Something big is coming this October. No, not Halloween: The French Dispatch, the long-awaited tenth film from everyone’s favorite quirky director and lover of symmetry, Wes Anderson. Like many who enjoy dresses with Peter Pan collars, The Rolling Stones, and primary colors, I am a longtime lover of Anderson and his singular aesthetic. Because of this, I’ve been asked by friends over the years to help them see the appeal of what Anderson has to offer, and I’m here to do the same thing for you. So whether you are new to the world of Wes Anderson and want an introduction before heading out to see The French Dispatch, or you want a refresher course, here are the three Wes Anderson movies to watch (or re-watch) before The French Dispatch comes out—all of which you can check out from HCPL.
The Royal Tenenbaums
This was my introduction to Wes Anderson, and I don’t think there’s a better place to start with his filmography. Royal Tenenbaum is the deadbeat patriarch of a wealthy New York family known for their genius children: a tennis player, a businessman, and a playwright. However, after not being a fixture in their lives for years, he decides to reconnect in the only way he can think of: by faking a terminal illness. Wes Anderson has a habit of writing characters that are interesting despite not being very likeable, and in a different director’s hands this movie might come across as being pretty bitter. But The Royal Tenenbaums gives us a fantastic glimpse into the style Anderson has come to be known for: sumptuous sets, vintage-inspired costumes, and an absolutely killer soundtrack of midcentury pop and rock. This is still my favorite Wes Anderson movie, and you can check it out on DVD.
The Royal Tenenbaums is probably Wes Anderson’s most grounded film. Moonrise Kingdom, on the other hand, lets him fully double down on a kitschy, pastel fantasy, and it’s a delight for it. Sam and Suzy are precocious youngsters (noticing a theme here?) who meet while attending summer camp in 1965. Rather than letting themselves be separated when camp is over, they run away together the following fall and attempt to create their own beachside paradise, which they name Moonrise Kingdom. The film follows the kids’ friends and families as they try to track them down before a hurricane hits. Moonrise Kingdom features all the ingredients of the Wes Anderson secret sauce, including many features from his rotating cast of muses, including Tilda Swinton, Anjelica Huston, and Bill Murray. You can (and should) check it out on DVD.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Despite most of his movies taking place in the United States, Wes Anderson has a decidedly European flair. This is given free rein in 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which follows the story of a legendary concierge at a luxury hotel in the fictional European country of Zubrowska. Wes Anderson and Cold War Europe go together like chocolate and peanut butter, and this movie has more in the way of plot than your standard Wes Anderson fare, following the concierge’s protégé, a young man named Zero, as he follows in his footsteps, falls in love, and participates in some old-fashioned espionage. Of all his movies, this seems to be the one that has the most in common with The French Dispatch, so for everyone getting ready for the new film, this is my strongest recommendation. Check it out on DVD.
There is no wrong answer to the question of “Which Wes Anderson movies should I watch before going to see The French Dispatch?” so let us know in the comments what you would suggest!