The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

7.31 h 58 min2004X-RayR
An oceanographer sets out after the shark that killed his partner.
Wes Anderson
Bill MurrayOwen WilsonCate Blanchett
English [CC]Español
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Supporting actors
Anjelica HustonWillen DafoeJeff GoldblumMichael GambonBud Cort
Wes AndersonBarry Mendel
Touchstone Pictures
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Smokingalcohol usenudityfoul languagesexual contentviolence
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4.7 out of 5 stars

4501 global ratings

  1. 83% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 8% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 5% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

C. C. BlackReviewed in the United States on March 25, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
What Was That I Just Watched?
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I wouldn't say that this is the damndest movie I ever saw, because I've seen damnder and I don't know whether that's a compliment or a criticism.

Wes Anderson, who wrote and directed this movie, lives in his own special world. It's not one in which I could live long and stay sane, but it's a curious place to visit for two hours. That's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." As you can see from the product description and other reviews, it has a dynamite cast. While Bill Murray, who in my book can do no wrong, is clearly its leader, this is very much an ensemble piece. it's a comedy that made me laugh out loud about three times, though I wasn't counting, rose an occasional chuckle and a sustained smile. It's whimsy committed to celluloid, without a mean bone in its body or a strong bone in its plot. In fact, it moves from one curious episode to the next, with almost no story at all so. If you've just finished "The Collected Works of Raymond Chandler," this would be a nice warm toddy to calm you down. It's a character piece with some very strange characters, set in a production design that may remind boomers of their high-school chemistry classrooms. Its last thirty minutes are "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" if Walt Disney had ingested his Kingdom's Magic Mushrooms. Visually, it's a lot of fun. The stop-motion animation is charming: Ray Harryhausen on Uncle Walt's mushrooms.

I struggled between three and four stars on this one but leaned leniently. For a Criterion Collection item, it was dirt-cheap: about six bucks. I'll watch it again to convince myself that it's just what I thought I saw the first time. It may grow on me. If it doesn't, I'll let you know. If it does, I hope there's a mild disinfectant that will clean it off.
29 people found this helpful
Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on March 19, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Real Heart on a Watery Journey
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A whimsical nautical adventure into fatherhood.

Wes Anderson’s indie adventure, comedy-drama The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) is a wonderful little odyssey about journeying into your feelings. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach’s script is full of introspection and self-discovery as they ruminate on what makes a good man. They write hilarious dialogue, quirky characters, shocking twists, and heartfelt interactions, which all culminate in a truly special little movie.

Wes Anderson’s films are all magnificent in their own way, and Life Aquatic is no exception. The whimsical tone meets moving drama about fatherhood, responsibility, friendship, love, loss, and leadership. I appreciate all the hard work and compassion for a broken man even more upon a second viewing of Life Aquatic.

Wes Anderson’s direction is phenomenal and creative as is his standard as a unique American auteur. His symmetrical shots of bright primary colors and warm tone are met with a relaxed vibe during Life Aquatic like we are along for a sea cruise. Robert D. Yeoman’s cinematography is as impressive as ever with long panning shots and extended one takes that pan across the length of the ship’s corridors. The pirate shootout and hotel raid are particularly well shot to me. Wes Anderson balances his silly absurdist humor with grounded family drama that still hits hard for his nautical adventure motion picture. I think Life Aquatic has aged well into a cult classic. It’s a shame it was not more well loved upon release. I believe The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an absolutely charming film from a masterful director.

Life Aquatic may have Mark Mothersbaugh’s best score of any Wes Anderson feature. I love his entire musical passage for the finale with the shark encounter as it’s hauntingly moving and resonates every theme of Life Aquatic at once. Furthermore, Seu Jorge’s Portugeuse covers of David Bowie classics keeps the momentum and morale up on this aquatic adventure all of its quick 119 minutes. I especially love the “Life on Mars'' ship walk sequence and the “Ziggy Stardust” voyage introduction piece. Jorge is also fun as the musician on Zissou’s crew named Pele dos Santos.

David Moritz’ editing is so smooth and natural for Life Aquatic. His style is full of snappy cuts still, but he eases the pace to a steady one to allow you to enjoy the ride more with these fun characters. Seymour Cassel’s cameo as Zissou’s late best friend Esteban is a wonderful callback to Cassel’s roles within Wes’s former features Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Wes’ casts never disappoint.

Bill Murray is captivating as a broken, old, homophobe, seafarer named Captain Steve Zissou. Every line Murray breathes a new life of irreverent humor and blunt honesty into like only he could. His chemistry with Anjelica Huston as his estranged wife Eleanor Zissou is fun, but his rapport with a likable Owen Wilson as Ned Plimpton is the highlight of Life Aquatic. Their scenes together are so sincere you just want to cry. Wilson is great alongside his love interest Cate Blanchett and an intriguing character of her own called Jane Winslitt-Richardson. You just want these miserable people to be happy.

Willem Dafoe is fantastic as the overly attached first mate to Zissou named Klaus Daimler. Dafoe’s chaotic energy and enjoyment infects you with joy. Jeff Goldblum is funny as the weird rival to Murray’s Zissou entitled Alistair Hennessey. Michael Gambon’s sponsor for Zissou, Oseary Drakoulias, is a fun addition. Noah Taylor is super funny as the sonar guy Vladimir Wolodarsky. Lastly, Isabella Blow is a fun foil to Zissou’s madness as the dissenter on the crew named Antonia Cook.

