The No Country for Old Men script was adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, and features some great quotes, a killer plot, and won the academy award for best picture.
See our analysis of the No Country for Old Men screenplay below, and find a free PDF download for you to study.
No Country for Old Men Script
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WHO WROTE THE No Country For Old Men SCRIPT?
Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Cormac McCarthy (Novel)
Joel and Ethan Coen grew up in Minnesota. Joel was an assistant editor on The Evil Dead and wrote scripts with the director Sam Raimi. The pair have gone on to write No Country for Old Men, O’ Brother Where Art Thou, and Burn After Reading, as well as writing the scripts for Bridge of Spies and Unbroken.
No Country for Old Men PLOT
Story beats in the No Country for Old Men script
As with many of the Coen Brother's scripts, the No Country for Old Men screenplay makes use of classic Hollywood structure:
Script Structure of No country for old men
1. EXPOSITION (BEGINNING)
The No Country for Old Men script begins with Sheriff Bell talking about the classic sheriffs in Texas. We see Anton kill a deputy and a motorist. He takes the car.
2. INCIDITING INCIDENT
The No Country for Old Men script could arguably have two inciting incidents, one of which could be the moment he finds the dead man with the money, but Moss also goes back to help the driver, and this is the one that lands around page 15.
3. CLIMAX OF ACT ONE
The No Country for Old Men script breaks into act two by officially beginning the chase-triangle, where Anton is after Moss, and Bell is after Anton.
4. OBSTACLES (RISING ACTION)
The No Country for Old Men script has Anton on the hunt, and Moss has decided to send his wife away. Moss travels to Del Rio to hide out and buys new boots. Bell is on the hunt as well.
5. MIDPOINT (BIG TWIST)
The midpoint of the No Country for Old Men script has Anton finding Moss as he tries to escape and steals a truck. Anton shoots Moss, but doesn’t kill him. Moss makes it across the Mexican border after tossing the money over a bridge.
6. DISASTER & CRISIS
Bell leaves for Odessa to find Norma Jean. Wells finds Moss in the Mexican hospital. Wells tells Moss about Chigurh and offers to let him keep some of the money if he hands it over.
7. CLIMAX OF ACT TWO
Wells finds the money, but he doesn’t go to get it just yet. Anton follows Wells into his hotel room, and kills him. Moss calls Wells, but Anton answers the phone instead.
8. CLIMAX OF ACT THREE
Moss crosses the border back into America and retrieves the money from near the river. He calls Norma Jean. Anton kills the man who hired Wells. A group of Mexican assassins follow Norma Jean to El Paso.
9. OBSTACLES (DESCENDING ACTION)
Moss is staying at a motel in El Paso. Bell arrives at the hotel to see a group of Mexican Assassins driving off in a big hurry. Bell finds Moss dead in one of the hotel rooms. Norma Jean arrives shortly thereafter.
The No Country for Old Men script ends with Anton finally murdering Norma Jean and driving away in a car, but then the car is hit. Anton escapes. We then learn that Sheriff Bell has retired and he tells his wife about some dreams he had.
No Country for Old Men Script Takeaway #1
No Country for Old Men Quotes
No Country for Old Men quotes aren't thrown around in popular conversation when compared to many other Coen Brother films, but perhaps they are in Texas and I haven't spent enough time hobbling through the streets of El Paso. That isn't to say the film doesn't have some great quotes, but many of the best lines in the film are thoughtful and profound rather than something you might say to your friends.
The scene below is often referred to as the coin toss scene, but it features the most famous of all the No Country for Old Men quotes. The quotes in questions is, "Call it, friendo."
Scene Study: Anton at the gas station
Personally, I think there are better quotes in this scene. In the final moments of the scene, the gas station proprietor goes to put the coin in his pocket, but Anton tells him not to:
"Anywhere not in your pocket. Or it'll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is."
Now, why do i like this quote more and what does it mean? On the surface it obviously means that the coin represents this man's life, and the fleeting and random forces behind all of our lives.
I think the reason I like the line so much, especially the little qualifier at the end, is that it both shows that Anton enjoys the power he has from his abandonment of his own humanity. He enjoys toying with regular people, and this makes him an especially enigmatic character who doesn't value life the way the rest of the characters do. It's one of the most important moment for understanding Anton's character.
No Country for Old Men Script Takeaway #2
No Country for Old Men Characters
The No Country for Old Men characters are all really great, and I believe this is primarily due to which characters are given the most lines, and which are left to be men of action.
Crafting unique and memorable characters is something the Coen Brothers have done consistently throughout their career. Before we take a closer look at Sheriff Bell and the No Country for Old Men ensemble, here's a break down of the Coen Brothers' directing style. You can see that their fascinating characterizations starts with the script but then gets amplified with costume, lighting, music, and sound design.
How Coen Brothers Movies Are Directed • Subscribe on YouTube
If you notice, Sheriff Bell's character seems to have the most lines of any in the film, and this allows for the plot to be somewhat relayed to us through his investigation and wisdom.
The characters who have the most screen time seldom speak, and when they do their lines are brief and succinct. Their deeds and methods are the focus of our attention, and not how slick and quick they can run their mouth, which in a way makes them more interesting characters.
Scene Study: Wells talks about Anton
The characters are also described in a rather light manner, and many of the common screenwriting rules of character introductions are completely ignored. Now, this is most likely due to the fact that the Coen's knew they were directing and had read McCarthy's novel.
Here's an example:
Carson Wells sits in front of the desk, his manner affable. He rests a booted foot across one knee.
No Country for Old Men Script Takeaway #3
No Country for Old Men Ending
The No Country for Old Men ending has an odd combination of a big jolt, and then a slow burn. We've already been disappointed by the fact that Moss was killed at the motel, and then Norma Jean is killed by Anton, but then he car is struck by a truck.
But then... the No Country for Old Men ending takes a dip down in energy. This is where we realize that Sheriff Bell has retired, most likely due to his inability to understand the world as he thought he once knew it, and he tells a story about two dreams about his father.
Scene Study: No Country for Old Men Ending
This scene encapsulates the message of the film and explains the title, which is that the "Country" in question is both the literal unforgiving landscape of the Texas desert, the drug trade, and law enforcement but also about the changing times and how the further we go along in our lives we come to find things make less sense than when we were young.
Our active lifestyle and unburdened minds in our earlier years are able to move through life with a sense of purpose until eventually we realize how chaotic and seemingly meaningless everything is, and that's when things become more complicated and seem to be beyond comprehension. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose. Feel better?
Read and Download More Scripts
The Coen Brothers deliver one hell of a modern western, with themes that resonate and characters that won't let you forget them. If you want to read more great scripts, we have Gone Girl, The Social Network and The Usual Suspects in our screenplay database. Great screenwriters read lots of scripts. Get started today!