36. Fargo (1996)

Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Produced by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Starring: Frances McDormand, Willim H. MAcy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell and Peter Stormore

Country: United States

Release Date: March 8, 1996

Running time: 98 minutes

Why you should see it?

This is a dark comedy-crime that won two academy awards. This is a quite clever movie that begins with the information that the story is based on a true story, but ended with a disclaimer that it’s persons and events are fictitious, ergo this movie is a “true story” of fiction which it is an ironic stylistic device.

Every performance in the film is flawless and every shot is like a unique piece of art. All the scenes are perfectly design to test the limits and break the boundaries between the nerdy and the macabre. The photography of the film is amazing, thanks to the work of Roger Deakin, a work full of with outs that create a surrealistic characteristics of the movie.


In the winter of 1987, Minneapolis automobile salesman Jerry Lundegaardis in severe financial trouble. After being introduced to criminals Carl Showalter  and Gaear Grimsrud by Native American ex-convict Shep Proudfoot , a mechanic at his dealership, Jerry travels to Fargo, North Dakota, and hires the two men to kidnap his wife Jean  in exchange for a new car and half of the $80,000 ransom. However, Jerry intends to demand a much larger sum from his wealthy but tight-fisted and antagonistic father-in-law, Wade Gustaf, and keep most of the money for himself.

Meanwhile, GMAC has been threatening to withdraw loans against cars at the auto dealership Jerry manages after accounting irregularities. Jerry has been trying to raise money by promoting a real estate deal to Wade. Jerry tries to call off the kidnapping after Wade agrees to the investment, but he is too late, and, as it turns out, Wade intends to buy the property himself, leaving Jerry with only a finder’s fee, which is not enough to pay off his massive debts to GMAC and other creditors which he continues to keep a secret from his family.

Meanwhile, Carl and Gaear kidnap Jean with little difficulty, but on their way through Brainerd to their hideout, a state trooper stops them because of the car’s license plates. When Carl’s attempt to bribe the trooper fails, Gaear shoots and kills the trooper. Carl attempts to clear the trooper’s body off the road, but is seen by a teenage couple passing by in their car. Without hesitation, Gaear begins to chase the couple when suddenly the couple’s car swerves off the road, enabling Gaear to kill them both.

The deaths are investigated the next morning by local police chief Marge Gunderson, who is seven months pregnant. She quickly deduces the chain of events and follows the leads that arise, interviewing two prostitutes who serviced the criminals. After being informed that the criminals telephoned Shep Proudfoot, an employee at Jerry’s dealership, she drives to Minneapolis but acquires no information in interviews with both Shep and Jerry.

Meanwhile, Jerry contacts Wade, claiming that the kidnappers insist on dealing only with Jerry. Wade accepts this arrangement at first, but later changes his mind, clearly distrustful of Jerry. When he meets with Carl at a parking garage, he refuses to give him the ransom money until his daughter is returned. Angered by his demands and unexpected appearance, Carl starts a shootout and kills Wade. Before he dies, Wade shoots Carl in the side of the face, disfiguring him. Carl then kills the garage attendant on his way out. Jerry arrives at the scene after Carl leaves, and opens the trunk of his car, presumably to take Wade’s body to hide the crime. On his way to the backwoods hideout on Moose Lake, Carl discovers that the bag he took from Wade contains a million dollars and buries most of the money by the side of the highway to presumably come back for the rest. At the hideout, Gaear has killed Jean, and, in a dispute over the car, he kills Carl with an axe.

Before leaving town, Marge questions Jerry again, asking him about the car used in the Brainerd murders. He provides no information, but when she changes tack by asking to talk to Wade, Jerry storms out of the office, saying he will check the lot right then for the missing car but fleeing the dealership instead. Marge phones the state police to find and arrest him, then, following up on a tip, she drives to the lake, sees the kidnappers’ car, and arrives at the hideout just in time to see Gaear feeding the last of Carl’s body into a wood chipper. Gaear tries to flee, but Marge shoots him in the leg and arrests him.

Jerry is later arrested in a motel outside of Bismarck, North Dakota. In the final scene, Marge and her husband, Norm , sit in bed together discussing his artwork, which has been selected as the design for a postage stamp. The fate of the buried money remains unknown.

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