It was the turn of the century, and a young filmmaker from Houston named Wes Anderson had taken his first few steps into the movie making world..

First, let’s quickly get up to speed..

Born May 1st 1969, Wesley Anderson has been making quirky films for almost 30 years. While we hang out soaking up all of this Wes Anderson goodness, why not put on this playlist of tunes from his films and get in the mood.

Andersons films have always been influential and have helped to shape the archetype of the modern indie-movie, as well as gather him a cult following. The approach to filmmaking that’s made him so popular has always been centered around his eccentric compositions, use of dry wit and (almost always) writing morally faulted characters which he pops into a heightened theatrical world.

Now, with his career spanning almost 30 years, and a back catalog of ten films under his belt (almost all with director, writer and producer credits) Anderson has been able to develop and hone in on his specific and unique filmmaking style. Taking it to grander heights and his projects to further critical acclaim. 

He has become known for his relentless eye for detail in production design, penning witty dialog and for repeatedly using an ever growing base of returning actors to make up his films ensemble casts. Much to the viewer’s joy, we get to see some of our favourite returning cast members again and again in relatably dull and hilariously peculiar situations.

(“oh look, in this one Willem Dafoe is a murderous villain and in this one he wears cute little shorts and has daddy issues!”).

My twenty-one year old self discovered Anderson the day my best friend found out that shockingly I had never heard of Wes Anderson before! “How can he class himself as a die hard fan of film and not have seen a single one of his movies?”- he probably thought. 

Well… not about to leave me in my apparent state of ignorance, my friend put on The Darjeeling Limited. My first Wes Anderson viewing experience.. I sat back for the next 90 minutes and took it all in, the sets, the writing, the atmosphere…

Ultimately what left a lasting impression on me was the obvious love for filmmaking on display, it not only made me an instant fan but also (eventually) the kind of person that makes a ‘Top Five Wes Anderson Films’ list.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox – (2009)

“Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?” – Mr. Fox

What happens when that “Royal Tenenbaum’s guy” decides to adapt a children’s book? just any children’s book either… What happens when he chooses to adapt the classic, Roald Dahl’s story ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’? Well what happens (put rather simply) is a damn good movie gets made.

Look, it’s not the first collaboration that would have sprung to mind if you had asked me what two iconic visionary’s I’d like to throw in the Hollywood blender, but you know what.. It really works.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is Anderson’s sixth major motion picture,  but it was his first time stepping into the world of animation, which is kind of a big deal! This was a major departure from the filmmaking process Anderson had become familiar with and without a doubt it would present its own set of challenges to overcome.

The plot goes a bit like this.. 

‘Mr. Fox’ – brought to life by a hilarious performance from George Clooney – decides to bring an end to his wild and reckless days as a chicken thief by convincing a small group of his neighbors to help him plan out one last raid against the three evil farmers, ‘Boggis, Bunce and Bean’. This mission will put Fox’s marriage to the test, and put his, as well as his fellow animal friends’ lives on the line. With a bit of cunning, Fox and friends might rise to the occasion… Just as long as they can manage to overcome their often troublesome animalistic instincts. Clooney is mirrored on screen by equally brilliant performances from the legendary ‘Meryl Streep’, ‘Bill Murray’ and ‘Jason Schwartzman’ to name just a few. All in animated animal form obviously… 

If you are familiar with the book you’ll know it’s not hard to imagine that this tale would fit Anderson’s filmmaking approach like a glove. Although the plot follows right along with the events of Dahl’s book, it does take some liberties, primarily in the tone in which the story is portrayed. Anderson’s film definitely lacks the dark edge of Dahl’s book, but for any darkness lacking it makes up for with its charm, as it is a truly endearing film.

