The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

All 9 of Wes Anderson’s Films, Ranked

Wes Anderson (right) stands on set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Wes Anderson (right) stands on set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Known as a quirky, off-beat, and ever-symmetrical visionary filmmaker, Wes Anderson has brought his own unique perspective to the silver screen and entranced viewers of all kinds. From his intricate set designs, bright and defining color choices, and actual obsession with symmetry, the aesthetics alone make his films some of the most iconic and inspirational for any filmmaker.

Having drawn from his own life experiences and real people he knows, Anderson produces every film from a very personal view that makes his movies that much more meaningful. What has been said by great directors time and time again is to make movies for yourself, not for others, which is something Anderson has mentioned in many interviews. Each of Anderson’s films goes through a similar narrative arc, wherein comedy is essential but enough room is left for some very real emotions to take place down the road. This alone is not what makes his style unique; it is the way that he intricately weaves all the existing themes together.

Just watching the detail and precision that is displayed in each of his films gives viewers enough to know this is something he truly loves to do, which is why we love him. In preparation for his new movie The French Dispatch (coming out in late October this year), it is highly recommended to watch all of these films first but let us tell you which ones we think are the absolute best.

Related Guides

9. Bottle Rocket (1996)

Owen Wilson (left), Robert Musgrave (center), and Luke Wilson (right) fire handguns in Bottle Rocket.
Owen Wilson (left), Robert Musgrave (center), and Luke Wilson (right) fire handguns in Bottle Rocket.

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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Ned Dowd
Runtime: 91 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.0

Buy/Rent on Amazon

8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Adrien Brody (left), Jason Schwartzman (center), and Owen Wilson (right) sit together in The Darjeeling Limited.
Adrien Brody (left), Jason Schwartzman (center), and Owen Wilson (right) sit together in The Darjeeling Limited.

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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman
Runtime: 91 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2

Buy/Rent on Amazon

7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

The entire cast of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou site in their sub-aquatic vehicle.
The entire cast of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou site in their sub-aquatic vehicle.

Maybe the bleakest movie on our list, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is still quite high on the quirky scale even for our famously quirky creator. When marine biologist/documentarian/ship captain Steve Zissou loses his mentor to the legendary jaguar shark, he makes it his mission to hunt and kill the creature while, of course, documenting it all. The reason the movie is bleak is the main character, Steve Zissou (played wonderfully by Bill Murray), who provokes a strange sort of curiosity if the viewer chooses to look a little deeper and see his many life failures.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston
Runtime: 119 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3

Buy/Rent on Amazon

Read More: Best Bill Murray Movies, Ranked

6. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Kara Hayward (left) and Jared Gilman (Right) dance on the beach in Moonrise Kingdom.
Kara Hayward (left) and Jared Gilman (Right) dance on the beach in Moonrise Kingdom.

With an entirely wholesome main plot that stays consistent with his theme of adventure, Moonrise Kingdom is one of his 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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis
Runtime: 94 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.8

Buy/Rent on Amazon

5. Isle of Dogs (2018)

Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) stands with his new group of dog friends in Isle of Dogs.
Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) stands with his new group of dog friends in Isle of Dogs.

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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton
Runtime: 101 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9

Watch on Disney+

4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Nearly the entire cast of characters stands together for a photo in The Royal Tenenbaums.
Nearly the entire cast of characters stands together for a photo in The Royal Tenenbaums.

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 of 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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston
Runtime: 110 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.6

Buy/Rent on Amazon

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Mr. Fox and his entourage stand together in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fox and his entourage stand together in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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 goes 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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray
Runtime: 87 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9

Watch on Disney+

2. Rushmore (1998)

Bill Murray (left) and Jason Schwartzman (right) in Rushmore.
Bill Murray (left) and Jason Schwartzman (right) in Rushmore.

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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Runtime: 93 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.7

Buy/Rent on Amazon

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The beautiful set designed for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The beautiful set designed for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Visually stunning, exceptionally well-acted, beautifully written, and masterfully executed, The Grand Budapest Hotel may well be Anderson’s crown 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.

Director: Wes Anderson
Main Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric
Runtime: 99 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.1

Buy/Rent on Amazon

Editors' Recommendations