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These are the best Wes Anderson movies, ranked

If you enjoy Anderson's unorthodox ways of making films, you must watch every one of these movies

Wes Anderson (right) stands on the set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Wes Anderson films are known to be quirky and off-beat, but you will definitely know one of the movies of this visionary filmmaker when you see one. Intricate set designs, all-star casts, and a Mark Mothersbaugh score are all telltale signs. Anderson can be kind of polarizing, and while not everyone will love his movies, he has developed a dedicated following and garnered heaps of critical praise.

Thematically, Anderson’s films are often about family, but more specifically, the difficulty of being part of a family. This is, perhaps, best showcased in The Royal Tenenbaums, although The Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited are other excellent examples. Anderson also excels in capturing the angst, anxiety, and high stakes of growing up. Movies like Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom capture this particularly well. And lastly, what would Wes Anderson movies be without a love story (though, more often, a love story gone wrong)? From the unrequited love of Rushmore to the complex relationships in Tenenbaums, the messy romance of Hotel Chevalier, a burgeoning love in Moonrise, or the unique love story of Benicio Del Toro and Lea Seydoux in The French Dispatch.

Admiring the detail and precision displayed in each of Anderson’s films, with sets like intricate dioramas, his passion for filmmaking is apparent. Without further ado, here are the best Wes Anderson movies.

11. Bottle Rocket (1994)

11. Bottle Rocket
Genre Comedy, Crime
Stars Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave
Directed by Wes Anderson
Anderson’s debut film was also his most experimental and rudimentary. Co-written by and starring Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket is a fun and life-affirming adventure of two guys who just want to experience something interesting. Also starring brother Luke Wilson and featuring older brother Andrew Wilson (not to mention a hilariously surprising appearance from James Caan), this had to have been a fun time for everyone involved, as can be seen on screen.

10. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

10. The Darjeeling Limited
67 %
Genre Adventure, Drama, Comedy
Stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by Wes Anderson
A story of adventure, brotherhood, and navigating within oneself to find one’s own truth, The Darjeeling Limited is a comical yet touching tale of a broken family that attempts to reconnect. One year after their father tragically dies and their mother disappears, three brothers meet in India and agree to have a spiritual journey spanning various destinations that their sleep train passes through. Even though it was his fourth feature film, it still feels like his trademark film style hasn’t quite found its beat. This doesn’t in any way detract from the raw and real story that he tells through these three broken characters.

9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
62 %
r 119m
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett
Directed by Wes Anderson
Bill Murray appears in all of Wes Anderson’s movies except for his first, Bottle Rocket. While the magnitude of Murray’s role varies from film to film, in Life Aquatic he’s the star. The plot appears simple at first, oceanographer Steve Zissou (played by Murray) loses his partner to a jaguar shark and makes it his mission to hunt and kill the creature while, of course, documenting it all. To complicate things someone claiming to be Steve’s son comes along for the ride (Owen Wilson), along with an expecting journalist (Cate Blanchett), and Steve’s ex-wife (Anjelica Houston). Murray delivers as Zissou and the film is a wonderful meditation on fatherhood and family (both the family we choose and the family we make along the way).

8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

8. Moonrise Kingdom
84 %
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis
Directed by Wes Anderson
With an entirely wholesome main plot that stays consistent with his theme of adventure, Moonrise Kingdom is one of Anderson’s later live-action films where he really starts to get his formula down. On the island of New Penzance in 1965, there is a community that lives an abnormal, campy life, where two kids have fallen in love and decide they will run away together. As stated by Anderson in an interview with Tribute, this story is based on remembering what it was like to suddenly fall in love as a young boy and all the impulses he didn’t act on. The young character, played wonderfully by Jared Gilman, is much more courageous and bold than he was apparently, as the story plays out in a dreamlike fashion.

7. Asteroid City (2023)

7. Asteroid City
Genre Comedy, Drama
Stars Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks
Directed by Wes Anderson
This romantic comedy takes place in the fictional town of Asteroid City in the American desert, reminiscent of the 1950s. The town comes alive with the Junior Stargazers convention, an annual event drawing young astronomy enthusiasts. Augie Wren (Jason Schwartzman), a war photographer, arrives in Asteroid City with his family, including his grieving eldest son, Woodrow, a participant in the Junior Stargazers competition. Their plans are unexpectedly disrupted by car trouble, forcing them to stay in town longer and interact with the eccentric locals. Asteroid City explores themes of family dynamics, grief, love, and the search for meaning.

