For his latest picture, The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson received an invitation from Cannes and San Sebastian to premiere at both festivals. However, where does it go in Anderson’s filmography?? With ten films under his belt, Anderson has already established himself as one of the most distinctively American auteurs of our time. From his use of color to the way he frames his shots to his trademark cockeyed wit, you can always tell when an Anderson picture is in the making. When it comes to critics, this one has had his fair share of successes and failures. Check out how his movies have stacked up thus far, and how his trademark tweeness has emerged over time. —
9. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
This hyper-designed picaresque was supposed to represent Anderson’s return to the deeper familial problems and emotional reach of “The Royal Tenenbaums” after “The Life Aquatic’s” wackier game-playing. In the story of three estranged brothers trying to restore their relationship on a derailed spiritual journey through India, nothing really rang true or felt personal. Even in its representation of affluent male self-absorption, the film’s overall effect is chillier than it should be, despite the hot, brilliant hues of the geographical backdrop it scarcely engages with.
8. The French Dispatch (2021)
Expectations were heightened significantly after Anderson’s faux-Gallic mosaic was postponed for a year due to the epidemic. By the standards of the film’s director, it’s nothing more than a series of shaggy-dog jokes, packaged as pieces in the titular American-expat newspaper. Some see it as an elegy to a bygone era of journalism, while others (this writer included) see it as nothing more than a waste of time. But the film’s first (and finest) portion, which follows Benicio Del Toro’s character as an eccentric artist imprisoned in a mental institution, is funny and its aesthetics are over the top.
8. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
Even though Anderson’s style and sensibility are well-known, this slacker underwater romp is so saturated with quirks and affectations that it needs every bit of Bill Murray’s dry energy to counteract them. Jacques Cousteau’s work is both parodied and celebrated in this picture, which stars Cate Blanchett as a plump English journalist named Winslet. However, this is a film that is both busy and unfocused, with more whimsy than humor.
7. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Anderson’s fey 2012 Cannes opener, a 1960s-set tale of first love between two young New England loners, is widely regarded as the director’s most endearing work, but I’ve always been unimpressed by it. Although Anderson’s youthful romantics are named Sam and Suzy, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that they were named after the amorous animals in Captain and Tennille’s “Muskrat Love,” which sounds heartbreaking on paper but turns out to be very airy in actuality. But it’s as beautifully lit and photographed as anything in an Anderson film has ever been.
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
It was both Anderson’s first animated film and his first literary adaptation, and it wasn’t an obvious fit for him: the jagged, perverse humor of the late Roald Dahl, even in one of his more innocuous children’s books, exists in a very different dimension from the gentler zaniness of Wesworld, even in one of his more innocuous children’s books. Anderson found a joyful, jaunty compromise between his own obsessive-compulsive technique and stop-motion animation’s scruffy, tactile nature, which even a titan like Steven Spielberg couldn’t nail Dahl’s tone. George Clooney’s voice work, on the other hand, was a perfect match.
5. Bottle Rocket (1996)
In every shot, you can see Anderson moving toward his unique visual and tonal approach while also being susceptible to the scruffier, less rigorous trends of the mid-1990s American indie movement. It’s no wonder that Anderson’s first picture is his most unconventional. In the end, the film resembles the early Tarantino films, but with a more neurotic twist. At times a messier film than some of the more polished and mannered later works by the director, it exposed us to the scuzzy, oddball charms of Owen Wilson in one of his most inconsistent efforts. In terms of longevity, it falls short of expectations, but you can see why Martin Scorsese and others were enamored with the film.
4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
When it comes to a “major” movie debut, it was Gene Hackman’s performance that most people think of as Hackman’s final outing on the big screen, and for good reason: For the sake of time, let’s just call this place “Mooseport.” This heartbreaking, Salinger-inspired dysfunctional family drama has an elegiac feeling of melancholy that no amount of gloriously garish 1970s costume design can take away.
3. Isle of Dogs (2018)
Anderson’s second animated picture may be his strangest to yet. While its synopsis suggests it will be a fast-paced action flick about a ragtag group of stray dogs banding together to overthrow a corrupt Japanese dictatorship, the film is actually a chill hangout flick whose leisurely pace allows viewers to take in the film’s delirious world-building, visual in-jokes, and the stark sonic experimentation of Alexandre Desplat’s score. Even though the film has its critics because of the narrow line it treads between respecting Japanese culture and copying it, it is an oddly captivating experience nonetheless.
2. Rushmore (1998)
This tender coming-of-age story gave the director his most enduring (and endearing) on-screen alter ego in Max Fischer, a bright, brashly big-thinking, and socially inept high school misfit negotiating an awkward first crush on a kind schoolteacher. It was a quantum leap forward from “Bottle Rocket,” in which that film’s manic energy found a more refined storytelling confidence. Anderson’s rising creative ambition can be seen in Max’s over-the-top school plays, but this sophomore leap is the proper scale for it. Bonus marks for launching Bill Murray’s return and creating one of the director’s most valued collaborations.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
No, the Academy and the public are not always on the same page when it comes to filmmakers. Even so, the first Wes Anderson picture to receive widespread critical acclaim (and gross over $50 million at the box office) remains his best, a massive, crowded, elegantly frosted celebratory gateau with a big, sad heart at its center. Anderson’s filmmaking career has taken off ever since. With its twisted, imagined historical lark blossoming into a melancholy reflection on the transient comforts of nostalgia, it is Anderson’s most eye-poppingly designed film to date, it symbolizes the ideal compromise between Anderson’s restless formal clutter. As a debonair hotel concierge who has come to terms with the passing of his own era, Ralph Fiennes turns in the best performance of his career.