Henry Selick’s stop motion animation for the fish, jellyfish, and shark segments are adorable and tenderly fit Wes Anderson’s aesthetic beautifully. Selick’s animation works well alongside Martin Meunier’s visual effects. Mark Friedberg, Stefano Maria, Ortolani Marco Trentini, and Eugenio Ulissi’s production design makes the ship look really lived in and fascinating to stare at in the background no matter what you're looking at in Life Aquatic.

Milena Canonero’s costumes are very cute and playful for Life Aquatic. The red beanie and baby blue sailor uniforms are already iconic Wes Anderson fits.

In short, Life Aquatic is one of Wes Anderson’s most underrated films as it holds up with its heart and humor alike.
13 people found this helpful
RedhallReviewed in the United States on October 25, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
The worst movie I have ever seen.... I want my money back!!!!!
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I have seen some stinkers but this is the worst. It is a bad movie about an incredibly terrible documentarian. This made me want to wretch. I would have given it ZERO STARS if I could have. Do not watch this it is a waste of your time. I quit after 20 minutes. I could not bear the bad acting the lousy script the awful cinematography. The only good thing I can say about it was the Orca scenes with lasted maybe a total of 45 seconds.

I can not believe that around 2000 people have given this 5 stars. AURGH@$*&
10 people found this helpful
Kamila Z. MillerReviewed in the United States on August 23, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
I'll be watching this movie over and over
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I watched this years ago with my daughter. It affects me deeply, stirring up feelings about watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries as a young girl. It has comedic moments, but this isn't a laugh-out-loud sort of movie, at least not for me. It frequently wanders into the supremely surreal. This is more of a Groundhog Day sort of movie for Bill Murray. This will be one of those movies I plan on watching over and over.
20 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on September 26, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Spoof of oceanography & nature documentaries with missiont to kill a shark for revenge
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Life Aquatic was another quirky comedy featuring Wes Anderson with some of his favorite actors that he’d worked with before such as Bill Murray as Steve Zissou, Owen Wilson as Ned Pimpton, and Anjelica Huston as Eleanor Zissou. The movie is a spoof of Jacques Cousteau who was a famed French oceanography with Zissou hoping to hunt down a shark and kill it even though it’s an endangered species.

As usual everything is delivered in deadpan style. Zissou for instance has a release for his latest documentary on the exotic shark but all it shows is him talking about how one of his crew was killed by the animal. Someone in the audience asks if he got a pictures of the shark to which Zissou says no because he dropped the camera. He then tells the audience he’s going to hunt down the shark and kill it for revenge. A bold and ridiculous statement.

The movie covers various travels of Zissou’s trip like getting raided by pirates, having his interns quit and running out of money. There are all kinds of goofy things as well such as Zissou having a pet killer whale and having dolphins with cameras attached to their heads go along with their voyage but they don’t listen to Zissou’s team. Again this fits in with Anderson’s style.

Wes Anderson movies are not for everyone. They are very low key and sometimes meander but they can be ridiculous in a good way and funny. If you do like his style however Life Aquatic is another great addition to his filmography.
2 people found this helpful
Paul GrossReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
Some good stuff here...
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I'm not qualified to have an objective opinion about this film!

I grew up on 16mm science films in grade school, loved the Jacques Cousteau TV documentaries, and later worked on sports-related 16mm documentaries myself. So...cheezy, low budget 16mm docs are in my blood. Frankly, this film nails them perfectly. And it nails the kind of people who are driven to make them as well. Every character in this film resonates with me.

Anderson has a knack for getting characters much older than himself right. (Royal in Tennebaums, the mom in Darjeeling, Steve Zissou here, etc.) I can say that with some confidence because I'm close to the age of these characters. In this film, Steve Zissou has a Don Quixote quality. The sheer force of his illusions carries him forward...while his family and co-workers recoil in horror.

I give it 5 stars, but I can't give this film a blanket recommendation. Anyone who is either too young to understand the 16mm film genre might not relate to the humor or story telling here. It's worth checking out the trailers on youtube to take your own temperature.
42 people found this helpful
Brandon RempelReviewed in the United States on October 31, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fun, Funny, Adventurous, Carries a Lot of Substance
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This movie is fun, funny and adventurous, while at the same time carrying a substantial life lesson you can take with you about acceptance, forgiveness and how to stop being angry at what life has done to you in the past. Despite how it can be hurtful and indifferent, it is also beautiful and wonderous. The futility and foolishness of chasing the past by trying to get revenge, trying to be what you once were or thought you were, chasing accolades, and being self-absorbed; and, instead, lift up others onto your shoulders and actually be there for your friends and the people who love you, who can actually be allowed to love you, once you let go of the past and start living forward, as embodied in the last two scenes (the shark scene, and then the premiere of the documentary they were filming). The shark scene made me bawl my eyes out. It is probably my favorite movie for all of those reasons. Plus it has a great soundtrack, has so many great lines and exchanges, and moves at a deceptively efficient pace. Every frame and line seems so perfect, I like to play a game where I try to find one that is less than perfect. So far I haven't been successful. Overall vibe is it's like a combination of Hemmingway/Captain Ahab/The Royal Tannenbaums if they were constantly smoking weed. I also feel like another over all message is that life is an adventure; so take lots of pictures, listen to some great tunes, be there for your friends, don't be afraid or angry, and be chill.
One person found this helpful
PixieReviewed in the United States on November 22, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
"I've never seen a bond company stooge stick his neck out like that"
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You either Love Wes Anderson movies or you hate them. We absolutely love them and Life Aquatic is our absolute favorite. It is a little slow in the beginning. The picture is beautiful, the acting superb.
If you're a complete square you won't get it. All of Wes Anderson movies are heavily stylized and has a lot of dry humor. This is our all time favorite followed by Royal Tenenmbaum's then Grand Budapest
9 people found this helpful
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