7.5/10
98,175
449 user 201 critic

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Trailer
1:36 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 on Prime Video

ON DISC
A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.

Directors:

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (uncredited)

Writers:

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Reviews
Popularity
4,732 ( 395)

A Guide to the Films of the Coen Brothers

From Blood Simple to the new The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, we take a look at the offbeat stylings of Academy Award-winners Joel and Ethan Coen.

Dude, let's go bowling

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 24 wins & 41 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Barton Fink (1991)
Comedy | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Tom Regan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A naive business graduate is installed as president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Blood Simple (1984)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya
A Serious Man (2009)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick
Adventure | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Comedy | Crime | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A beautiful gold digger matches wits with a shrewd Beverly Hills divorce lawyer who is increasingly attracted to her.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A disk containing mysterious information from a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous and daft gym employees who attempt to sell it.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

An eccentric, if not charming Southern professor and his crew pose as a classical ensemble in order to rob a casino, all under the nose of his unsuspecting but sharp old landlady.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Bob Thornton ... Ed Crane
Frances McDormand ... Doris Crane
Michael Badalucco ... Frank
James Gandolfini ... Big Dave Brewster
Katherine Borowitz ... Ann Nirdlinger Brewster
Jon Polito ... Creighton Tolliver
Scarlett Johansson ... Birdy Abundas
Richard Jenkins ... Walter Abundas
Tony Shalhoub ... Freddy Riedenschneider
Christopher Kriesa ... Officer Persky
Brian Haley ... Officer Krebs
Jack McGee ... P.I. Burns
Gregg Binkley ... New Man
Alan Fudge ... Dr. Diedrickson
Lilyan Chauvin ... Medium
Edit

Storyline

1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It's a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law's shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The last thing on his mind is murder.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English | Italian | French

Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Barber Project See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$664,404, 4 November 2001

Gross USA:

$7,504,257

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$18,916,623
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Because he trusted the quality of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's work, Billy Bob Thornton agreed to do the movie before even reading the script. See more »

Goofs

When Ed lets himself in at Nirdlingers, he unlocks and opens the door on the right side. But when he leaves, he opens the door to the left. That door would have locks at the top and/or bottom that hold it closed even with the deadbolt unlocked and they can only be released from the inside (the order is you unlock the deadbolt, go inside and then release those locks so both doors swing free.) There would have been no reason for Ed to have unlocked those as well, since he wasn't opening the store for business, so that door should not have been able to be opened. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ed Crane: Yeah, I worked in a barbershop, but I never considered myself a barber. I stumbled into it. Or married into it, more precisely.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to citizens and merchants of Orange, CA and The Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood - City of Pasadena, CA. See more »

Alternate Versions

Though original intended to be released in black and white, the movie was originally shot in color. Some countries released the movie in color (e.g. Japan) for marketing reasons. Both versions are released on home media. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 (Moonlight)
(1801)
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
A living, breathing specimen of a species we thought had been extinct for decades
2 January 2002 | by SpleenSee all my reviews

I'm sorry, but I like my black and white black and white - ESPECIALLY in a film that sets out to be the most pure film noir of all. The shadows should be, simply, black, not black tinted with dark green. The greys should be, simply, grey, not pearl grey or slate grey or any of the other shades of paint-catalogue grey that are the result (I presume) of trying to make a black and white film without using any actual black and white film. I don't know the precise technological explanation; I do know that the film would be at least twice as good if the Coens would simply take the master print and transfer it to whatever material they use when they screen, say, "Double Indemnity". This is not hyperbole.

Not that it's not good already. Joel Coen, who in "O Brother, Where Art Thou" showed himself to be one of the few living directors capable of fully exploiting colour, shows himself here to be one of the few living directors capable of fully exploiting light and shade. I particularly liked the scene where the defence lawyer explains why if we look at something too closely, we fail to see it, while his face (and only his face) is bathed in JUST enough too much light to prevent us from seeing it properly. It sounds academic, but it works: the Coens never use an idea if they can't make it breathe.

As a rule, first-person narration breathes life into books but kills films - with the exception of one genre: film noir. And the Coens understand why it works, when it does, in this rare exception. Like most noir protagonists, Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is almost perfectly uncommunicative: neither his conversation nor his actions tell us anything about him. We need direct access to his very thoughts, put into words, to be able to understand what's going on and to appreciate his story. And it's only fitting that we're allowed to listen to him as HE takes stock of his own story, for the very first time, now that it's all over. -And maybe the Coens don't even need this justification. Ethan has written what may be the most delicious, perceptive and apt first-person voice-over the genre has seen.

"The Man Who Wasn't There" is not as magnificent an achievement as "Barton Fink" or "O Brother, Where Art Thou" - but then, no noir film is. (It's really a constricting genre; Billy Wilder's finest works aren't noir, either.) The fact that there are so many good noir films should be regarded as a miracle. Here is another miracle.


67 of 101 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 449 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed