Filmmaker Wes Anderson‘s style is so distinctive, he’s basically become his own genre — one awash with stunningly beautiful aesthetics, populated by oddball outsiders, and an offbeat sense of humor.
His ninth feature The Isle of Dogs is no exception: using meticulous stop-motion animation, it tells the story of a boy called Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin), who travels to a island in Japan to rescue his pet dog Spot (Liev Schrieber) after an outbreak of canine flu means all dogs are quarantined there.
It opens in theaters today (March 23), and so, to celebrate, we’ve ranked his films so far.
8. Bottle Rocket (1996)
One for Wes Anderson completists only. Originally a short film, the feature version launched Anderson’s career, not to mention the careers of his childhood friends Owen and Luke Wilson. If you squint, you’ll spot some of the elements that make the future filmmaker so distinctive, but the film was a flop, and Owen has since gone on record to say he almost joined the Marines as a result.
7. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Anderson heads to India with this tale of three brothers (Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson) on a quest to find themselves. Lots of zany plot points ensue: stolen passports, a will-they-won’t-they love affair, and a daring river rescue. But the theme of brotherhood keeps the train on track.
6. Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
A tale of a man (Bill Murray) whose highly controlled life is upended by the son (Owen Wilson) he never knew he had, Anderson’s fourth feature is an achingly sad meditation on mortality, manhood, and extinction. There are laughs, sure, but it’s not long before loneliness takes center stage.
5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
This film about a family of unhappy eccentrics is not only one of his biggest commercial successes, but its screenplay also earned Anderson (and co-writer Owen Wilson) his first Oscar nomination. Style and substance finally came together to form a movie that’s beautifully precise and poignant.
4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This magical romance was co-written with Roman Coppola, and tells the story of Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), two unpopular kids who fall in love and run away. It’s Anderson at his most stylized, but the story of young love never fails to charm.
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Ralph Fiennes sets the story in motion as fastidious hotelier Monsieur Gustave, proving he’s as much a comic actor as a dramatic heavyweight and Harry Potter villain. Cue a film that manages to combine political intrigue with frothy comedy and historical epic, all set in a pre-war Europe of the director’s own imagination and with a pretty pink and purple palette.
2. Rushmore (1998)
This film’s then-unknown 17-year-old star Jason Schwartzman was a real find, but it’s Bill Murray’s performance that gives it an underlying gravitas. Both star as rival suitors of the same woman (Olivia Williams), in a coming-of-age comedy that’s so dry it risks becoming a horror movie.
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Anderson’s first animated movie is also his best, scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Animation Feature despite middling box office sales. Don’t be fooled by the stop-motion animation, either; this is most definitely a Wes Anderson film, and not a kids’ flick — turning the beloved Roald Dahl story about the mischievous Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his battles with local farmers into a charming heist movie.
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