Wes Anderson is one of the most idiosyncratic auteur directors working today, so it’s not too surprising to discover his favorite movies run the gamut from American classics to Japanese anime and surrealist masterpieces. Anderson has been vocal over the years about his favorite movies and the films that have inspired his visionary projects, including Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki’s influence on his most recent release, “Isle of Dogs.”
Anderson is currently working on his 10th feature film, “The French Dispatch,” which will open in theaters in 2020 from Fox Searchlight Pictures. As Anderson’s career continues forward, IndieWire is taking some time to look back at 30 films Anderson has singled out in various interviews over the years. Below is a collection of Wes Anderson’s favorite movies, listed in alphabetical order.
Like many of the best working directors, Anderson cites François Truffaut’s French New Wave masterpiece “The 400 Blows” as one of his favorite movies. In a video interview citing the influences behind his film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Anderson said of “The 400 Blows,” “This movie in particular I think was one of the reasons I started thinking I would like to try to make movies.”
“I love this movie very much,” Anderson once told the New York Daily News about Billy Wilder’s 1960 classic “The Apartment.” “My girlfriend had never seen it before and we just watched it two nights ago. It’s such a good Billy Wilder movie.” The movie stars Jack Lemmon as an insurance clerk who tries to climb the corporate ladder by agreeing to let his higher-seniority co-workers use his apartment to carry out extramarital affairs. The plan gets complicated when the clerk falls for his apartment building’s elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), who just happens to be sleeping with his boss.
“We watched ‘Au Hasard Balthazar’ last night and loved it,” Anderson told The Criterion Collection when naming his favorite films in the library. “You hate to see that poor donkey die. He takes a beating and presses on, and your heart goes out to him.” Directed by Robert Bresson, the 1966 French drama follows a donkey and his various owners over the years. Anderson says he is also a fan of Bresson’s “terrific” companion film “Mouchette,” released in 1967.
“‘Classe Tous Risques’ is very good,” Anderson told The Criterion Collection about Claude Sautet’s 1960 gangster movie. “I am a great fan of Claude Sautet, especially ‘Un coeur en hiver.’ Who is our Lino Ventura?” “Classe Tous Risques” stars Ventura as a French mobster trying to evade police capture while making his way from Italy through Marseille to Paris.
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Stanley Kubrick inspired nearly every major director who followed in his footsteps, and Wes Anderson is no exception. The director singled out “A Clockwork Orange” as one of his favorite movies ever made during an interview with Rotten Tomatoes. “A fully-formed Stanley Kubrick,” Anderson said of “Clockwork.” “It’s a movie that’s very particularly designed and, you know, conjures up this world that you’ve never seen quite this way in a movie before, but at the same time there’s a great sort of spontaneity to it, and a tremendous energy. And both of those are very well adapted, good books.”
Akira Kurosawa is one of Anderson’s all-time favorite directors. Not only was the filmmaker quite vocal about Kurosawa being the driving influence behind “Isle of Dogs,” but to celebrate the release of his stop-motion film Anderson guest curated a program of Kurosawa films at New York City’s Metrograph theater. “To people who love movies, Japan immediately conjures up the work of Akira Kurosawa: a cinematic sensei to generations of directors,” Anderson said in his introduction. “If ‘Isle of Dogs’ permits me an opportunity to present a few of the master’s masterpieces in 35mm, I am grateful for it.”
Anderson once told The Criterion Collection that Max Ophüls’ 1953 drama “The Earrings of Madame de…” is a “perfect film.” The Criterion synopsis reads: “When an aristocratic woman known only as Madame de (Danielle Darrieux) sells a pair of earrings given to her by her husband (Charles Boyer) in order to pay some debts, she sets off a chain reaction of financial and carnal consequences that can end only in despair.”
Anderson named Luis Buñuel’s 1962 surrealist drama “The Exterminating Angel” one of his favorite movies on The Criterion Collection. “Having just watched ‘The Exterminating Angel’ for the first time since fuzzy VHS in the University of Texas A/V library, Buñuel is my hero,” Anderson said. “Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.”
“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)
Anderson cited Peter Yates’ 1973 crime drama “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” as one of his favorite entries on The Criterion Collection. The library’s official synopsis reads: “World-weary and living hand to mouth, Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) works on the sidelines of the seedy Boston underworld just to make ends meet. But when he finds himself facing a second stretch of hard time, he’s forced to weigh loyalty to his criminal colleagues against snitching to stay free.”
Anderson named Ingmar Bergman’s 1980 drama “From the Life of the Marionettes” one of his favorite movies in an interview with Goop. “I’d never heard of this until last month,” the filmmaker said at the time. “It’s an Ingmar Bergman movie he made in Germany where I think he was a tax exile.” The film is a spinoff of sorts to Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage,” following the characters of Katarina and Peter Egermann as their own relationship disintegrates.
