The Best Wes Anderson Movies Ranked.

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One of the most prominent examples of a modern-day auteur is the award-winning writer/director Wes Anderson, known for his unique filmmaking and storytelling.

Anderson’s cinematic influences include classic French filmmakers and American notables like Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and others.

If you’re interested in learning filmmaking from the likes of Martin Scorsese, check out the Best Masterclasses For Filmmakers and Directors Online.

Included in Anderson’s method of storytelling is his attention to fast-paced comedic stories with melancholic undertones.

The visual style incorporates symmetrical compositions, strict camera movement, models, and a carefully calculated color palette.

He sometimes uses stop motion animations and miniatures for specific animals or entire movies featuring these characters in his later films.

The reality is every single one of Wes Anderson’s ten feature films holds a place in any aspiring filmmaker’s heart. Especially mine.

Here is my list of every single Wes Anderson movie, ranked worst to best.

10. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

“I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people.”

Jack Whitman

Genre: Comedy Drama on a Train

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, 

Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Waris Ahluwalia, Irrfan Khan, Barbet Schroeder, Camilla Rutherford, Bill Murray

Description: Aboard the luxury train “The Darjeeling Limited,” three estranged brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrian Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) meet in India the year following their father’s funeral for a “spiritual awakening.”

Unbeknownst to his brothers, the eldest Francis searches for their mother (Anjelica Huston), whom they haven’t seen in several years. Each brother carries their father’s actual luggage, along with the emotional baggage of their past and peculiar characteristics that drive them closer together and farther apart with each click of the train tracks.

The Darjeeling Limited is an excellent example of Wes Anderson’s attention to detail in a small setting.

Most of the film takes place in India on a train. Every boxcar and character involved is a colorful addition to a visually symmetrical and linear storyline.

It includes all the usual heavyweights of Anderson’s films, but the backdrop of Indian culture overshadows the characters and story.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

“I’m going to find it, and I’m going to destroy it. I don’t know how yet. Possibly with dynamite.” 

Steve Zissou

Genre: Comedy Drama at Sea

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach

Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Bud Cort, Noah Taylor, Seu Jorge, Robyn Cohen

Description: Eccentric oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) sets out on an extravagant expedition to exact revenge on the “jaguar shark” that ate his partner Esteban du Plantier (Seymour Cassel).

Aboard the research vessel, Belafonte, is his estranged wife and chief strategist Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), his German first mate Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe), safety expert and musician Pelé dos Santos (Seu Jorge), his cameraman, and other documentary filmmaking crew members.

Everything appears to be ready to go, and vengeance is on the horizon until two more crewmembers enter the fray, Zissou’s long-lost son Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) and a pregnant reporter, Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett).

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou marks the first film to embody the Wes Anderson aesthetic that we know today fully.

By this film’s production, Anderson had established strong relationships with actors like Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston. He mastered the synergy of a unique soundtrack of original scores and classic music.

For instance, the film’s character Seu Jorge plays music throughout the film that serves as a background for the setting and device to drive the film’s narrative.

Life Aquatic is also the first film to include stop-motion characters with sea creatures and animals involved. 

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

“I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special.”

Suzy

Genre: Coming of Age Comedy Drama on an Island

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward

Description: On the fictional New England island of New Penzance, young orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) escapes his boy scout camp to reunite with his rebellious pen pal and love interest Suzy (Kara Hayward).

The kids feel neglected by their families and friends and find a hideaway on a secret beach. Leading the search for the children is a ragtag group of clueless adults, including the island’s police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and the Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton).

Moonrise Kingdom is a playful entry of the Wes Anderson catalog featuring his usual players with two lesser-known child actors as the primary focus.

Unlike other Anderson films that use the kids as secondary characters, this film focuses on their story of young love, mental health, and sexuality alongside the backdrop of an impending natural disaster.

Throughout the film, the character’s personalities swap with the children acting with maturity and the adults juvenile. This characteristic is an aesthetic of Wes Anderson’s filmmaking.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

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7. The French Dispatch (2021)

“Please turn away. I feel shy about my new muscles.” 

Zeffirelli

Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama at a Newspaper Outpost

Cinematographer: Robert D. Yeoman

Screenwriter: Wes Anderson

Starring: Benicio del Toro, Adiren Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson

Description: The French Dispatch is a collection of three different storylines following the employees of the fictional French town of Ennui at the foreign bureau of the fictional Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, creating their final newspaper before they close forever.

