5 Best Movies to Watch by Wes Anderson

Staff & contributors

After experimenting with multiple storylines in The French Dispatch, the inimitable Wes Anderson goes one step further with the mind-bendingly meta Asteroid City. Framed as a TV documentary about the making of a play, Asteroid City’s Russian doll setup reflects the neurosis of its period (the Cold War-struck ‘50s), art-making, and the intimidating vastness of outer space.

The play takes place in a tiny desert town where atom bomb tests routinely rattle the doorframes and where a convention for young geniuses is being held, attended by a host of typically idiosyncratic characters (played by Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, and many, many more). Still, it retains a central focus: the grief of new widower Augie (Jason Schwartzman) and his kids, and the connections he and his son (Jake Ryan) forge with a visiting actress (Scarlett Johansson) and her daughter (Dinah Campbell). Asteroid City draws much of its poignancy from this story (and its behind-the-scenes goings-on), as these people stare into the cosmic wilderness and a future without their loved one. Shot in gorgeous bleached postcard tones and full of the imaginative flourishes we’ve come to expect from Anderson, this is a profound rumination on existential angst that miraculously finds hope amidst all its characters’ nihilism.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adrien Brody, Aimee Mullins, Ara Hollyday, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Damien Bonnard, Deanna Dunagan, Dominique Fouassier, Edward Norton, Elena Uriz, Ella Faris, Erika Godwin, Ethan Josh Lee, Fisher Stevens, Francisco Javier Gomez, Grace Edwards, Gracie Faris, Hong Chau, Hope Davis, Jack Eyman, Jake Ryan, Jarvis Cocker, Jason Schwartzman, Jay Lau, Jeff Goldblum, Jeffrey Wright, Liev Schreiber, Margot Robbie, Matt Dillon, Maya Hawke, Palmira Ferrer, Patricia Colin, Paul Kynman, Randall Poster, Rita Wilson, Rodolphe Pauly, Rupert Friend, Sam Marra, Sandy Hamilton, Scarlett Johansson, Seu Jorge, Sonia Gascón, Sophia Lillis, Stéphane Bak, Stephen Park, Steve Carell, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, Tom Hudson, Tony Revolori, Truman Hanks, Wendy Nottingham, Willa Skye, Willem Dafoe

Director: Wes Anderson

If it weren’t for his knack for writing, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) would never have gotten into a prep school like Rushmore. But his art secures him a scholarship, and what he lacks in smarts and money, he makes up for in school pride. As he flunks more and more of his academics, however, he is eventually kicked out, and it’s outside the halls of his beloved Rushmore, stripped of all titles and insignia, where he learns to be his true self.  

As the film’s comedic and emotional core, Schwartzman is a revelation as the ambitious and sharp-tongued Max. Equally captivating is Bill Murray’s deadpan but lovable turn as Max’s millionaire friend, Herman Blume. It’s a role so fitting, in fact, that the poor-rich-man character will follow Murray well into his career, long after the curtains close on Mr. Blume. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson will go on to do more colorful and stylized pictures than Rushmore, but thanks to its unbeatable wit and down-to-earth charm, the film remains to be one of the auteur’s most delightful and hilarious works to date. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Bledel, Andrew Wilson, Antoni Scarano, Bill Murray, Brandon Trost, Brian Cox, Brian Tenenbaum, Connie Nielsen, Dipak Pallana, Ed Geldart, Eric Chase Anderson, George Farish, Jason Schwartzman, Jason Trost, Kim Terry, Kumar Pallana, Lucille Sadikin, Luke Wilson, Marietta Marich, Mason Gamble, Morgan Redmond, Olivia Williams, Paul Schiff, Sara Tanaka, Seymour Cassel, Stephen Dignan, Stephen McCole, Wallace Wolodarsky

Director: Wes Anderson

Before he developed his signature dollhouse visual style, Wes Anderson made his feature debut with this lowkey, heartwarming, and decidedly not-symmetrically-perfect comedy about a bunch of misfits. Bottle Rocket isn’t as much of an outlier in its director’s storied filmography as might initially seem, however. Written in partnership with college buddy Owen Wilson — who, along with brothers Luke and Andrew, made his acting debut here — the film is delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly moving in the way we’ve come to expect from Anderson. 

Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) are two drifting, boyish twenty-somethings, although only Anthony seems aware of his directionlessness, as Dignan has graciously developed a 50-year life plan for the two of them (complete with hilariously vague bullet-points such as “Make wise investments” and “Own multiple accommodations”). The means to these ambitious ends is a life of crime — specifically, pulling off grand heists. But Dignan’s meticulousness hasn’t accounted for distractions, and his madcap scheme falls at the first hurdle when Anthony falls in love with a housekeeper at the motel they hide out in (Lumi Cavazos). Their sweet romance is one of the film’s many delights, as is its barrelling deadpan humor, which never betrays the warmth of the Wilson brothers’ heartwarming depiction of ride-or-die friendship.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Wilson, Antonia Bogdanovich, Brian Tenenbaum, Darryl Cox, Dipak Pallana, James Caan, Jill Parker-Jones, Julio Cedillo, Kumar Pallana, Luke Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, Melinda Renna, Ned Dowd, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Russell Towery

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R

Isle of Dogs has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson picture—it's stylish, otherworldly, and deadpan hilarious. But the film is also uniquely its own thing, a stop-motion animation deeply and gorgeously immersed in Japanese history and lore. Instead of merely relegating culture in the background for mere aesthetic purposes (as Anderson has done in the past with The Darjeeling Limited), culture here plays a vital role in the adventure and overall plot of the film. It's up to the viewer to decide whether Isle of Dogs is a case of appropriation or appreciation, but what can't be denied is that this is a movie with a strong and unforgettable bite to it. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akira Takayama, Alex Orman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Chris Benz, Courtney B. Vance, Edward Norton, Elaiza Ikeda, Erica Dorn, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens, Frances McDormand, Frank Wood, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Ken Watanabe, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Liev Schreiber, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Roman Coppola, Ryuhei Matsuda, Scarlett Johansson, Shota Matsuda, Taichi Kodama, Takayuki Yamada, Tilda Swinton, Yojiro Noda, Yoko Ono

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG-13

In this ensemble cast directed by Wes Anderson, we see a very dysfunctional family with three very unique siblings who grow apart from each other due to their father, a charismatic and ever-absent grifter. However, when he announces his immanent death, the whole family is forced to confront each other, themselves and their childhoods as they gather in their patriarchal home together for the first time in years. An absolutely gorgeously filmed movie, the usage of color, pattern and 60's rock music alone makes it worth seeing, and the beautiful story just sweetens the deal.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Al Thompson, Alec Baldwin, Amir Raissi, Andrew Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Brian Smiar, Brian Tenenbaum, Danny Glover, Dipak Pallana, Don McKinnon, Donal Lardner Ward, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Eric Chase Anderson, Frank Wood, Gary Evans, Gene Hackman, Grant Rosenmeyer, Greg Goossen, Guido Venitucci, Gwyneth Paltrow, Irina Gorovaia, Jennifer Wachtell, Jonah Meyerson, Kalani Queypo, Keith Charles, Kumar Pallana, Larry Pine, Liam Craig, Luke Wilson, Max Faugno, Mel Cannon, Nova Landaeus-Skinnar, Owen Wilson, Pawel Wdowczak, Rex Robbins, Roger Shamas, Rony Clanton, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Sam Hoffman, Seymour Cassel, Sheelagh Tellerday, Sonam Wangmo, Stephen Dignan, Stephen Lea Sheppard, Tatiana Abbey, Tom Lacy, Wes Anderson, 吉恩·哈克曼

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R