Advertisement

Every Wes Anderson Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

Where does The French Dispatch fit into the director's collection of quirky worlds?

Advertisement
Wes Anderson Movies Ranked
Wes Anderson, photo courtesy of the artist

    Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. The time, we enter the quirky, warmhearted world of Wes Anderson. This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.


    “I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly bothered or obsessed with detail.” — Wes Anderson

    The rococo eccentricity and color palette of Grand Budapest Hotel say otherwise. As does the closet full of lovingly photographed and artfully uneven board games in The Royal Tenenbaums. Or the use of a Satyajit Ray score, dusted off and delicately placed in The Darjeeling Limited (in addition to the Louis Vuitton luggage custom made by Marc Jacobs). And what about the left-set placement of the kitten next to a record player in Moonrise Kindgom; the stage curtains and custom paintings in Rushmore; or the custom, bisected ship in Life Aquatic?!?

    Advertisement

    Sorry, this haranguing is getting in the way of the point: Wes Anderson may say he’s not obsessed with detail, but his gifts, his knack for those details, they just come naturally for the now-star director. They craft the worlds in which Anderson’s terrific films emerge. They make playgrounds for his flawed characters, his mighty scores and soundtracks, his serio-comic pastiches, and above all, his flawlessly designed images and artistry.

    He is Lubitsch, he is Kurosawa, he is Martin Scorsese – he’s the best and quirkiest student to emerge from UT Austin’s film school with a well-curated library of inspiration behind his films, and we’re still obsessing over his work each day. Funny, touching, and obsessive-compulsively easy on the eyes, these are the films of Wes Anderson.

    And just because our ranking doesn’t match yours, it doesn’t mean you can’t start one up yourself. Do it Max Fischer style. Just be sure to print it out in Futura.

    — Blake Goble


    Advertisement

    10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

    fantastic mr fox Every Wes Anderson Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

    Runtime: 1 hr. 28 min.

    Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Jarvis Cocker, and Hugo Guinness

    How Is Bill Murray Involved?: He’s Clive Badger, Mr. Fox’s loyal attorney and best friend, husband to a fantastic pediatrician, and owner of a fairly spacious flint mine.

    Plot: Adapted from the Roald Dahl classic, Fantastic Mr. Fox pits its cunning title character (Clooney) against the firepower of three human foils: the elephantine Boggis, diminutive Bunce, and glowering Bean. After Foxy’s desire for more specious real estate puts him in proximity of these three farmers’ hauls, his old lust for thieving reemerges (much to the disappointment of his wife, Streep’s Felicity).

    Advertisement

    Soon, his increasingly dangerous rivalry puts all of his fellow animals in the crosshairs (and distracts him from helping his son, Schwartzman’s Ash, through a serious case of cousin rivalry). Once said cousin finds himself in the farmers’ clutches, it’s up to Mr. Fox and his allies to save the boy, end the siege, and rediscover the familial joys only found by going straight.

    placeholder

    It Is Beautiful, Steve (Soundtrack): Fantastic Mr. Fox marks the beginning of the Alexandre Desplat era of Anderson’s films. What a delightful start; filled with equal parts cartoon energy and oversaturated autumn color, themes like “Mr. Fox in the Fields” and “High-Speed French Train” capture the whimsy and awe of childhood longing with each plucked string. Elsewhere, Burl Ives is the master of ceremonies, with three contributions from his seminal 1959 record Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck and Other Children’s Favorites lending the film the quality of a dog-eared storybook.

    How Much Kinks?: The Kinks took a powder for this one, as did most of the British Invasion (though, as always, you’ll find at least one Rolling Stones song; in this case, the well-used “Street Fighting Man,” which I’m sure Mick Jagger always intended to one day soundtrack a stop-motion brawl between three bulldozers and a family of foxes).

    Advertisement

    placeholder

    A Word on Fonts: Watch out, nerds. We’ve got a subtle-but-important change here. While Anderson continued his use of Futura on the film’s marketing materials, the actual font used within the film was (ready your fainting couches) Helvetica Bold! Score one for Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann.

    Best Doomed Love Affair: I’m all for Agnes and Kristofferson going steady (sorry, Ash), but between their youth and the eventual recovery of Kristofferson’s dad, their relationship does seem destined to wind up little more than a semester-long dalliance.

    placeholder

    Most Problematic Fave: Other than perpetuating the stereotype of wolves as unknowable (and possibly French) badasses, there’s really not much to complain about.

    Advertisement

    Most Gratuitous Set Fetishism: Glowing with the golden warmth that only thousands of gallons of high-proof cider can provide, Farmer Bean’s cider cellar manages to feel inviting and ominous all at once. It’s even better when you realize that none of that glow comes from CGI effects.

    Best Prop: While there are touches in the Foxes’ home that would be the envy of any dollhouse (particularly Ash’s train set and Felicity’s tiny moka pot), I want nothing more in the world than to own a full-sized replica of a whackbat.

    euphorichauntingirishterrier size restricted Every Wes Anderson Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

    Bob Gets the Spirit Award (Best Secondary Character): Kylie without hesitation. I mean, come on. They don’t give a cussing Titanium Card to just anybody, you know.

