Wes Anderson hasn't made an objectively bad movie. Some are more endearing than others, some got more commercial or critical praise, but they all exist on an even playing field. Here they are, ranked according to their importance in Wes Anderson's catalog and movie-making as a whole.
9| THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007)
It pains me to place The Darjeeling Limited last on this list, because I love this movie about three estranged brothers who reunite after their father's death for a train trip across India. But it has gaping flaws and is a mostly forgettable film, with a script that feels like three different movies scotch-taped together.
8| THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)
The Life Aquatic is a cult favorite about an aging Jacque Cousteau-like figure—played by Bill Murray—that introduced the iconic Team Zissou (and a decade of hipster squad Halloween costumes), but it's another wonky script that doesn't fully hold together. As memorable as the characters are, it's hard to love and root for them—with the exception of Klaus Daimler and Pelé dos Santos, of course. The movie had big expectations, too, because it followed The Royal Tenenbaums, but failed to make a dent with audiences.
7| THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)
Surprisingly, The Grand Budapest Hotel marked Anderson's first nomination for Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The film is about the misadventures of a hotel concierge and his young protege in a fictional European country between the World Wars. The two award nominations Anderson earned for the movie should have come sooner in his career for better movies.
6| MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)
Amid a catalog of adorable, twee movies, Moonrise Kingdom might be Anderson's most adorable and twee. It's peak Anderson: Two tweens run away together to live in the wilderness on a New England island. It would be insufferable in anyone else's hands, yet Anderson makes this movie sweet, beautiful, and endearing.
5| BOTTLE ROCKET (1996)
There's something to be said about an auteur's first film. Although this heist movie is the least Anderson of any of his movies, it's a stunning debut—one with hints of the director he was to become
4| FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)
This movie is cussing great. Often considered an outlier because it's his first animated feature, Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the children's book by Roald Dahl, deserves to be ranked among his classics. The stop-motion technique is the perfect format for Anderson's dollhouse style, and one you can show your kids to force good taste on them at an early age.
3| ISLE OF DOGS (2018)
With his second animated feature, Anderson expands his scope with his own original screenplay about a young hero trying to find his exiled dog on an island outside of Megasaki City. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is much more than an animated children's film. In fact, children might struggle with the dark tones and complex storytelling. But, kids—and everyone else—should see a movie that asks the essential question: "Who are we and who do we want to be?" Themes of crooked government and a tyrannical ruler obsessed with deportation feel all the more prescient in 2018 (along with student leaders protesting backward policy). Plus, there's probably the best animated depictions of both kidney surgery and sushi preparation ever put on film.
2| THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)
This movie about a wealthy patriarch who finds himself hopelessly broke and alone after a lifetime of failures and neglect seems even more necessary in 2018. (Ivanka Trump, for instance, seems to be a fan.) When it came out in 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums—which followed not only its titular character but also his children and the people who orbit around them in a shabby yet magical version of New York City—put Anderson on the map. This marked the moment where he went from quirky, relatively unknown director to an auteur who would inspire a generation of filmmakers.
1| RUSHMORE (1998)
Anderson's second film chronicles the coming of age of a sensitive and obsessive savant in the form of Max Fischer. It also marks the coming of age of Wes Anderson. Visually, Rushmore defined the tools he would hone over the next two decades. This includes his gift of crafting soundtracks. And with Rushmore, Anderson compiled a genius playlist from the '60s British invasion—he had considered but ultimately rejected making the whole soundtrack Kinks music—while employing Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh for its playful musical spirit. It also introduced his muse, Bill Murray, who would give some of his greatest career performances in Anderson films (Rushmore being one of his best). Rushmore is the movie where Wes Anderson became Wes Anderson.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.