All 11 Wes Anderson Films, Ranked

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With his 11th feature film, Asteroid City, premiering in theaters this month, Wes Anderson has been the talk of the town—or, at the very least, the talk of TikTok. With the auteur’s signature vintage aesthetic, muted color palette, signature camera moves, impeccable set design and quirky storylines, Anderson’s work is unique and iconic on its own standards. While Asteroid City might be a highly anticipated summer movie, the director’s back catalogue is well worth a watch, too. (Including his advertisements for Prada, H&M and American Express.) Here are all 11 Wes Anderson films, ranked by an editor (and superfan). 

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 11. Bottle Rocket

  • Rating: R      
  • Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Release: 1994
  • Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave

This is Anderson’s first feature film, and while it looks nothing like his present-day work, the whispering of what will become his signature aesthetic is there. It’s not a bad film (none of Anderson’s are), but the less-than-beautiful setting in the American South and underdeveloped protagonist, Dignan, sinks this movie to 11th place. The holes in Dignan’s character development leave too many questions about his life’s motivations for the story to feel like it makes sense. The film follows Dignan, his friend Anthony and their neighbor, Bob, as the trio embarks on a wild, amateur crime spree. Along the way, Anthony falls in love and Bob runs off to save his brother from jail, dashing Dignan’s intricate plans. When the group reunites for one last heist, they quickly find they’re in for the ultimate showdown with reality.

 10. Isle of Dogs

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
  • Release: 2018
  • Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton

Anderson’s most recent stop-motion animation, Isle of Dogs, is touching but suffers from some under-developed plot lines. It’s 2038 and Megasaki City, Japan, is overrun with canine flu. By executive degree, all dogs are exiled to Trash Island, nicknamed the Isle of Dogs. When 12-year-old Atari crash-lands on the island in search of his bodyguard dog, Spots, he befriends a pack led by Chief. As the group searches for Spots and seeks to save all dogs from a terrible fate, it is Chief, a lifelong stray, who will learn the power of friendship and loyalty. However, I would have like to see a more thorough exploration of the American exchange student, Tracy Walker, whom Anderson introduces as a driving force in the plot but leaves dangling.

 9. Fantastic Mr. Fox

  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
  • Release: 2009
  • Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Chase Anderson

I am not a huge fan of animation—though Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs were both well done. When the reprobate Mr. Fox takes his scheming too far and sets the angry farmers on his tail, he’ll have to figure out how to spare his entire neighborhood from the megalomaniacs’ vengeance. The humorous adventure begs the important question: what must one do to really be considered “fantastic”—and at what price? The way Anderson explores the question via both father (Mr. Fox) and son (Ash), plus the old-school stop motion technique, land this film at number nine.

 8. Rushmore

  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Release: 1998
  • Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

Rushmore is Anderson’s sophomore film. It lacks the vintage, quirky settings of his later work, but the bones are there. The classic symmetrical framing, short and witty dialogue, the very indie plotline. Fifteen-year-old Max Fisher, the worst student in the history of Rushmore Academy, falls in love with first grade teacher Rosemary Cross—what could go wrong? When his friend, the wealthy Mr. Blume, falls for her, too, chaos ensues as the two of them go back and forth in petty pranks—until it goes a little too far. It’s not my favorite film—I find a high schooler and middle-aged man falling for the same young-ish teacher a little off-kilter. But, I appreciate it as a coming-of-age film about accepting who you are and what it really means to be a good friend.

 7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

  • Rating: R      
  • Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
  • Release: 2004
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe

Acclaimed oceanographer Steve Zissou is down in the dumps: a mysterious shark devoured his best friend during an exploratory dive, and no one believes him. His wife is leaving him for a more successful man. On top of that, a pesky young reporter and his long-lost son enter his life as he embarks on a new documentary project doubling as a quest for revenge. As Zissou fights pirates, a love triangle, rival oceanographer, controlling film studio and even, at one point, his own crew, will he find the creature and bring it to justice? The Life Aquatic follows on the heels of Academy Award-nominated The Royal Tenenbaums, with the director’s now signature quirky sets (miniatures included). However, I couldn’t quite get past the love triangle between pregnant reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (played by Cate Blanchett), Zissou and his son Ned, on top of the questionable pirate castings. Thus, it falls to number seven.