“It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before!” – That quote dominates the screen during a moment in the trailer. So what’s that about? What really makes the film bounce off the screen is the unique and beautifully ‘old timey’ looking, stop-motion animation used. Stop-motion -while definitely having been done plenty of times before- set the movie apart visually from other animated films coming out at the time, such as Pixar’s CGI heavy feature, Up and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, which featured a return to the classic hand drawn look Disney had become so famous for.


Unfortunately, Fantastic Mr. Fox would severely under perform at the box office, making it in the eyes of the studio at least somewhat of a failure. Despite its failure to put butts into theater seats, ‘Fox’ is a fantastically fun time that anyone should be able to find humor and heart in. Anderson’s unique touch still dominates the screen regardless of the movie being an animation and it’s a really enjoyable watch all the way through. Easily one of my favorite movies of 2009.

4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – (2004)

“Is this my espresso machine?

Wh-what is-h-how did you get my espresso machine?”

“Well… uh… we fuckin’ stole it, man.”

Now this is classic Wes Anderson!

Hot off the release of the Oscar nominated film The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson got to work on his fourth feature, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Zissou -played by Bill Murray- is a washed up nature-documentary star, well past his prime and hellbent, on a mission for revenge against a mystical and mysterious shark like creature, that ate his best friend, Esteban. The story follows Zissou and his crew of loveable seafarers, as they make their way back out to the spot where Esteban was so unceremoniously killed off camera whilst filming their latest documentary.

The Life Aquatic initially had some trouble building a good name for itself amongst film critics. Receiving average reviews upon release. Why, however, I have no idea, it has all the usual distinctively Wes Anderson qualities that critics typically love… Is it possible that Zissou is such an asshole that even the film critics couldn’t stand being in the same room as him? 

The movie gets a good score from me though..

It boasts a titanic sized (bit of movie boat humor there) cast of Anderson veterans, ‘Bill Murray’, ‘Owen Wilson’ and ‘Jeff Goldblum’ all included. Plus the screenplay sports some of the most memorable and hilarious Anderson lines to date, “Don’t point that gun at him, he’s an unpaid intern” and “Son of a bitch, I’m sick of these dolphins” to quote a couple.

Like in all Anderson films, the clever use of creative sets helps him to tell his story. One such iconic set is the full size side angle of Zissou’s boat, ‘The Belafonte’, which is used to film the “Let me tell you about my boat” scene (it’s easy to find on Youtube if you need a refresher). The Scene plays out a bit like a stage play, where the camera flies around through the rooms of the Belafonte, showing you the inner workings of the boat, its strengths and its weaknesses. The boat itself is a character you have to get to know. I love it.

Brazilian artist, Sue Jorge also leaves his mark here, he appears in the movie playing David Bowie covers beautifully translated into Portuguese. The renditions add a calming air to many of the scenes and a sense that you’re truly along for the ride. These covers are something I see as classic Life Aquatic. They are such a unique touch to this film in particular.

So look.. if you don’t really gel with this film I would say not all of Anderson’s films will be your cup of tea. But if you do (and it’s a big if) happen to gel with it, then you’ll like pretty much anything he makes.

3. The Royal Tenenbaums – (2001)

“Anybody interested in grabbing a couple of burgers and hittin’ the cemetery?” – Royal Tenenbaum

The Royal Tenenbaums is Anderson’s third feature and perhaps the first example of him  finally cementing himself confidently into his own style of filmmaking. 

His previous work Rushmore had all the familiar Anderson elements but still felt like an indie movie. The Royal Tenenbaums however, blurs the line between an indie flick and a big budget studio film. 

Released into theaters in October of 2001, Tenenbaums was well received by critics, so much so that ‘Anderson’, along with ‘Owen Wilson’, were nominated for an Oscar for ‘Best Written Screenplay’, losing to Gosford Park by Julian Fellowes  , which I’ll admit, I’ve never even heard of, but props to Fellowes.

The Royal Tenenbaums at its core is a simple tale about family. It focuses less on the many academic successes of the gifted Tenenbaum family, but rather on the many failures of the family unit. 

