If you ask five different Wes Anderson fans which of his films are their favorite, you will probably get five different answers. This is largely because the themes, tone, and style of the auteur’s seven feature films are so similar that they are almost interchangeable. For many people, the first Wes Anderson movie they see is often the one they hold most dear; for others it might be whatever film of his they have seen most recently.
We at Film Misery have been reviewing Anderson’s films over the last two months and would like to wrap things up with an overall summation of his work. Below is our ranking of the best Wes Anderson films along with links to our full reviews of each feature. Be sure to share your favorite in the comments and explain your reasoning.
Ranking the Best Wes Anderson Films
7) Bottle Rocket (1996)
“There is always something very juvenille about Wes Anderson’s characters. In Bottle Rocket, Didgnan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) are two characters whose spirit of adventure belongs to twelve year old boys, not grown men. This muted sense of danger contributes to the prevalent minimalist tone that is distinctly Andersonian — despite the multiple hijinks that the pair commits, they are always held back by the quaintness of their ambition. They’re not after casinos or banks. Instead, they try to rob from the local bookstore and a cold storage facility, two places that hardly qualify as daunting targets for any serious criminal. Their heists are borne out of a childish, whimsical fantasy, and even though Dingnan and Anthony are both twentysomethings, this movie can still be read as a coming of age story, because like teenagers, they have yet to realize that life is not one big caper that can be pulled off without any consequences.” — Vinny Tagle, Read Full Review
6) The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
“The film ends with the brothers literally shedding their baggage as they board a new train. Unlike the Darjeeling Limited, this train isn’t a container for Anderson tropes. It’s not an enclosed laboratory for his characters to grow and cross-pollinate. This new train contains the entire world, car by car. It contains broken hearts, future mothers, ill-defined business men, and the face of death in the jungles of India.
“New thesis: The Whitman brothers represent any of us who are trying to confront the chaos of the world, regardless of where and how. Their childish perception of the world changes and deepens, implying that it will always continue to do so, and, hopefully, so will everyone else’s.” — Aaron King, Read Full Review
5) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
“Such a chilly attitude towards Captain Zissou’s many tribulations may come off either as an emotional cop-out or as unbearably twee – and it might be an entirely fair conclusion to make, were one to judge purely from the script written by Anderson and Kicking & Screaming director Noah Baumbach. But Anderson wisely entrusts Murray to tackle Steve’s emotional undercurrent. An indisputable master of underplaying a character for comedic effect, Murray’s face tells us what is going through Steve’s mind. His performance reveals such vulnerability, such insecurity, that he winds up doing most of the movie’s heavy lifting. By the time Team Zissou finally tracks down that Jaguar Shark, and Murray gives us the closest thing we get to a weepy moment, we experience the culmination of all the work Murray put in to his character. Like many of the best scenes in Anderson’s movies, the moment is greatly subdued, yet surprisingly moving.” — Justin Jagoe, Read Full Review
4) Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
“The use of stop motion animation enhances many of the stylistic flourishes and thematic ideas that run throughout Anderson’s films. Characters in The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic could be described as cartoonish because of their unique walk and repetitive wardrobe. Fox and his friends maintain that sensibility in their specifically colored wardrobe and stylized movement. Just like in Anderson’s live-action films, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels more like a re-enactment of life than realism, with the attention to detail so remarkably precise. However, there is a choppy quality to the animation that is occasionally surprising and calls attention to the fact that none of these characters are perfect.” — Alex Carlson, Read Full Review
3) Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson’s latest film might be the funniest in his entire canon with some delightfully clever visual tricks (carving a hole through a tent to escape), and some just plain silly performances (can Ed Norton be in every Wes Anderson movie?). Once again the director perfectly infuses a sense of melancholy with his stylistic humor and uses the camera brilliantly to set a specific tone. — Full Review Pending
2) Rushmore (1998)
“Here, then, is the lightbulb moment for me, where conversation creates sheer, unadulterated internet-article brilliance: whereas Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic are chock-full of Anderson characters packed into tight environments like bacteria in a culture, Rushmore is all about that Anderson type colliding with the “real” world and being forced to change or die. As much as it’s about a child becoming an adult, it’s about an overblown theatrical archetype mingling with a “realistic” world. It serves as a metaphor for Anderson making a populist film.” — Aaron King, Read Full Review
1) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
“The embrace of the absurdity may never be better realized in any of Anderson’s films, than it is in a fantastic climactic car accident scene. After Eli crashes his car into the family mansion, the entire family comes outside to view the wreckage and comfort one another. Chaos is brought to the false order of 111 Archer Avenue and in a moment where several members of the family were nearly lost, they find themselves closer than ever. The connectedness is wonderfully demonstrated in a long panning shot that gives us glimpses of several onscreen relationships. The cartoonish quality of the movie becomes suddenly very real, while never losing that silly quality that Anderson does so well.” — Alex Carlson, Read Full Review
What is your favorite Wes Anderson movie?