September 12, 2016
Wes Anderson has made great films in his unique way. From stop-motion to absurd-fantasy films. An ever-present impressive aspect in his features is how he can create all these worlds that some haters have claimed are the same film done all over again (and he uses always the same ensemble). If one keeps a close eye in his films, however, you will soon realize how many different types of people he has created. It’s shocking. And amazing.
Moreover, it is a painstaking task to rank his films but I decided to finally give it a shot. I’ve been trying to do this “From Worst to Best” series inspired by stereogum.com’s lists of a certain artists’ albums in the same manner. This is just a personal list and I am not pretending to claim this is the actual order of greatness of his movies. Here it goes. NOTE: The list only includes his feature films.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
It was claimed, when it came out, that The Grand Budapest Hotel was Wes Anderson’s opus. That may be the case in terms of cinematography, layers of storytelling and scenario. But other than that, the characters here (although they are outstandingly performed by their actors) are not the best he has created. The dialogue and story are also not the funniest which makes this the “worst” Wes Anderson film. I would still give this movie an eight or nine out of ten (or 3.5 stars if you are into all that critique maneuver). On the other hand, if the movie were food, the nutrition facts would be as rich as in a multi-vitamin pill container. Anyone with a general taste in storytelling should enjoy this witty tale from beginning to end just like that young girl in the bench.
- The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The first half of the Darjeeling Limited you might think you are watching the best Wes Anderson film yet. The first part of the movie provides some of the funniest moments in his career. And the way Peter, Jack and Francis are being introduced to us in the train leaves the viewer savoring every detail about the story with finger-licking delight and hard laughs. It was also fun to see Adrien Brody in a WA film for the first time. The second half, however, weakens in some ways; its confusing path and some even boring bits that had never been present in a Wes Anderson movie to that date make it inferior than others, although it’s beautifully concluded and the music is great.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
There’s actually a lot to say about this one. But I won’t. I am aware that Fantastic Mr. Fox is a masterpiece in its own. As a Wes Anderson enthusiast (whatever that means), I am putting Fox a little low in the list. Why? Because it feels like a different entity, lonely as that wolf, it’s a different work of art. It does have the elements and camera movements and quirky dialogue your average Wes Anderson movie delivers. But on some other level, the film doesn’t compare with other of his mundane features. It’s more like a masterpiece whose contenders are other animated films of the kind. Some might consider it a dream come true. Non-related-with-Wes-Anderson movie viewers might find it a really weird and experimental movie.
- Bottle Rocket (1996)
The one were it all started. This used to move from place to place on my top 3 a couple years back. After some re-watches of the whole Wes Anderson work it has gone down a couple places but that doesn’t mean it is a story to discard. Bottle Rocket is the easiest WA movie to enjoy if you are not into his style. For a viewer trying to get into something simple out of a small set of not-so-simple people, this is a good place to explore. The truth of the matter is that Wes Anderson’s first feature is as funny and entertaining as the ones that followed, done with little detail in mise en scène that would be exaggerated for good in his next films. All in all, this is a very darn-fine film to launch a career in the movie world. Ask Martin Scorsese if you don’t believe my word.
- Rushmore (1998)
Film history tells us this is Wes Anderson’s breakthrough into cinema, the one that opened the door to that artistic freedom. Anderson tends to write compelling and powerfully original characters, but many will claim he never wrote a better one than the beloved Max Fischer. He is one for the ages with such a strange and unique personality. A young Wes Anderson, whose young mastermind was already showing viewers what a creative individual he was, magnificently constructs the little world that all these people inhabit: Rushmore Academy and its surroundings. It is also trivially important because it was the first in a series of collaborations between Anderson and Bill Murray that has been impressively consistent to this date.
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
For me, Moonrise Kingdom worked in every level. It is probably Anderson at his weirdest. The movie contains scenes with little kids making out, violent chases, lonely people, and infidelities. If you thought Wes Anderson had already written his more miserable characters, this got you by surprise completely. This is the film where you see the director can make you laugh without any of his characters smiling at all. It’s pure dark humor, and and his first period movie (although in his previous films sometimes it’s hard to tell the time setting). The absurdity is present in every particle of the picture, and there’s a visual nightmarish last stand with a delectable calm after the storm.
- The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
I don’t even want to say that much about this one or I will get annoying with my praises. Life Aquatic is, in many aspects, the funniest Wes Anderson film due to its carefully placed small jokes, highly absurd plot, and how our oceanographer friend Steve Zissou tries to demonstrate his people and the world (or maybe just his critics), that he is not full of shit. It is also the closest Wes Anderson has gotten to make a fantasy movie. Owen Wilson plays a personal favorite role in his whole career. Plus, the underwater Sigur Ros scene (I won’t spoil it) can easily be considered one of the most beautiful bits in modern cinema. Life Aquatic makes us ensure that the Wes Anderson movies will go further anything we’ve expected after watching this one. I should stop there.
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This is Wes Anderson near perfection. The Royal Tenenbaums has every element existent in his other films, even the ones that followed. The Tenenabums are displayed as the quintessential comical dysfunctional family. Every performance is outstanding as well as miserable. Think One Hundred Years of Solitude. Think The Corrections. Think The Simpsons. Think The Sopranos. That level of dysfunctional family portrayal is shown in this movie with unceasing detail. Think Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) might be one of the funniest characters ever crafted in cinema. The women are also at a high level of astonishment here. Every character in the movie, despite being always gray in personality, is contrasted with colorful places (and wardrobes) that dominate the eye of the camera; each character has strange hobbies, philosophies, personal tragedies, and bad decisions made in life. It’s a magnificent analysis of humanity that at the end, like it did with Eli Cash, makes you feel part of the family. Also, kudos to every secondary character here: Pagoda, Dudley, Dusty, Ari & Uzi, Walter Sherman and so on.
This is it. I hope to do another one of these rankings in the near future. Thanks for reading. Please share your ranking and any complaints you may have. I am always open for film discussion.
To Wes Anderson: thanks for giving us all these wonderful characters and stories over the years. I hope you don’t die soon. Can’t wait to see what’s next. (Rumor is he is making another stop-motion feature with Bryan Cranston on the lead).