“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)
Anderson told the New York Daily News that “Hannah and Her Sisters” is “easily” his favorite Woody Allen movie ever made. The 1986 comedy-drama stars Mia Farrow in the title role, a woman whose husband falls in love with her sister (played by Barbara Hershey). Hannah’s other sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest), begins a relationship with Hannah’s ex-husband (Allen). The film was a major box office success, grossing $40 million on a $6 million budget, and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay (Allen), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine), and Best Supporting Actress (Wiest).
“You should do every one of his you can get your hands on,” Anderson told his fans when picking Maurice Pialat’s 1968 feature directorial debut “L’enfance nue” as one of his favorite movies in The Criterion Collection. The drama stars Michel Terrazon as François, a 10-year-old boy who becomes increasingly erratic after being shuttled from home to home and failing to connect to a series of surrogate parents.
“What a great ‘Mishima’ DVD — and the commentary track,” Anderson told Criterion when naming Paul Schrader’s 1985 biographical drama one of his favorite movies. “Immediately started the movie again and watched it all the way through with Paul Schrader. This has always been one of my favorites of his, along with ‘Blue Collar.” Schrader’s acclaimed drama stars Ken Ogata as esteemed Japanese poet and author Yukio Mishima.
“More or less anything that says The Criterion Collection across the top of it,” Anderson told Goop when asked to name his favorite movies. “The most recent one I had never seen before and loved was Costa-Gavras’ ‘Missing.’” The 1982 historical drama stars Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon as the wife and father of Charles Horman, an American journalist who went missing during the wake of the US-backed Chilean coup of 1973. The story centers around Horman’s family trying to figure out his disappearance. “Missing” won the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival and went on to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
Norman Jewison’s 1987 romantic-comedy won Cher the Oscar for Best Actress, but it’s John Patrick Shanley’s Oscar-winning original screenplay that Anderson holds dear to his heart. “I’ve always loved this script,” the director told the New York Daily News. “It’s a very well-done Hollywood take on New York. Nicolas Cage, John Mahoney, Cher, Olympia Dukakis, and Vincent Gardenia are great in it.” Considering what a genius screenwriter Anderson has become over the years (he’s been Oscar nominated for writing “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), it’s the ultimate praise for a script to be given his seal of approval.
Anderson has long championed the animated features of Japanese legend Hayao Miyazaki. During the Berlin Film Festival press conference for his stop-motion film “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson was vocal in naming Miyazaki’s movies a big inspiration on his movie. The director later told Vanity Fair his love of Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” was a driving force behind “Isle of Dogs.” “There’s a giant monster and a number of [soot] sprites, but two-thirds of the movie is spent cleaning the house, wandering the property, getting to know the neighbors, taking a bath,” Anderson said of his admiration for the movie. “And there’s a lot of nature. There’s a different kind of rhythm and emphasis than you’d find in American movies.”
“Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
“This is a Japanese cartoon that is very difficult to describe and might not sound that great if I tried anyway,” Anderson told Goop when naming “Neon Genesis Evangelion” one of his favorite movies. “It is 24 episodes, and we watched them all in less than a week because you start to want to believe it’s real. This could spawn something like Scientology.”
The 1989 anthology movie “New York Stories” consists of three short films directed by Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola. Anderson has often cited Scorsese’s entry, “Life Lessons,” as his favorite of the bunch. “I love the Martin Scorsese section of this movie, which is about a painter played by Nick Nolte,” Anderson told the New York Daily News. “The setting is this wonderful sunny Tribeca/SoHo loft where he’s this abstract expressionist, and it’s written by Richard Price, who is a New York voice.”
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“Next Stop, Greenwich Village” (1976)
Writer-director Paul Mazursky’s 1976 comedy-drama “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” follows a 22-year-old from Brooklyn who comes to the eponymous Manhattan neighborhood in order to see his dreams of stardom come true. “I saw the movie many years ago and I don’t really remember much other than loving it,” Anderson told the New York Daily News. “I love Paul Mazursky’s films.”
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“The Plot Against Harry” (1989)
Anderson named Michael Roemer’s 1989 comedy “The Plot Against Harry” one of the best movies ever made about New York City during an interview with the New York Daily News. “It’s one of those known movies that’s not that widely seen, about this slightly older Jewish gangster who gets out of prison after doing a couple of years and is dealing with all kinds of life problems,” the director said. “It has a little bit of ‘The Sopranos’ in it except that there is no violence whatsoever in the movie that I can recall. It is very well written, and has a certain gentleness about it.”
“One movie that I often find myself going back to is ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’” Anderson once told Rotten Tomatoes about Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic, starring Mia Farrow as a woman who psychologically unravels after becoming convinced a cult is planning to steal her unborn child. “This has always been a big influence on me, or a source of ideas; and it’s always been one of my favorites. Mia Farrow gives a great, big performance in it, and I’ve read the script and it’s a terrific script.”
