The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)



Critic Consensus: Stylish but emotionally distant, The Man Who Wasn't There is a clever tribute to the film noir genre.

The Man Who Wasn't There Videos & Photos

Movie Info

In the summer of 1949, a tale of passion, crime and punishment... Ed Crane is a barber in a small northern California town. Ed is dissatisfied with his life, but his wife Doris' infidelity presents Ed with an opportunity for blackmail that he thinks will help him to change it. However, Ed's scheme unravels and lays bare even darker secrets before leading to murder...

Rating: R (for a scene of violence)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Directed By: ,
Written By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 16, 2002
Box Office: $7.4M
USA Films - Official Site


as Birdy Abundas

as Ann Nirdlinger

as Creighton Toliver

as Walter Abundas

as Freddy Riedenschneid...

as The New Man

as Diedrickson

as Carcanogues

as Bingo Caller

as Young Man

as Customer

as Sobbing Prisoner

as Banker

as Gatto Eater

as Bailiff

as Judge No. 1

as Judge No. 2

as New Man's Customer

as Bartender

as Macadam Salesman

as District Attorney

as Lloyd Garroway

as Swimming Boy

as Prisoner Visitor

as Pie Contest Timer

as Flophouse Clerk

as Bedford Mills

as Helen Jessop

as St. John Jessop

as "Sherry" Mulligan

as "Bud" Carter

as Radford Haynes

as "Bing" Honon

as Jack Hyde
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Critic Reviews for The Man Who Wasn't There

All Critics (157) | Top Critics (35)

Affectlessness is not a quality much prized in movie protagonists, but Billy Bob Thornton, that splendid actor, does it perfectly as Ed Crane.

Full Review… | October 13, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The film holds the interest, to be sure, but more due to the sure sense of craft and precise effect that one expects from the Coens than from genuine involvement in the story.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Top Critic

Joel and Ethan Coen stay true to their bent for dense heroes and neonoir, and to their unshakable conviction that life usually turns out to be splendidly horrific.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

In this the Coens' sly script is helped no end by Billy Bob Thornton's supremely eloquent performance as the taciturn tonsor, lent terrific support from Frances McDormand as the wife.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Despite the movie's humor and sense of irony, it takes on a sense of somberness as it progresses.

Full Review… | July 21, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Ed's problem isn't so much that he isn't there but that, when you finally catch a glimpse of him, there's no way to be sure exactly what has caught your gaze.

Full Review… | October 14, 2011
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Audience Reviews for The Man Who Wasn't There

The Coens capture the look and feel of not only film noir, but that era (late 1940s) as a whole, perfectly with this film. Billy Bob Thornton is great as the laconic, chain-smoking barber Ed Crane, who doesn't have a whole lot to say, and doesn't really do much either.

To break out of his achingly dull life Ed decides to get involved with a businessman trying to start up a dry cleaning business. To get the money for financing, Ed blackmails his wife's boss who is having an affair with her. Of course, since this is both a noir and a Coen Brothers film, not all goes according to plan, and nothing is really quite as it seems.

This isn't the best film from the Coens, but it's still really good. It's by far their most serious work, but even then, there's still a shred of their trademark dry, dark humor and some really odd characters and weird things going on, mostly a motif involving flying saucers. Heck, even Ed himself is very much an alien with how he really doesn't seem to fit into the world.

The most striking thing about this film is definitely the look. Filmed in color, but printed in black and white, this is immediately their most strikingly gorgeous work from a visual standpoint. Unlike some modern films done in black and white, this actually does look and feel like a legit 40s film. It's an impressive job that was done by the production designer, costume designer, and the venerable director of photography Roger Deakins.

I could stare at this film all day and never tire of the great images it has to offer.

Give this one a shot. It's slow, odd, and deliberate, but a real underrated gem worth looking at. The performances are great, the music is wonderful, and it's just a great love letter to classic noir. Also, the commentary track is amazingly entertaining and funny in its own right.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


A beautiful minor key film. The inclusion of some of Beethoven's most beautiful sonatas into this noir really works. Thornton and McDormand are fantastic plus a whole host of supporting roles that are hilarious.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


Definitely the Coens' greatest achievement. right after Blood Simple, Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, No Country for Old Men, the Big Lebowski, Fargo and O' Brother, Where Art Thou.

Coxxie Mild Sauce

Super Reviewer

The Man Who Wasn't There Quotes

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