Wes Anderson has created a body of work which is remarkably unique and manages to stand out in the oversaturated landscape of contemporary cinema. Known for his undivided attention to detail and his obsession with the artificiality of the cinematic medium, Anderson’s cinema has inspired filmmakers all over the world.
Much like the indiewood contemporaries of Anderson, the director has always been smart enough to include some of the finest pop music into his filmography. Using the songs that we all know and love not only enhances the stories unfolding before us but also emboldens them with a sense of attainability that can otherwise be lost. To put it simply, if Anderson is telling the story of what he would perceive as normal people, then they should be accompanied by normal music too.
From the very beginning, Anderson has made sure that there is a grain of reality in all of his films. From the very first picture Bottle Rocket, Anderson ensured that his characters were given the ample backdrop of The Rolling Stones and Love. As time moved on, and so did his stories, the director still found room to include more rock stars of old, with David Bowie playing a central figure in his 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Pop music means as much to Wes Anderson as the film itself.
While Anderson is regularly praised for his ability to create rich tapestries of visual narratives, the director is equally skilled at using music to elevate the cinematic experiences curated by him. For those who want to revisit the magical filmography of Wes Anderson through some of the best songs used in his films, we have selected the most beautiful scenes from his films which are transformed by music.
Wes Anderson’s best music moments:
The Rolling Stones – ‘2000 Man’ (Bottle Rocket)
Bottle Rocket was the film that paved the way for future successes by Wes Anderson, introducing the world to his eccentric vision. A delightful crime comedy, it featured Owen and Luke Wilson in a heist film that brings its own interpretation of the genre to the table.
One of the most memorable scenes from the film was when ‘2000 Man’ by the Rolling Stones comes on as their entire heist falls apart in a spectacular fashion. While Anderson has used songs by the Stones on multiple occasions, it’s hard to beat this one.
Faces – ‘Ooh La La’ (Rushmore)
Anderson’s follow-up to Bottle Rocket was an endearing coming-of-age gem, starring Jason Schwartzman as a comically self-assured idiot who tries his best to project the image of maturity and intelligence while navigating the difficult labyrinth of school life.
‘Ooh La La’ comes on at the very end of the film, providing a reflective experience during which we can all go over the lessons learned throughout Anderson’s charming work. Rushmore has several great musical moments, but this one takes the cake.
Nico – ‘These Days’ (The Royal Tenenbaums)
Often cited as one of the crowning achievements of Anderson’s sprawling filmography, The Royal Tenenbaums traces the tragic trajectories of three talented siblings whose lives only lead to great frustrations after experiencing success in their youth.
Even if you have watched The Royal Tenenbaums just once, this scene will surely stick around in your mind for a while. It is the perfect combination of excellent music and brilliant cinematography, as These Days evokes memories of a life that could have been.
Seu Jorge – ‘Rebel Rebel’ (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
Featuring Bill Murray in one of the greatest roles of his career, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou tells the story of an oceanographer who makes it his life’s mission to find the fabled “jaguar shark” while everything around him comes crumbling down.
The soundtrack of this film is exceptionally great, featuring Seu Jorge’s mesmerising covers of many popular masterpieces, but his rendition of ‘Rebel Rebel’ is the best one, with Jorge earning praise from David Bowie himself, who loved his covers.
The Kinks – ‘This Time Tomorrow’ (The Darjeeling Limited)
Another Wes Anderson gem that explores the complex relationship between siblings, The Darjeeling Limited is set in India and follows the comical spiritual journey of three brothers who travel across the country on a luxury express.
Inspired by the cinema of Indian pioneer Satyajit Ray, Anderson created a unique portrait of India through the eyes of an outsider. The use of ‘This Time Tomorrow’ in The Darjeeling Limited makes perfect sense, maintaining the ambiguous mystery of the future.
The Bobby Fuller Four – ‘Let Her Dance’ (Fantastic Mr. Fox)
Another brilliant entry to the heist genre by Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a unique stop motion animated work which stars George Clooney as the titular character who puts his entire family in danger while attempting to relive the thrills of being a thief.
‘Let Her Dance’ by The Bobby Fuller Four comes on at the end of the film, putting a perfect end to a wild journey that had everything in it – from heartbreak and tragedy to joy and love. It’s almost a cathartic moment, and its infectious energy is impossible to resist.
Françoise Hardy – ‘Le Temps de L’amour’ (Moonrise Kingdom)
The finest coming-of-age adventure directed by Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom captures something essential about all of our childhoods. A romantic vision of escaping the control of indecipherable adults, the film represents every child’s ultimate fantasy.
Chronicling the love of a boy and a girl who embark on a quest for freedom, Moonrise Kingdom exists in the domain of dreams where we exist independent of the tyranny of logic. In such a world, ‘Le Temps de L’amour’ is the anthem that comforts our hearts.
Alexandre Desplat – ‘Moonshine’ (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Voted as one of the greatest soundtracks of the last decade, Alexandre Desplat’s work on The Grand Budapest Hotel is a match made in heaven for the whimsical cinematic investigations concerning the concierge of a decadent resort.
Speaking about Anderson, Desplat once said that he agreed to work with Anderson because he saw how unique Anderson’s filmography was: “His cinema can’t be compared to any other. It belongs really to him. He invented something, and that’s really rare.”
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – ‘I Won’t Hurt You’ (Isle of Dogs)
Isle of Dogs provides sufficient proof that Anderson’s vision of cinema can be translated to animation as well, following in the footsteps of his achievements in the seminal Fantastic Mr. Fox which is one of the best films he ever made.
Exploring relevant subjects such as disease paranoia, xenophobia and survival in isolation, it imagines a scenario where a Japanese city banishes dogs to an island of trash. Something as gentle as ‘I Won’t Hurt You’ within that setting provides a beautiful juxtaposition.
Jarvis Cocker – ‘Aline’ (The French Dispatch)
Wes Anderson’s most recent project was his love letter to journalism, presenting vignettes of life in France which are told through the various columns of a dying American publication’s foreign bureau. The best music moment in the film belonged to Jarvis Cocker, who released a companion album as well.
Talking about Cocker’s rendition of ‘Aline’, Randall Poster explained the significance of the track: “It’s a song that Wes and I have really admired over the years. We had so much fun recording ‘Aline’ we thought we’d make a Tip-Top record, and we did.”