Breaking Down Wes Anderson's Distinct Style | Topsheet (2022)

With innumerable accolades to his name, Wes Anderson is no stranger to cinematography enthusiasts. His films, the Moonrise Kingdom and the Grand Budapest Hotel, not only announced his triumphant entry but also went on to sweep a series of Academy Awards.

The works earned him both envy and admiration in equal measure from both his peers and fans. Wes Anderson's visuals and signature styles have become recognizable and well-studied within the film community.

Contrary to how most would expect, Wes Anderson had a pretty uneventful and straightforward upbringing. Born to a realtor father and a public relations mother, Wes Anderson was the second born of three brothers.

Together with his brothers, he attended Saint James preparatory High School, before moving to Austin, where he went to the University of Texas for a philosophy degree. At the age of eight, his parents parted ways leaving him to grow up in a single-parent family setup. His challenges didn't dampen his dream in a film career, though.

While growing up in Houston, Texas, he plunged into cinematography where he used his brothers and close friends as both his first audience and characters in films he produced using his father's camera. It is this early childhood hobby come obsession that has propelled him to be one of the best modern filmmakers.

What are Wes Anderson's most famous films?

To date, he has produced a record thirteen movies. Of the thirteen, he served ten as a director, nine as a producer, and two as an executive producer. Of the thirteen films, he has writer credits in ten.

It's no secret that Anderson prefers to work with some of the same cast members repeatedly. One of the recurring actors is Owen Wilson. He and Owen Wilson were roommates at the University of Texas at Austin. Wes cast him in his first short "Bottle Rocket," which became a feature film.

(Video) The Wes Anderson Style Explained — The Complete Director's Guide to Wes Anderson's Aesthetic

Interestingly, Owen was not going to play in the movie due to the fact he was applying to be a part of the military, but Wes convinced him anyway. Since then, Wilson has acted in six of Wes Anderson's films and has co-writing credits in three.

Grand Budapest Hotel

Starting off the list as the most popular is the Grand Budapest Hotel that premiered in 2014. The movie is a tale recounting Gustave's legendary adventures in a prominent hotel in Europe who later finds friendship in a boy named Moustafa. The movie intricately strives to strike a balance between a theme of sadness, capricious, and dour against the backdrop of a dramatically changing continent.

The movie recounts the theft and recovery of a timeless renaissance painting and the scuffle for an exquisite family fortune. The creative and pragmatic imagination delicately executed has left both his critics and fans alike eyes rolling and mouth agape.

The Darjeeling Limited

Hotel Chevalier is a short film that leads into Darjeeling Limited starring Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman. The romance he is fleeing in the movie, but we only ever see Natalie's Frame in the actual film.

The Darjeeling Limited tells of three brothers who embark on a journey to India on a spiritual adventure a year after their father's death. It sarcastically portrays their naivety, by extension, the stereotypes existing of these devastated sons who board a luxury train to India to bottle up the country's spirituality and ship it back home as a souvenir.

After ghosting each other for a year, the train voyage serves to help the brothers bond and rekindle the childhood brotherly love and concern they once felt. The plan tragically changes, leaving the brothers stranded in a desert with a printer, bags, and a laminating machine.

Other works credited to the ingenuity of Wes Anderson include: Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou that has characters whose animation is much inspired by Magnificent Ambersons and The Great Gatsby.

(Video) Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?

The rest of his works include a short film titled Rushmore with Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, Isle of Dogs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his latest debut of 2020 The French Dispatch, which he wrote, produced, and directed.

Wes Anderson techniques that make his films unique

1. Slow-motion

Beautifully woven into all of his films is the slow-motion, then abrupt stop motion technique that comes towards the end more often than not. He intricately infuses shots to kick off at average speed before gradually stepping them down to move in slow motion while using it.

Unlike most of his peers, such as Roman Polanski, this is unlike most of his peers, who may opt to use it intermittently amongst their movies. View a compilation of Wes Anderson's famous use of slow-motion. It is also important to note, Wes Anderson animates every scene before filming it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel animation

The Grand Budapest Hotel side by side

2. Symmetry

Considered to be one of the finest attributes he has mastered, Wes Anderson has consistently and precisely used symmetry in all his shots, visuals, and works that he has produced. As a philosophy student, he might have learned the psychological connection between the brain of humans and symmetry.

So effective has this technique become that all his visuals, be it bird view or otherwise, all precariously turn out symmetrical. Most other filmmakers oscillate between symmetry and asymmetry.

3. Color palettes

Many designers and other professionals have found tremendous learning experiences from Wes Anderson films. Though his inspiration is unknown, he is known for his color palettes that can naturally, creatively, and accurately depict scenes.

Case in point, his film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. In this film, he delicately and interchangeably uses blue and orange shades as characteristics of the marine environment. This pure Wes Anderson aesthetic endears him to fans as it is an accurate depiction of his story.

