Wes Anderson
Essential Wes Anderson Films to Watch

Watching a Wes Anderson film, one can't help but think that the diretor's primary goal is to delight the audience. Not to simply entertain or to shine a light on any particular subject, but to truly delight above all else.

Born and raised in Houston, Anderson attended the University of Texas in Austin. While he majored in philosophy, he spent his school years writing fiction. In 1996, he made his feature directorial debut with the caper, Bottle Rocket. Over the years, the filmmaker has built his visual and narrative style into one which is immediately identifiable, with certain trademark features that have come to define his work.

Today, he is widely recognized to be a true auteur, an original in a world where that's far from common.

Anderson regularly works with the same collaborators. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman has shot every single one of his live action features. His creative team also comprises four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero, Oscar-winning production designer Adam Stockhausen, and two-time Oscar-winning film composer Alexandre Desplat. Together, they have created worlds that are wholly unique for the audience to inhabit. 

A lifelong student of cinema, Anderson has become one of the most revered auteurs working today. He has received eight Oscar nominations, three times for writing, once for directing, once for producing a Best Picture nominee, and twice for producing a Best Animated Feature Film nominee. His most recent nomination was for Best Live Action Short Film, for which he won his first Oscar.

"If I had not met Owen Wilson in a corridor at the University of Texas between classes when I was 18 years old, I would certainly not be receiving this award tonight," Anderson said of the win, which he unfortunately was not present to accept.

Below, A.frame looks back on the best of the best of Anderson's oeuvre. 

Bottle Rocket
Bottle Rocket
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Anderson and Owen Wilson were roommates and good friends in the early '90s while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Wilson was majoring in English while Anderson was writing stories regularly. In 1994, Anderson and Wilson co-wrote what would become Bottle Rocket, Anderson's 13-minute, black-and-white short film. 

With the short film made and a script for a feature based on the short film written, Anderson and Wilson were able secure the financing needed to make Bottle Rocket the feature. Made with a $5 million budget and shot in Dallas and various other locations throughout Texas, the film is a crime comedy.  

Starring Wilson and his brother Luke Wilson in their debut film, Bottle Rocket received acclaim from critics and launched the careers of Anderson and the Wilson brothers. Co-starring James Caan and Robert Musgrave, the film is about three dysfunctional young men who plan to go on a crime spree, and then, go on the run. The friends soon realize that they actually know absolutely nothing about being a criminal. 

A viewer today can see Anderson the newcomer working toward his signature style. Although not as polished as his later films, the inventive and funny Bottle Rocket still manages to charm and impress.

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Anderson's second feature is a coming-of-age comedy-drama where Jason Schwartzman plays Max, a rebellious teenager at Rushmore Academy, a prep-school, and Bill Murray plays Herman Blume, a wealthy industrialist in the middle of a midlife crisis. 

Max falls in love with a teacher at the school (Olivia Williams) right when she arrives. Max then turns to Herman, the father of two of his schoolmates, for advice on how to woo her in spite of the age difference. The situation becomes complicated when Herman actually becomes involved with her himself. Once Max learns of the affair, he decides that he must get revenge. 

Anderson's second film is much more refined from a storytelling standpoint. There's an anarchic spirit to the comedy in Rushmore, one that is backed by the film's soundtrack. The film is also notable for marking the very first time that Anderson worked with Murray and Schwartzman, who would each go on to become a frequent collaborator of his.

The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums
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Anderson loves an ensemble, and he certainly put one together for The Royal Tenenbaums, the saga of an estranged, dysfunctional family. 

The children of the eccentric Tenenbaum family, Richie (Luke Wilson), Chas (Ben Stiller), and Margot (Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow) were all prodigies growing up. Now each one is struggling to one degree or another to deal with adulthood and the failures that come with it. When their self-centered father, Royal Tenenbaum (two-time Oscar winner Gene Hackman), announces that he is terminally ill, the Tenenbaums are dragged back together one winter. Although they rally around him as an act of solidarity, the kids all feel a certain level of contempt for their father, who has been absent from their lives for quite some time. 

Anjelica Huston co-stars as Etheline Tenenbaum, the mother of the children. The comedy-drama also co-stars Murray, Danny Glover, and Seymour Cassel. 

Marinated in a sense of melancholy, The Royal Tenenbaums still manages to contain its share of comedy. The film is generally regarded as Hackman's swan song even though he did appear in a few more movies afterwards before retiring. This was the third straight film that Anderson and Wilson wrote together, and they received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for their work. 

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
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Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) and his crew, Team Zissou, set sail on an expedition to hunt down the elusive jaguar shark responsible for killing Zissou's colleague, Esteban. 

They are joined on this adventure by a young pilot, Ned (Wilson), who may or may not be Zissou's son. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett plays Jane, a journalist assigned to write a profile on Zissou and Eleanor (Huston), Zissou's estranged wife and co-producer. Together, they face countless complications, including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy. 

The film co-stars Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Michael Gambon. Visually stunning and featuring one of the best sets in any Anderson film (the interior of Belafonte, Zissou's research vessel), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is another quirky and frequently hilarious comedy-drama from Anderson, one which features yet another protagonist that is obsessed with completing a mission.

