Wes Anderson’s eighth film, a screwball comedy based in 1930s central Europe called The Grand Budapest Hotel, has hit theaters. How does it stack up against the Texas-born auteur’s other works? Here’s a ranking of all of his movies.
8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
A character study of three feuding brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) meeting up on a train in India to reconnect after their father’s death, this lackluster, aimless film made little narrative use of its exotic and colorful setting. Though less obviously art-directed than most of Anderson’s other films — location shooting in teeming cities made it impossible for him to control every millimeter of the frame the way he normally does — it’s Anderson’s least funny film and it also suffered from a lack of much of a message. When the brothers finally and climactically meet their mother (Anjelica Houston), who is living as a nun in the mountains, not much happens.
7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence for the case that Anderson is unbearably cutesy, this conspicuously over-designed, self-satisfied yarn about a Jacques Cousteau-like sea explorer (Bill Murray) and the lost young man (Owen Wilson) who believes he’s Steve’s son careened from one episode of aggressive weirdness to another without ever being half as amusing as it thinks it is.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Much like The Life Aquatic, this nutty but thin comedy about a supercilious hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) who steals a precious painting claimed by a thuggish Nazi-like character (Adrien Brody) with a lethal henchman (Willem Dafoe) takes great pleasure in its sets, costumes and deadpan acting. All that comes at the expense of the haphazard storytelling.
5. Bottle Rocket (1996)
The debut feature that put Anderson and his University of Texas friend, co-writer and star Owen Wilson on the map gave little inkling of the visual flair that would come to define Anderson. But it’s a delightful, very funny romp about a woebegone mental patient (Luke Wilson, who also made his name with this one) who gets rescued from an asylum by a scheming friend (Owen Wilson) with a ridiculous heist plan.
4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The sleeper hit of the year rightly earned Anderson a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for this heartfelt, funny, endearingly original tale of two resourceful oddball children (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) who run away from their families during a 1970s New England vacation and live a nearly ideal life camping out together as the adults they scorn search for them and a storm closes in.
3. Rushmore (1998)
After Bottle Rocket flopped, Anderson came storming back and became one of the most exciting new directors of the era with this stylish and exhilarating blast of youthful folly, a smart, unpredictable film about an obnoxious prep school student (Jason Schwartzman, in the movie that established him) with a crush on a teacher (Olivia Williams) and a love-hate relationship with an alienated businessman (Bill Murray) who backs the kid’s grandiose plans but develops his own crush on the teacher. The film launched a second career for Murray, who went on to do excellent work in reflective films like Lost in Translation and Get Low and has appeared in every subsequent Anderson movie.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Like Anderson’s other best works, this animated film that greatly expands on a Roald Dahl story gets funnier the more times you watch it. George Clooney expertly plays the prototypical Anderson character — a preposterously over-optimistic schemer. The title character is a zany, chicken-stealing fox whose cautious but loving wife (Meryl Streep) tries to talk sense into him while his son (Jason Schwartzman) feels ignored. Anderson’s fixation on father-son friction can come across as angsty and self-pitying but in this film, which was nominated for the Best Animated Film Oscar but lost to Up, he finds the perfect comic touch.
1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Rich, darkly funny, emotionally resonant and attractively off-kilter, this family dramedy centers on a world-class tennis player (Luke Wilson) with a romantic yearning for his family’s adopted sister (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the roguish father (Gene Hackman) who tries to make amends for his dismissive treatment of them before he dies. Bursting with storylines and interesting characters as well as being meticulously designed, the film can’t fully be appreciated in one sitting. It earned Anderson and Wilson a joint Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and stands as the director’s highest-grossing film.