(Video) Wes Anderson Symmetry & Editing Techniques — 3 Ways Anderson Balances his Edits

4. Music

Randall Poster has served as Anderson's music supervisor, and he may be the brains behind the consistency of the soundtracks in films produced by Anderson.

His most common soundtracks are reincarnations of fast-paced pop and rock music of the 1960s and 1970s. The soundtracks are so notable that they almost, in themselves, are a character.

5. Typography

Like most how most people develop by their earlier life experiences, Wes Anderson is no different. Growing up, Wes Anderson watched Old Italian movies. As a tribute to them, he consistently uses a Futura font, which some have christened "Wes Anderson fonts."

6. Audience

All, if not most of his films, give accounts of stories from a teen's perspective. They simulate the chronology followed by teen novels or leisure board games. His world centers and is often built and developed from a snapshot of this teen character who has been recurring characters. His characters are as child-like adults or adult-like children.

Consequently, his target audience for both TV and film tends to be appropriate for people over twelve. College students pursuing cinematography can also draw a lot from him.

7. Color filters and angles

Wes Anderson has a great taste of color and style and blends them into a psychological scene. He tends to work within the Art Nouveau style - often described as sinuous, rhythmical, and dreamlike.

In his movies, Anderson stylistically filters color to bring out the set. The lighting, colors, actors, props, and setting for a well-blended style bring out the theme and emotion needed.

(Video) Wes Anderson's Shots: Deconstructed by cinematographer Robert Yeoman

While doing this, Anderson ensures that his angles are well-developed. Wes Anderson teams up with Steve Zissou in Life Aquatic to direct scenes as if they're playing on a stage.

When Bill Murray is walking at the boat, director Wes Anderson does not let the camera follow him behind but instead sets it on one side of the ship, which gives a broader view. So, we get to see him moving from one room to another, and this scenery lets us understand the setting better. Also, this technique enables the scene to flow smoothly.

8. Story structure

According to Greek philosophy, the plot is the soul of art, and it makes a lot of sense, especially when you look at Anderson's ways of depicting his storyline. For example, each of his acts has an equal number of chapters, which means that he has a clear structure for his stories.

His movies are not just a combination of scenes and acts, but; instead, it is a well-thought-out storyline with a lovable uniqueness. Rushmore- a short flat composition, for instance, is more of a play than a book. The unique, consistent plot makes his movies so addictive because the audience can follow along from the beginning into the climax.

9. The distinct Wes Anderson costumes and fashion

Wes Anderson's choice of fashion is quite different from what you get in other movies. For instance, his love for corduroy is unique and portrays a deep love for classical garments instead of the slim modern fashion. His fashion choices help bring the audience into the film as the textures touch those watching. His intriguing costuming promotes curiosity amongst his viewers.

Wrap up

The Wes Anderson cinematography style is well-known and loved by film enthusiasts. The trademark of Wes Anderson's filmography shows up in the way he approaches his films. Films like The Royal Tenenbaums to The Grand Budapest Hotel have touched audiences around the world. From the production design to perfectly symmetrical shots, people instantly recognize his film styles. Use this guide to develop your unique techniques and leave your impact on this earth.


Breaking Down Wes Anderson's Distinct Style | Topsheet? ›

He tends to work within the Art Nouveau style - often described as sinuous, rhythmical, and dreamlike. In his movies, Anderson stylistically filters color to bring out the set. The lighting, colors, actors, props, and setting for a well-blended style bring out the theme and emotion needed.

How would you describe Wes Andersons style? ›

Anderson is renowned for using symmetry in his films, which creates a sense of harmony and balance. While pleasant to watch, this kind of composition also contributes to the fanciful, beguiling appearance of his films. In almost every shot there is this symmetry.

What techniques does Wes Anderson use? ›

Anderson has been noted for his extensive use of flat space camera moves, obsessively symmetrical compositions, knolling, snap-zooms, slow-motion walking shots, a deliberately limited colour palette, and hand-made art direction often utilizing miniatures.

How would you describe Wes Anderson aesthetic? ›

The overall Wes Anderson aesthetic is rather charming, and this includes his blocking and staging, writing, and performances. His characters are often gracious, have respect for one another, and cherish past memories. This is a scene where Zero (F. Murray Abraham) has dinner with the Young Writer (Jude Law).

What are Wes Anderson films like? ›

There is no denying the popularity of movies written and directed by Wes Anderson. He is well known for his distinctive style, which is often described as quirky and eccentric. His films are noted for their pastel colors, very specifically detailed characters, and exploratory themes.

What is visual style in film? ›

People with a spatial or visual style apparently prefer to use images, pictures and maps to organise information and communicate. In its visual style, however, it makes terrific use of stark, shadow-laden methods usually seen in the world of films noirs.

Why does Wes Anderson use symmetry? ›

Anderson likening his preference for symmetrical imagery to an individual's handwriting comes across as all the more apt a comparison in that regard: it shows what he's thinking when he's telling a story and, in doing so, provides some insight into who he is ... or, at least, who he wants you to believe he is.