 6. Moonrise Kingdom

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes 
  • Release: 2012
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward

Moonrise Kingdom is a poignant coming-of-age oeuvre, which garnered Anderson Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Young and troubled lovers Sam and Suzy run away on the eve of the most violent storm in the history of the island of New Penzance. As a search party scrambles to find them, heartbreaking information is revealed about the missing pair as Anderson uses his characters to grapple with themes of family, home and belonging. When released, the film garnered criticism for the way it explored child sexuality, and in that, I must agree: while the film is a classic with a satisfying resolution, there is something left to be desired in the scene between Sam and Suzy on the beach of Moonrise Kingdom.

 5. Asteroid City

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
  • Release: 2023
  • Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks

Anderson’s latest film is his most “Wes Anderson film” yet. The aesthetic is spot on, with vibrant hues and dusty pastels, transition from black and white to color and vintage everything. It’s the set design, costumes and play-within-film concept that put it at number five. In the movie, it’s 1955 and the junior stargazers convention is happening in Asteroid City, population 87. Aliens, atomic bombs and one dead mother included, Wes Anderson style. It follows one Augie Steenbeck, widower of three weeks and now single parent to his four children. Through Augie, his son Woodrow and the cast of characters they meet at the convention, Anderson touchingly explores the themes of death, grief and the meaning of life, but slightly underdeveloped storylines have the appeal of the film riding on the director’s aesthetic choices to posit it above his earlier works.

 4. The Royal Tenenbaums

  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Release: 2001
  • Cast: Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover

OK, The Royal Tenenbaums is number four because it’s iconic. Gwyneth Paltrow’s fur coat and fake finger, Luke Wilson’s Rollei35 film camera and sweatband, Ben Stiller’s fire truck-red tracksuit. It’s family dysfunction at its finest: Patriarch Royal Tenenbaum is a lousy father—as proven by his three genius children’s quick-fizzling careers as star tennis player, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and real estate investor. Desperate to make things right, Royal orchestrates a ruse that has his children moving back to the familial home. The series of events that ensues shows reconciliation and forgiveness in all their messy, brutal beauty and honesty.

 3. The Darjeeling Limited

  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Release: 2007
  • Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman

This is the first Anderson film I ever watched, and the person who showed it to me remarked that she watched it whenever she was feeling sad, because ultimately this is a story about healing. That stuck with me, and after watching Anderson’s entire catalogue, I can say that The Darjeeling Limited definitely has one of the best character arcs out of all his work. Plus, the backdrop of India is incredible. It stars Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman (all frequent Anderson collaborators) as three estranged brothers who reunite a year after their father’s death. As the they travel across India on the Darjeeling Limited searching for their absent mother, they discover that the ultimate challenge isn’t bringing her home but learning how to trust each other again. Anderson also shot a short companion film, Hotel Chevalier, with Schwartzman and Natalie Portman, to be viewed prior to The Darjeeling Limited.

 2. The French Dispatch

  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
  • Release: 2021
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Mathieu Amalric, Steve Park, Jeffrey Wright

Set in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, The French Dispatch is a magazine reporting on arts, culture, politics and news. This is my number two pick, because as a writer, how could it not be? This is an ode to The New Yorker, with the film presenting three feature stories in the magazine’s final issue, whose subjects include an insane artist, starry-eyed student protester and foreign chef. The dialogue hits home as Anderson delivers punchy insights on what it means to be an artist, a young person, a woman trying to carve out a career and a foreigner who has nothing to gain and everything to lose. It’s quirky and comedic but still manages to challenge the viewer to think about how identities are constructed, what legitimizes them and the lengths we will go to prove them to others.  

 1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
  • Release: 2014
  • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Tony Revolori

Two worlds collide when young refugee Zero Moustafa becomes the junior lobby-boy-in-training under the flamboyant concierge M. Gustave at the legendary Grand Budapest Hotel. This is Anderson’s most commercially successful film (pending the performance of this year’s release, Asteroid City) and my top pick for good reason. The impeccable set design and aesthetic are a given, from the pastel pink hotel to the costumes and epic ski chase. It has the easiest-to-follow plot of all of Anderson’s films: part art heist, part murder mystery set against the backdrop of impending war on the European continent. As soon as the Dowager Countess dies (not a spoiler, it’s the catalyst), you’re hooked. Who did it? Why did they do it? Will M. Gustave and Zero get “Boy with Apple?” Will the countess’ son, Dimitri, kill them all? Amidst the chaos and thrill, though, the characters are also well-developed, which is something that Anderson’s work is sometimes criticized for lacking. Through Zero and M. Gustave’s relationship, you get a touching story about love, friendship, family and what you do for those people you call yours.

MW 10

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