Ranking Wes Anderson films from best to worst

The film bros might not like this one.

words by: Alee Kwong
Aug 26, 2022

Wes Anderson sits pretty high up there when one thinks about film aesthetics. While his style isn’t for everybody, it is undeniably recognizable. If you’ve ever encountered a “quirky” person, or someone who listens to Bon Iver, there’s a good chance that they are Wes Anderson fans. Known for his film charm, symmetry, stunning color palettes, and quippy dialogue, Anderson has become one of the more popular directors in modern cinema.


There’s a little something for everyone in a Wes Anderson film and today we’re going to rank some of Anderson’s most popular films from best to worst. This will probably be one of the hardest rankings to date, but I did the best I could.


1. Fantastic Mr. Fox

If you’re looking for the perfect film to usher in the autumn season, stop your search and watch Fantastic Mr. Fox. As it goes with nearly every Wes Anderson film, the cast list is beyond impressive, with the voice talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman.


Not only is this stop-motion film enjoyable on all accounts, but what makes this film amazing is the fact that the actors weren’t limited to voiceover booths when working on this film. For many of the scenes, they actually acted them out, and had a microphone in front of them to record dialogue to ensure authentic acting.


2. The Royal Tenenbaums

When the name Wes Anderson is mentioned, most people think of The Royal Tenenbaums. This was my very first Wes Anderson film, and its high ranking probably has a lot to do with nostalgia. Whatever the reason, this film still hits and the costumes are iconic (as they usually are in Anderson’s films).


Although I’m not the biggest Gwyneth Paltrow fan, her role as Margot Tenenbaum has to be one of her greatest. While many of Anderson’s films have a melancholy undertone, The Royal Tenenbaums stands out among the rest. It almost perfectly wavers between the aforementioned melancholy and charm—making it one of Anderson’s best films.


3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Another amazing film with an equally amazing cast. I’m a sucker for the mockumentary angle, and this film documents the adventures of renowned oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew, cutting in and out of the documentary to peer into the private lives of the characters.


Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Goldblum shine in this film. They bring to life this deep sea journey through their ensemble performance.


4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Out of all the films, The Grand Budapest Hotel stands proudly in my top 5 for one reason: Set design. Don’t get me wrong, the story is engaging, and the actors’ performances effortlessly pull you into their world, but the set design in this film is unlike the others. The relationship between color and background settings feel more intentional and direct in this film, and it really brought forward to my attention that the set design is a character of its own.


5. The French Dispatch

While this is one of the slower films, the set design had me in a death grip. The Grand Budapest Hotel blended Anderson’s signature use of color with charming backdrops to create a complete character, whereas a handful of scenes from The French Dispatch are in black and white. This film is a compilation of stories told as written articles that are bound together for a magazine, thus named The French Dispatch.


I was amazed by how the backdrops added a je ne sais quoi to each individual “article.” Although each scene is a short story in itself, I was fully engaged, and brought into every character’s journey.


6. Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson has his style imprint in every single one of this films, but something about Moonrise Kingdom feels extra Wes Anderson-y. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that his films have a sense of youthfulness to them and Moonrise Kingdom is mostly about a bunch of kids. Nothing says charming more than a story that takes place on an island off the Eastern Seaboard, summer camp, and young love.


7. Isle of Dogs

I can’t help but love a great stop-motion film. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the story, I was in awe of the artistic effort and detail put into the design of the canine characters. I can usually get through slower films without an issue, but something about Isle of Dogs didn’t captivate me. But if anything, not following the story all too closely gave me an opportunity to appreciate the art of the film.


8. Bottle Rocket 

Bottle Rocket is Anderson’s first feature film, and stars Owen Wilson and his brother, Luke Wilson. Because this is Anderson’s first feature film, there’s a significant lack of the style we are used to. I enjoyed this film, but because I watched it after nearly every other Anderson film, it was hard for me to not be increasingly aware of the lack of style in Bottle Rocket. However, the same direct dialogue style is present in this film, and that’s something I found familiar and enjoyed a lot.


9. Rushmore

Overall, this is actually a good film. I don’t have much to say, other than I’m just not a huge fan of the whole “young student pines over older female teacher” plots. It feels icky.


10. The Darjeeling Limited

This Anderson film will most likely stay at the bottom of the list until the end of time. Not only is the story pretty weak, but I don’t like that the beautiful country of India and its rich culture stand in the background of 3 white male leads—all of whom where lacking in depth and not interesting enough to invest in emotionally.


Soon, we’ll be able to add another film to this list—an adaption from one of the most successful authors of all-time. Also a big part of Wes Anderson films are the scores, check out 6 film composers you shouldn’t sleep on.


Photo via Searchlight Pictures