    Advertisement

    Verdict: When you’re adapting a work by an author as beloved as Dahl, there’s equal temptation to hew faithfully to the (rightly loved) source material and to create something that justifies its own existence. Anderson gets it right, sticking to Dahl’s narrative beats while deepening the story and its characters with liberally applied contemporary updates that feel hip and timeless all at once. He also revealed himself as one of the foremost stop-motion animators of the 21st century, a talent that helped earn the film a Best Animated Feature nomination at the 82nd Academy Awards (where it lost to Up).

    Filled with welcoming warmth, a miniaturist eye for detail, and a reverence for old-fashioned fashions of filmmaking not quite yet dead and gone, Fantastic Mr. Fox may yet inspire the next generation of directors to follow in Anderson’s eccentric, exacting footsteps. If this is the least of the films on this list, you know that this is going to be a very, very good list.

    — Tyler Clark

    09. Bottle Rocket (1996) bottle rocket 1 Every Wes Anderson Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

    Runtime: 1 hr. 31 min.

    Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, James Caan, Lumi Cavazos, Andrew Wilson, and Kumar Pallana

    How Is Bill Murray Involved?: For the one and only time in this entire list: he’s not!

    Plot: Would-be cat burglars Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) aren’t hardened criminals; mostly, they’re just looking for a way out of the mind-numbing suburban ennui of the Dallas Metroplex. Thanks to Dignan’s elaborate planning and almost-successful practice heists, the pair (along with their put-upon friend, the would-be pot farmer and getaway driver Bob) catch the eyes of some interested parties.

    For Dignan, it’s Mr. Henry, a landscaping contractor and small-potatoes criminal kingpin. For Anthony, it’s Inez, the chambermaid at the group’s roadside motel hideout who might give him a non-criminal reason to live. Friendships are tested, loyalties questioned, and safe-cracking skills put to the test as the boys join Mr. Henry’s gang for the big robbery that might put them on the map (or land them in something worse than a voluntary stay at a mental hospital).

    Advertisement

    placeholder

    It Is Beautiful, Steve: In his first feature, Wes Anderson’s soundtrack game wasn’t yet at the legendary level it would eventually attain. His first collaboration with Mark Mothersbaugh produced a Tex-Mex grab bag of a score that remains pleasant without being terribly memorable. Bottle Rocket also mostly eschews the British Invasion influences that dominate many of Anderson’s films; the closest you’ll get here is a single track (The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Man”), which, along with essential tracks by Arthur Lee and Love, doesn’t even appear on the official soundtrack release. The best song that does? The Proclaimers’ “Over and Done With.”

    How Much Kinks?: None! You’ll get the Stones and like it.

    placeholder

    A Word on Fonts: Anderson’s affinity for Futura is apparent immediately; his favored font appears first in Bottle Rocket’s title card. After that, though, it only appears sparingly, adding to the generic vibe of the boys’ motel hideout and the institutional anonymity of Hinkley Cold Storage.

    Best Doomed Love Affair: There really isn’t one; the film ends with Bottle Rocket’s only love story (between Anthony and Inez) still on the giddy upswing.

    Advertisement

    Most Problematic Fave: Though it ends up being mutual, Anthony’s initial attraction to Inez always felt a little creepy; even excepting the language barrier, the dude mistakes common courtesy for an invitation to follow her around while she works (without changing out of his bathrobe, no less) and then steals the picture of her sister out of her locket! Is that … is that courtship?

    placeholder

    Most Gratuitous Set Fetishism: “Gratuitous” is the wrong g-word for this one. Try “grounded.” From the drab bookstore to the chintzy motel to the bar where Dignan gets decked, Bottle Rocket generally places its characters in settings that emphasize the feeling of lived-in Texas boredom. In the interests of completion, we’ll give the nod here to the the mid-century cool of Bob’s house; bet Futureman makes a mean highball.

    Best Prop: There are a couple of low-key contenders for this one; the book of Roosevelt dimes drives home the oppressive suburban normalcy while the pharmacy pinball machine makes for some cool shots. However, the honor here goes to Dignan’s Honda minibike, whose half-mature impracticality really drives home its owners fascination with boyhood-style misadventure.

    bottle rocket mini bike Every Wes Anderson Movie Ranked from Worst to Best

    Advertisement

    Bob Gets the Spirit Award: This category is named after him, so Bob Mapplethorpe is our winner, even if there’s not “a real air of mystery” about him.

    Verdict: Wes Anderson’s first movie is also one of the few to feel rooted to its time period; you can see the through lines between this and the stylized crime of Pulp Fiction, the aimless slackerdom of Clerks, and the desperate longing of Trainspotting. If Anderson never quite transcends his contemporaries on this first try, he still manages to turn out a film that you wouldn’t have been disappointed to rent sight-unseen from a Blockbuster in 1997.

    Even if he’d never made another movie, the film likely would’ve found cult fame thanks to the manic criminal optimism of Owen Wilson’s Dignan alone. As it stands, Bottle Rocket is instead a pretty good movie in a filmography filled with pretty great ones.

    — Tyler Clark

    Advertisement

Personalized Stories

Around The Web

Advertisement