6. Isle of Dogs (2018)

6. Isle of Dogs
82 %
pg-13 101m
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Animation
Stars Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Bob Balaban
Directed by Wes Anderson
In his second hugely successful stop-motion film Isle of Dogs, Anderson teamed up with repeat writers Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola to create this mystical tale. Based in a Japan, where the society’s leader is a cat-loving, dog-hating tyrant bent on mass misinformation, he bans all dogs to a trash island after they are infected with a virus. An incredible thing about this film is not just the minute details of the set designs and coloring, but the fact that all the dogs speak English and most of the human characters speak Japanese; sometimes not even translating or subtitling to create the mirrored confusion that the characters feel.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

5. The Royal Tenenbaums
76 %
r 110m
Genre Comedy, Drama
Stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller
Directed by Wes Anderson
One of the first films where we really start feeling the Anderson signature style is The Royal Tenenbaums, a story about a big family and a whole smorgasbord of issues that arise from their physically and emotionally absent father. Featuring the biggest combination of on-screen talent in all his films, the performances are all incredibly poignant and carry all their own meanings. Plus, Alec Baldwin randomly narrates throughout the film, which just gives it that shiny cherry on top. Thinking about this movie just brings back the emotions and the laughs that it consistently provides, making it an absolute highlight for movies released in the early 2000s.

4. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

4. Fantastic Mr. Fox
83 %
Genre Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family
Stars George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by Wes Anderson
Based on the Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Andersons first incredibly entertaining stop-motion film that truly showed us his maddening attention to detail. When a once-reformed fox reverts to his thieving habits, he must save his animal community friends and family from the potentially deadly repercussions he has directly incurred. Yet another film that features themes of a distant father figure, the personality shows through in Anderson’s rendition of the children’s tale turned mature story. The voiceover performances from Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and all the rest are just an added bonus to this masterful work of visual art.

3. Rushmore (1998)

3. Rushmore
86 %
r 93m
Genre Comedy, Drama
Stars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Directed by Wes Anderson
In Wes Anderson’s widely well-received second film after Bottle Rocket, Rushmore is what really got audiences into his unique filmmaking style. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a young and extremely ambitious high schooler who has become enamored with one of his teachers, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Seeking romantic advice, Max initiates a friendship with a classmate’s father, Herman Blume (Bill Murray), that soon turns sour when he discovers that Herman has himself become romantically involved with Ms. Cross. Smart and hilarious, this film is a Wes Anderson revolution that launched the career of young Schwartzman, and that offers a wonderfully defeated and gradually unraveling character brought to life by Murray.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
88 %
r 100m
Genre Comedy, Drama
Stars Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody
Directed by Wes Anderson
Visually stunning, exceptionally well-acted, beautifully written, and masterfully executed, The Grand Budapest Hotel may well be Anderson’s crowning achievement. A glorious hotel in the mountains is the location of many exciting events over the years, this is the story from the perspective of the now-owner who was once a hardworking lobby boy mentored by the silk-tongued concierge. Though the performances have already been mentioned, Ralph Fiennes is, by far, the most incredible aspect of this movie, as he gives no less than 100% during every moment of screen time. Displayed on a miniature set that was carefully handcrafted, it makes for a gorgeous frame to go along with this treasure of film history.

1. The French Dispatch (2021)

1. The French Dispatch
74 %
r 108m
Genre Drama, Comedy, Romance
Stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton
Directed by Wes Anderson
The French Dispatch centers on a newsroom and four of the best stories run in the history of a magazine (which shares a title with the film). Owen Wilson narrates the life of a French city from his bicycle, Benicio Del Toro plays a prisoner/genius painter inspired by his muse/guard Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand plays a journalist reporting on a student uprising led by Timothee Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri, and Jeffrey Wright profiles a famous chef who cooks for working police officers.

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Connor Sheppard
Connor Sheppard is an Oregon-grown culture writer for The Manual. Intrigued from a young age by pop culture and movies, he…
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