Coen Brothers Wiki

Theatrical release poster.

Raising Arizona is a 1987 Coen Brothers film starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand, and Randall "Tex" Cobb. Not a blockbuster at the time of its release, it has since achieved the status of a cult film. Typical Coen Brothers fare, the movie is replete with symbolism, visual gags, yodeling folk music, unconventional characters, flamboyant camera work, pathos and idiosyncratic dialogue. The movie ranked number 31 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs and number 45 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies."


  • Nicolas Cage- H.I. McDonnough
  • Holly Hunter- Ed McDonnough
  • John Goodman- Gale Snoats
  • William Forsythe- Evelle Snoats
  • Frances McDormand- Dot
  • Randall 'Tex' Cobb- Leonard Smalls
  • Trey Wilson- Nathan Arizona Sr.
  • Sam McMurray- Glen
  • T.J. Kuhn- Nathan Arizona Jr.
  • Lynne Dumin Kitei- Florence Arizona
  • Warren Keith- FBI Agent


The police station scenes were filmed at the Tempe, Arizona police station on 5th Street next to Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus, while the family picnic where H.I. punches Glen was filmed at the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Arizona.

The baby on the movie's international poster is Max Bemis, lead singer of the punk rock group Say Anything. His father designed the poster and used him as a model.


The film grossed $22,800,000 in the box office.


In several scenes, including when H.I. meets with the parole board, a portrait of Barry Goldwater is visible in the background. Goldwater ran for President in 1964 as a Republican and was a U.S. Senator from Arizona for many years. He is considered one of the most famous people in Arizona history. Goldwater was famously supported by Ronald Reagan; he at one point criticized Reagan's economic plan. On the front bumper of the car Gale and Evelle use during the bank robbery there is a Mondale-Ferrarro sticker, the Democrats who ran against Reagan in 1984.

After Evelle and Gale break out of prison, they clean up in a gas station restroom where "P.O.E." and "O.P.E." are spraypainted on the walls, a reference to the film Dr. Strangelove, where it stood for both "Peace on Earth" and "Purity of Essence".

Leonard Smalls shares the name of Lennie Smalls, from John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men. Both are physically powerful men who damage things smaller and weaker than themselves, though only Leonard does so intentionally. Lennie wants to take care of rabbits, while Leonard kills one with a grenade.

The text of the second-to-last screen of credits, which shows acknowledgment of several Southwestern U.S. Native American tribes, is arranged in the shape of a large clay pottery jar, a craft piece historically made by such tribes.

When Hi goes to work in a factory, his chatty co-worker (a cameo by M. Emmet Walsh) can be seen wearing a jumpsuit with the label, "Hudsucker Industries". The company name derived from a script written by the Coen brothers a couple of years earlier in collaboration with Sam Raimi, The Hudsucker Proxy, which the Coens had put on the back burner because they knew they wouldn't be able to raise the budget to make it properly. The script would eventually be filmed by the Coens and released in 1994. The idea of tracking a fugitive by the scent of his hair-pomade is reused in the Coens' 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou?

A Simpsons episode from season 18 makes a parody of the diaper chase scene.


There are three scenes of H.I. and Smalls that imply they are alike:

  • A shot where H.I. pulls a baby out from underneath the crib and a scene (shot at the same angle) where Smalls drags H.I. out from underneath a truck.
  • A scene where H.I. opens Smalls' shirt, revealing the same tattoo of Mr. Horsepower as he has on his own arm.
  • Smalls scoops up Nathan Jr. from the center of the road in roughly the same way that H.I. had previously picked up the diapers after the convenience store robbery.

Smalls may be a symbol of H.I.'s own evil and bad attributes, but some believe the relationship to be one of Smalls being the father that abandoned H.I. Smalls also has a tattoo reading, "Mama Didn't Love Me."


The score to Raising Arizona is written by Carter Burwell, the second of his collaborations with the Coen Brothers.

The sounds are a mix of organ, massed choir, banjo, whistling and yodeling.

Themes are borrowed from the "Goofing Off Suite", originally recorded by Pete Seeger in 1955, which includes an excerpt from the "Chorale" movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9" and "Russian Folk Themes and Yodel". Musicians credited with playing the music for the film are Ben Freed on banjo, Mieczyslaw Litwinski on Jew's harp] and guitar and yodeling by John R. Crowder.

Selections from Burwell's score to Raising Arizona were released on an album in 1987, along with selections from the Coen's previous (and first) feature film, Blood Simple.

Track listing[]

  1. "Introduction - A Hole In The Ground" – 0:38
  2. "Way Out There (Main Title)" – 1:55
  3. "He Was Horrible" – 1:30
  4. "Just Business" – 1:17
  5. "The Letter" – 2:27
  6. "Hail Lenny" – 2:18
  7. "Raising Ukeleles" – 3:41
  8. "Dream Of The Future" – 2:31
  9. "Shopping Arizona" – 2:46
  10. "Return To The Nursery" – 1:35
    • The tracks from Raising Arizona comprise the first ten tracks on a 17-track CD that also features selections from the Blood Simple soundtrack.

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