User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 86 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 78 out of 86
  2. Negative: 1 out of 86

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User Reviews

  1. MikeG
    Dec 1, 2006
    10
    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 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. Expand
  2. SimonD.
    Jun 26, 2003
    10
    An unjustly forgotten classic from the Coen Brothers, this film remains their surreal masterpeice ahead of later, more popular work. I never understood why this failed to find audience.
  3. PatC.
    Jan 10, 2004
    4
    A story about writer's block. I suspect it was also about how the script was written. Intriguing clear through, but a big so-what at the end.
  4. PaulaW.
    Aug 17, 2002
    10
    This is the best movie you'll ever see about writer's block, and the Coen brothers' most underrated effort. John Turturro is Barton Fink, a nerdy bespectacled playwright with a penchant for social realism. He somehow finds himself in Hollywood, in a creepy hotel with peeling wallpaper where it seems that the only other humans are Steve Buscemi in a monkey suit (!) and the This is the best movie you'll ever see about writer's block, and the Coen brothers' most underrated effort. John Turturro is Barton Fink, a nerdy bespectacled playwright with a penchant for social realism. He somehow finds himself in Hollywood, in a creepy hotel with peeling wallpaper where it seems that the only other humans are Steve Buscemi in a monkey suit (!) and the jovial traveling salesman played by John Goodman. As Fink struggles with his assignment to write the script for a wrestling picture (which must feature either an orphan or a dog) he comes across a sparse and strange cast of characters, most notably William Faulkner and his toothsome assistant played by the memorable Judy Davis. No other movie captures better the desolation of sitting idle and alone in a shuttered room while the sun blazes outside, although a few (Insomnia, Apocalypse Now) have tried. And if there's anything more powerful than the scene in which a man runs down a burning hallway screaming, "I'll show you the life of the mind! I'll show you the life of the mind! THIS-IS-THE-LIFE-OF-THE-MIIIIND!" I don't know what it is. Do yourself a favor and see this. Collapse
  5. CariS.
    Apr 22, 2004
    10
    Even if one doesn't like this film for the story, one must admit it is a masterpiece technically. The acting is superior, the directing and cinematography fit the mood and storyline like a glove. Everything in this movie makes sense (well..kind of). However, the best part of the film is that one must meet the Coen Bros. halfway. One can't just sit back and watch the story Even if one doesn't like this film for the story, one must admit it is a masterpiece technically. The acting is superior, the directing and cinematography fit the mood and storyline like a glove. Everything in this movie makes sense (well..kind of). However, the best part of the film is that one must meet the Coen Bros. halfway. One can't just sit back and watch the story unfold...one has to analyze and actually THINK about the events and words that are being said. This movie is "simply marvelous," and definitely NOT "for the common man." Expand
  6. MichaelF.
    Jul 14, 2002
    10
    I am a HUGE, die-hard fan of the Coens, first off. This is a typical Coen bros. movie. Turturro and Goodman are amazing as always. It's funny, it's dark. It's one of their best, even though everything they do is incredible, aside from Raising Arizona and Big Lebowski. My favorite Coen film is MILLER'S CROSSING, this is definitley one of my favorites.
  7. YoonC.
    Sep 14, 2003
    8
    A dark tale of ambition, self-doubt, and self-deception, it suffers from the Coen Brother's signature self-mocking cleverness that undermines the truly disturbing nature of the movie. But beyond the Coen Brothers usual bag of mannerist tricks, the film gradually climaxes and edges over into a fascinating, subdued realm of psychic horror.
  8. BennyD
    Dec 16, 2004
    10
    The blackest of black comedies and maybe the ultimate Coen brothers flick. Last time I saw "Fargo" I wasn't that impressed, but this movie is amazing. And, of course, it's not for everyone. If you're not laughing you'll probably walk out of the theater, and if you're laughing you're sick. But this movie has the courage to laugh in the face of Death, embodied The blackest of black comedies and maybe the ultimate Coen brothers flick. Last time I saw "Fargo" I wasn't that impressed, but this movie is amazing. And, of course, it's not for everyone. If you're not laughing you'll probably walk out of the theater, and if you're laughing you're sick. But this movie has the courage to laugh in the face of Death, embodied by somebody who could be Satan or Hitler himself, and if you wanna know what I mean you need to rent "Barton Fink" immediately. Expand
