1. Fargo (1996)
Fargo is elemental. There's good, there's evil, and then there's the Earth, dusted white, dying to be splattered with blood. Like all great Coen brothers movies, the "snow-oir" kicks off with an idiotic decision: Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two hitmen, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife. With stand-up police chief Marge Gunderson (Best Actress Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) on the case, all the players squirm through the mess, wondering how the hell they got there. FX's recent TV adaptation could make you forget the simple beauty of Fargo, which unspools its fictitious details with the tact of real reporting (it's not based on a true story, despite a title card's claim) and peers deeper into the universal psyche than almost anything in the Coens' filmography and beyond, just by sitting still. Backed by Carter Burwell's stringed score and flavored with Midwestern-nice speak, it's the obvious choice for a reason: Fargo is elemental, timeless, perfect. -- MP
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