8 life lessons from the movie Fargo, 25 years later

"Coen Brothers at the Castro Theater, San Francisco" by photogism is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Coen Brothers at the Castro Theater, San Francisco by photogism is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When the Coen brothers crafted the masterpiece that is Fargo, they served up one weird slice of American culture. In 1997, The film won the Oscar for best original screenplay and Frances McDormand won Best Actress. The film’s popularity has spawned an Emmy-award winning Fargo series running on FX for four seasons and now, a book

As a huge Coen brothers fan, I was immediately drawn to Fargo for the quirky characters and compelling story. Now, re-watching the film 25 years later (probably for the 25th time), I can’t help but analyze Fargo and break down all of the life lessons the film has to offer for us all.

Fargo movie cast

This quirky 1996 crime drama set in Minnesota stars Frances McDormand––who more recently stars in Nomadland, out now in theaters––as Marge Gunderson, a good-natured and pregnant police chief.

William H. Macy stars as Jerry Lundergaard, a desperate car salesman who hires two thugs––played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare––to kidnap his wife for money.

First things first – is Fargo a true story?

Both the 1996 Fargo movie and the Fargo TV series open up by saying it’s based on a true story––so is it really true?

The Coen brothers were inspired by two actual crimes, but Decider found that the cases aren’t connected at all in real life and much of the movie isn’t actually true, saying “It’s not so much that the Coen brothers are lying to us when they claim Fargo is based on a true story. It’s that they’re commenting on the trend of movies using fact to write their fiction while creating their own crime-filled alternate universe. Basically, that true story bit is another joke.”

The Coen brothers have a distinct style that’s all their own, and it’s part of what pulls us in.

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: Always be polite, Don’t cha know?

Marge defies all stereotypes of a typical police chief. She’s pregnant, empathetic, and unwaveringly polite. 

The film exaggerates this Midwestern charm with series of “Don’t cha know’s” and “Oh Jeez,” proving that it always pays to be polite. 

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: Never underestimate the underdog. 

Frances’ McDormand’s character Marge, often described as “Minnesota nice,” must investigate a triple homicide. She seems naive and unassuming, but don’t let her geniality fool you––she means business and is dedicated to solving the case. 

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: There is ALWAYS time for pancakes. 

While in the car, Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) asks one of life’s greatest questions: “Where’s pancake house?”

It doesn’t matter that they already had pancakes for breakfast. Pancakes are good at any time of day.

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: Norm and Marge are #couplegoals. 

For Marge and Norm, there is nothing but love. Although their marriage isn’t glamorous, it’s hard not to obsess over their relationship. 

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: Always. Eat. Breakfast. 

According to Marge’s husband Norm (played by John Carroll Lynch), you should never skip a meal. 

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: You’ll always have to pay for parking. 

Parking Attendant – 1. Steve Buscemi – 0. 

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: Don’t spoil a beautiful day

The Coen Brothers are known for making quotable films, but Marge’s dialogue at the end of the film stands out from the rest:

 “For what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know? Don’t you know that? And here you are. And it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.

Fargo Movie Life Lessons: One small lie can snowball into a series of tragedies

Jerry Lundergard (William H. Macy) illustrates this perfectly. He begins by lying to sell extra on his cars, and this dishonesty marks the beginning of his downfall. 

Fargo is worth rewatching, again and again

Fargo is the gift that keeps on giving. With every re-watch, I discover a new hidden meaning or small lesson within the story. Described as a small-scale, character-driven gem, Fargo has a lot to offer the audience — balancing humor, violence, and suspense so perfectly. 

In honor of Fargo’s 25th birthday, let’s channel our inner Marge Gunderson and enjoy this beautiful day. 

Fargo: Where to watch

Fargo is currently available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. 

The Fargo TV series is available to watch on Hulu with a premium subscription.

Related: Make a movie date with 3 of Hollywood’s best men 

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