Wes Anderson has one of the most distinctive voices in cinema today. It can be described (or even dismissed) as “quirky,” but it’s more than that. He has a strong grasp of symmetry when composing his scenes and framing his shots; he casts Bill Murray in even weirder roles than he usually plays; and he makes movies that, however strange-looking, focus on very real human relationships and how we handle various different emotions.
Most of Anderson’s movies are acclaimed by critics, but some have been more universally adored than others. So, here are Wes Anderson’s Movies, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes.
9 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (56%)
Drawn from a screenplay written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has a pretty large budget for an Anderson movie ($50 million), but it’s no less quirky. This is probably the reason for the fact that the movie failed at the box office. For any fan of Anderson’s, it’s business as usual.
Bill Murray stars as Steve Zissou, a parody of the famous French explorer Jacques Cousteau, as he heads out into the deep sea to get revenge against the jaguar shark that ate his partner. It’s a Wes Anderson-helmed take on a Moby Dick-type story.
8 The Darjeeling Limited (69%)
The Darjeeling Limited is easily Wes Anderson’s most underrated movie. This is probably due to its critical reception being weaker than most of his others. But it’s actually a very interesting movie, with some entertaining set pieces and character moments.
It has a simplistic premise, following three brothers on a train journey across India, but what the lack of real plot opens the movie up to do is explore the relationship between these brothers. It also gives the cinematographer, Robert Yeoman (Anderson’s long-time go-to guy), plenty of room to capture the beauty of India. The Darjeeling Limited is a road movie on one of the most spectacular roads in the world.
7 The Royal Tenenbaums (80%)
Arguably the movie that defines Wes Anderson’s career, The Royal Tenenbaums is the powerful story of a dysfunctional family; sort of like a Noah Baumbach movie with extra quirk. The ensemble cast – from Gene Hackman as the patriarch to Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow – is impeccable, anchored by voiceover narration by Alec Baldwin.
With its curiously inventive structure and compelling character dynamic, this may be Wes Anderson’s greatest script (co-written with Owen Wilson), while the use of music creates poignant moments like Luke Wilson’s attempted suicide scene set to Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay.” The Royal Tenenbaums walks a tonal tightrope between comedy and tragedy deftly.
6 Bottle Rocket (85%)
Wes Anderson’s directorial debut Bottle Rocket wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, but it was praised by critics enough to launch his career, and Martin Scorsese would eventually call it one of his favorite movies of the ‘90s. It also launched the career of Owen Wilson, who co-wrote the script with Anderson and also made his film debut acting in it.
The crime genre and the comedy genre have rarely been balanced this well – Anderson takes joy in the simple interactions that people have, bringing a human element to a wild premise. Rotten Tomatoes calls it “Reservoir Dogs meets Breathless.”
5 Rushmore (89%)
Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson’s script for Rushmore is a fascinating three-hander focusing on the relationships shared by a disparate trio. Jason Schwartzman (in his debut role) plays Max, a quirky teenager; Bill Murray plays Herman, a wealthy industrialist; and Olivia Williams plays Rosemary, Max’s teacher.
The story becomes about a love triangle when Max and Herman both fall in love with Rosemary. As it turns out, she’s not interested in either of them and dates a doctor played by Luke Wilson instead, driving them both crazy with jealousy. Rushmore is so culturally significant, capturing a piece of the ‘90s, that it’s been preserved in the Library of Congress.
4 Isle of Dogs (90%)
Wes Anderson returned to his distinctive style of stop-motion animation last year to helm this unusual tale set in a dystopian Japan in the near future. While the movie was accused of cultural appropriation for its use of Japanese imagery and a mostly white cast, there’s no denying that this is a gorgeous work of big-screen animation.
It might not quite stack up with the rest of Anderson’s filmography, but it is an interesting addition to his overall body of work. Isle of Dogs was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but it was beaten to the prize by the admittedly superior Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
3 The Grand Budapest Hotel (91%)
Wes Anderson was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The framing narrative sees Jude Law playing a writer who is documenting the wacky escapades of the staff and guests at the hotel, but it’s clear that Ralph Fiennes is the star here.
He plays Gustave H., the concierge, and the actor’s deadpan delivery style makes sure every line is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Tony Revolori (now best known for playing Flash in the MCU’s Spider-Man movies) also provides excellent support as his young sidekick, the lobby boy Zero. The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite possibly Anderson’s funniest movie.
2 Fantastic Mr. Fox (92%)
In a dream casting akin to Quentin Tarantino getting Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the same movie, Wes Anderson managed to pair up George Clooney and Meryl Streep in his animated adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr. Fox.
While it wasn’t as big a box office hit as a live-action movie starring Clooney and Streep would’ve been (or even an animated movie with a less quirky and more digestible style of animation), it was showered with praise by critics, and rightly so. The movie is as delightful and heartwarming and filled with starry-eyed innocence as its source material.
1 Moonrise Kingdom (93%)
This coming-of-age tale about kids attending a scouting camp does something interesting that few on-screen love stories do. It tells the parallel stories of a pair of bright-eyes tweens falling in love and an old married couple falling out of love, tackling the full spectrum of romance in a way that few romantic movies manage to do.
Anderson’s trademark use of symmetry in his cinematic composition is on point here, and his personal stamp can be spotted in every scene, line of dialogue, and character moment. This is the work of a filmmaker at the height of his powers, for better or for worse.