For over 20 years, the director Wes Anderson has given us some of the most interesting movies the medium has seen – often doing it with beautifully detailed set designs, playful scores, and scripts that dance between drama and comedy.
Recently Anderson has used stop-motion animation to pull this off. Almost a decade after wowing us with “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” he returns to stop-motion with his latest movie, “Isle of Dogs” (opening Friday). This movie follows a Japanese boy’s journey to find his dog, with the help of other dogs.
Here we look at Anderson’s nine feature-length movies and rank them worst to best:
9: “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007)
Family has always been a major theme in Anderson’s movies, and this one is no different. But things like story creativity, unique production design, and character development that make his other work shine don’t land right in this one. Mainly the characters. There’s a certain point in this movie when you just don’t care anymore about the three brothers’ (played by Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman) bonding journey through India.
8: “Bottle Rocket” (1996)
Anderson’s debut feature is understandably his least ambitious work, but the drive to be one of the most creative storytellers working today is there. You can see it in the entertaining dynamic between the friends Anthony and Dignan (played by the brothers Luke and Owen Wilson) and in the execution of the movie’s great robbery scene.
7: “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)
Anderson kicked up his ambitious vision with regard to costumes and production design in this movie and has pretty much not looked back since. Looking at three gifted kids of a New York City family, and how they all grow up to have lives that never match their potential, the movie is a work that if you don’t fully love, at the very least you respect. It also possesses Gene Hackman’s last great performance before his retirement.
6: “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004)
In what is regarded as Anderson’s most underappreciated movie, Bill Murray plays a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer named Steve Zissou, who, with his team by his side, sets out to avenge his best friend who was eaten by a “jaguar shark.” But like any Anderson movie the story goes deeper than that as it explores – you guessed it – family. In this case, Ned (Owen Wilson) believes Zissou is his father.
Along with the masterful submarine set where a lot of the movie takes place, the soundtrack is a major highlight. It features both Devo and David Bowie, with many of the songs also done in Portuguese with an acoustic guitar by one of the movie’s actors, Seu Jorge. The movie also featured, for the first time in an Anderson movie, some stop-motion animation shots.
5: “Isle of Dogs” (2018)
For Anderson’s latest, he returns to stop-motion animation to tell the story of a Japanese boy trying to find his dog on a remote island where all canines have been forced to live out their days following a “flu.” It’s an extremely entertaining tale, though it lacks a little of that extra pull on the heartstrings we’ve come to expect from Anderson. But it’s still a heck of a lot of fun.
4: “Rushmore” (1998)
It’s the movie that proved Anderson could pull off the dazzling ideas in his head. His follow-up to “Bottle Rocket” marked the beginning of the director working with Bill Murray, and the actor delivers a perfect performance as a rich industrialist who befriends an eccentric teenager named Max (Jason Schwartzman). The two eventually become enemies when they fall for the same woman, Max’s teacher, which leads to the two hilariously trying to sabotage each other.
With the strong performances, beautiful cinematography, and a perfectly written story, Anderson was raised to auteur status with only two features under his belt.
3: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)
The first time Anderson used stop-motion for an entire movie, he knocked it out of the park with this adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel. The attention to detail is beyond most stop-motion work, and then there’s the writing by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, which is perfect for the material.
2: “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012)
Though Anderson’s love of foreign film always shines through in his movies, it’s this one in particular that really gives out that vibe the strongest. A coming-of-age love story set at a summer camp in the 1960s, inspiration for the movie’s tone ranges from François Truffaut to Jean-Luc Godard.
1: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)
It’s a movie that features all of Anderson’s strengths as a storyteller working perfectly and executed by some of the best actors working today. From its stunning look to the perfectly told who-done-it plot, this is a flawless movie.
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