolute perfection! ... More

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Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 21:40, 08 July 2010 | Report This Post

tp://]O Brother, Where Art Thou?fter this second viewing this Coen brothers film still didn`t do anything for me. The characters are too quirky and the story couldn`t interest me at all. The only really positive thing to the film was its soundtrack, wich is brilliant. By far the least good film of the Coen brothers. /b] ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 08:39, 01 April 2010 | Report This Post

O' Brother I Laugh At Thou

This is the Coens 2nd best movie (The Big Lebowski RULED!) and its Exteremly funny must see ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by S1lent B0b at 16:56, 15 September 2009 | Report This Post

Great soundtrack to this film but for me personally I didn't enjoy it at all. Fair enough it was made by the Coen's but I don't think that because they have their name associated with this film they should automatically be getting 5 stars. The movie for me didn't engross me in any way apart from the soundtrack and maybe the last fifteen or twenty minutes. I can understand that people would like this film but there's nothing memorable in it for me so I honestly wouldn't recommend it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PureAinmhi at 13:57, 11 April 2009 | Report This Post


The best of the Coens' lighthearted stuff. The characters are totally original and the plot even more so. Its the kind of film that I could watch countless times and still love it. Long live the Coens. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by WiseGuy101 at 08:50, 05 February 2009 | Report This Post

It's bonafide!

Now this might be blasphemous in world where most people hail "The Dude" as the greatest character even created in cinema, but THIS is my favourite ever Coen brother's film. Ulysses and Pete play perfectly off each other and Demar must be one of the most instantly loveable characters ever made. The are backed with a colourful supporting cast of characters and you never come across a duff performance. The story weaves together artfully, but that doesn't stop the great paced action... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SkullKassidy at 00:43, 24 July 2008 | Report This Post

Very funny

Great movie, highly hilarious! ... More

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Posted by tallaght24 at 11:55, 30 April 2008 | Report This Post

A film of immense fun, the Coen Brothers have now established themselves as the greatest director duo since Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell. They have managed to get some of the greatest ever movie performances and it is just a fantastic film. Clooney in his best role I have seen him in years. ... More

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Posted by willchadwick at 13:05, 30 September 2007 | Report This Post

A Coen brothers classic in the same league as Fargo, The Big Lebowski and Miller's Crossing. John Turturro performance is still the best out of the main characters. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 19:52, 31 August 2007 | Report This Post


This is one of my favourite Coen brothers films and watched it again only last weekend.  It is very loosely based on The Odyssey by Homer and you can see little touches relating to this throughout the film.  The music in it is excellent and very catchy, found myself humming along a lot.  Great performances by all 3 lead characters ... More

Posted by Hobbitonlass at 21:51, 10 February 2006 | Report This Post

Great film, Clooney steals the show every time he's on the screen. Turturro solid as ever. Can't go wrong with Coen's ... More

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Posted by Welsh Beds at 21:50, 10 February 2006 | Report This Post

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