  9. georges.
    Dec 12, 2004
    9
    The sounddesign of this movie is absolutely fabulous. You guys seem to look primarily at the way the story is told, but for this movie, attention should go to the sound. The way the sound is engineerd, very selective and using a lot of silence, is the basis of the good image they give of the writers block. It also adds a lot to the symbols in the movie... hotel hell!
  10. Aug 27, 2010
    9
    Just shows what amazing things the Coen Brothers can do even when they have writer's block. The performances are all top-notch and there's enough symbolic and surrealist glee to leave you scratching at your head for hours, yet everything seems fits nicely in place in the end.
  11. May 5, 2012
    10
    This may be my favorite movie of all time, it is one of the Coen's best movies made. Even though this movie is very difficult to figure out, it works very well and is one of the cone's best. I love the Johns in this movie, they play their role very well. The more I watch this movie the more I fall in love with the movie. The cones are at their best here.
  12. Dec 15, 2012
    7
    I love the Coen brothers. I will get that out of the way first off. While I didn't love this movie, I did like it quite a bit. This film is full of interesting characters and even more interesting imagery. Like most thoughtful movies it is a lot unravel in written word for wannabe critics like myself. The acting and writing in this movie is first rate, the scenes with Turturro and GoodmanI love the Coen brothers. I will get that out of the way first off. While I didn't love this movie, I did like it quite a bit. This film is full of interesting characters and even more interesting imagery. Like most thoughtful movies it is a lot unravel in written word for wannabe critics like myself. The acting and writing in this movie is first rate, the scenes with Turturro and Goodman are especially entertaining and the highlight of the film. This movie does drag a bit through the first half, and can feel a little like a rip off of The Shining at times. But overall this movie is more than a little interesting, worth more than one viewing and will keep you thinking about its meanings probably for years. Expand
  13. Aug 1, 2013
    7
    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.
  14. Nov 1, 2013
    7
    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.
  15. Apr 27, 2016
    9
    Barton Fink is a smart, darkly comical satire with loads of memorable quotes and fine performances. John Turturro gives an effective lead performance, while John Goodman gives one of the best performances of his career (it's a mystery as to why he didn't get an Oscar nomination) and Michael Lerner steals every scene he's in. The movie's only flaw is its unsatisfying final quarter, where itBarton Fink is a smart, darkly comical satire with loads of memorable quotes and fine performances. John Turturro gives an effective lead performance, while John Goodman gives one of the best performances of his career (it's a mystery as to why he didn't get an Oscar nomination) and Michael Lerner steals every scene he's in. The movie's only flaw is its unsatisfying final quarter, where it raises a lot of questions but fails to provide a satisfactory answer for them. Still, the rest of the movie is great, with superb production values and a brilliantly satirical (yet truthful) portrayal of Hollywood and writer's block. Overall, Barton Fink is a triumph for the Coen Brothers and one of the best movies about Hollywood ever made. 9/10. Expand
  16. Apr 3, 2016
    10
    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. Barton, whose last name literally means blabbermouth, is an earnest young New York playwright whose widely praised new play, "Bare Ruined Choirs," has drawn notice in Hollywood,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. Barton, whose last name literally means blabbermouth, is an earnest young New York playwright whose widely praised new play, "Bare Ruined Choirs," has drawn notice in Hollywood, the land where greater men than Fink have found their choirs silenced, their inspiration dried up faster than wet nylons under strong sun.

