All 9 Wes Anderson Movies, Ranked

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Wes Anderson is an auteur director in the truest sense of the term. Despite a sparse filmography consisting of only nine movies (his upcoming film The French Dispatch will make 10), Anderson has managed to create a distinct sense of place. Within each film is a fictional reality, awash with pastel colors, snappy dialogue, and a rotating cast of talented actors who are as entwined in his work as the symmetrical cinematography so well-known it’s spawned a now famous Instagram account focused entirely on finding “accidentally Wes Anderson” imagery in real life.

And although some (read: people who are wrong) may write Anderson’s work off as oversaturated kitsch, the Oscars and Library of Congress beg to differ. Of his nine films, five have been nominated for Academy Awards. His 2014 movie The Grand Budapest Hotel received nine Oscar nominations and won four. Isle of Dogs, one of his two animated films, also received two Academy Awards. And his second film, Rushmore, starring Jason Schwartzman as a vengeful high school student, has gained cult status and is in the National Film Registry as a culturally significant movie. Not bad for a guy who’s made just nine films so far, huh?

On October 22, Anderson’s tenth film, The French Dispatch, will be released. Following an American newspaper in a fictional French town, the movie features a stacked cast including Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, and Timothee Chalamet, who will have the highly anticipated Dune released on the same day. To celebrate the director’s upcoming release, and because it’s long overdue, here’s a ranking of Wes Anderson’s films, from worst to best.

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9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

With a Rotten Tomatoes rotten critic score of 56%, Life Aquatic is evidently not Anderon’s best. While it features pleasant visuals and an initially intriguing story of a daring oceanographer (Bill Murray) who combines the vengeful Captain Ahab from Moby Dick with a costume styling reminiscent of Jacques Costeau, the film’s pacing is its downfall. It’s a shoot and a miss, and an attempt for Anderson to find his directorial footing while keeping up with overlapping plot lines and maintaining his creative vision.

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8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman star as three brothers in this comedy drama. It’s another one of Anderon’s duds like Life Aquatic, with eye-catching visuals, and yet not much substance. It’s difficult to grasp the appeal of three white guys who travel to India to find themselves after their father’s death. And while it’s not nearly as much of a bore as Life Aquatic, it’s still a large disappointment knowing one of his best works to date, The Royal Tenenbaums, came out six years prior. With The Darjeeling Limited we see a director looking for another success, and in this movie, fails to find it.

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7. Bottle Rocket (1996)

As Anderson’s first film, the crime film is only a taste of the signature style the director would later take on. It’s still a strong start to his career, and features not-yet-established acting brothers Owen and Luke Wilson as decent leads. And in retrospect, it’s always exciting to see talented faces in their acting debuts. Yet, knowing the more polished, complex work Anderson had to come, it’s one of his less memorable works.

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6. Isle of Dogs (2018)

Anderson’s second foray into animated films, Isle of Dogs is a science fiction comedy all about, well, dogs. In a dystopian future, a fictional Japanese town has a deadly canine influenza and as a result, the mayor bans all dogs and ships them to Trash Island to live out the rest of their days. Although it’s an enjoyable watch and Courtney B. Vance’s narration is a strong guide through the movie’s plot, the film isn’t nearly as memorable as some of Anderson’s other creations. The large and experienced cast lose some of their spark when relegated to only voice acting. The movie also pales in comparison to Anderson’s stronger, funnier animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

With Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson had all the right ingredients to make the perfect animated comedy. There’s a stellar cast, including Meryl Streep and George Clooney, who are committed wholly to their performances and ace the script’s deadpan humor with ease. Plus, the movie landed at just the right time for stop-motion in 2009, the same year as the equally successful stop-motion film Coraline. It also proved Wes Anderson didn’t need live-action, real-time actors to create a unique and instantly recognizable piece.

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4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Easily one of his most popular films, The Royal Tenenbaums uses just the right amount of Anderson’s signature ‘quirkiness’ to work. An eccentric and dysfunctional family come together when their estranged father returns and announces he has a terminal illness. The characters are flawed in the best way, endlessly quotable, and each whimsical in their own way. Somehow Anderson brings them all together in a strong ensemble. Still, The Royal Tenenbaums isn’t the pinnacle of his filmography, and the family can sometimes feel too unreal for a viewer to connect with, even with the droll humor.

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3. Rushmore (1998)

Jason Schwartzman stars in this coming-of-age comedy as the impulsive, vengeful and determined teenager Max, who falls in love with a teacher and attempts to win her over, despite her involvement with an equally determined industrialist. It’s Schwartzman’s debut film, and a strong one at that. His performance has helped some of the film’s best lines persist to this day, and cemented its status as a cult classic. Bill Murray plays the industrialist who goes head to head with Schwartzman, making a perfect pairing to an odd but ultimately successful comedy.

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2. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Another win for Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom follows two kids who flee town and the friends and family who search for them. It’s a cute, fun, coming-of-age story that doesn’t try too hard. The children at the center of the film are as deeply explored, as are the adults who hunt for them. In fact, they’re so intriguing, they’re even more engaging than the sadder protagonists of the much-loved Royal Tenenbaums.

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1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This comedy-drama perfectly encapsulates the comedy, romance, and iconic visuals the director envisions with each of his films. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the best movie to show a person unfamiliar with Anderson’s work, and it’s easily one of his most successful films to date. It’s fully realized, down to the impressive costumes, set design, and score. Actors Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori play well off each other as concierge Gustave and newly hired bellhop Zero, and Saoirse Ronan completes the main trio of characters up against Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe’s antagonists. If you had to make an essential list of films from the 2010s The Grand Budapest Hotel would no doubt make a worthy entry.

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