The films of Wes Anderson

Like many other people, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in me spending a lot more time at home than expected. And finding things to fill that time can be tricky.

Trips to the cinema would normally be one of the main things that would fill the time, in their absence I’m having a go at curating some mini film festivals and combining with one of my other loves, ranking lists.

To start I’ve watched the films of Wes Anderson, and here they are ranked in order of quality.

(NOTE: these are the full feature films directed by Wes Anderson)

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The ultimate Anderson film. Brings together all his classic tropes but at their best. Beautiful design and colour pallets that change across time periods. A great narrative that rolls along at pace, emotionally affecting with a great sense of melancholia, nostalgia and loss. Matched with an outstanding comic performance from Ralph Fiennes.

2. Isle of Dogs

Beautiful and charming animation, an incredibly sweet story and an awesome soundtrack. One of the most ‘feel good’ Anderson films and a great synthesis of western and Japanese styles without being culturally condescending.

3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The first Anderson film that grabbed me. The look of this, using scale models, is great, and makes you feel like you’ve been pulled into a complete world. The nostalgia for a time of adventure, complete with a recognition that adventurers were often buffoons works. And it has David Bowie songs in Portuguese.

4. Fantastic Mr Fox

Putting a favoured childhood book to film is always a tricky proposition, especially when there are changes in story and character. But this version retains enough of the spirit of the book and brings in something new that’s interesting. Coupled with a lovely animation style it’s a hit.

5. Rushmore

A really sweet coming of age movie. The feeling of being an outsider and teenage awkwardness mixed with earnestness gives this film a good feeling of truth. Also the first appearance of Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson film.

6. The Royal Tenenbaums

This feels like the first proper Wes Anderson film, in the sense that it includes all the classic stylistic touches you’d expect. It’s the cast of characters that draw you in, each broken in a different way. And where some filmmakers would use a narrative to mend them, Anderson uses it to find a way for them to live with their brokenness.

7. Bottle Rocket

A really interesting first feature from Anderson. Feels like it has a lot of similarity with early Kevin Smith films like Clerks. A slacker heist movie in the loosest sense, with a standout performance from Owen Wilson.

8. Moonrise Kingdom

Not a bad film but also not an incredibly engaging one. It’s got a sweet central romance between two young teenagers but feel like the surrounding characters are missing something. Bruce Willis in particular doesn’t seem right for the role he’s got.

9. The Darjeeling Limited

The only Anderson film I would describe as fully bad. This is really bad. In a way that it feels like it’ directed by someone else trying to do a Wes Anderson film. Fully obnoxious characters with no redeeming features coupled with an uncomfortable colonialist feeling. Avoid at all costs.


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