It is widely accepted that "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" is a modern retelling of Homer's "Odyssey."

I can see some allusions to the Inferno chapters from Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" in the film "Barton Fink". Wiki also cites it as a possible influence.

Are these allusions always deliberate? Do the Coen brothers set out to make modern interpretations or homages to classic literature in all, or at least most, of their films?

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    @Leandro I think you're close to having an interesting question here if you allow it to be cleaned up and move in the direction of questions deemed acceptable on Movies and TV. I'm going to edit the question. If you think it maintains the original intent, let it ride. If not, feel free to revert. But it will probably stay closed in that case.
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    Mar 27, 2013 at 20:57
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1 Answer 1


This took some hunting, since the Coen Brothers are notoriously interview-shy, but the answer to your question would be No. The Coen Brothers find inspiration from a wide range of sources, more often classic movies than classic literature. From a variety of web-based reviews and sources:

  • Blood Simple - the works of crime fiction writer James M McCain
  • Crimewave - the Three Stooges
  • Raising Arizona - combining influences from Tex Avery cartoons, Sam Raimi horror movies and 1940s B-movies
  • Miller's Crossing - loosely inspried by Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key
  • Barton Fink - Clifford Odets, William Faulkner
  • The Hudsucker Proxy - the films of Preston Sturges like Christmas in July and Sullivan's Travels
  • Fargo - a 1986 murder of Helle Crafts whose husband disposed of her body through a wood chipper
  • The Big Lebowski - loosely based on the work of Raymond Chandler
  • The Naked Man - none found
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? Homer's Odyssey, though they admit to having never read it
  • The Man Who Wasn't There - inspired by a poster the Coen Brothers saw depicting haircuts of the 40s, and the work of James M Cain and possibly Albert Camus' The Stranger
  • Intolerable Cruelty - inspired by screwball comedies fo the 40s
  • The Ladykillers - inspired by the 1955 British comedy with Alec Guinness
  • No Country for Old Men - a 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy
  • Burn After Reading - inspired by Stansfield Turner's book of the same name
  • A Serious Man - the Book of Job
  • True Grit - True Grit, the book and the movie
  • Gambit - remake of 1966 film
  • Inside Llewyn Davis - loosely based on Dave von Ronk's posthumous memoir The Mayor of McDougal Street
  • Of course, you can't really trust anything the Coen brothers say about their movies themselves.
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 13, 2019 at 23:30

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