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7 movies The Coen Brothers owe their careers to

Much has already been made of the literary influence on The Coen Brothers. So much in fact, that their cinematic cornerstones have been largely overlooked.

Not anymore though, thanks to the BFI Southbank. To celebrate the release of Burn After Reading, the British Film Institute is midway through a celebration of all things Joel and Ethan, screening not only their movies but the films that shaped and created their unique outlook.

So we've highlighted our favourite seven that are still to be screened at the BFI. If you fancy catching any of them, or even movies made by The Coens themselves, take a look at The Coen Brothers section on the BFI website . Or you can just enter our competition , where you can win a pair of tickets to see any five films still left to screen.

1. Charley Varrick (1973)

 

Produced and directed by Don Siegel, Charley Varrick foreshadows No Country for Old Men by more than thirty years. After crop-duster Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau) comes into possession of some dirty money, he finds himself hunted by both an ageing sheriff and a  mob enforcer.

Set in New Mexico, life for No Country for Old Men begins here.

2. Nightfall (1957)


Does this sound familiar: two criminals lose a cash-stuffed bag in a snowy field, a car skids off an icy road, a witness is shot in the back, and a level-headed investigator (Brian Keith) is supported by a loving spouse? Fargo's chilly nightscape owes a massive amount of debt to Tourneur's noir.

3. Murder My Sweet aka Farewell My Lovely (1944)


 

Arguably the most recognisable on the list, Edward Dmytryk's adaptation of Raymond Chandler is full of the characters, conspiracies and conventions that The Coens gleefully subvert in The Big Lebowski. It even features a twisted dream sequence, albeit not a musical one.

4. I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)


 

It would be hard to argue that The Man Who Wasn't There belongs in the sci-fi section in Blockbuster Video, but influences from this fifties sci-fi run underneath its surface. The flying saucer is an obvious nod, but the detached, unemotional Billy Bob has more in common with Space's characters than the title would suggest.

5. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)


 

Preston Sturges mixture of stupid names, pratfalls and social satire paves the way for Coen comedies like The Hudsucker Proxy and Raising Arizona, whilst Eddie Bracken's take on Norval Jones shares more than just a similar name with Hudsucker's Norville Barnes.

6. The Awful Truth (1937)


 

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a Manhattan socialite couple counting down to divorce and sparring all the way. Director Leo McCarey treats the courtroom with as much farce as The Coen's do in Intolerable Cruelty, and Grant is also an obvious influence on Clooney.

7. Sullivan's Travels (1941)


 

Joel McCrea plays a privileged studio director during The Great Depression who yearns to turn his back in his notorious comedies and makes something of worth.

When he finds a script he thinks is perfect, he decides to conduct some intensive research and sets out on the road with only a dime to find out what life is about. And the name of the script? O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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