“The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (1965)
Anderson raved to Criterion about “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” Martin Ritt’s 1965 adaptation of John le Carré’s spy novel of the same name. The author thought Ritt’s movie was “something of a classic,” an assessment Anderson agrees with in his interview with Criterion. The movie stars Richard Burton as British agent Alec Leamas, whose decision to carry out one final mission during the Cold War has unexpected consequences.
Anderson’s curated series of Akira Kurosawa favorites at New York City’s Metrograph theater includes the Japanese filmmaker’s 1949 crime drama “Stray Dog.” Kurosawa’s script, co-written with Ryūzō Kikushima, is often credited as a predecessor of the detective genre as we know it today. The Metrograph synopsis reads: “A harrowing masterwork of postwar Nipponese noir, ‘Stray Dog’ has a young Toshiro Mifune as a rookie detective disgraced after having his pistol nabbed on a Tokyo bus, driven into the city’s lower depths in order to seek clues to its recovery, the urgency of his mission increasing as the weapon is implicated in a crime spree, his composure unraveling as he draws closer to a culprit who comes to appear increasingly as a Dostoevskian double.”
“Here’s a classic staple of New York movies,” Anderson told the New York Daily News about Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 film noir classic “Sweet Smell of Success.” “The look of it is this distilled black-and-white New York and Clifford Odets writes great dialogue.” Despite being a box office bomb at the time of release, “Sweet Smell of Success” has risen in stature over the years and is often cited as one of the best movies ever made during the film noir golden age. The film stars Burt Lancaster as an unethical Broadway columnist hellbent on ensuring his sister does not have a romantic relationship with a jazz musician.
“The Taking of Power by Louis XIV” (1966)
“This is a wonderful and very strange movie,” Anderson told The Criterion Collection about Roberto Rossellini’s French television drama film “The Taking of Power by Louis XIV.” “The man who plays Louis cannot give a convincing line reading, even to the ears of someone who can’t speak French — and yet he is fascinating. I was in his corner from start to finish (which comes unexpectedly — I thought there had to be at least another hour and a half to go when ‘Fin’ came up). Mainly, he just walks in and out of rooms and dresses and undresses. I want to watch it again! What does good acting actually mean?”
“Terror’s Advocate” (2007)
Anderson named Barbet Schroeder’s documentary film “Terror’s Advocate” one of his favorite movies during an interview with Goop. The movie’s subject is Jacques Vergès, a lawyer who sparked controversy for aiding terrorist cells operating in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. “Barbet Schroeder’s great documentary, ‘Terror’s Advocate,’ also relates to another one I would highly recommend, which is Marcel Ophüls’ documentary ‘Hôtel Terminus,’” Anderson told Goop. “There is kind of a miniature version of ‘Terror’s Advocate’ in the middle of it.”
Anderson cites French filmmaking icon Jean Renoir as one of his favorite directors in history, with movies such as “Grand Illusion” and “Rules of the Game” being personal favorites. “There’s also one called Toni, that’s Jean Renoir before ‘Grand Illusion,’ and it’s set in the south of France and they’re Italian immigrants who’re working, who’re laborers working in the South of France,” Anderson told Rotten Tomatoes. “It’s very beautiful, kind of lyrical and very sad; a great Renoir movie. I don’t know if it’s seen that much anymore. It’s great.”
Film critics have often compared Wes Anderson movies to cinematic confections (look no further than “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), and that’s exactly the word Anderson uses to describe Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 romantic-comedy “Trouble in Paradise.” The film centers around the blossoming relationship between a master thief and a pickpocket who join forces to con the owner of a perfume company. “A great Lubitsch movie,” Anderson raved to Rotten Tomatoes. “Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins. And Samson Raphaelson is the screenwriter; he did several Lubitsch movies. I don’t know if anybody can make a movie like that anymore — that perfect tone, like a ‘soufflé’-type of movie. A confection, I guess.”
Anderson told Criterion that Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura is one of his favorite directors of all time, citing various favorite films such as “Pigs and Battleships,” “The Insect Woman,” “Intentions and Murders,” and “Vengeance Is Mine.” Anderson said he has always loved the latter title, a 1979 drama that tells the true story of serial killer Akira Nishiguchi. The film won Best Picture at the 1979 Japanese Academy Awards.
Anderson remains in disbelief that “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was Mike Nichols’ first movie. Nichols is a personal favorite of Anderson’s, and he came out swinging with his 1966 feature directorial debut, which famously paired Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. “When I first saw that movie it made me feel bad,” Anderson told Rotten Tomatoes when naming “Woolf” one of his all-time favorite films. “I didn’t fall in love with it. I loved ‘The Graduate’ when I first saw it, but [‘Virginia Woolf’], I wasn’t excited by it, because it seemed like there was a negativity about it. But when I watched it more recently I thought it was the most beautiful, inspired, exciting movie. Mike Nichols is one of the most inventive directors that we’ve had, and that’s one of the great, you know, it’s a great movie, and a stunning first film.”