    A deco-period film by Ethan and Joel Coen, "Barton Fink" is in fact their own creative solution to the writer's block that plagued them during the making of "Miller's Crossing." A triumph for the offbeat, grimly funny brothers, it reveals in its mythic fashion the vagaries of the creative process that plague every artist.

    The giving and gifted John Turturro stars as Fink, a self-absorbed and pompous naif who loses his bearings when he accepts a lucrative position with Capitol Pictures. Unwilling to give up all his snobbish principles, he checks into the threadbare Earle Hotel, a regal dump where he wrestles with his conscience, his assignment and his new next-door neighbor, Charlie Meadows.

    John Goodman plays this gregarious fellow, a traveling insurance salesman whose frequent intrusions give Fink a not unwelcome excuse for not writing. Meadows, who seems to embody the qualities of the common man whom Fink so arrogantly imagines he represents in his art, becomes the writer's closest confidant and eventually his wildly unpredictable muse.

    There is the decidedly rank smell of brimstone in the air at the Earle (its slogan is "Stay a Night or a Lifetime"), the primary setting for this latest version of the Mephistopheles story. It's 1941 in Los Angeles and a heat wave has settled over the city like a sticky gravy. It's so hot the wallpaper is peeling off in Fink's room, the paste running down the walls in gooey rivulets. That this is a leaky, living hell there is no doubt.

    The Earle is also alive with the sounds of night: the creaking of ceilings and the protests of bed springs, grunts, thumps, screams, wails and wheezing doors. Decorated in ghastly shades -- maroon, olive drab and bloodstain brown -- the Earle seems an organic being as crucial to this haunting tale as the spirit ship was to "The Flying Dutchman." A gurgling, heaving purgatory, it seems a most likely place to teach understanding and punish arrogance.

    And Barton Fink is assuredly a smug whelp deserving of a lesson. He claims to be interested in the stories of the common man, in establishing a theater for the masses. Yet when Charlie says, "I can tell you stories that would curl your hair," Barton, all wrapped up in how magnanimous he is, barely notices. Dire consequences await.

    The Coens have as much compassion as contempt for their hero, who looks vaguely like a cross between the brothers, a goofy intellectual at once shyly baffled and supercilious. Neither a talker nor a listener, Barton sometimes calls up visions of the kidnapped baby in "Raising Arizona." Fink, Turturro shows us, is only a babe among the fast-talking big kids of Hollywood. Still, he's his own weird man, a victim less of the system than of his own unexamined leftist ideals.

    The movie takes an irreverent poke at the industry, setting the hero against such marvelous old-style blowhards as Capitol Pictures' studio boss, Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner) and the slippery producer Ben Geisler (Tony Shalhoub), who has been assigned to supervise Barton's first film. Puzzled at Fink's reluctance to begin the script, Geisler loses patience: "Wallace Beery, wrestling picture. What do ya need, a road map?"

    Barton next turns to a fellow writer, W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney), for advice. A Faulknerian novelist who drinks heavily and abuses his secretary, Audrey (Judy Davis), Mayhew also sees through the posturing of Fink. Audrey, part belle, part dame, tries to nurture the younger man's talent, but her efforts unfortunately come to a very bad end, which propels the tale to its obscurely symbolic but ultimately penetrable conclusion.

    The winner of an unprecedented three prizes at the Cannes Film Festival this year, "Barton Fink" is certainly one of the year's best and most intriguing films. Though it defies genre, it seems to work best as a tart self-portrait, a screwball film noir that expresses the Coens' own alienation from Hollywood. A cineaste's landmark on a par with "Blue Velvet," this is an experience to savor over and over.
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Metascore
69

Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 19
  2. Negative: 2 out of 19
  1. The New Republic
    Reviewed by: Stanley Kauffmann
    10
    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]
  2. 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.
  3. Newsweek
    Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    Creepily beautiful, acted with relish, Barton Fink is a savagely original work. It lodges in your head like a hatchet. [26 Aug 1991]