Bottle Rocket

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This article is about the 1996 film. For the actual small skyrocket, see Bottle rocket. For other uses, see bottle rocket (disambiguation).
Bottle Rocket
Home video release poster
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by Polly Platt
Cynthia Hargrave
Written by Owen Wilson
Wes Anderson
Starring Luke Wilson
Owen Wilson
Robert Musgrave
James Caan
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • February 21, 1996 (1996-02-21)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box office $560,069[1]

Bottle Rocket is a 1996 American crime comedy film directed by Wes Anderson. It was co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson. In addition to being Wes Anderson's directorial debut, Bottle Rocket was the debut feature for brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, who co-starred with James Caan and Robert Musgrave.

The film was a commercial failure but launched Anderson's career by drawing attention from critics. Director Martin Scorsese later named Bottle Rocket one of his top-ten favorite movies of the 1990s.[2]

Bottle Rocket is also the name of a short film directed by Anderson and starring both Wilson brothers and Musgrave—shot in 1992 and released in 1994—on which the feature-length film was based.


In Arizona, Dignan "rescues" his friend Anthony from a voluntary psychiatric unit, where he has been staying for self-described exhaustion. Dignan has an elaborate escape plan and has developed a 75-year plan that he shows to Anthony. The plan is to pull off several heists, and then meet up with a Mr. Henry, a landscaper and part-time criminal known to Dignan.

As a practice heist, the two friends break into Anthony's family's house, stealing specific items from a previously agreed upon list. Afterward, critiquing the heist, Dignan reveals that he took a pair of earrings not specified on the list. This upsets Anthony, as he had purchased the earrings for his mother as a gift and specifically left them off the list. Anthony visits his little sister at her school and asks her return the earrings. Dignan recruits Bob Mapplethorpe as a getaway driver because he is the only person they know with a car. The three of them buy a gun and return to Bob's house to plan their next heist, which will be at a local bookstore. The group bickers as Dignan struggles to describe his intricate plan.

The group steals a small sum of money from the bookstore and go "on the lam", stopping to stay at a motel. Anthony meets Inez, one of the motel maids, and the two spark a romance despite their language barrier (Inez speaks little English, and Anthony barely any Spanish). Bob learns that his marijuana crop back home has been discovered by police, and that his older brother has been arrested. Bob leaves in his car the following day top help his brother, and without telling Dignan. Before leaving the motel themselves, Anthony gives Dignan an envelope to give to Inez. Dignan delivers the envelope to Inez while she is cleaning a room, not knowing the envelope has most of his and Anthony's money inside. Inez does not open the envelope and hugs Dignan to say goodbye. As Dignan is leaving, Inez asks an English-speaking male friend of hers to chase after Dignan and tell him she loves Anthony. When he delivers the message he says, "Tell Anthony I love him". Dignan fails to realize he is speaking for Inez and does not deliver the message.

Dignan discovers a dilapidated but functional Alfa Romeo Spider, and Dignan and Anthony continue with the 75-year plan. The car breaks down eventually and Anthony reveals that the envelope Dignan gave to Inez contained the rest of their cash. The two get in a confrontation and go their separate ways. Narrating a letter to his sister, Anthony says he and Bob have settled into a routine back at home that is keeping him busy. Dignan, who has joined Mr. Henry's gang, tracks Anthony down and they reconcile. Dignan invites Anthony to a heist with Mr. Henry and Anthony accepts on the condition that Bob is allowed in too. The trio meet the eccentric Mr. Henry and plan to rob a safe at a cold storage facility. Mr. Henry becomes a role model for the trio, standing up to Bob's abusive brother and tutoring Dignan on success. He invites the trio to a party at his house, and visits the group at the Mapplethorpes' house, which he compliments. Anthony learns of Inez's love for him and contacts her via phone. Her English has improved and the two rekindle their relationship.

The group conducts their heist at the factory with Applejack and Kumar, accomplices from Mr. Henry's landscaping company. The plan quickly falls apart and Bob accidentally shoots Applejack in the arm. As the police arrive, Dignan has locked himself out of the escape van and is arrested. During the heist, Mr. Henry loads furniture from Bob's house into a truck. Later, Anthony and Bob visit Dignan in prison and tell him how Mr. Henry robbed Bob's house. While Bob and Anthony are saying their goodbyes, Dignan begins rattling off an escape plan and tells his friends to get into position for a get-away. After a tense moment, the two realize Dignan is joking. Dignan says to Anthony, "Isn't it funny that you used to be in the nuthouse and now I'm in jail?" as he walks back into the prison.


As of 2015, Bottle Rocket is the only film directed by Wes Anderson in which Bill Murray does not make an appearance. Murray was even considered for the role of Mr. Abe Henry.[3][4]


The film was shot entirely in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Hillsboro, Texas.[5] The scenes at Bob Mapplethorpe's house were filmed at the John Gillin Residence, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.[6]


Bottle Rocket received generally positive reviews from film critics. As of July 2015, it maintains an 85% "fresh" rating, with an average rating of 6.8/10, with critics and an 80% with audience on Rotten Tomatoes,[7] while on Metacritic it has a 65/100 weighted average score with critics, and a 7.7 user score, which both translate to "generally favorable reviews".[8]

Home media[edit]

On November 25, 2008, Bottle Rocket was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection. This is Anderson's fourth film to be released in the collection after Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.[9] The original short film it was based on is included as a special feature.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bottle Rocket". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  2. ^ Martin Scorsese (guest host), Roger Ebert (host) (2000-02-26). "Martin Scorsese's Best Films of the '90s". Roger Ebert & the Movies. Season 1. Episode 26. 
  3. ^ Locke, Greg W. (26 August 2011). "The Top 25 Roles Bill Murray Didn’t Take". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Evans, Bradford (17 February 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Seal, Mark. "Celebrated Weekend: Luke Wilson's Austin". American Way. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  6. ^ Neilson, Charlotte. "Bottle Rocket 1996 - The Gillin Residence". Casting Architecture. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  7. ^ "Bottle Rocket (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Bottle Rocket". Metacritic. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Bottle Rocket Will Go Criterion". Big Screen Little Screen. Retrieved March 26, 2008. 
  10. ^

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