The Fantastic Mr. Anderson

A definitive ranking of Wes Anderson’s best movies

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The director on the set of Moonrise Kingdom

Samantha Bordey, Staff Writer

Wes Anderson is a renowned American filmmaker. His films are known for their distinct whimsical visuals, and he has won many awards, and deservedly so. Anderson made his directing debut in 1996 at 26 years old, and he’s still directing to this day.

What follows is my personal list of the best movies in Anderson’s filmography. 

Honorable Mention:

Bottle Rocket (1996, R) is Wes Anderson’s debut film. A group of friends, including real-life brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, aspire to be criminals. They try to pull off a heist and things don’t go as planned. 

There’s some to like and much to dislike about this movie. It’s charming and fun, but it’s still kind of an empty mess. It doesn’t yet have Anderson’s trademark style, which shows how far he’s come in terms of establishing the classic eccentric scheme. However, it’s an interesting movie, but I would not give my time to watch it again.

5. The French Dispatch (2021, R) is Anderson’s latest movie. It’s the most “Wes Anderson” movie out of his filmography. It follows three magazine staff members who write an edition on the three best stories of the past decade. They involve student riots, kidnapping, and imprisonment. It’s a big tribute to journalism, and it’s really interesting to see how much his directing style has changed since his first one. This is his most visually outgoing movie thus far, though I wish it were more emotionally involving.

I enjoy the pacing of this movie. It’s a good experience, although I wouldn’t spend my time watching this movie as opposed to his others.

4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012, PG-13) is awfully cute. It follows two children who fall in love and are moved to run away together. The town is on the hunt for them, and on their journey, this peaceful community gets flipped upside down. When you first hear the plot of this movie, you don’t really think you will like it, at least that was the case with me. 

But you’d be wrong. 

The cast is also impressive, and this was Anderson’s first movie starring two child actors. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who were only 15 at the time of filming, do a spectacular job. It’s a bit harder to get into and follow the plot, for whatever reason, but it’s still interesting and fun to watch. 

3. The Royal Tenenbaums (2011, R) is Wes Anderson’s third film, concerning a mother, a father, and their three genius children. The mother and father eventually separate and the father leaves their household. Decades later they all reunite and he wants to set things right.

This film is emotional at times and comedic at others. It’s a pretty good mix of both. The yellow color scheme in this movie is classic. 

The dysfunctional family storyline can be relatable to some viewers which is always nice. It’s a little harder to get immersed into this movie than his others, but once you do, it’s a wonderful experience.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, R) is a Wes Anderson essential, and it is his highest grossing film. The story involves the adventures of a concierge in the 1930’s between world wars. There’s theft, there’s murder, and there’s comedy. 

The plot is really easy to get into, and everyone who watches this movie loves it. This is when Wes Anderson truly mastered his craft. 

With the color scheme and the camera placement, it’s perfect. And this movie features the best comedic timing out of all his work. There’s also very nice development and detail between the characters.

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009, PG) is the best of the best. It’s witty and funny, as well as a fun ode to journalism. The film follows the title character, a fox, on his journey to discover what it means to be a father, a husband, and a wild animal.

Throughout the movie we witness Mr. Fox digging a deeper hole for himself, literally. I can’t find anything wrong with this movie, even though I’ve watched it one thousand times. 

It has Anderson’s best visuals and it’s a perfect family movie. Its awkward commentary from Wes Anderson is also charming. 

This movie is also animated in stop motion, which is an immensely underrated genre. It’s streaming now on Disney+, and it’s definitely worth a watch. And a rewatch.

Overall, Wes Anderson will forever stay an iconic director and his style is like no other. I’m interested to see how his style will develop in the many years to come.