This weekend’s release of stop-motion treat Isle of Dogs marks the return of one of the greatest filmmakers working today, in my opinion: the brilliant Wes Anderson. With a limited, yet impressive, filmography under his belt and the arrival of his ninth film in cinemas, it felt like a more appropriate time than ever to take a look back at his career and rank all of his films thus far.
Related: Isle Of Dogs review [Berlinale]
It should be mentioned that I am a big fan of all of Anderson’s work; he is perhaps one of the only big-name directors yet to be swallowed whole by the blockbuster machine – there is always a wisp of excitement in the air every time he works on a new film. Ever since is debut Bottle Rocket, he has been illuminating our screens and hearts with his quirky charm and style. But, alas, even stellar talents like Wes Anderson make films worse than others. So let’s dive into my ranking.
- THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)
Not only my least favourite of Wes’ filmography but his least critically acclaimed too (still sitting at very solid 56% on Rotten Tomatoes), The Life Aquatic is by no means a bad film. Gosh, no. It’s far from it, even; in typical Anderson fashion, it’s colourful and extravagant but, despite all of its visual splendour and quirks, the film is sadly just a bit of a drag. It’s perfectly fine to invest into for a couple of hours but the characters don’t have to do and it’s an overstuffed and unbalanced juggling act at times. There is enough joy and fun to keep it afloat but not the one I’d dive for.
- BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)
As far as directorial debuts go, our introduction to the wondrous talents of Wes Anderson was a delight. Whilst it comes with its fair share of problems, this was a very solid and funny heist flick that didn’t do much to break the mold but showed us hints of a filmmaker soon to come into his own; it teases the style we have come to love today and it’s tons of fun.
- THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007)
A film all about white privilege in India, The Darjeeling Limited has a strong focus on character and family – something Wes does with such ease and assurance. It perhaps feels a bit more shallow in the family unit area than some of his other films; the white privilege in India scenario can sometimes just come off as a tad too much at times too, not working quite as it could have. But overall, this is perhaps one of Anderson’s most gorgeous films yet – it’s simplistic and boasts a huge heart. All around it’s just a great time.
- MOONRISE KINGDOM
Anderson’s schtick and his style aren’t perhaps better suited for a film and a story than it is for Moonrise Kingdom. It’s a fantastical and busy affair, brimming with colour and pulp. It’s a film that beautifully captures the whirlwind that is love – first love, especially. It’s unarguably one of the most easygoing, charming films of the weighty backlog covered in this article. Perhaps it lacks a bit of bite. But it’s easy to say that about most of this director’s film. Regardless, this is one of those joyous delights that will have you smiling from ear-to-ear throughout.
- ISLE OF DOGS
Despite being his newest, Isle of Dogs is one of Wes’ best. It’s superbly realised, not only is the animation unbelievably good but the world here is so masterfully carved; the story and the socio-political commentary are fascinating as well and the voice talent is absolutely stellar. This is perhaps the darkest film the director has done yet; it’s intense and deals with some serious themes and ideas but executed so sharply and so astutely that it really does show us Wes Anderson is a jack of all trades. And he has created a film accessible for all. And one of the best of 2018.
- THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
This is a film that is steeped in regard; The Royal Tenenbaums has cemented itself into pop culture history – laying the groundwork for indies to come and birthing a new wave of style and influence. This is a film poetic in its nature, lyrical in its story and dialogue. The performances are superb – uniting all of the Anderson greats. It’s a very busy film but it executes it all so seamlessly and with such slick craft that it’ll leave your brain working hard as to figure out just how it was pulled off and juggled and to such a high level as well. Wes and his familial themes were discussed earlier: Tenebaums is that in full swing and at full powers. It is touching, funny, heartfelt, heartwrenching, gorgeous, gigantic, slick, and wholly enthralling in its nature.
More often than not, sophomore features fail to match their predecessors – usually slipping quality and creativity. If anything, Rushmore is anything but. This is one of Wes Anderson’s best films; it’s a film full of quirk and wit and heart and sees a scene-stealing Jason Schwartzman make a brilliant acting debut as the idiosyncratic Max. It’s a charm to watch and it takes the “high school movie” formula and spins it on its head for this very offbeat character piece.
- FANTASTIC MR. FOX
Very few adaptations live up to their source material; with Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson has created a film that does just that. It captures the magic and joy of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. This is one of my favourite animated films ever; yes, it’s visually arresting and superbly animated – to say that is like saying water is wet. But it’s also just such a sharp film; for a kids flick, it’s mature and different. But more than that, it’s just a rollicking adventure that doesn’t stop for a second – one that is thoroughly entertaining and hilarious too.
- THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
What is there to be said about The Grand Budapest Hotel that hasn’t been said already? It’s a masterpiece; this is the crowning glory of Wes Anderson’s career to date. It’s one of my all-time favourite films and truly perfect. Of course, the technical mastery on display is unequivocal – this is a film that swallows you up in its colour, grandeur, and world, bursting with life. It’s a film that is just so beautiful and packs quite an emotional punch too. This film is Wes Anderson doing what Wes Anderson does best and that is just being Wes Anderson.
Isle Of Dogs is out in cinemas now.