With his trademark aesthetic, unique characters, and captivating storytelling, Wes Anderson has created a cinematic universe that’s impossible to ignore. From deep character studies of the people that populate the worlds he constructs, to fanpages that search for Wes Anderson-ish angles, symmetry and colours, his fanbase is as huge as it is quirky. And with the risk of upsetting segments of it, I decided to rank all of his films, in my humble opinion. So, here goes, starting with the ‘worst’ (which is still an excellent film) and ending with the best.
Kicking off the Andersonian saga is “Bottle Rocket,” a tale of friendship, quirky heists, and the road to self-discovery. Anderson’s directorial debut introduces us to Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson), two bumbling buddies with dreams of becoming successful criminals. What follows is a charmingly awkward adventure filled with endearing mishaps and unexpected bonds. Even though it’s a directorial debut, Martin Scorsese saw Anderson’s potential, saying that “knows how to convey the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness. This kind of sensibility is rare in movies.”
Ready to embark on an underwater adventure like no other? “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” follows oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his eclectic crew as they set sail to find the elusive jaguar shark that killed Zissou’s partner. With its dazzling visual aesthetics, off-kilter characters, and a dose of existential introspection, the film showcases Anderson’s knack for blending melancholy and whimsy in a truly enchanting way.
Then comes “Rushmore,” a film that catapulted Wes Anderson’s unique style into the spotlight. Here, we meet Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious student with an affinity for extracurricular activities and an infatuation with his schoolteacher (Olivia Williams). The movie is a whirlwind of offbeat humor, intricate characters, and a healthy dose of Anderson’s signature melancholic charm. Oh, and Bill Murray shines as the eccentric millionaire Herman Blume – an Anderson-Murray collaboration that would become legendary.
The most recent of Wes Anderson’s films, this was his jump into a slightly different backdrop – a desert – which comes with its own particularities and colour palettes. The story follows a writer on his world famous fictional play about a grieving father who travels with his tech-obsessed family to small rural Asteroid City to compete in a junior stargazing event, only to have his world view disrupted forever. While it might take a bit longer while Wes fans ruminate their recent viewing experience, it’s as idiosyncratic and quirky as the logline suggests.
Next stop, India! “The Darjeeling Limited” takes us on a train ride through the vibrant landscapes of the subcontinent, as three estranged brothers attempt to reconnect and find themselves along the way. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman deliver heartfelt performances as the brothers grappling with their shared past and uncertain futures. Anderson’s exploration of sibling dynamics, combined with his unmistakable visual style, makes this film a compelling and introspective journey.
In “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson returns to the world of stop-motion animation, this time immersing us in a dystopian Japan where dogs are exiled to an isolated island due to a canine flu epidemic. When a young boy arrives on the island in search of his lost dog, a quirky adventure unfolds, blending Anderson’s signature quirkiness with themes of loyalty and friendship. It’s especially great for dog lovers, and perhaps also for cat lovers with a sense of humour.
Ah, the long anticipated and perpetually delayed (due to Covid), “The French Dispatch.” Inspired by the format of a magazine, the film presents a collection of interconnected stories set in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail, visual storytelling, and ensemble cast come together to create a tapestry of eccentric characters and intriguing narratives. While some stories are more intriguing than others, the unmistakable visual charm is always present.
If you’ve ever wanted to peek into the lives of a dysfunctional yet utterly captivating family, “The Royal Tenenbaums” is your ticket. The film introduces us to the quirky Tenenbaum clan, reuniting under the roof of their estranged father, played by the incomparable Gene Hackman. Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, and Luke Wilson deliver pitch-perfect performances as the eccentric siblings, each dealing with their own issues while navigating the labyrinth of family dynamics. Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail and deadpan humor shine brilliantly in this whimsical masterpiece – many regard this as Anderson’s magnum opus.
Hold onto your tails, because Anderson ventures into the world of stop-motion animation with “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic tale, the film follows the cunning Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he outwits three villainous farmers. With its meticulous craftsmanship, quirky characters, and witty dialogue, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a delightful cinematic treat for audiences of all ages.
Prepare for a whimsical coming-of-age story like no other in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Set on a picturesque New England island in the 1960s, the film follows two young misfits who run away together, sending their community into a frenzy. Anderson captures the innocence and curiosity of young love while weaving in his characteristic offbeat humor and emotionally resonant storytelling. I could have easily put this on top spot, but I didn’t, which can only mean one thing for the first place…
Welcome to the opulent and whimsical world of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Anderson takes us on a visually captivating journey through multiple timelines as we follow the misadventures of the hotel’s charismatic concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), and his loyal lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori). The film’s intricate storytelling, distinctive visual design, and ensemble cast create a cinematic experience that’s as intricate as it is enchanting. I also find this to be the most Wes Anderson-ish film of Wes Anderson, with the allegorical storytelling beautifully harboring more elaborate meanings, the visual style being as evident as possible, and the characters and humour yet to be topped by any other of the director’s films.