Frances McDormand as "Marge Gunderson."

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Fargo is a 1996 dramatic and dark comedy film created by Joel and Ethan Coen. more...

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The movie tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a Minnesota car salesman with financial troubles who hires two men (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and try to obtain an $80,000 ransom from his wealthy father-in-law to split with the kidnappers. The plan falls apart. Near the town of Brainerd, Minnesota, the kidnappers murder a policeman and two witnesses to his killing, and their deaths are investigated by a local police chief (Frances McDormand), who is seven months pregnant.

As the movie narrative moves from establishing characters to exploring the consequences of crime, it also moves from comedy to suspense, drama, and even horror. The film's initial scenes satirize the blandness (both visual, with the unrelenting white of snow, and emotional, with repeated lines of dialog without serious content) and innocence of the upper Midwest, as criminals are mere bumblers and police are interested in niceness and decency. However, with the insensate, unpremeditated, infantile violence of Stormare's character, the nice and delicate comedy gives way to primal brutality. Snow changes from a blank canvas of emotionlessness to a layer of forgetting and burial, and the humor of the first half of the movie is thoroughly negated by a glimpse into what has lain beneath the white surface. The denouement of Macy's apprehension emphasizes the unpreparedness of the characters for the meaning of crime and impact of violence.

Fargo won two Oscars in 1996 (best screenplay writing, and best actress), a BAFTA, and several other international film awards.

There are prominent film noir elements in the filming and writing of Fargo, and some critics consider it a modern classic in the genre.


  • A disclaimer in the beginning of the movie claims that the movie is "a true story" that "took place in Minnesota in 1987," but this is merely a gag to set the mood for the completely fictional events that follow.
  • The movie is named after Fargo, North Dakota even though most of the action is set in Minnesota in midwinter. Unseasonably mild weather forced the crew to move locations frequently to find suitable snow-covered landscapes and fake snow had to be used for many scenes.
  • The car dealership featured in the movie was in Richfield, Minnesota. The business has since been razed, and the site is currently home to Best Buy's corporate headquarters.
  • In 1997 a pilot was filmed for a television show based on the film. Set in Brainerd, it starred Edie Falco as Marge Gunderson. It was shown during Trio's 2003 "Brilliant But Cancelled" series of failed TV shows.
  • In 2001 a Japanese woman, Takako Konishi, was found dead near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It was widely claimed at the time that she had frozen to death while looking for the money hidden in the movie, but there is little evidence to support this hypothesis. Based on the presence of sedatives in her system and a letter sent to her family, her death was ruled a suicide.
  • The scene in the car dealership where Jerry talks to the couple about the TruCoat on the car is based on Ethan's actual experience with a car salesman.


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