10 Times Wes Anderson Picked The Perfect Song To Soundtrack Moments In His Movies

Wes Anderson's soundtracks are almost as well-loved as his movies.

Wes Anderson fans, rejoice! The pastel-loving auteur has reportedly begun making a new stop-motion animation, apparently centring on a pack of dogs and featuring the voices of Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston and Jeff Goldlum. Of course we’re giddy with excitement too, largely because few directors share Anderson’s ability to dig crates and choose the perfect songs to soundtrack their films. From punk to psych-rock to acoustic Bowie covers tenderly sung in Portuguese, he’s done it all. Here are 10 of our favourite musical moments from Wes Anderson’s cinematic masterworks so far.

The Ramones, ‘Judy Is A Punk’
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Youthful vim and vigour, adolescent transgression, lust for life – it’s all there in the two fizzing chords of this 1976 punk classic. Former literary protégée Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) led an, erm, ‘eventful’ love life and this buzzing, frenetic track captures it beautifully.


Love, ‘Alone Again Or’
Bottle Rocket (1991)

This section of the film sees have-a-go criminals Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) staying in a motel, where Anthony falls for the maid Inez. Anthony is on the run from life (and hiding out after pinching a wedge of cash) and this elegiac, deeply romantic song from ‘60s psych-rockers Love contracts deliciously with the anonymous look of the motel. Then comes that trumpet solo, so overblown and dramatic – just like young love.

David Bowie, ‘Ziggy Stardust’
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Actually, that should read Seu Jorge, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, as Anderson’s oddball comedy – about an eccentric oceanographer (Bill Murray) on a mission to avenge the death of his lover – features the Brazilian actor and musician making some Bowie songs his own throughout the film (they were later released in their own right). Even the big man himself loved it, as Bowie said: “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese, I never would have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”


Van Morrison, ‘Everyone’
The Royal Tenenbaums

We’re not saying whose (watch the clip if you’re not adverse to spoilers), but there is a funeral at the end of this affecting family drama and it brings all of the characters together, making this track from Van Morrison’s brilliant 1968 album Moondance a perfect track to conclude the film.

The Creation, ‘Making Time’
Rushmore (1998)

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) loves school. Well, he loves the extracurricular activities – such as Kung Fu Club – that keep him from doing any actual school work. ‘60s garage rock group The Creation’s debut single ‘Making Time’ is a fine, freewheeling soundtrack to a montage of Max getting busy with literally anything everything but what he should actually be ‘making time’ for.

The Rolling Stones, ‘2000 Man’
Bottle Rocket

Dignan’s in a spot of bother at the end of Anderson’s critically adored debut film. The walls are closing in. Freedom is about to become a thing of his past. Anderson pulls a Scorsese, soundtracking this stark fact with a dreamy, upbeat Stones track that ironically underlines his impending doom.

Faces, ‘Ooh La La’

Wes Anderson: officially very good at closing scenes. Here, Max implores the DJ to ditch the dinner party jazz and drop this elegiac track, which comes – fittingly enough – from the band’s last album. The chorus, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger’, is perfect for a coming-of-age film about a young man finding his way in the world.

Iggy and the Stooges, ‘Search and Destroy’
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Steve grabs a pistol and sets about rescuing his boat, Belafonte, from the clutches of pirates. Steve is, indeed, “a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm”, as Iggy spits on this blistering punk track.

Françoise Hardy, ‘Le Temps De L’Amour’
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Everyone loves a French crooner. Including this film’s lovelorn kids, Sam and Suzy, who – like Dignan in Bottle Rocket – are on the run from life itself. The lapping of the waves, along with the kids acting out a romantic scene to this eerily beautiful 1962 song, amounts to a classic Anderson moment. Also, those Peep Show-esque POV shots perfectly capture how seriously thrilling and weird it feels to actually kiss another human being when you’re young and new to matters of the heart.

David Bowie, ‘Life on Mars’
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Him again, though this time Anderson uses Bowie’s original recording, rather than one of Jorge’s covers, to soundtrack the sight of Zissou taking a much-needed walk as he considers the fact that Ned (Owen Wilson) may be his son. The song, a peculiar, alien track, certainly evokes the brave new world the news nudges Zissou into.