Making up the head of the family you have Gene Hackmans, Royal Tenenbaum. A self centered, ex lawyer who has been more or less disowned by most of the family for his failings as a father by the time the story begins. Alongside him is Etheline Tenebaum played by Anjelica Hudson, a rather well regarded archaeologist and author whose top priority has always been the children’s education, to a fault. Then there’s the children themselves, Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Richie (Luke Wilson) all of whom now live in the ever present shadow of their own lost potential. Each entwined in either, external tragic circumstance or,  in their own internal self destructive tendencies.

The plot centers around Royals’ rather pitiful, yet hilarious attempts at re-kindling his relationships with his now distant family. In an attempt to make up for lost time he fakes a terminal illness and moves back into the family home as a means of forcing himself back into their lives. I did mention he is selfish right?  

As the movie unfolds you get to learn more about each family member and as the past is revealed so is each character’s personal unhealed traumas.

Joining the cast are a couple more members of that recurring troop Anderson seems to have on call. Most notably Owen Wilson and Bill Murray who both have significant roles, Murray’s being one of my favorite performances in the film. I won’t ruin that one but you just can’t help but feel for the guy!

I can’t talk about this movie without mentioning the music..

I’ll briefly mention two of the iconic tracks. First is, ‘These Days’ by Nico (“Alexa play these days”), it plays during the ‘Green Line Bus’ scene where Richie waits for Margot at the bus stop. Any time this song plays on my spotify, it transports me directly to this movie moment… As Margot gets out of the bus, the track starts and immediately it’s as if all of time stands still while she walks towards Richie. It’s hard to explain a moment like this. If ever I were to make a top five Wes Anderson scenes list this one will be a serious contender and it lasts barely thirty seconds.

Another outstanding use of music is during Richie’s attempted suicide scene where Elliot Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay’ plays over the harrowing moment. I have only this scene to thank for setting me on my eventual venture deeper into Elliot Smith’s fantastic back catalog of music. 

To summarize in short, Tenenbaums is one of those movies that I will quite happily watch once per year until the day I die. It’s a great entry point for anyone wanting to check out Anderson’s work too. I will always recommend it to new friends with too much enthusiasm.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel – (2014)

 “I began to realize that many of the hotel’s most valued and distinguished guests came for him. It seemed to be an essential part of his duties… But I believe it was also his pleasure. The requirements were always the same. They had to be rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blonde, needy.” – Zero

Here it lies. The Grand Budapest Hotel…  A technical wonder, a marvel of production design and a crowning achievement. Could it be Wes Anderson’s magnum opus? Perhaps, and yet… it sits at number two?

I’m positive it “takes the cake” on many lists such as this one and honestly, it deserves every slice!

The film’s plot is centered around Ralph Fiennes’ character, Gustave H, who inherits the painting, ‘Boy With Apple’ after his one night stand, Madame D is killed. After he is wrongly framed for the murder, Gustave, along with his newly made friend Zero (a recently hired lobby boy), attempt to hide ‘Boy With Apple’ and outwit the conspirators after Madame D’s fortune.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s Eighth Film and at the time of its release I saw it as a huge return to form. Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, while still a very good movie in and of itself, felt like a bit of a safe bet to me. A bit like Anderson was operating a little too deep into his own comfort zone. The Grand Budapest Hotel however (meaning the film), is a lot like the hotel itself, a massive undertaking. It is a piece of art, full of eccentric characters, fast paced comings and goings and complex arrangements of people and of their things.

To put it simply…

What this movie managed to achieve from a production design point of view and to save myself writing up what hundreds of other people have already written about this movie online, I’ll simply mention the Oscar nods given to the film. It’ll get the point across better.

The film took home four Oscar wins. These included, Best Achievement in Costume Design / Makeup and Hairstyling / Music (Original Score) and Best Achievement in Production Design.

It was also nominated for five other Oscars, Best Motion Picture / Director / Cinematography / Editing and Best Writing for an Original Screenplay.

