Every Wes Anderson Movie, Ranked
Something needs to be made very clear: when ranking Wes Anderson movies, one must bear in mind that every movie discussed, regardless of ranking, is still more watchable than most movies out today. The man has an eye for aesthetics and a unique style of storytelling that makes his movies stand out above all else.
THAT SAID … there is a way to rank them based on varying factors, from his filmmaking experience at the time of release, to how engaging the films are overall. Every film on this list deserves at least one viewing, yet all the same, here they are ranked based on the above metric.
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Steve Zissou had all the potential to be a very entertaining movie. It’s based in a very artistic rendering of the sea, with an incredible cast, and best of all, it featured enchanting samba covers of modern pop songs as performed by Seu Jorge. Magnificent!
… in theory. Unfortunately, the film’s execution was not the sharpest, thus resulting in a movie that was pretty to look at, but not necessarily fun to watch. I’ve tried to watch this film with family and friends multiple times, and each time, at least one of us ends up falling asleep. It takes a special sort of viewer to appreciate what Anderson was going for here, and I’m sorry to say I’m not that person.
Where to watch The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou: Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video
If this were a general list of funny and quirky 90s indie films, then Bottle Rocket would definitely be higher up (and not even just because the Wilson brothers were pretty foxy in it). It’s such a silly romp of a film, with enough bro-y qualities that one might even forget they’re watching a Wes Anderson movie.
And therein lies the reason it’s placed so low: it just doesn’t feel like his current style, and it’s very obvious that this was his first foray into feature-length filmmaking. The fact that this first feature film was so fun to watch is a testament to his skill, so it’s definitely a good movie—just not the sort of film one’s come to expect from Anderson.
Where to watch Bottle Rocket: Apple TV+, Prime Video, Starz
The Darjeeling Limited
These days, a film that plays on colonial narratives wouldn’t do especially well, but even back in 2007, The Darjeeling Limited didn’t score as high as it could have. Many critics found it tedious and self-involved, which I would say is the point, considering that’s how the brothers are characterized. Part of the charm was getting to watch them grow as people (albeit while playing on said colonial narratives).
Yes, it’s dated, and it got away with some things that wouldn’t fly today, but it’s still worth watching. Darjeeling has a lot of humanity at its core, and at the very least, all the travel shots with The Kinks playing in the background might inspire viewers to get up and go somewhere.
Where to watch The Darjeeling Limited: Apple TV+, Prime Video, Hulu
Isle of Dogs
Speaking of exoticizing—as an East Asian person, I can’t exactly get behind this movie, even though all the pups are so entertaining to watch. It feels as though Anderson fell into a pattern of Western storytelling wherein “the East” becomes a play-set for writers, with many aspects of Japanese culture portrayed in the film seeming like a tokenized parody of the country itself.
It’s still a masterclass in animation and is gorgeous to look at, but even disregarding the points above, the story isn’t the most original. Boy meets dog, dog saves boy. Good doggie.
Where to watch Isle of Dogs: Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video
Now we get into the films that were more difficult to rank, because the flaws start to get whittled down to little things. In Rushmore‘s case, it’s only this far down because it isn’t as “complex” as his later films, yet it’s still such a badass little indie movie that I can’t help but grin every time I think of Jason Schwartzman’s victorious face on the movie’s poster.
Sometimes, a movie doesn’t need to be “deep” in order to be good. Sometimes viewers just wanna watch a working-class boy work the system in his favor and become a private school god. There’s a helluva lot of soul in this movie, and even though Max grates at times, one can’t help but cheer him on.
Where to watch Rushmore: Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video
I have a special fondness for this movie, because when it came out, the lead reminded me of my “middle school boyfriend.” I’d imagine many viewers feel the same way about Moonrise Kingdom, since the film so perfectly encapsulates the first blossoms of love in a young person’s life, from the rampant awkwardness to all the pesky adults trying to insert themselves in other people’s business.
The original score (composed by Benjamin Britten) is so gorgeous and melancholic, one can’t help but feel entranced while watching this film. Anderson was quoted stating that he built this movie out of his childhood daydreams of fantastical love, and that describes this movie’s essence to a T.
Where to watch Moonrise Kingdom: Apple TV+, Prime Video
The Royal Tenenbaums
This movie has all the trappings to be an insufferably pretentious story of tragically cool “gifted kids” past their prime, yet it simply isn’t. The Royal Tenenbaums is a movie so full of heart, love, and empathy, I can’t help but tear up every time I watch it.
Not only is the style and music choice incredible, but it also managed to tell multiple stories and weave them into one overarching narrative in a way that doesn’t feel overly messy or complicated. It pulls on the heartstrings, sometimes overbearingly so, and ends with a sense of much-needed resolve for the Tenenbaum family (and for us, as their viewers).
Where to watch The Royal Tenenbaums: Apple TV+, Prime Video, Hulu
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I had a difficult time deciding where The Grand Budapest Hotel or Royal Tenenbaums would rank in regard to the other, and ultimately, Grand Budapest won on the slightest of margins: it’s just so dang fun to watch. Everything, from the brilliant cinematography to the unleashed zaniness the actors get to play around with, comes together to create a movie that is so engaging to watch, it practically flies by.
Of course, there are some parts that start to drag on, and the beginning half is by far the most memorable. But it all ties together very sweetly and concisely, resulting in a movie experience that’s hard to forget—and not even just because Willem Dafoe is THE most convincing muscleman.
Where to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel: Apple TV+, Prime Video
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Some might find it insulting to put an animated movie so high up, but I’d like to make the argument that it’s difficult to make animated films that have as much style, panache, and storytelling cohesion as this one. Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t just an animated film: it’s a masterpiece.
The character design, the music, the writing, the acting … ah!! It’s just so good, and it’s done with such maturity, it gives hope that the future of animation isn’t solely within the hands of cash-grab kids movies.
Where to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox: Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video
The French Dispatch
It bodes well for our dear director that his latest movie is as good as it is. Indeed, while many could make compelling arguments as to why various other films deserve this spot, I believe that The French Dispatch is the perfect modern culmination of all of Anderson’s talents and strengths as a writer and filmmaker.
Each vignette (including the intro and intermissions!) is so charming, soulful, and intriguing, one can’t help but fall in love a little with every story told. Anderson also played around with various styles, including a brief return to animation, yet none of it felt tacked-on or excessive. Truly, this film was a beautiful experience to behold and take to heart, and in a time when beauty is so sorely needed, one can’t help but be grateful that the man is still creating. Here’s to what comes next!
Where to watch The French Dispatch: Apple TV+, Prime Video, Hulu
(Featured Image: Buena Vista Pictures)
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