Wes Anderson is a director that people either love or hate. And the people that love him are similarly divided on his movies. Some, like myself, think that there is something off about The Life Aquatic, while others will claim that it’s his best movie yet. But for this particular fan, the ranking should be as follows:
8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou- The follow up to The Royal Tenenbaums felt almost cold by comparison. Like all of Anderson’s films, there is a lot that is absolutely brilliant about it, and it is easy to appreciate the humor of Wilem DeFoe’s bumbling Klaus, or Bill Murray’s turn as the title character. But, for whatever reason, this film felt disconnected to me in ways that the others don’t. Perhaps it was because the characters didn’t feel relatable. The scene at the end with the fish is moving, and there are definitely great moments in the movie. But I don’t seek it out as often as I do the others.
7. The Fantastic Mr. Fox- This movie is a great and wonderful movie. But it is also a kid’s movie when all is said and done. It is an awesome kid’s movie, and one with an adult sense of humor every now and then (it is Wes Anderson after all), but the viewer kind of knows how the story is going to go from early on. It’s going to get a happy ending, and there’s gonna probably be a celebration to a song that only Wes Anderson would choose for this type of thing, but we know that’s coming. The animation, however, is incredible, and I would definitely recommend it to far more people than I would recommend Aquatic to.
6. Bottle Rocket- I know people who hate this one. Just absolutely hate it. And I think it is a pretty good film. It shows early remnants of Wes Anderson’s signature style, while also clearly being the work of someone talented, and fresh, and young, who is really excited about getting to make a movie in the first place. The pacing is off, but it’s a funny nineties movie with something weird and quirky about it…
5. Rushmore- The film that immediately followed Bottle Rocket shows that as soon as Wes Anderson was allowed to do it, he had his style already. Because his first film was low budget, Bottle Rocket doesn’t have that strangely nostalgic and vintage look. Rushmore has just enough to show us that it is definitely a style, but it isn’t steeped in it in they way the films that followed are. The film is a great watch, and in some ways one of his best, but in others it feels a little immature.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel- I just saw this, and it is possible that it may shift around on the list somewhere after I’ve sat with it for a while. I really liked it a lot, but I think it may have ranked above Rushmore merely because I saw it more recently. How it will stand up over time is difficult to say. I will say that the addition of Ralph Fiennes to Wes Anderson’s magical world works surprisingly well!
3. The Darjeeling Limited- Hardcore Wes Anderson fans may be shocked to find this film so highly ranked. Others will completely agree. It’s that polarizing effect that some of his movies have. And maybe for me it’s my ability to relate to the sibling relationships after a family struggle, or my love of all things India, but I absolutely adore this film. People criticize it for being rather simple in terms of plot, but that is my favorite element of the film. It’s a road trip movie, but done in a way that only Anderson would do. Three strange, privileged brothers stumble upon their own problems on a journey through India. There is also a dark twist in the middle of the film that deserves some respect for being handled beautifully, and being completely surprising considering the films that preceded it. This moment set a precedent to show that Anderson didn’t always have to be funny-sad. He could be sad-sad too.
2. The Royal Tenenbaums- Not much needs to be said about this film and why it’s in this spot. When people think about Wes Anderson, they imagine this film. When they criticize his deadpan characters and dialogue, they are imagining Margot mumbling in the hospital waiting room. And when they talk about his slow motion, they are thinking of her getting off the bus to a Nico song. But the film is more than style, it has a lot of substance as well, and manages to juggle the neurosis of a multitude of characters. It may be the film where he found his style, honed it and defined it, but it is the film where the characters are the most interesting and well-written as well. Except, perhaps…
1. Moonrise Kingdom- I truly believe this film is the culmination of a lot of growth and learning that Anderson has done. It shows that he has learned how to build character, and we understand so much about these two children so quickly. It shows that he has learned that the soundtrack doesn’t always have to be on the forefront–the songs that are in there work amazingly, but he’s far more subtle with it. The film shows that he learned that slow motion might be a crutch, and so when the slow motion shot finally happens, it is glorious and perfect. The film demonstrates that he has mastered both his style, and how to tell a good story using his style to the best advantage. And it is almost a kid’s movie, but really it’s a movie for anyone who has ever felt alone. I think it’s the best, but someone else might think it’s Aquatic.