Wes Anderson Style Guide

Wes Anderson Style Guide

Even if Wes Anderson's style is not for you, it's a style that makes for instant classics that show off the peculiar range of imaginative skills a director pulls together in filmmaking as an art form. Let's take a closer look at some of his most iconic works and see how Anderson's unique vision plays out on screen.

Palette Guide

If you're looking for a master class in color theory, look no further than Wes Anderson's films. Each one is like an artful palette in itself, with a carefully curated selection of hues that help to establish the tone and mood of the movie.

He often employs bold blocks of color that are used to create a strong visual impact. For example, in "Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson uses a bright red coat worn by one of the main characters to create a striking contrast against the lush green forest scenery.

wes anderson color style

Anderson also makes use of pastel hues to create a soft, dreamy atmosphere. For example, in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Anderson uses the colors of frosting and candy to create a whimsical, fantastical feel that perfectly captures the spirit of the film. The pink color, in particular, is used extensively throughout the film - from the hotel's facade to the uniforms of the hotel staff to the packaging of the Mendl's bakery boxes. This consistent serving of pink creates a sense of whimsy and playfulness.

The Royal Tenenbaums is suffused with a retro vibe, and for this Anderson uses a rich palette of earthy, muted tones to evoke a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. From the dusky lilacs and greens of the Tenenbaum house to the mustard yellows and deep reds of the family's wardrobe, every color choice feels deliberate and considered.

 wes anderson movie style

Moonrise Kingdom, on the other hand, is a celebration of youth and adventure, and Anderson's color choices reflect that. The characters' clothing is a particular highlight - the protagonist, Sam, wears a khaki scout uniform with a bright yellow neckerchief while Suzy, his love interest, wears a pink dress with a peter pan collar. These colors not only make the characters stand out but also evoke a sense of youthful optimism. It's still got that warm, retro vibe - these are not primary colors, they’ve mellowed with age like Kodak film.

wes anderson movie look

wes anderson style

Shots and framing

Anderson's shots are also notable for their distinctive compositions which often feel like miniature works of art in themselves. One of the most noticeable techniques is his composed central and symmetrical shots — with characters and objects perfectly centered. He then often goes a step further and balances the central character with a framing device - often a circle, or window, or the architecture of the set. This creates a sense of order and stability, and helps to reinforce the film's overall aesthetic.


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With scenes with two or three characters, their careful and often unusual positioning in the frame is even more obvious.

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Anderson also frequently uses slow, deliberate camera movements and long, static shots to create a sense of stillness and calm. These slow, steady shots are used to draw the viewer's eye to the intricate details of the film's sets and costumes.

In The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson uses long, sweeping shots that follow the titular train as it winds its way through the Indian countryside. The result is a film that feels both epic and intimate, as the camera lingers on the beautiful scenery and the characters' interactions with each other in the cabin of the train.

wes anderson life aquatic style

Also take The Life Aquatic - the film is filled with stunning, composed shots that make the most of Anderson's color palette. The obviousness of the design and color choice (bright red contrasting with blue) creates a sense of otherworldliness that is fitting for a film about a group of eccentric oceanographers on a quest for a mythical creature.

Often the characters glance knowingly to the viewer which grants us a sort of intimacy and again draws us into their emotional world - and in Moonrise Kingdom the narrator even talks directly to the camera.

Symbols and motifs

Anderson is a master at incorporating recurring images and objects into his films, creating a sense of depth that rewards repeat viewings.

wes anderson style

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a prime example of this. From the repeated use of the color pink (which appears everywhere from the hotel's facade to the characters' clothing) to the recurring image of a key, Anderson adds layers of meaning.

wes anderson movie style

Similarly, The Royal Tenenbaums is filled with references to the family's shared past, from the family dog that appears throughout the film to the eccentric artwork that adorns the walls of their home. It's these small touches that make Anderson's films so rewarding to watch, as we discover new details and connections with each viewing.

wes anderson style

Scenes often take place in similar locations, such as hotel rooms, cabins - places that become familiar and intimate (but which can also feel like the characters are trapped). We pass along these rather than through as though looking over a flat 2d artwork - tracking shots are not in a dramatic, low angle, zooming, handheld way - it is a style closer to that of a play. It’s perhaps no coincidence that escapes play a big part in many of these movies - it’s a storyline that enables those sweeping tracking shots to play out. It is a distinctive “Wes Anderson aesthetic” with a level of attention to detail in the set and shots makes the scenes often seem more like tableaus.

In The French Dispatch, scenes are cut together much like the magazine of its plot - and books often feature in the movies with text and pages appearing - we can now add this to the Wes Anderson look we’ve already described as like a picture book and like theater - like anything except a film! The key difference between this and art films is the level of humor and It is undeniable in its own aesthetic - a dreamworld rather than real world, artistry over all - and what a world to escape to.. as long as you remember to stay in the center of the frame of course.

wes anderson style

Recipe for a Wes Anderson movie:


• A carefully curated color palette of dusky, rich Kodak-esque tones

• Meticulously composed shots - ideally with symmetry in the set

• An escape, heist or quest

• A pinch of melancholy

• A heap of quirkiness eg wry humor, deadpan knowing looks, and breaking the fourth wall

• Uniforms, or very considered costume design


-Start by selecting a color palette that will help establish the tone and mood of the film.

-Plan out your shots and framing with a focus on inventive, playful cinematography.

-Embrace quirkiness in everything from eccentric characters to bizarre settings.

-Characters should also have obsessions that show in their behaviour and their clothes.

-Use dry humor and ‘weirdness’ to offset the film's more serious tones.

-Revel in the idea you can create your own world and make every aspect deliberately designed, in service to the film’s story and purpose as an escape.