Dubbed a 21st century auteur, Wes Anderson is undoubtedly one of the most visually artistic filmmakers of our generation. With a unique style of storytelling and a keen eye for visuals, he is a master of his own craft that is very much in command with every movie he creates. Each of his movies employs certain trademarks that make it a Wes Anderson movie: a compelling narrative, distinctive visual aesthetic and a quirky ensemble of characters.
His movies incorporate a specific visual aesthetic, from the symmetrical framing and tracking of the camera, and colour palates, often using colours to elevate the scene through props, set design, lighting and costume design. When you watch his movies, the characters are often flawed, yet relatable.
At the core of it all, his movies all encompass the underlying theme of family, albeit dysfunctional, whether it is about established families as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and the Darjeeling Limited (2007) or about people that become family as seen in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
Here we list the best Wes Anderson masterpieces that you must see:
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Released in 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums is a comedy-drama film by Wes Anderson. Anderson’s third work, the film earned him praise and cemented his artistic style, garnering him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Supposedly based on a non-existent novel, The Royal Tenenbaums is told with a narrative inspired by the literature of J.D. Salinger and tells the story of three talented siblings; Chas (Ben Stiller) a math and business genius, Richie (Luke Wilson) a tennis prodigy and artist, and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a gifted playwright, who peaked early and enjoyed success in their youths but grew up to become failures. After leaving them in their adolescent years, the children’s eccentric father Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), returns to their lives when they’re adults and falsely claims to have a terminal illness. The story follows how Royal slowly reunites with his children and ex-wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) after being rejected by his family for years.
Starring: Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Billy Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson & Owen Wilson.
Written by: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson
Runtime: 109 minutes
Release date: 14 December, 2001
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Released in 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson’s sixth film and his first stop motion animated comedy. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.
Based on Roald Dahl’s 1970’s children’s novel of the same name, the film follows the story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a fox and his wife, Felicity Fox (Meryl Streep), his son, Ash Fox (Jason Schwartzman) and Felicity’s nephew, Kristofferson Silverfox (Eric Anderson). The family runs into trouble when Mr. Fox raids food from three mean and wealthy farmers: Walter Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon). Chaos ensues when the farmers, angered by Mr. Fox’s theft, dig their way into the foxes’ home and try to kill them.
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe & Owen Wilson.
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach
Runtime: 88 minutes
Release date: 13 November, 2009
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Released in 2012, Moonrise Kingdom is a coming-of-age film and is Anderson’s seventh feature film. The film received critical acclaim, with praise for its visual symmetry, colour palates, score and themes of young love, child sexuality and juvenile mental health.
For this film, Anderson received his second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and third overall. Set on a fictional New England island of New Penzance, the film follows the story of Sam Shakusky (Jared Gillman), an orphan boy who leaves his scouting camp to rendezvous with his pen pal and love interest, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The lovers run away to an isolated beach after feeling estranged by their respective guardians and rejected by their peers. This leads to the island’s police captain, Duffy Sharp (Bruce Willis), to arrange a search party to locate the teen runaways comprising of scouts and family members.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Jared Gilman & Kara Hayward.
Written by: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Runtime: 94 minutes
Release date: 25 May, 2012
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Released in 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a comedy-drama film and is Anderson’s eighth feature film. The film received universal acclaim upon release, tackling the themes of tragedy, war, fascism, nostalgia, friendship and loyalty. The film received nine nominations, including Anderson’s third Best Original Screenplay nomination as well as his first Best Director and Best Picture nominations.
In what is considered Anderson’s most acclaimed and successful film since The Royal Tenenbaums, the film includes an eighteen-actor ensemble that follows the story of Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the renowned concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a mountainside resort in the fictional kingdom of Zubrowka. Conflict arises when Gustave is falsely framed for the suspicious murder of a rich dowager, Madame D (Tilda Swinton). Gustave and his recently-befriended protégé, Zero (Tony Revolori), go on a pursuit for fortune and a precious Renaissance painting against the backdrop of intruding chaos.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson & Tony Revolori.
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson
Story by: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Runtime: 100 minutes
Release date: 7 March, 2014
The Isle of Dogs (2018)
Released in 2018, Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion-animated science-fiction comedy-drama film and Anderson’s ninth feature film. The film received positive critical reactions, with critics praising its animation, story and deadpan humour, garnering two Academy Award nominations, including Best Animated Feature.
The story follows a pack of banished dogs set in a backdrop of a dystopian near-future Japan. Chief (Bryan Cranston), a street dog and leader of the pack, helps Atari (Koyu Rankin), a young boy in search of his own dog following the banishment of the species to an island after the outbreak of canine flu.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Live Schreiber, Billy Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Yojiro Noda, Fisher Stevens, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel & Frank Wood.
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson
Story by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman & Kunichi Nomura
Runtime: 101 minutes
Release date: March 28, 2018
Keep an eye out for his upcoming movie:
The French Dispatch (2020)
The French Dispatch is Anderson’s tenth feature film and features a story written with his frequent collaborators, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness and Jason Schwartzman. The film focuses on three storylines, described as “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city”. Set in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, the story brings to life a collection of stories published in the eponymous The French Dispatch newspaper.
Starring: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Bill Murray & Owen Wilson.
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson
Story by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness & Jason Schwartzman
Running time: 108 minutes
Release date: 24 July, 2020