The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums Poster
Release date
December 14, 2001
110 mins

The Royal Tenenbaums is a 2001 dramedy film directed by Wes Anderson. It stars Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, and Owen Wilson. The film follows the lives of three siblings who are very successful in their youth, and experience sadness after their father leaves them during their adolescent years. The film is known for its ironic and absurdist style of humor, as well as its "storybook" filmmaking style that would later lead Anderson to be regarded as a stylistic auteur.


  • Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) – An unrepentant, selfish lawyer and a failure as a father. He intentionally shot his son Chas with a BB gun, and consistently and willingly feels he must point out that Margot is his "adopted daughter." He often took only Richie to dogfights while excluding Chas and Margot. Anderson had Hackman in mind for Royal but the actor was reluctant to take the part, saying he prefers to disappear into a role, instead of having a role fitted for him. Gene Wilder was offered the role as well, but turned it down because of his retirement.
  • Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) – A noted archaeologist and author, and the mother of the Tenenbaum children, who "makes their education her top priority." Later on, Ethel finds love with Henry Sherman, her accountant, the complete opposite of her estranged husband Royal.
  • Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) – A prodigy in international finance, Chas sued his father twice and had him disbarred because of the bonds his father stole from his safe deposit box when he was fourteen. His wife, Rachael Evans Tenenbaum, died in a plane crash and he has since become overprotective with the safety of his sons, Ari and Uzi (Grant Rosenmeyer and Jonah Meyerson). They have a beagle named Buckley.
    • Aram Aslanian-Persico as young Chas
  • Margot Helen Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) – A playwright and adopted daughter, Margot once ran away from home for two weeks to meet her birth family and came back with half of one of her fingers missing. She is shown sulking in her bathtub, watching television, ignoring her husband. She smokes, unbeknownst to anyone else in her family as she is infamously secretive.
    • Irene Gorovaia as young Margot
  • Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) – A tennis expert, Richie is secretly in love with Margot. He ends his successful tennis career with a nervous breakdown on court in front of thousands of fans (the film implies the cause was the marriage of Margot and Raleigh the day before). As the film opens, he has been living on an ocean liner for several months. He drinks Bloody Marys with pepper throughout the movie, so much so that he carries a capped pepper shaker in his jacket pocket. The character is loosely based on former champion Björn Borg, who shocked the tennis world by retiring at age 26, and wore the same style headband and trademark Fila polo.
    • Amedeo Turturro as young Richie
  • Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) – A "friend of the family" since the children were very young, considered Richie's best friend, Eli has "always wanted to be a Tenenbaum." He gained success as an author of Western novels; his latest work presupposes the outcome if George Armstrong Custer had not died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Eli has been having an affair with Margot and has a drug problem. Anderson has stated that Eli is based on the authors Cormac McCarthy and Jay McInerney.
    • James Fitzgerald as young Eli
  • Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) – Ethel's accountant and romantic interest. He confronts Royal on his supposed stomach cancer with the family present, revealing that his wife had stomach cancer, and Royal does not show any of the symptoms.
  • Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) – Husband of Margot and a famous neurologist. Anderson has mentioned that St. Clair was based on Oliver Sacks. He is constantly accompanied by his adolescent test subject Dudley Heinsbergen (Stephen Lea Sheppard).
  • Pagoda (Kumar Pallana) – Friend and servant to the family. He also acts as an informant for Royal to update him on his family. They met after Pagoda, an assassin in Kolkata, stabbed Royal. However, he subsequently earned his trust by carrying Royal on his back to the hospital.
  • Dusty (Seymour Cassel) – Elevator operator at the Lindbergh Palace Hotel. A trusted friend of Royal, he helps deceive the Tenenbaum family about Royal's illness by pretending to be Dr. McClure. Later, he helps Royal get a job at the hotel.


The Royal Tenenbaums received highly positive reviews from many film critics, who saw it as a worthy follow-up to Anderson's previous 1998 effort, Rushmore. The film holds an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 75/100 weighted average score on Metacritic.

A poll by Empire magazine ranked it the 159th greatest film ever made.

Home mediaEdit

The Royal Tenenbaums was released on July 9, 2002 on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. The same company released it on Blu-ray on August 14, 2012.



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Home video trailer Criterion Collection home video trailer
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