The Darjeeling Limited
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On a journey of self-discovery, estranged brothers Francis (Wilson), Jack (Schwartzman), and Peter (Adrien Brody) reunite for a spiritual train trip across India on the Darjeeling Limited. 

The brothers have not spoken in over a year, ever since their father died. Jack is trying to get over an ex, Francis is recovering from a motorcycle accident, and Peter, whose wife is pregnant, is very anxious about the upcoming birth of his child. 

The film can feel a bit more intimate than the Anderson films featuring an ensemble. Wilson, Schwartzman, and Brody create a believable imperfect family bond, one filled with resentments and sadness. The exotic color palette, the beautiful soundtrack, and a powerful flashback sequence help to make this another memorable Anderson feature. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox
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Based on the book by Roald Dahl, the whimsical Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop motion animated comedy which features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Wilson, Schwartzman, Gambon, Dafoe, Brian Cox, and many others.

Mr. Fox (Clooney) lives underground beside a tree with his wife (Streep) and four children. After 12 years of countryside bliss, Mr. Fox gives in to his animal instincts and raids the farms of their human neighbors, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. In doing so, he not only breaks a promise to his wife and endangers his marriage, but he also puts the lives of his family and their animal friends at risk. Chaos ensues. When the farmers force Mr. Fox and company deep underground, he must resort to his natural craftiness to save the day.

Clocking in at an easy-breezy 87 minutes, Fantastic Mr. Fox is an allegory which warns against greed. The film received two Oscar nominations: Best Animated Feature Film and Best Score for Alexandre Desplat's marvelous music.

Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom
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Moonrise Kingdom is a '60s-set coming-of-age tale of first love between two twelve-year-old loners, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward). The film, which has a bittersweet summer camp vibe, is set on a fictional island off the coast of New England, only accessible by ferry and populated by Khaki Scouts and dysfunctional families. 

Sam and Suzy, who have fallen in love, decide to run away together. As a violent storm approaches the island, the quirky adults, played by Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and four-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand, must mobilize and find Sam and Suzy before it's too late. 

As gorgeously shot as any Anderson film has ever been – and possibly his funniest film – Moonrise Kingdom, written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel
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The owner of an aging high-class hotel (Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham) tells a writer (Jude Law) of his early years serving as a lobby boy during the hotel's heyday under a remarkable concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). 

We flashback to the 1930s and the Grand Budapest Hotel is a popular ski resort in Europe. (The film is set in a fictional European province.) And the lobby boy we meet is Zero (Tony Revolori), who becomes Gustave's friend and protégé. Gustave takes great pride in providing immaculate service to the guests of the hotel. When a hotel guest dies under mysterious circumstances, Gustave finds himself the recipient of an invaluable painting and also falsely implicated in her murder. Gustave and Zero must then do everything they can to clear his name.  

This is the Anderson film with the largest budget, which also proved to be his biggest hit at the box office. Here, he tells an expansive story with yet another ensemble cast, one that includes Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Saoirse Ronan, and Mathieu Amalric, among many others. The film features razor-sharp dialogue, complex sequences, exquisitely designed sets and costumes, and a wonderful score. As the debonair hotel concierge, Fiennes delivers one of the most memorable performances in any of Anderson's films.  

The Grand Budapest Hotel received nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Original Screenplay for Anderson, Best Cinematography for Yeoman, and Best Film Editing, and went on to win four Oscars (Best Original Score for Desplat, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling).

Isle of Dogs
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Anderson's second foray into stop motion animation was also his first into sci-fi. The dystopian adventure Isle of Dogs is set in Japan, in the fictional city of Megasaki. Following the outbreak of dog flu, by order of the government, all canine pets are exiled to Trash Island. There, a group of stranded dogs from different backgrounds, along with Atari, a young boy who crashes his small plane on the island looking for his dog Spots, attempt to make it back to the mainland. 

Although the premise makes it sound like it could be a horror film, Isle of Dogs is actually a hangout movie to a large degree. Even though the setting is bleak, the story is full of warmth and the dogs are often hilarious.  

Featuring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Murray, Norton, Goldblum, and McDormand, among others, Isle of Dogs received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film and another for Best Original Score.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
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More than a decade after Anderson's first venture into the world of Roald Dahl, he returned for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. The 39-minute short film adapts the short story of the same name contained in the author's 1977 collection, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Henry Sugar, a rich man who learns about a guru who can see without using his eyes and sets out to master the skill in order to cheat at gambling. The film co-stars Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, and Richard Ayoade.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar was released as a collection of Roald Dahl short films adapted by the auteur, which also included The Swan, The Rat Catcher, and Poison. At the 96th Oscars, Anderson won his first-ever Oscar for Best Live Action Short.

"If I could have been there, I (along with Steven Rales) would have said 'Thank you' to: the family of Roald Dahl, the team at Netflix, Benedict and Ralph and Ben Kingsley and Dev and Richard and Bob and Adam and Jeremy and John and Jim and Rich and Jim and Polly and more," Anderson later said.

"And also I would have said: if I had not met Owen Wilson in a corridor at the University of Texas between classes when I was 18 years old, I would certainly not be receiving this award tonight," he continued, "but unfortunately Steven and I are in Germany and we start shooting our new movie early tomorrow morning, so I did not actually receive the award or get a chance to say any of that."

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