If that alone is not a good enough reason to give it a watch then I’m afraid that there’s no convincing you. This was a massive achievement and it’s extremely entertaining, a true MUST-SEE.

1. The Darjeeling Limited – (2007)

“I wonder if the three of us would’ve been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people.” – Francis

I know this is going to be a controversial number one. Look, it’s the first Anderson film I ever saw and it holds an immense place In my heart, okay? If ever there was a film that made me want to pick up the phone and call my brothers more, it’s this one. 

The Darjeeling Limited is Anderson’s Fifth feature. The film follows three brothers, Francis, Peter and Jack, played by Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzmaan. The brothers reunite for the first time since their fathers funeral to travel, by train, through the enchanting backdrop of India in an attempt to bond again. 

What are the themes?

The film’s central themes deal with men’s inability to speak openly and honestly with each other, the importance of brotherhood and puts a microscope over our occasional inability to deal with our negative emotions in a healthy and clear-minded way. This all resonates on such a personal level with me that I can’t help but rank it higher than his other films… Not for what it technically achieves but for how it makes me feel.

While on their journey the brothers will uncover secrets that they have kept from each other, deal with the shared trauma of their fathers death and their mothers absence and rediscover how to communicate with each other again.

It’s a beautiful movie exploring simple ideas. There’s no over the top movie moments like the shootout in Life Aquatic (where Zissou, miraculously fights off twenty other men unscathed)  or the effect heavy chase scene in The Grand Budapest Hotel (where Gustave and Zero have to escape from Willem Dafoe’s murderous villain, Joping).

It’s one of Andersons only films that seems to take place in the real world.

The choice to completely ground the story in reality helps the message of the film come across as honest and genuine. Anderson’s usual stylistic flourishes remain present but now in a wholly grounded world. This just adds to the charm of the film and it really, really makes you want to travel. The Darjeeling Limited from start to finish feels completely real, like you could book your train ticket and follow along on the exact same trip the brothers go on and bump into the very same chief steward! If only the Darjeeling itself was in fact actually real… sorry to tell you, but it’s not. 

So, It may not have the Oscar winning technical flair of The Grand Budapest Hotel or  the cult classic status of The Royal Tenenbaums, but it has real heart. It might be dead last in another person’s top ten Wes Anderson movie list, but I don’t really care, it’s a beautiful movie that resonates strongly with me and if you haven’t seen it I would urge you to watch it as soon as possible.

A Bit About The Author..

“This is the author bio you are looking for”

*Waves hand like a jedi* 

The name is Brandon! I’m 27 years old, from New Zealand, and I’m a writer here at Random Compass.

I’ve been watching and obsessing over movies all my life, starting young watching my grandads old VHS tapes of movies like ‘Star Wars’, ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ and ‘Enemy Mine’ over and over again. I could talk about movies all day, so I’ll be mainly focused on delivering movie reviews here, but I will definitely be covering more topics like music,  as I’m a musician myself and am deeply passionate about what I listen to.
These days I’m taking a break from the band, and since December 2021 I have found myself traveling Europe and broadening my horizons. If you’re interested in me as a writer or just have questions, hit me up on my Linkedin. <3

A Bit About Random Compass:

Welcome to Random Compass! Although the website went live on the 1st of February 2021, we (Liberty and Nikki) actually had been planning this since 2011 , and now 10 years down the line, we have managed to create it. Our passions are all things media related, film to music to gaming, and we love to create varied content – we are fans of so many things, and so we wanted our website to reflect all our different areas of interest, from Animal Crossing to Elvis Costello! We hope you find your area of interest here, (there is so much to come!), but if you don’t, let us know what you want to see, and we will do our best to deliver.

The team at Random Compass are always up for fun collaborations with like-minded companies and blogs, so contact us at contact@randomcompass.co.uk if you are interested. Or simply just pop us a message on our Instagram or Facebook