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Wes Anderson’s Style: Watch 10 Iconic Movies That Influenced Him

From Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" to François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows," here are some of the films that had the greatest impact on Anderson's work.


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Wes Anderson has one of the most original voices of any filmmaker working today, but his movies are full of clues as to which directors have influenced him the most. 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.

“The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942)

Orson Welles’ period drama about a wealthy family that loses its entire fortune at the turn of the 20th century was one of largest inspirations for “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Both films feature fallen patriarchs — Royal Tenenbaum was a prominent litigator while Major Amberson was a business tycoon — and involve unrequited love. The Amberson home in Indianapolis also bears a striking resemblance to Tenenbaum household at 111 Archer Avenue.

“The 400 Blows” (1959)

“The 400 Blows”

François Truffaut’s breakout drama “The 400 Blows” had a greater influence on Anderson’s “Rushmore” than arguably any other film. Both movies follow troubled young boys who are forced out of their schools and engage in minor criminal activity. While Truffaut’s Antoine gets disciplined at school, lies about his mother’s death and is arrested for stealing a typewriter, Anderson’s Max is put on academic probation, gets arrested for tampering with someone’s car, and writes plays on the typewriter his late mother gave him. Watch “The 400 Blows” on Filmstruck here.

“The River” (1951)

Jean Renoir’s drama-romance about three adolescent girls coming of age in India was a direct influence on Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” about three brothers who reunite in India after drifting apart from one another. In both films, the three main characters come to terms with harsh truths while letting the country heal their emotional pain. Watch “The River” on Filmstruck here.

“Tokyo Story” (1953)

There are both visual and thematic similarities between Anderson’s films and the films of Japanese director Yasukiro Ozu. Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” for example, is a drama about an aging couple who visit their grown children, only to be dismissed and put up in a hot spring spa. The strained parent-child relationship mirrors the way Chas Tenenbaum and his siblings force their father Royal out of the Tenenbaum home in “The Royal Tenenbnums.” It also comes across in Ned and Steve’s broken relationship in “The Life Aquatic” and when Suzie runs away from her parents in “Moonrise  Kingdom.” The way the camera carefully navigates the family’s home in “Tokyo Story” also bears a strong resemblance to Anderson’s cross-section look at the interiors of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Life Aquatic.” Watch “Tokyo Story” on Filmstruck here.

“Pather Panchali” (1955)

“Pather Panchali”

No filmmaker had more of an influence on Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited” than Indian writer-director Satyajit Ray, whose “Pather Panchali,” about an impoverished priest who leaves his rural Bengal village in search of work, has direct ties to “Darjeeling.” In the final scene, Jack, Peter and Francis run after the Bengal Lancer train, mirroring the way Durga and Apu from “Pather Panchali” run across a meadow as a train goes by in the distance. A portrait of Ray can also be seen above the three Whitman brothers while they sit in their cabin aboard the Bengal Lancer. Watch “Pather Panchali” on Filmstruck here.

“Lola” (1961)

Jacques Demy’s use of music and slow motion in his debut film “Lola” paved the way for many of Anderson’s trademark shots set to evocative music. There’s one slow motion scene in “Lola” where an American sailor kisses a young French girl during a carnival, then lifts her out of a ride and jumps to the ground. The sequence has the same magical feeling that Anderson perfects in the slow motion shot of Margot coming off the Green Line bus in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and Peter jumping onto the train in the first scene of “The Darjeeling Limited.” Watch “Lola” on Filmstruck here.

“Charulata” (1964)

Another Satyajit Ray film, “Charulata” features original music that Anderson used in several scenes in “The Darjeeling Limited.” The song “Charu’s Theme” plays when Jack invites Rita into the train’s bathroom to smoke a cigarette, and again when Rita says goodbye to Jack and his brothers through the train window. “The Darjeeling Limited” also includes music from Ray’s films “Joi Baba Felunath,” “Teen Kanya” and “Jalsaghar.” Watch “Charulata” on Film struck here.

“The Graduate” (1967)

An admitted Mike Nichols fanatic, Anderson has referenced “The Graduate” on many occasions when discussing his influences, even going so far as to say he “overtly stole” a couple shots from the film for his second movie, “Rushmore.” The lonely underwater scene of Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock in scuba gear at the bottom of his parents’ pool inspired the shot in “Rushmore” where Bill Murray’s Herman Blume does a cannonball into a pool at his sons’ birthday party to get away from the crowd. There are also shots where both Hoffman and Schwartzman appear behind fish tanks, the dimensions of which match perfectly with the frame of the camera.

“Harold and Maude” (1971)

Hal Ashby’s coming of age classic has obvious connections to “Rushmore” in that both stories involve a teenage boy in love with an older woman, but Anderson also took some music cues from “Harold and Maude.” Ashby’s film features several songs by Cat Stevens, while “Rushmore” includes Stevens’ songs “The Wind” and “Here Comes My Baby.” Anderson also later cast “Harold and Maude” star Bud Cort to play the bond stooge Bill Ubell in “The Life Aquatic.”

“Amarcord” (1973)


Federico Fellini’s 1973 comedy comprised of a series of vignettes in an Italian coastal town in the 1930’s was a clear reference for Anderson’s eight-minute short, “Castello Cavalcanti.” The short stars Jason Schwartzman as Jed Cavalcanti, a Formula One driver who crashes his race car during a night race in the small Italian town that’s also the birthplace of his ancestors. The film is inspired by the annual car race in “Amarcord,” which also takes place at night in a small Italian town. Watch “Amarcord” on Filmstruck here.

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