This 1996 motion picture is one of the better movies to come out in the last few years. It should have won the best picture Oscar but lost out to The English Patient. Frances McDormand did win the best actress award for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson.

This is the story of a car salesman whose inept foray into crime turns into disaster. The salesman, brilliantly played by William H. Macy, hires two bumbling small time criminals to kidnap his wife. The plan is to collect the ransom from his rich father-in-law (Harve Presnell) and split it with the kidnappers. The two kidnappers, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), have no idea that the car salesman is trying to cheat them by lying about the size of the ransom. The quiet Gaear Grimsrud is probably the more interesting of the two kidnappers. He’s been referred to by viewers of the film as “Mr. Personality”. The scheme eventually goes awry and the kidnapping turns to murder.

Frances McDormand plays the Chief of Police in Brainerd, Minnesota where the kidnapping turns sour and her department has to investigate the crime. The movie begins with the hiring of the kidnappers in Fargo, North Dakota but the rest of the story takes place in Minnesota. A more descriptive title might have been Brainerd, but that sounds more like a story about a cartoon dog.

The picture was written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Ethan Coen produced the movie and Joel Coen directed it. The Coen brothers have brought us some not very memorable movies (I’m not including Raising Arizona in this list) but Fargo is a true masterpiece. Sure, there are people who’d say that all their films were great but these people are almost as cultish as the Quentin Tarantino worshipers.

Some of you have asked what happened to the people in the story. I don’t know. First of all, the story, if at all true, never happened in Minnesota. The plot may be a compilation of events that took place around the country, but it certainly isn’t a true story as portrayed in the movie.


  • William H. Macy – Jerry Lundegaard
  • Steve Buscemi – Carl Showalter
  • Frances McDormand – Marge Gunderson
  • Peter Stormare – Gaear Grimsrud
  • Kristin Rudrad – Jean Lundegaard
  • Harve Presnell – Wade Gustafson
  • Tony Denman – Scotty Lundegaard
  • Gary Houston – Irate Customer
  • Sally Wingert – Irate Customer’s Wife
  • Kurt Schweickhardt – Car Salesman
  • Larissa Kokernot – Hooker #1
  • Melissa Peterman – Hooker #2
  • Steve Reevis – Shep Proudfoot
  • Warren Keith – Reilly Diefenbach
  • Steve Edelman – Morning Show Host