Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi
Plot: Jerry Lundegaard's plans to kidnap his wife for ransom to be paid by her wealthy father. However the inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.
Joel Coen had Frances McDormand and John Carroll Lynch conceive a back-story for their characters to get the feel of them. They decided that Norm and Marge met while working on the police force, and when they were married, they had to choose which one had to quit. Since Marge was a better officer, Norm quit and took up painting.
While first screening the film, Gene Siskel leaned over to fellow critic and co-host Roger Ebert and said with a smile "this is why we love movies." Siskel & Ebert went on to name it the best film of 1996.
About 30 minutes into the film when Gaear Grimsrud chases after the eyewitnesses in the car, he says, "Jävla fitta!" which in Swedish means 'fucking c*nt!'
The wood chipper used in the movie is now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.
The film is not actually "Based on a true story". Joel Coen & Ethan Coen later admitted that they added that disclaimer so the viewer would be more willing to suspend disbelief in the story. (An urban legend even says that people have gone to search Minnesota for the briefcase of money, and come to a bad end.) While the specific crimes in the movie didn't happen, the plot has elements of two well-known Minnesota crimes. In 1962, a St. Paul attorney named Eugene Thompson hired someone to kill his wife, Carol. Unbeknownst to Thompson, his man hired someone else to do the job. The second man fatally wounded Mrs. Thomspon in her house, but she managed to escape him. She went to a neighbor's house for help while her assailant fled the scene. The sloppiness and brutality of the crime attracted great attention. The murderers were quickly caught and gave up Thompson, who denied knowing anything about the crime for many years afterward. In 1972, Virginia Piper, the wife of a wealthy Orono banker, was kidnapped. A million-dollar ransom was paid, one of the largest in U.S. history. Mrs. Piper was found tied to a tree in a state park. Two men were convicted of the crime, but were acquitted after a re-trial. One of them later went on a shooting spree after his wife left him, killing her, their 5-year-old son, her son from a previous marriage, her new boyfriend, and one of his sons. Only $4,000 of the money was ever recovered.
Frances McDormand wore a "pregnancy pillow" filled with birdseed to simulate her pregnant belly. She says that she didn't deliberately try to move in a "pregnant" way, it simply came as a natural response to keeping the extra weight balanced.
None of the movie scenes, either exterior or interior, were actually filmed in Fargo. The bar exterior shown at the beginning of the movie is located in Northeast Minneapolis.
The scene where the couple tries to make a deal with Jerry is based on Ethan Coen's real-life encounter with a car salesman. "[It's] almost a verbatim transcript of my experience."
Frances McDormand accidentally left her pregnancy suit in her trailer one night. The silicone breasts in the suit froze, and one of them exploded the next day on set.
When Jerry is first seen talking to the man from GMAC on his office phone, the scene was set up with the vertical blinds in his office windows open to give the appearance that Jerry is in a jail cell due to the scam he is obviously putting out to GMAC over the fake sales invoices which constitutes as finance fraud and embezzlement.
In his book "Stand for Something: The Battle for America's Soul." John Kasich spends three pages stating his hatred for the film.
Fargo is an actual town in North Dakota.
One of the more sensational elements of the story was in fact "based on a true story": a man who disposed of his wife's body via a woodchipper. However, the murder did not involve a botched kidnapping and took place in New England rather than North Dakota.