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Film / Bottle Rocket

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"On the run from Johnny Law. Ain't no trip to Cleveland."
"They'll never catch me, because I'm fucking innocent."

A 1996 film directed by Wes Anderson, starring Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave, and James Caan. This film marked the major acting debut of both Wilson brothers and was the directorial debut for Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay with Owen Wilson.

After Anthony Adams (Luke) is released from a mental hospital following a nervous breakdown, his longtime friend Dignan (Owen) unveils his decades-spanning plan to take charge of their lives. The first step is to join their mutual friend Robert (Musgrave) on a crime spree to prove themselves to the "legendary" thief, Mr. Henry (Caan). During their incompetent hijinks, Anthony starts a courtship with a hotel maid who doesn't speak English. Hilarity Ensues.

The film only screened in 48 theaters during its initial run and recovered only a small fraction of its $7 million budget, though it was critically praised and has enjoyed increased attention due to the success of its creators' later careers.


This film contains examples of these tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The film is based on a short film made by Wes Anderson and starring Owen and Luke Wilson, also called "Bottle Rocket." It's basically the part where Dignan and Anthony steal from Anthony's house.
  • Affably Evil: Mr. Henry is suggested to be a pretty major criminal and he stabs our main characters in the back by sending them on a pointless heist as a distraction while he robs them, but he's never anything less than pleasant and friendly to them. He also helps Bob out by standing up to his bullying brother.
  • Alleged Car: The stolen, beat-up Alfa Romeo Spider, to which Dignan exclaims, "What a lemon."
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Anthony exits the mental hospital via a bedsheet tied to his bed and thrown out the window. He was actually free to leave, but Dignan was so keen on the idea of him escaping that Anthony didn't want to disappoint him.
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  • Big Brother Bully: Future Man towards Bob.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Anthony has found happiness, Bob has reconciled with his brother, but Dignan ends up in jail for two years because he was tricked into helping his old employer rob Bob while they're out on a heist.
  • The Caper: Dignan is committed to getting into heists as part of his life plan. Anthony goes along with it because he has nothing better to do.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While "trying out" as a getaway driver with Dignan, Bob tells him he's a risk taker, since he's growing an entire crop of marijuana in his parent's backyard. Later, Bob discovers his brother, Future Man, is in prison because the police discovered the weed and believed he was a drug dealer.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Bob's brother is only ever referred to as Future Man by the main characters, though he introduces himself as "John Mapplethorpe."
  • Funny Background Event: Happens twice.
    • First, while Anthony is talking to Stacy Sinclair, we hear Future Man and Bob arguing, with Future Man beating up Bob.
    • Second, as Anthony is talking to Inez at the bar, we see Dignan arguing with someone about cheating, which also leads to a fight, and Dignan vainly tries to call Anthony for assistance.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Subverted. During the factory heist, Bob shoots randomly and Apple Jack hits the ground. Dignan yells at Bob, but it turns out Apple Jack is actually having a heart attack.
  • Irony: Anthony originally went into psychiatric therapy because he "never wanted to answer another water-sports question" for the rest of his life, but he first sees Inez while swimming in the motel pool.
  • Left the Background Music On: When Anthony and Inez part ways, The Proclaimers' "Over And Done With" plays over Anthony and Dignan driving home, and we cut back to the motel where Inez switches off a radio, stopping the song.
  • Manchild: Anthony, Dignan, and Bob are all various levels of immature, unmoored, and ill-equipped to handle the situations in which they put themselves.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Dignan uses "Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw!" as a signal during their first robbery and during the bar fight.
  • Rich Boredom: Wes Anderson's first example in what would become a motif of his films. This is Anthony's main problem. He's from a wealthy family and has no direction or purpose to his life.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Dignan introduces himself and Bob to Inez in the hotel room as Jerry and Cornelius. Jerry Cornelius is a character from Michael Moorcock's books such as "The Cure for Cancer" and "The Final Program."
    • Dignan and Anthony steal an Alfa Romeo Spider, the car from The Graduate, another film about youthful ennui.
    • Bob Mapplethorpe is named after Robert Mapplethorpe, the erotic photographer.
  • A Simple Plan: The heist in the end, the guys were supposed to go into the factory, take the money from the safe and get out, but things go horribly wrong...
  • Stronger Than They Look: Mr. Henry, who stands up to and overpowers the younger and larger Future Man.
  • Übermensch: Future Man's name, stature and mannerisms are suggestive of the Friedrich Nietzsche "Overman" type. He is bold, strong, arrogant, and feels superior to both his brother and Bob. Future Man's downfall in it may be a commentary by the writer upon the philosophy.