The newspaper editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), dies of a heart attack and asks for one last issue of republications, including his obituary, to be issued posthumously. The ragtag group of reporters includes characters like Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) and her relationship with young revolutionary Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) or Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) attending the private dinner prepared by a legendary police officer and chef Lt. Nescaffier (Stephen Park). 

The French Dispatch is one of Wes Anderson’s most ambitious undertakings adopting the styles of previous films using a precise location and fictional town as the backdrop for the slew of eccentric characters.

The first Anderson film to venture to one of his biggest influences pays strict homage to French cinema’s artistic influences.

Unfortunately, the anthology creates a disconnect from any substantial investment in the characters and leaves the entire body of work feeling incomplete.

6. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

“I understand what your saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m going to ignore your advice.”

Mr. Fox

Genre: Stop Motion Animated Comedy with Woodland Creatures

Cinematographer: Tristan Oliver

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, Wallace Wolodarsky

Description: Based on a Roald Dahl novel of the same name, the Fantastic Mr. Fox follows the former thief, Mr. Foxy Fox (George Clooney), and his wife Felicity’s (Meryl Streep) attempt to start a new life when he is pulled back into the dangerous world of robbing farms and stealing produce.

Now a father, he puts his entire family and community in jeopardy as the angry Franklin “Frank” Bean (Michale Gambon) and his team of farmers vow to kill Mr. Fox once and for all. One by one, different animals of his community come together with Mr. Fox and his family with their own set of quirky skills to avoid being killed and fight back against the evil farmers.

The first entirely stop-motion Wes Anderson film is jam-packed with an all-star voiceover cast. The Academy Award-nominated film fully interprets Anderson’s vision without human limitation and instead of a permanent focus on visual storytelling and character development.

It’s considerably a children’s film with a dark element like Roald Dahl’s other written work (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, etc.).

This isn’t the first time he experimented with this style. You can almost miss the stop-motion sea animals in a previous movie, which is a predecessor to this film.

Surprisingly, Wes Anderson was able to emulate all his usual filmmaking techniques in a story that was originally his own. 

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

5. Bottle Rocket (1996)

“I really want to be a part of this team.. and I’m the only one with a car.”

Bob Mapplethorpe

Genre: 90’s Crime Comedy

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson

Starring: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Andrew Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, James Caan, Ned Dowd

Description: In Arizona, Dignan (Owen Wilson) rescues his friend Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) from his voluntary psychiatric stay for exhaustion. The elaborate breakout plan is only the beginning of his mischievous plans. He lays out a strategy to pull off a series of heists, starting first with Anthony’s family as the practice round.

To get started, they recruit Bob Mapplethorpe (Robert Musgrave), the only man they know with a car, as the getaway driver. Their adventures are not as successful as they plan, which leads to conflict, comedy, and involvement with a shifty landscaper and part-time criminal named Mr. Abe Henry (James Caan).

Bottle Rocket is Wes Anderson’s first feature film and an adaptation of his short film of the same name. It was the film the put Anderson on the map along with frequent collaborator Owen Wilson.

There’s an apparent lack of his signature visual style since that didn’t become fully realized until films like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Instead, the film is reminiscent of the classic 90s era of American indie movies like Pulp Fiction.

The promise of Wes Anderson’s career was evident as this film received the attention of Martin Scorsese and other notable filmmakers.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

4. Isle of Dogs (2018)

“I’m not doing this because you commanded me to. I’m doing it- because I feel sorry for you.”

Chief

Genre: Stop Motion Animated Science Fiction Comedy on a Trash Island with Dogs

Cinematographer: Tristan Oliver

Screenwriter: Wes Anderson 

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Yojiro Noda, Fisher Stevens, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, Frank Wood

Description:  Twenty years in the future, a canine flu outbreak in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki risks becoming infectious to humans leading to authoritarian mayor Kenji Kobayashi’s (Kunichi Nomura) exile of all dogs to the isolated Trash Island against the protest of Professor Watanabe (Ken Wantanabe) on the verge of a cure.

In search of his dog, Spots Kobayashi (Liev Schreiber), the first deported canine, a young 12-year old orphan and distant relative of the mayor, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), crash lands on Trash Island to find his dog. He teams up with the canine leader, Chief (Bryan Cranston), and his ragtag team of banished dogs to find and rescue Spots and uncover the corruption surrounding the dog flu and the canine exile.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

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3. Rushmore (1998)

“With Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends?”

