Wes Anderson may be one of the most popular filmmakers working today, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t one of the best, too. The popularity of Anderson shows how starved mainstream cinema is of originality and creative storytelling; regardless of any filmgoers feelings on any of Anderson’s films in particular, they all are unmistakably the work of a singular artist whose work belongs in a genre of itself. Anderson loves to touch on themes of familial dysfunction, anxiety, coming-of-age narratives, and mental health, yet does so in a way that is actually enjoyable. His idiosyncrasies are less a case of “style over substance,” and more a reflection of his unique worldview.
Anderson’s work is clearly inspired by great New York filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, but he’s also very indebted to the French classics of Jean Luc-Godard and Jean Renoir; he’s also been an influence on younger filmmakers, like his frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach. Anderson is also one of the few filmmakers that continues to get better and better throughout his career. His early films, such as Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, reflected a more youthful understanding of reality, but he’s addressed more serious political themes in recent years with films like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs, and The French Dispatch.
Anderson has been no stranger to controversy throughout his career, as he’s received blowback for the alleged “whitewashing” of Isle of Dogsand his defense of Bill Murray amidst sexual misconduct allegations. Regardless, Anderson’s films continue to be highly anticipated among film buffs, and there’s been much excitement about both the recently released Asteroid City and his upcoming Netflix animated film The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. He’s also one of the best actors’ directors of his generation, even if his stars aren’t always awarded the accolades they deserve. Here are the performances in Wes Anderson movies that deserved Oscar nominations.
8 Luke Wilson — Bottle Rocket
Luke Wilson is one of Anderson’s most frequent collaborators. While his brother Owen ended up getting an Oscar nomination for his contributions to the screenplay of The Royal Tenenbaums, Luke has sadly never received the same honor. He certainly deserved a nomination for his incredible performance as a former mental patient turned bank robber in Anderson’s thrilling directorial debut, Bottle Rocket.
7 Olivia Williams — Rushmore
While Anderson has been often accused of being focused on the “male gaze” of cinema, his hilarious coming-of-age dramedy Rushmore does a great job at showing the experiences of an overwhelmed woman who is met with fevered romantic yearnings from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murrays’ characters. All three nominations were worthy of a nomination, but it’s Olivia Williams’ more nuanced work that is actually the funniest.
6 Cate Blanchett — The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Cate Blanchett has received many Oscar nominations, and won both the Best Supporting Actress trophy for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and the Best Actress award for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. However, it’s unfortunate that her more comedic work is often passed by, and she’s never been funnier than she is in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
5 Adrien Brody — The Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited is one of Anderson’s more underrated films. It centers on three brothers (played by Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson), who go through an emotional crisis as they mourn the death of their father and take an extended train ride; Anderson does a great job at making it clear that the audience should be laughing at them, and not with them. All three performances are terrific, but it’s Brody’s work as the moral center of the group that is tasked with handling the film’s more dramatic material.
4 Kara Hayward — Moonrise Kingdom
Youthful performances are often ignored by the Academy Awards, but it’s a shame that child stars that handle emotionally complex material aren’t given the same respect as their older counterparts. Nonetheless, Kaya Haward is tasked with showing the joy of young love and the fear of adolescence in Moonrise Kingdom with a performance that outshines many of her co-stars. That’s pretty impressive, considering she’s acting alongside legends like Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bill Murray!
3 Gene Hackman — The Royal Tenenbaums
Gene Hackman has been showered with attention from the Oscars over the years, so perhaps the Academy Awards were reticent about giving him another nomination for one of the last films of his career before his retirement. That being said, his role as the patriarch of the titular “Tenenbaum” family in Anderson’s masterpiece The Royal Tenenbaums features some of the best acting he has ever done, and serves as the perfect emotional crux of the film.
2 Ralph Fiennes — The Grand Budapest Hotel
It’s rather shocking to learn that despite being known as one of the best actors of his generation, Ralph Fiennes has never won an Academy Award, despite nominations for both Schindler’s List and The English Patient. His performance as M. Gustave in 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly should have earned him a nomination for Best Actor; not only did he deliver some of Anderson’s funniest one-liners, but he did physical comedy on the level of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of Anderson’s most awarded films, as it is the only one that earned him the Best Directing nomination that long eluded him. Fiennes was certainly more deserving of the award than the category’s actual winner; Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking in the clichéd biopic The Theory of Everything is the type of “awards bait” that the Oscars are so often guilty of awarding.
1 Jeffrey Wright — The French Dispatch
It’s always challenging to single out one performance as the singular representation of an ensemble film, especially for someone whose films are as stacked with stars as Anderson’s. Of all the wonderful performances in The French Dispatch, Jeffrey Wright’s work as a reflective chef at the end of his career is the most profound and hilarious. Wright has also been overdue for a nomination for quite some time.