Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 19
  2. Negative: 2 out of 19
  1. 100
    Stimulating entertainment, as rigorously challenging and painfully funny as anything the Coens have done. But it's necessary to meet the Coens halfway. If you don't, Barton Fink is an empty exercise that will bore you breathless. If you do, it's a comic nightmare that will stir your imagination like no film in years.
  2. Reviewed by: Vincent Canby
    An unqualified winner. Here is a fine dark comedy of flamboyant style and immense though seemingly effortless techniqe...It's an exhilarating original. [21 Aug 1991]
  3. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Creepily beautiful, acted with relish, Barton Fink is a savagely original work. It lodges in your head like a hatchet. [26 Aug 1991]
  4. 100
    What "Raising Arizona" was to baby lust, "Barton Fink" is to writer's block -- a rapturously funny, strangely bittersweet, moderately horrifying and, yes, truly apt description of the condition and its symptoms.
  5. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Scene after scene is filled with a ferocious strength and humor. Michael Lerner's performance as a Mayer-like studio overlord is sensational.
  6. 88
    A black comedy in the tradition of David Lynch, Luis Bunuel and the Coens assured piece of comic filmmaking.
  7. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Though less than the sum of its brilliant parts, the Coens' latest will still be must viewing in 32 years. [21 Aug 1991]
  8. Reviewed by: Jay Scott
    This hip morality tale is by no means perfect - it's not the masterpiece "Miller's Crossing" was - but it is stylish, intelligent, witty and more than slightly creepy.
  9. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    The allusions and illusions are just a treat until about two-thirds of the way in, when a genuinely shocking development takes the film off into psycho-horror that is almost as baffling as it is unsatisfying.
  10. Very competently mounted and acted (there are also juicy parts for Judy Davis, Tony Shalhoub, and Jon Polito), this is basically a midnight-movie gross-out in Sunday-afternoon art-house clothing--an intriguing novelty that revels in effect while oozing with cryptic signifiers.
  11. 78
    For once, the Coen brothers' neurotic filmmaking style works to their advantage; it's giddily appropriate for a movie about a man who's losing his mind.
  12. Barton Fink has an atmosphere of languid comic anxiety (it's like a cross between "Eraserhead" and "Angel Heart"), and it's fun to watch, if only because you have no idea what's coming next.
  13. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Ultimately, however, the look, sound and feel of this macabre comedy fail to support any coherent theme...Much is denigrated, but little affirmed.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    [The Coens] are therefore entitled to patience, respect and, yes, perhaps a special gratitude for this movie, which never once compromises its fundamentally unpromising yet courageously aspiring nature. [26 Aug 1991]
  15. Exhilarating and frustrating at the same time... the Coens' skill is such that you're not averse to following them anywhere, but every once in a while you can't help wishing they weren't so dead set against throwing the rest of us at least a hint of what's on their minds. [21 Aug 1991]
  16. But even as the film's weaknesses make themselves more and more apparent, so does Mr. Turturro's virtuosity. [15 Aug 1991, p.A10(E)]
  17. Like the mysterious, bound package Goodman gives Turturro (the contents are never revealed), the Coens isolate a small area of interest, bind it with psycho-atmospheric finesse, then wait for something significant to emerge. Even after a second viewing of this movie, it doesn't.
  18. Reviewed by: Terrence Rafferty
    It feels thin. It's an empty tour de force, and what's dismaying about the picture is that the filmmakers... seem inordinately pleased with its hermetic meaninglessness.
  19. Billed as a comedy, but it could also be billed as a drama, a satire, an allegory, or a film (partially) noir. It wouldn't matter, or help... Not since Robert Altman has any American filmmaker been as overrated as this pair. [30 Sept 1991]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 65 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. MikeG
    Dec 1, 2006
    Barton Fink is arguably the Coen Brothers masterpiece. Not a single scene is wasted, and that includes the washed out backgrounds, the costumes worn by the characters, and every single bit of juicy dialogue. In a movie filled with awesome supporting performances by John Goodman, Judy Davis, a scene-stealing Michael Lerner and even Tony Shalhoub, John Turturro is the glue that holds this film together. Some actors fail in Coen Brothers movies because they seem too much like spectators...not in their skin and almost watching the movie with the rest of us. Turturro is perfect - an inhabitant of the insane world he's in but also an interloper at the same time. As mentioned above, the dialogue is all wonderful, crisp, sharp, funny, and meaningful all at once. Watch this movie twice if you don't quite get it the first time...the pay-off is simply incredible. Full Review »
  2. Nov 1, 2013
    With some truly striking imagery camerawork from Roger Deakins, a characteristically bleak narrative from the Coens, and some thematically rich ideas all throughout, "Barton Fink" slides faultlessly across genres with surprising ease and grace. Full Review »
  3. Aug 1, 2013
    This is most certainly an odd movie. The acting and directing are predictably good and the plot is interesting for sure. A very cerebral film, this one is most certainly unsettling. Not sure how to react to this one other than; it is definitely a good film that will keep you intrigued throughout. Full Review »