by Gillian Koptik
Director Wes Anderson is a filmmaker from Houston known for his distinctly artsy, colorful and symmetrical style. Anderson’s style is often recognized by critics and fans alike because all of his movies make a statement. Whether it be the soundtrack or the storyline, each movie has something to share. Fans of Anderson’s work often talk about which film is his “best,” and although difficult, I’ve proven here that it is, indeed, possible.
9: “ The Darjeeling Limited” (2007)
Three distanced brothers reunite with a train trip across India, and their old habits seem to die hard. They reconnect with one another and in the end have a new perspective on their relationship with one another. Watch the trailer here.
I ranked this movie as number 9 because although I believe there really isn’t a bad Wes Anderson movie, this happened to be my least favorite. The storyline is compelling, but at points has too much going on for you to really understand. There’s a lot of movement, people popping in and out of the train cars, getting off the train and back on, etc. because the movie’s primary location is actually the train. This is one of Anderson’s more action-packed movies, and definitely takes a couple of watches to fully understand.
8: “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)
Royal Tenenbaum has three children who were all, in their own ways, kid geniuses. Flash forward a couple of years, and each child has somehow failed. The result is a very classic family reunion, filled with twisty-turny family drama. Watch the trailer here.
Very literally a family movie, “The Royal Tenenbaums” has electric characters and a strong conflict and storyline. There’s a bit of chaos throughout the whole thing, but that adds to the charm. Anderson embraces his styles in this film, the shots are wide and the characters are centered. There’s a lot of color in every scene, and the atmosphere feels present. That might be the movie’s flaw. At times, there’s too much going on in the background for the viewer to fully pay attention to the foreground, and what the characters are actually doing in the space, verus the space itself.
7: “Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)
Set in the 1930s, Grand Budapest is a destination hotel with high class service for all its guests. Gustave, the concierge, prides himself in his ability to satisfy all the guests in any way he can. He befriends lobby boy Zero and they quickly become close. When one of the guests is suddenly murdered, Gustave is tied in as a suspect and Zero is right by his side to help him get out of the mess. Watch the trailer here.
“Grand Budapest Hotel” is full of excellent shots and wonderful character development, but like many of Anderson’s movies, carries a bit of chaos. There’s a lot going on, and at many points in the film it’s hard to exactly tie the characters into the plot nicely. Besides the chaos, “Grand Budapest” offers a perspective that’s a bit different than what we’ve seen from Anderson previously, and is still a very entertaining film to watch.
6: “Isle of Dogs” (2018)
After all dogs are banished from Megasaki City, a young boy is determined to retrieve his canine friend, Spots, from Trash Island. An epic journey unravels for both the boy and the dog, ending with new friendships and new laws. Watch the trailer here.
“Isle of Dogs” is Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion film, and received a lot of praise all around. Although it is a brilliant and entertaining movie, there are aspects of it that don’t make it feel as strong as some of his other works. The biggest example of that to me is the story itself. It’s harder to engage in because of its complexities, and the viewer is sort of thrown into it. It is exciting once you get into it and understand what’s going on, but it does take a bit to get fully engulfed in the story.
5: “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012)
The Summer of 1965, two unlikely pen pals fall in love and decide to run away together. Little do they know that their small New England island is about to face some dangerous storms. Their parents realize what’s going on, and form a search party just before the storm hits. Watch the trailer here.
This is probably Anderson’s biggest film; it has the most recognition and the highest Rotten Tomato score. There’s a good mix of plot and artsy-ness in this movie, and one never quite dominates over the other. It never loses its charm; the feelings of young love that this movie brings are raw and it’s something you can watch over and over again without feeling like you’ve watched it a billion times. “Moonrise Kingdom” has one of the best storylines, the characters are intriguing and inspiring and it feels real, like a movie you could really be a part of.
4: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)
Based on the Roald Dahl novel, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” follows the life of a rebellious father fox who decides to steal from a farm owned by human neighbors. The farmers are outraged, and force Mr. Fox, as well as all the other animals, to go underground. They rally together to fight back against the humans. Watch the trailer here.
This really is one of Anderson’s best films, and is also his first stop-motion. You can feel the amount of effort and intention that went into this movie, and how largely that impacts how the story is told. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” also opened up Anderson’s ability to play more with the images in the film, since the movie was based off of a book. There’s a strong artistic element in this movie, and Anderson does a great job at bringing the actual plot into that.
3: “Rushmore” (1998)
Teenage prep school kid Max falls for the new first grade teacher at his school. Excited, Max turns to the first person he can — the father of two students at his school — to confide and profess his newfound love. Unfortunately, his new friend also becomes his new enemy, when he begins to see the teacher, which means war in Max’s book. Watch trailer here.
Although this is an older film, it still seems to be one of Anderson’s strongest. The element of unrequited love fuels this movie into the powerhouse that it is. Like many of Anderson’s films, the soundtrack plays a big role in how this film progresses. Songs like, “Oh Yoko!” By John Lennon and “Ooh La La” by Faces, pull the viewer into the movies atmosphere and wrap them up in the story’s plot. This was also the first Wes Anderson movie I ever watched, and will definitely always have a special place in my heart.
2: “Bottle Rocket” (1996)
Three men — one recently released from a mental hospital, a neighbor, and a wacky man — want to get into the dangerous life of committing crimes, but slowly begin to realize that they don’t know the first thing about committing crimes. Watch the trailer here.
This was Anderson’s first film, and it holds up, even after a little over a decade. This was also Owen Wilson’s first movie (you can kind of tell), but being able to see the start of the epic collaboration between Wilson and Anderson is a thing of wonder. This movie is funny and well-made. It doesn’t carry that standard Wes Anderson artsy charm and it’s a lot looser, but you can still trace the elements of his inspiration and style to being rooted in “Bottle Rocket.”
1: “Life Aquatic” (2004)
Oceanographer Steve Zissou seeks revenge on a shark that ate Esteban, his best friend and an important member of the crew. He prepares to go out on another voyage and assembles a crew, but this time Zissou’s apparent son and a pregnant journalist join. Watch the trailer here.
Although it’s not the most critically acclaimed film, it’s my personal favorite. There’s something about the storyline, the characters, the attention to detail and how it all seeps together that really works for me. You can see the amount of thought that Anderson put into this movie based on the small details that seep through. The uniforms the crew members on the ship wear, the soundtrack being entirely one artist. Each small aspect pulls this movie together.