What type of shots does Wes Anderson use? ›

Wes Anderson Symmetry Shots in The Royal Tenenbaums

This isn't just a gimmick tool for Anderson either; symmetrical framing in shot reverse shot is a crucial part of his directing style. Anderson uses this strategy with a variety of shot sizes, from medium to close up, to everything in between.

What is Wes Anderson known for? ›

Wes Anderson, in full Wesley Wales Anderson, (born May 1, 1969, Houston, Texas, U.S.), American director and screenwriter known for the distinctive visual aesthetic of his quirky comedies and for his collaboration with screenwriter and actor Owen Wilson.

Why does Wes Anderson use slow motion? ›

Unlike a traditional tracking shot which is used to capture the rapid motion of characters, in Anderson's slo-mo cuts, the camera pans or rather creeps along to lend subjectivity to the characters while the concept of time slowly recedes into the background.

Is Wes Anderson twee? ›

Really, Anderson has nothing to do with the world of twee, a term defined by a slightly askew adorableness. Truly precious, precocious films stick eccentric bows onto conventional packages—Michel Gondry may be accused of as much.

What makes Wes Anderson an auteur? ›

It can be concluded that Wes Anderson is an auteur because his work is considered iconic and is instantly recognisable due to the 'Anderson aesthetic' visual style, along with his personal brand of cinematography.

What are Wes Anderson's influences? ›

Wes Anderson

What does formalism mean in film? ›

Formalist film theory is an approach to film theory that is focused on the formal or technical elements of a film: i.e., the lighting, scoring, sound and set design, use of color, shot composition, and editing. This approach was proposed by Hugo Münsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Sergei Eisenstein, and Béla Balázs.

Why is symmetry important in films? ›

Symmetry can be useful as a visual marker of important events in the narrative of a film, emphasizing the shots that need to be given attention - for example, if one of the main characters of the film gains new insight and thus makes a choice that will be decisive for the further development of the narrative.

What are the elements of film style? ›

What is a film style? A film's style refers to the techniques a director uses to create a movie, and it can include themes, sound, dialogue, cinematography and lighting. All the aspects of production that provide value to the film and help determine how the audience perceives it goes into its style.

What are the 4 styles of directing? ›

Styles of Directing
  • The dictator.
  • The negotiator.
  • The creative artist.
  • The confrontationalist.

What are the 8 elements of film? ›

Terms in this set (8)
  • Theme. Central idea of a film. ...
  • Screenwriting. Narrative Structure, what makes it good.
  • Visual Design. What the scene is made up of. ...
  • Cinematography. Various points of view the camera can take.
  • Editing. Joining shot to shot an combining the video. ...
  • Sound and Music. What we hear?
  • Acting. ...
  • Directing.

Where does Wes Anderson get his inspiration? ›

From Orson Welles to François Truffaut to Federico Fellini, some of the most iconic filmmakers in the history of cinema have had a hand in inspiring Anderson's distinctive style. Here are 10 films that had a lasting impact on the indie auteur.

How do you take Wes Anderson style photos? ›

How to achieve the Wes Anderson look in photographs
  1. Start with the right photo.
  2. Know your color palette.
  3. Reduce the contrast and highlights.
  4. Anamorphic fisheye lens.
  5. Add fun texts to your photo.
Nov 18, 2021

How do you write dialogue like Wes Anderson? ›

10 Screenwriting Tips from Wes Anderson on how he wrote The ...

How does Wes Anderson use framing? ›

Anderson's framing is metaphorically just as eye-catching, just as glaring for lack of a better word, as a bright red dot in the middle of the frame. It's almost like Wes Anderson films are the “yoga” of filmmaking: it's all about finding the center, both metaphorically and literally.

What focal length does Wes Anderson use? ›

Directors like Wes Anderson have made heavy use of wide lenses like the 27mm, but in a different format. Wes Anderson likes to use anamorphic lenses, which, while more comprehensive, creates the same compression as a non-anamorphic lens.

What style of film is The Grand Budapest Hotel? ›

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 comedy-drama film written and directed by Wes Anderson. Ralph Fiennes leads a seventeen-actor ensemble cast as Monsieur Gustave H., famed concierge of a twentieth-century mountainside resort in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka.

How do you write dialogue like Wes Anderson? ›

10 Screenwriting Tips from Wes Anderson on how he wrote The ...

How do you live like a Wes Anderson character? ›

Lifehack: How to live in a Wes Anderson film
  1. Never change your clothes and always incorporate a signature gimmick. ...
  2. Actually, ALWAYS travel with Monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage. ...
  3. React only with deadpan facial expressions. ...
  4. Become BFFs with Bill Murray. ...
  5. Attack everything with an outlandish plan.
Apr 10, 2014


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3. Tyler The Creator's Style Explained
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4. 7 WES ANDERSON Style Shots in 3 Minutes
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5. Mise En Scène & The Visual Themes of Wes Anderson
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