Director Profile: Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors of all time. From his beautiful cinematography, his incredible folky/early-rock soundtracks, his deeply developed characters exploring our many personal flaws, to his use of brilliant actors outside of their typical roles, many of whom are seen frequently in his work, his work is always sublime.

Here’s my rankings of all of his films.

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, an urban fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways, but must help his community survive when the farmers’ are forced to retaliate.

“That was pure wild animal craziness.”

Starring (voices): George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Gambon, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Bill Murray

I didn’t think Wes Anderson’s style of film-making would work as well with this stop-motion animation, but how wrong I was as this is now on par as my favourite of his films. With a brilliant voice cast, including many of Anderson’s regulars, this really is a fantastic film. The dialogue is comical, the characters are individually brilliant, the soundtrack really compliments the film, and the animation itself is stunning, too. Most of all, Anderson pays such close attention to detail that he has created a film with very little flaws, if any at all.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their members announces that he has a terminal illness.

“Look, I know I’m going to be the bad guy on this one, but I just want to say the last six days have been the best six days of probably my whole life.”

Starring: Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Anjelica Huston

There’s just something about Wes Anderson films that will fill you with joy, and that undeniably shines through at its best with this film. Yet again with a brilliant, mainstream cast stepping out of their comfort zones into a not-so-mainstream film, Anderson is able to create such magnificent characters. With more brilliant cinematic sequences and a soundtrack that fits the film to a key, this is another of Anderson’s best.

3. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, causing a local search party to fan out and find them.

“We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?”

Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman

A wonderful Wes Anderson classic, and my favourite of his works. It’s quirky, has stunning cinematography, and it is, as always, very well scripted. Yes, it’s set around another detached reality that is sometimes Anderson’s biggest downfall in his films, but the innocent structure works at its best here with the boy scout premise. And let’s not forget the cast, one of the most stand out qualities of Anderson’s films, which this time includes a number of brilliant additions to Anderson’s originals, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton, but it is the young stars that lead the film who deserve the credit here. Everything about it is just charming.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

“You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilisation left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.”

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

5. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go on an overnight drunk, and in 10 days I’m going to set out to find the shark that ate my friend and destroy it. Anyone who wants to tag along is more than welcome.”

Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Anjelica Huston

This was the first Wes Anderson film that I watched and, because of that, I was left not knowing what to think at the time. Having seen more Anderson films since, I appreciate this film a lot more, especially the quality cinematography that you’ve got to love about his work. But I don’t think it’s up there with some of his other work. I love his use of incredible character developments, but I only found this film quite average in that sense. The cast is great, especially with the addition of Willem Defoe and Cate Blanchett to the Wes Anderson regulars, and I was thoroughly impressed by Owen Wilson, but whilst the film was enjoyable to watch, I wouldn’t recommend it as the first Wes Anderson film to watch.

6. The Darjeeling Unlimited (2007)

One year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with one another.

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

Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Amara Karan, and Waris Ahluwalia

I just love how Anderson explores relationships and the characters individually at the same time, and I think this film does this at its best. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman have a brilliant chemistry as brothers and each gives superb performances. The Indian setting also suits Anderson’s style of filming really well, which makes me look forward to his upcoming film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, even more.

7. Hotel Chevalier (2007)

Prequel to The Darjeeling Unlimited, this short prologue follows one heartbreaking history of love.

“If we fuck I’m gonna feel like shit tomorrow.”

Starring: Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman

This short captures Wes Anderson’s film style perfectly in only thirteen minutes. Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman are brilliant, and their dialogue and chemistry make an interesting bit of viewing. And then you get to see Portman’s bum, what’s not to like?

8. Rushmore (1998)

The king of Rushmore prep school is put on academic probation.

“Maybe I’m spending too much of my time starting up clubs and putting on plays. I should probably be trying harder to score chicks.”

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams

I can’t help but place this at the bottom of the list. Sure it has everything that’s good about a Wes Anderson film, but I just didn’t engage with it as I have with his others. I’m finding it hard to see the film’s appeal, as it’s quirkiness is more on an unrelatable level, which, for me, is its biggest downfall. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, but this one wasn’t for me.

9. Bottle Rocket (1996)

A trio of friends put together an elaborate plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run.

“Isn’t it funny how you used to be in the nut house and now I’m in jail?”

Starring: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, and Ned Dowd

As Wes Anderson’s debut feature, Bottle Rocket shows the very early, rough-around-the-edges stages of Anderson’s quirky directorial qualities. It doesn’t have the same feel as his later work, although it does share many similar characteristics, but it is definitely one his funnier films. Owen and Luke Wilson are great together but, apart from the occasional few laughs, they give I didn’t enjoy much else.

5 thoughts on “Director Profile: Wes Anderson

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  1. I’ve not seen Bottle Rocket (great name) or Rushmore, but I’ve counted myself a Wes Anderson fan since first seeing The Life Aquatic – which, incidentally, is my favourite. My order would go: Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr Fox, Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling – the others I’ve not seen. Hotel Chevalier is next for me. Also, saw Brothers Bloom recently. Not Anderson but really similar style from director Rian Johnson.

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