Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at the career-spanning music utilized by filmmaker Wes Anderson.

Originally published on – March 10, 2014.

With Wes Anderson’s latest offering The Grand Budapest Hotel set to hit theatres this Friday, there is no better time than the present to look at the 44-year-old’s musical contribution to the movies.

Known for digging up mod classics and rarities from the novelty and international realms, no two of Anderson’s soundtracks are alike.

Naturally, he took another left turn for Grand Budapest, drenching his latest film in new compositions by Alexandre Desplat to bring out the folk traditions of Eastern Europe, largely by using balalaika.

Sound complicated? Give it a listen.

The Anderson soundtrack – as it existed from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s – was dominated by sweet retro pop and the character-driven instrumentals by then-resident composer Mark Mothersbaugh (formerly of Devo). These traditions are what fans think of when discussing his musical style and they’ve taken his fans from the British Invasion-infused Rushmore soundtrack, to a blend of folk and punk on The Royal Tenenbaums, to Brazilian-infused David Bowie covers in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to more intentional score experimentation through The Darjeeling Limited (with a nod to the films of Satyajit Ray) and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (where Desplat took over).

As a result, Anderson has stepped up and stamped a whole host of songs – many of them nearly half a century old – and forever linked them with key moments in his films. The Faces’ “Ooh La La” is, to many, “the song at the end of Rushmore” and I, myself, only discovered in recent years that Sigur Ros’ magical “Staralfur” was a pop song and not the creation of Mothersbaugh’s score wizardry in The Life Aquatic.

The evolution continues with The Grand Budapest Hotel which may disappoint fans looking for new tracks to bolster their playlist cred, but Anderson at least continues to prove that his musical vision is singular in today’s cinema. To soothe any disappointment there may be from the pop set, allow me to offer an olive branch in the form of a 20-song playlist from Anderson’s previous seven films.

Here, in all its glory, is “Wes’ Bes’”.


  1. Making Time – The Creation (Rushmore)
  2. This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks (The Darjeeling Limited)
  3. Ping Island Strike/Rescue Op – Mark Mothersbaugh (The Life Aquatic)
  4. Concrete & Clay – Unit 4 + 2 (Rushmore)
  5. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon (The Royal Tenenbaums)
  6. Heroes and Villains – The Beach Boys (The Fantastic Mr. Fox)
  7. Alone Again Or – Love (Bottle Rocket)
  8. Needle in the Hay – Elliott Smith (The Royal Tenenbaums)
  9. Where Do You Go to My Lovely? – Peter Sarstedt (The Darjeeling Limited)
  10. 2000 Man – The Rolling Stones (Bottle Rocket)
  11. Search and Destroy – The Stooges (The Life Aquatic)
  12. Let her Dance – Bobby Fuller Four (The Fantastic Mr. Fox)
  13. Ooh La La – The Faces (Rushmore)
  14. Le Temps de l’Amour – Fracoise Hardy (Moonrise Kingdom)
  15. The Fairest of the Seasons – Nico (The Royal Tenenbaums)
  16. Life on Mars? – Seu Jorge (The Life Aquatic)
  17. Oh Yoko! – John Lennon (Rushmore)
  18. Les Champs Elysees – Joe Dassin (The Darjeeling Limited)
  19. Staralfur – Sigur Ros (The Life Aquatic)
  20. The Heroic Weather Conditions of the Universe, Part 7 – Alexandre Desplat (Moonrise Kingdom)