#2 Miller's Crossing
After a pretty solid sophomore film in Raising Arizona - also worth seeing, but it's not essential - the Coens went in a different direction with Miller's Crossing, their ode to gangster movies. Another dark comedy, this one saw Gabriel Byrne try to keep the peace - and later, well, other things - between two rival gangs. It's funny, it does a wonderful job using the strengths of the gangster genre to make one of the better ones. Look, once again, for the launch of a career: Miller's Crossing was the first film for Marcia Gay Harden. Good characters, great acting, and a plot that feels complex even if it, in the end, isn't, Miller's Crossing makes for an incredibly fun watch.