Worst to Best: Wes Anderson

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With one of the most distinctive sets of stylistic and storytelling tendencies out there, it seems like you’re bound to either like pretty much all of director/writer Wes Anderson’s films or dislike all of them–or at least go into watching one of his films with a bias leaning either way! I’m in the camp of liking his films; his strong aesthetic and quirky scripts have always appealed to me, and I’ve yet to dislike one of his films! In addition to the similar traits found across his filmography, however, there is still plenty of variety; moreover, I certainly find some of his films to be much better than others, despite the general appeal each of them holds for me. So with that said, may I present to you my ranking of each of Wes Anderson’s feature films to date, to be updated with any others to come in the future (can’t wait!). For fun, since one of Anderson’s trademarks is his quirky dialogue, I’ll include one of my favourite quotes from each flick. Enjoy!

8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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My official rating: 7/10 (review here)

I suspect having this one at the bottom of my list might surprise some fellow Anderson fans, as I’ve seen it near the top of many other lists, but for whatever reason, this one didn’t connect with me as much as the others. The lack of a singular character focus and the overload of the normally enjoyable deadpan dialogue might have had something to do with it. Maybe it was just a little too monotonous in its melancholy for me to be able to enjoy it as much as some of Anderson’s flicks.

Memorable quote:I’m very sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.” – Royal Tenenbaum

7. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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My official rating: 7/10 (review here)

Another classic Owen Wilson character blends with Brody and Schwartzman here to create a great set of estranged brothers in a nice bonding road-trip plot. The vibrant colours and diverse setting of India + Anderson’s visual flair and eye for detail is a match made in heaven. Just a little too much shallow melodrama held this back for me.

Memorable quote: “I want us to be completely open and say yes to everything even if it’s shocking and painful. Can we agree to that?” – Francis

6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

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My rating: 7.5/10 (review here)

One of the first Anderson films that really stood out to me for its filmmaking aesthetic–from the great inner-dollhouse-like pans across the inside of the ship to the great costumes to the acoustic covers of David Bowie songs sung in French by cast member Seu Jorge that provided a unique soundtrack–there was so much to enjoy here just from a purely cinematic perspective. And Anderson regular Bill Murray was great as always, this time in the leading role.

Memorable quote: “Son of a bitch, I’m sick of these dolphins.” – Steve Zissou

5. Bottle Rocket (1996)

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My rating: 8/10 (review here)

Anderson’s now famous visual flair hadn’t yet fully developed in this his first feature film, but hands down, it remains the funniest of all his works, thanks to the outrageous wannabe-criminals plot led by the excellent Wilson brothers duo (Owen’s Dignan is particularly memorable) and supported by a hilarious oddball supporting cast.

Memorable quote: “Okay. There, you see the star is me, right there, and I’ll be in there. The X is Anthony. Bob, you’re the zero out here in the car.” – Dignan

4. Rushmore (1998)

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My rating: 8/10 (review here)

Just recently read a great piece on Rushmore from fellow movie blogger and Anderson fan Josh Hammond over at Monday Morning Movie Quarterback. While I don’t agree with him on the point that it’s Anderson’s very best film (but hey, where’s the fun in agreeing?), I certainly see what he’s saying. His main point was that Rushmore caught Anderson “right before his style overwhelmed his substance”, and thus maintained the perfect balance between his quirky story/character work and his technical showmanship. And while I wouldn’t say that more style than substance was always a bad thing in Anderson’s later films (see my next three blurbs), I can at least affirm that Rushmore contains probably the most thorough and in-depth character work of all his films, most particularly on the central Max (pictured above). He was certainly quirky  and provided plenty of laughs throughout like many other of Anderson’s characters, but there was depth and complexity there too, thanks in large part to his interesting mix of childlike immaturity and adult ambition and vocabulary. Anyways, go check out Josh’s piece and my review above if you’d like to read more on this excellent installment in Anderson’s filmography.

Memorable quote: [Herman, referring to Max]: “Sharp little guy.” [Dr. Nelson Guggenheim]: “He’s one of the worst students we’ve got.”

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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My rating: 8.5/10 (review here)

I think The Grand Budapest Hotel is a good example of an Anderson flick where yes, the style does overwhelm the substance, but the style is just so gosh darn incredible that it doesn’t matter. It’s just so vibrant and colourful and detailed; every shot is a painting, a work of art. And there are so many different settings and stylistic schemes too-there is of course, the pinks and purples of the hotel in its heyday. But then there’s the oranges and browns of it in the 70s, the off-whites and greys of the prison, the whites of the mountaintops, etc. And it’s not like the story is a slouch, with a multi-leveled, wacky narrative that fits perfectly with the elaborate and colourful visuals. It’s a marvelous and masterful work of cinematic art that’s pretty funny to boot.

Memorable quote: “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization 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.” – M. Gustave

2. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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My rating: 8.5/10 (review here)

Tell me that final credits shot isn’t drop-dead gorgeous. Imagine a whole movie looking like that-cool retro set design, beautiful forest scenery, all awash in a sunny, nostalgic haze… scrumptious, I tell you! As for the story, I think it’s safe to say that if Bottle Rocket is Anderson’s funniest, Moonrise Kingdom is his most dramatic. Maybe it has something to do with that excellent orchestral score by Alexandre Desplat. But the story of two young lovers taking on the world run by adults has its fair share of drama, from fugitives on the run, to an arrow shot through the hand, to an impulsive marriage, to the impending doom of a giant flood. The whole film just has this grand feel that I was simply swept away by.

Memorable quote: “We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?” – Suzy

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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My rating: 9/10 (review here)

Imagine Anderson’s creativity and visual genius with the the element of animation added to the mix and you get Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s simply a brilliantly crafted film. Anderson’s distinct details and symmetry are still there, but with a more hand-crafted quality, due to the animation. Every scene feels like a shoe-box diorama that you’d make in elementary school, well maybe not you, but that genius kid who sits next to you who either did it herself or got her professional artist parent to do it for her. Anyways, it’s easily the best animated film I’ve ever seen. Add in an easily enjoyable animal-rebellion plot and a batch of wonderful characters (Schwartzman and the animation team simply nailed adolescent angst in the character of Ash) and you have, in my opinion, Anderson’s best film to date.

Memorable quote: “If what I think is happening, IS happening… It better not be.” – Mrs. Fox

What say you? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your feedback!
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3 thoughts on “Worst to Best: Wes Anderson

  1. Thanks for the shout out. I know I’m partial to Rushmore, but maybe I have to give Moonrise Kingdom another chance. I was on board until the miniature stop motion special effects appeared, and then it was all too . . . Andersonian for me.
    Ironically, I didn’t like The Darjeeling Limited either but loved Hotel Chevalier.

    Like

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