Critic’s Picks: Wes Anderson’s Films, Ranked Worst to Best

8:00 AM 3/22/2018

by Stephen Dalton

THR film critic Stephen Dalton puts the director’s new film, ‘Isle of Dogs,’ near the top of the pack.

'The Royal Tenenbaums,' 'Isle of Dogs' and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'
'The Royal Tenenbaums,' 'Isle of Dogs' and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'
Photofest (3)
  1. 9
    9

    The Darjeeling Limited

    2007

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    Three brothers embark on a sentimental train journey across India in Anderson's brightly hued travelogue, which looks splendid but never builds up much emotional steam. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play the bickering fraternal trio.

  2. 8
    9

    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

    2004

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    Moving to star billing for his third Anderson collaboration, Bill Murray plays a marine adventurer bent on revenge against the shark that killed his ex-partner. Paying homage to Jacques Cousteau and Moby-Dick, Anderson's overly mannered maritime fable is full of warm humor but gets a little lost at sea. That said, Seu Jorge's Portuguese-language strum through David Bowie's songbook is a joyously left-field touch.

  3. 7
    9

    Bottle Rocket

    1996

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    Anderson's debut feature, co-written with serial collaborator Owen Wilson, is an uneven comic heist thriller based on an earlier short. The rookie director was still finding his voice on this sporadically charming commercial flop, which earned an approving nod from Martin Scorsese. Wilson, his brother Luke and James Caan co-star in the only Anderson film to date not to feature Bill Murray. 

  4. 6
    9

    Fantastic Mr. Fox

    2009

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    Full of inspired visual invention, Anderson's first adapted screenplay and first foray into stop-motion animation is an Oscar-nominated technical marvel, even if it slightly sanitizes the Roald Dahl children's book on which it is based. George Clooney and Meryl Streep lead an all-star vocal cast that also includes Anderson stalwarts Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.

  5. 5
    9

    Moonrise Kingdom

    2012

    Courtesy of Photofest

    For this gloriously offbeat coming-of-age romance, set on a fictional New England island in 1965, Anderson scored a casting coup with his novice co-stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. An enchanting wonderland fable that never sentimentalizes its pre-teen protagonists, Moonrise Kingdom opened the Cannes Film Festival, earned a screenplay Oscar nomination and translated gushing reviews into impressive box office.

  6. 4
    9

    Rushmore

    1998

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Earning rapturous reviews and healthy box office rewards, Anderson's second film helped establish his signature marriage of meticulous visuals with ironic, bittersweet, tragicomic whimsy. Jason Schwartzman makes his screen debut as a precocious 15-year-old high schooler embroiled in a bizarre love rivalry with Bill Murray's depressive middle-aged businessman over an elementary schoolteacher, played by Olivia Williams.

  7. 3
    9

    Isle of Dogs

    2018

    Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

    A richly imagined dog-eat-dog dystopia set in a near-future Japan, Anderson's latest venture into stop-motion animation may well be his most visually and technically dazzling work so far. Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig and Frances McDormand join a huge vocal cast of Anderson veterans in this lavish love letter to Japanese pop culture.

  8. 2
    9

    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    2014

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

    A luxurious old-world hotel in a fictional Central European country provides the setting for Anderson's most commercially lucrative film to date, a sumptuous feast of overlapping characters and plots spanning three different timelines. Full of zingy comic energy and ravishing visual detail, it won four Academy Awards and five BAFTAs. Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan and Jude Law share credit with an army of Anderson regulars.

  9. 1
    9

    The Royal Tenenbaums

    2001

    Photofest

    Anderson scored a significant commercial hit with his Oscar-nominated third feature, a novelistic black comedy about squandered potential, depression and regret. Despite initial resistance to the project, Gene Hackman gives one of his finest autumnal performances as the ailing patriarch of a crumbling Manhattan dynasty. Anjelica Huston plays his estranged ex-wife while Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson portray their dysfunctional grown-up children.