The Grand Budapest Hotel hits cinemas this weekend marking another triumph for writer and director Wes Anderson. But what are the indie darling’s best and worst movies to date? We rank every feature length film in his canon in ascending order to find out…
8. Bottle Rocket
It’s not that Bottle Rocket is a bad Wes Anderson film; it’s just that he had not found that magic essence yet. His debut film made back in 1996, starring and co-written by Owen Wilson, is an example of the director finding his feet. The hallmarks that will later become part of his distinctive brand of whimsical, off-beat comedy are on display here — the elaborate framing, ’60s soundtrack and deadpan humor — but they have yet to be finessed. The recipe is there but it’s missing that secret ingredient to make it really kick. It nonetheless manages to put an idiosyncratic spin on the crime genre though, documenting the odd relationship between three friends as they lay low in the aftermath of a robbery.
7. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Die hard Wes Anderson fans raised their eyebrows in curiosity when the director announced he was making a $50 million action movie. However, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was far from the indie filmmaker ‘selling out’. Instead, Anderson spins this aquatic adventure into something that is quintessentially his own with low-fi animation, unusual production design and his own brand of quirky humor. What’s even more surprising is how much heart the movie has. The climactic scene set to Sigur Ros’ beautiful Staralfur and the father-son relationship between Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou (one of the actor’s finest performances) and Owen Wilson’s Ned Plimpton tug heavily on the heart-strings.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The director’s latest release falls somewhere between a screwball comedy and a comic strip. It’s like the slapstick narrative of Some Like It Hot meets the swashbuckling tone of The Adventures Of Tin Tin. Anderson’s toy box visuals, full of whimsical imagery and playful set pieces, complement it to perfection. His story about a hotel concierge and his faithful lobby boy thrown on a roller coaster ride across post-WWI Europe is a hairbrained thrill-ride that puts a grin on the face. All of Anderson’s regulars show up to tell the story, but they are each wiped off the screen by a never-better Ralph Fiennes who exerts charisma, charm and elegance throughout.
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Freudian philosophy and existentialism aren’t themes that are commonly found in children’s films. However, Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t your usual children’s film. He spins the story into a unique stop-motion animation that is entirely his own; an ensemble piece about a family of foxes whose lives are uprooted (quite literally) when a chicken heist goes wrong. Mr. Fox himself is in the midst of a mid-life crisis, Mrs. Fox is feeling the strain of many years of marriage and their son Ash is plagued by teen angst. However, they all pull together in a humorous way. It’s an utter joy to watch.
4. The Darjeeling Limited
Not everything in The Darjeeling Limited is worthy of note. This story of three brothers trying to regain their bond on a trip through India contains several moments that are disjointed, unfocussed and even painfully dull. However, when the film hits its high notes, they are some of the very best things Wes Anderson has ever committed to screen. They are beautiful, spiritual and life-affirming. The scene in which Adrian Brody solemnly declares “I lost mine” — if you’ve seen it, surely you know the one — is the single most emotional moment Anderson has captured in his filmography. It devastates in just three simple words.