Dirk Calloway

Genre: Coming of Age Comedy at a Private School

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Bill Murray, Brian Cox, Seymour Cassel, Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson, Stephen McCole

Description: At the prestigious private institution Rushmore Academy in Houston, Texas, an eccentric 15-year-old scholarship student, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), with obsessive participation in extra-curricular activities, finds a mentor in a disillusioned businessman Herman Blume (Bill Murray).

When Max falls for a 1st-grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), his friendship with Blume becomes complicated when he takes things too far and gets removed from Rushmore. 

Wes Anderson’s second feature film helped launch his and Jason Schwartzman’s careers and revitalized the career of famous comedic actor Bill Murray in independent cinema.

This film was the start of the strict partnership of Murray and Anderson, with following collaborations in every single movie following.

The movie became a cult classic after a modest reception in theaters. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural and aesthetic significance. It’s a cult classic for sure.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

“I didn’t think so much of him at first. But now I get it, he’s everything that I’m not.”

Royal Tenenbaum

Genre: Comedy Drama about a Dysfunctional Family

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson

Starring: Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Kumar Pallana, Seymour Cassel

Description: Based on a fictional novel with the influences of J.D., Salinger follows the lives of three gifted siblings who lose their sparkle and shine in their adulthood. When he returns with a mysterious terminal illness, the Tenenbaum kids confront the abandonment and neglect of their peculiar father, Royal Tennenbaum (Gene Hackman).

The adult children, Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson), and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), each battle with their insecurities and their father’s presence in the setting of an upscale New York neighborhood.

As the first Wes Anderson film I ever watched, The Royal Tenenbaums will always be considered my favorite. An introduction to Anderson’s attention to detail with each character’s backstory, aesthetic, and delivery of dialogue was a clear indicator of his whimsical precision.

The film shows how Anderson can take quirky yet dysfunctional influence from classic films like Orsen Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Louis Malle’s The Fire Within (1963) and transform it into a modern allegory.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

“Did He Just Throw My Cat Out Of The Window?”

Deputy Vilmos Kovacs

Genre: Comedy Drama in a Hotel

Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori

Description: The film follows the story of a young author (Jude Law) who visits the once famed Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional countryside of Zubrowka. He meets its precarious old owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), and learns his journey from a simple lobby boy to the hotel’s caretaker. Many years before, young Zero (Tony Revolori) arrived at the hotel under the management of the concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).

Zero becomes entangled in a nefarious plot of wealth, betrayal, and a looming fascist takeover involving Monsieur Gustave’s affair with the death of the elderly dowager Madame D (Tilda Swinton), her evil son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), and the pursuit of the hair-brained police investigator Albert Henckels (Edward Norton).

What is the best Wes Anderson Movie?

Without a doubt the best Wes Anderson film is The Grand Budapest Hotel. The movie received nine Academy Award nominations, 11 BAFTA Award nominations, and four Golden Globe nominations.

Of the 24 nominations, the film took home ten awards, a substantial number in comparison to any other Anderson film to date. The critical acclaim focused on craftsmanship and comedic acting.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is cinematographer Robert Yeoman’s eighth film with Wes Anderson.

The film marked a pivotal moment in their career, finally placing their work among the most celebrated director/cinematographer relationships in cinematic history.

If you’re looking for a great start to Anderson’s catalog, I suggest you check into the Grand Budapest Hotel for a night for a complete experience.

Watch it now on Amazon Prime.

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The Chronological Index of Wes Anderson Cinema

Wondering how many Wes Anderson movies came out, and it what order?

1996BOTTLE ROCKET
1998RUSHMORE
2001THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
2004THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU
2007THE DARJEELING LIMITED
2009FANTASTIC MR. FOX
2012MOONRISE KINGDOM
2014THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
2018ISLE OF DOGS
2021THE FRENCH DISPATCH

Do You Agree With This List?

Everyone has a particular taste. You might be hearing about these movies for the first time, or you’re a lifelong fan or critic.

Wes Anderson’s films rely on the stories of romance, family dynamics, childhood, or hidden emotion. What parts of his style resonate most with you?

Which film would you consider the best or worst Wes Anderson movie?


Myke Thompson is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and humorist based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own projects, he supports other artists as a creative manager in music, art, film, and television.

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