A Wes Anderson movie is easy to pinpoint, but hard to pigeonhole. He's got his own tropes as a director. His characters seem to be an evolving definition of quirky. He's got his own look, his own style, and his own way of telling stories. With 'Moonrise Kingdom' coming out on Blu-ray this week, we thought we'd take a look at the acclaimed director's filmography and rank them from worst to first.
Let me just say that before we begin with the inevitable ranking, I personally don't think Anderson has ever made a truly bad movie. The movies that come in at the bottom of the rankings simply don't measure up to the imaginative exuberance that the top movies excel at.
If any of Anderson's movies feel forced to succeed - it's this one. For starters it comes off as far more pretentious than his other films (although many people argue that Anderson's movies are all pretentious to begin with). What I feel like the real problem here is the movie doesn't seem to add anything new to the Anderson equation. It's happy to coast along building upon the director's collection of his own clichés. Is it fun at times? Yes. Does it delight all the way through? Not so much.
6. 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'
Okay, everybody take a deep breath and say it with me one more time, "Finally!"
I thought the first 15 minutes of 'Life Aquatic' was hysterical, but the rest of the film lacked the joyful dry humor of those opening minutes. Still, Bill Murray plays a great prick. Zissou is a perfect role for him... like Peter Venkman with a beard.
Anderson's inaugural film was a great jumping off point. Coming in at number five doesn't mean that it's not good, it's just that the director became a better storyteller later on down the line. However, Anderson mainstay Owen Wilson is superb in this as he delivers some classic Anderson-esque lines from the witty script.
Perhaps Anderson's most well-known film, 'The Royal Tenebaums' assembles a star-studded ensemble and yet the way the story and characters are assembled you almost forget that every face in this movie is a household name. That's how good Anderson is at crafting his stories. It's easy to imagine these big-name stars as this crazy dysfunctional family.
The trademark style and clever writing that Anderson displayed in 'Bottle Rocket' evolved into something wholly remarkable when it came time for 'Rushmore.' His shots, although great in 'Bottle Rocket,' had become more refined, too. 'Rushmore' looked great and added a component of interesting characters immersed in an originally crafted coming-of-age tale.
2. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'
I'm going to come right out and admit my bias here by saying that I'm a big-time sucker for stop-motion animation. It is indeed a dying form of movie-making which makes me extremely sad. When Anderson took the reins of this children's tale he created a stop-motion masterpiece. Not only is the animation beautifully choreographed and the miniatures rich with detail, Anderson was also able to inject his characteristic dry sense of humor into almost every scene, which in turn created a wholly original movie experience. This wasn't just a kids movie, although kids could certainly enjoy it. It wasn't just a movie for adults, although they could enjoy it, too. It was a movie for people who love movies. A fantastic piece of light-hearted comedy mixed with parable.
1. 'Moonrise Kingdom'
What a delightfully wonderful little film this is. Anderson has taken the road trip movie and turned it on its head. He's taken another ensemble cast of acting veterans and used them to his utmost advantage. Watching 'Moonrise Kingdom' play out is an utter joy. It's full of wry humor, great performances, and surprising drama. Not enough can be said about a movie in which a dog is murdered and somehow you're still laughing. He's taken the cardinal rule of movie making, "The dog always lives," and swept it aside. How can that be? Well, when you can tell a story like he can, you're able to do things a little differently. Oh, and I just wanted to mention that 'Moonrise Kingdom' is possibly the most beautifully filmed Anderson movie of this entire bunch. It's a pleasure to look at.
This entire list is completely up for debate. Anderson's movies are extremely subjective so I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there has the exact opposite rankings. That's just fine. What we do know is that Anderson is an enormously inventive filmmaker. Sure he does get trapped inside his own tropes from time to time, but he's usually able to express himself cinematically in ways we haven't quite seen before.
How would you rank Anderson's films? Let us know in the forums by clicking the link below. I'm eager to see how other people would rank his films.