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Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t just a sad and beautiful tribute to the world and storytellers of folk music, it's also a continuation of a great tradition. Dating back to the start of their careers in the mid-80s, the Coens have always shown a deep appreciation for all kinds of music in their films, and have made regular use of different songs and artists in new and meaningful ways – whether the tracks are the central focus of the story or not. But which ones truly stand out as the cream of the crop?

With Inside Llewyn Davis now in limited release, I’ve gone back through the Coens entire catalog to pull out the five best movie music moments that the filmmakers have generated over the course of their career. Which ones made the cut? Read on to find out!

Barton Fink
Song: "Down South Camp Meeting" by Irving Mills and Fletcher Henderson
Whether you’re an accountant, a baker, an ad executive or a screenwriter, there’s a universally great feeling that comes over all of us when we finish a major project. You think back over all of the struggles and complications that you’ve faced while working and reflect on the fact that it’s all in the past. All that’s left is time for celebration. That’s exactly what’s going through the mind of Barton Fink as he dances his head off towards the end of the Coens’ 1991 drama.

Even if the film was set in 2013 instead of 1941 you would expect the song to remain the same in this fantastic scene. The big band swing is utterly perfect in capturing the energy that Barton is exhibiting and it makes his wild, flailing dancing actually appear appropriate in context as he celebrates finally completing the first draft of his first Hollywood screenplay. Of course, much like everything else during Barton’s time in Los Angeles, everything goes quickly down the drain when the intellectual writer has an ego attack and gets into a scuffle, but the high-tempo music only becomes more appropriate as chaos escalates.
The Big Lebowski
Song: "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
The Big Lebowski’s entire soundtrack is filled with some fantastic tracks, with songs from Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan and, of course, Creedence Clearwater Revival, but each time I walk from the film I find myself humming the same old tune. The scene is set when Jeff Bridges gets drugged while attending a party at a famous pornographer’s house and begins one hell of a hallucinatory dream sequence, but it’s the music of Kenny Rogers and The First Edition that brings it all home.

Even if the movie didn’t feature Saddam Hussein handing out bowling shoes or Julianne Moore dressed up as a Viking, "Just Dropped In" would provide a perfect and elegant look into the mind of a Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski. The lyrics are filled with bizarre, left-field visions of "April Fools" written on a Dead End sign, a jagged sky and tripping off a cloud and falling eight miles high. Watching the film you really get the sense that it is Kenny Rogers’ voice that is playing inside of The Dude’s head, and that’s really the best you can ask for when it comes to constructing a memorable movie music moment.
O Brother Where Art Thou
Song: "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" by The Soggy Bottom Boys
I’ve been writing about my favorite movie music moments for years now, and some of you may remember that this isn’t the first time that I’ve heaped praise upon "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow." Back when we were saying goodbye to the ‘00s, I ranked the performance from O Brother Where Art Thou as the sixth best of the decade. A little over three years later I’m happy to praise the brilliant scene once again.

Like The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou’s soundtrack – which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year – is filled with beautiful, soulful and entertaining tracks, but there is little argument that "Man of Constant Sorrow" isn’t the centerpiece of the whole shebang. A classic folk number sung for the film by Dan Tyminski, the song is both insanely catchy (it’s not hard to figure out why it became the hit of the South) and plays a wonderful centerpiece role in the movie as a whole, bringing all the main characters together and resolving more than a few plot threads. Before Inside Llewyn Davis, O Brother Where Art Thou was the Coen’s most musically charged filmmaking excursion, and now the two make fantastic companion pieces.
A Serious Man
Song: "Somebody To Love" by Jefferson Airplane
Like the punchline to an amazing joke, the best music moment from A Serious Man comes as the result of an excellent set-up. Throughout the entire film we see Michael Stuhlbarg’s Larry epically struggling with life and believing it’s the great Rabbi Marshak’s (Alan Mandell) wise words that are going to rescue him from the hell that existence has become. So what’s the first thing we hear the man say when he sits down for a post-Bar Mitzvah chat with Larry’s son Danny (Aaron Wolff)? Nothing more than opening lyrics of "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane - the song the audience has heard play throughout the movie – and some simple advice: "Be a good boy."

As proven by the other examples on this list, the Coens can be extremely specific when choosing the music for their movies, and A Serious Man is perhaps the greatest example of that. "When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies" is a simple, elegant and perfect summation of Larry’s epic existential crisis, and the fact that there’s no straight answer – just the proposal of finding someone to love – ties in with the film’s greater themes.
Raising Arizona
Song: "Goofing Off Suite" by Pete Seeger
Joel and Ethan Coen broke out in the filmmaking world in 1984 thanks to their deeply dark, brilliant neo-noir Blood Simple., but it didn’t take long for the brothers to show their incredible and surprising range. For their sophomore feature effort they wrote and directed Raising Arizona, a mad-cap comedy about a bizarre baby kidnapping that not only changed everyone’s perception of the Coens as filmmakers, but also created a perfect use for Pete Seeger’s yodeling and banjo playing in the song "Goofing Off Suite."

As what is basically the theme for the movie, Seeger’s track is played throughout Raising Arizona’s runtime, but it’s unquestionable most memorable from the film’s famous chase sequence. Under normal circumstances, an armed criminal robbing a convenience store and getting hunted down by trigger-happy cops doesn’t seem all that funny, but it’s the Coens use of soundtrack that takes it to a new level. Seeger’s unique vocal stylings puts the scene off-kilter right from the get go, but what’s magical about the sequence is how all of the elements escalate to match the tone of the song. By the time H.I. is in the supermarket picking up another pack of Huggies, getting chased down by a pack of dogs and watching police men get hit by shopping carts, you can’t think of a better song to be playing in the situation than the "Goofing Off Suite."
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