Moonrise Kingdom At 10: The Movie's 10 Funniest Characters

Wes Anderson has always been renowned for creating great comedic characters, from comically unsympathetic figures like Max Fischer, Royal Tenenbaum, and Steve Zissou to lovable eccentrics like Dignan and M. Gustave. Anderson’s movies walk a fine, bittersweet line between comedy and tragedy, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in between harrowing dramatic beats.

One of the finest films of Anderson’s career – his warm, nostalgic coming-of-age romance Moonrise Kingdom – turns 10 this year. From Sam to Suzy to Captain Sharp to Social Services, Moonrise Kingdom contains some of Anderson’s most hilarious creations.


10 Sam

Sam in Moonrise Kingdom

Jared Gilman gives a delightfully naturalistic performance as one half of Moonrise Kingdom’s central romantic duo. Sam is a foster child bouncing from family to family. He’s a smart kid with a good heart who suffers from serious mental health issues that make it difficult to get along with other kids.

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Throughout the movie, Sam has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Gilman nails all the deadpan one-liners. When Snoopy is killed by a stray arrow and Suzy asks if he was a good dog, Sam philosophizes, “Who’s to say?” The young actor also nails all the physical gags. When he’s being chased through the woods by an entire scout troop, he does a couple of loop-the-loops in a wide, open field.

9 Suzy

Kara Hayward as Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom

Kara Hayward gives an equally phenomenal, equally naturalistic turn opposite Gilman as the other half of the romantic dynamic. Suzy bonds with Sam because they have similar emotional issues, on top of which Suzy has to deal with learning that her parents consider her “a very troubled child.”

While Hayward brings plenty of dramatic depth and pathos to the role of Suzy, she also gets all the comedic deliveries just right with one-liners like “I think you’ve still got lightning in you,” and “I know what you do with that sad, dumb policeman.”

8 Commander Pierce

Harvey Keitel brings the same dry wit to Commander Pierce’s angry outbursts about missing scouts that he brought to Mr. White’s angry outbursts about unprofessional behavior in Reservoir Dogs. Pierce is the voice of reason in an organization full of “beige lunatics.”

Keitel’s role culminates in a hysterical sight gag in which Scout Master Ward achieves redemption. Stuck in a tent with a flood on one side and exploding fireworks on the other, Pierce is saved by Ward (who carries him out on his back).

7 Mr. Bishop

Bill Murray plays Suzy’s dad, Walt, with such hysterical one-liners as “Our daughter has been abducted by one of these beige lunatics!” This is one of Murray’s most understated performances in an Anderson movie, closer to Raleigh St. Clair than Steve Zissou.

RELATED: Ranking Every Bill Murray Character In A Wes Anderson Movie

Sam and Suzy’s blossoming romance is poignantly contrasted with Suzy’s parents’ fading marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Bishop are both lawyers and there’s a great running gag in which they talk to one another like they’re in court and call each other “counselor.”

6 Scout Master Randy Ward

Edward Norton has given a bunch of dark, brooding, captivating dramatic performances throughout his career – including multiple characters with multiple personalities – but he shows off his goofy side with the role of Scout Master Randy Ward in Moonrise Kingdom.

No one cares more about the Khaki Scouts than Randy, but he’s hopelessly incompetent. Despite his best efforts, Randy manages to lose one of his scouts, and then loses his entire troop.

5 The Narrator

The Narrator looking up in Moonrise Kingdom

Bob Balaban’s narrator provides ominous foreshadowing in the opening scene of Moonrise Kingdom, as he announces that a devastating storm is just a few short days away. The narrator taught Sam about cartography, so he knows where he and Suzy are going.

The narrator is mostly burdened with delivering exposition, but Balaban’s subtle oddball performance goes a long way toward rounding him out as a distinctive (and very amusing) character.

4 Cousin Ben

Jason Schwartzman Moonrise Kingdom

Jason Schwartzman, one of Anderson’s most frequent collaborators, makes an unforgettable cameo appearance in Moonrise Kingdom. Ben, the older cousin of one of the Khaki Scouts, puts on an unofficial wedding ceremony so Sam and Suzy can get married before running away together.

RELATED: How Moonrise Kingdom Reinvents Romance Tropes (& Why It's Still A Great Love Story)

In his brief scenes, Cousin Ben is hysterically short with the kids when they chew gum through his speech or try to swindle him out of his fee (which is just a tin can full of spare change).

3 Mrs. Bishop

Frances McDormand Moonrise Kingdom

Murray’s turn as the jealous, self-destructive, deeply insecure Mr. Bishop is contrasted with Frances McDormand’s turn as his cold, cheating, emotionally distant wife, Mrs. Bishop.

Mrs. Bishop is mostly a dramatic character, a wife and mother with a husband she doesn’t really love and a daughter with serious emotional issues, but she has some comedic moments – like using a megaphone to speak to her husband and kids around the house – that McDormand knocks out of the park.

2 Social Services

Social Services wears a blue frock in Moonrise Kingdom

Tilda Swinton’s bureaucratic Social Services agent is never given a real name; she’s literally credited as “Social Services.” This satirical caricature represents the government’s cold, callous, impersonal treatment of troubled kids like Sam.

Swinton is hilariously deadpan in the role, saying that Sam will receive electroshock therapy with the same carefree casualness that she asks for Randy’s name.

1 Captain Sharp

Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp in Moonrise Kingdom

Bruce Willis gives one of the most nuanced, grounded performances of his career in the role of Captain Sharp in Moonrise Kingdom. Sharp is a lonely, deeply unhappy cop who’s in love with a married woman.

He finds a new purpose in his life when he decides to adopt Sam to save him from electroshock therapy. Like Mrs. Bishop, Sharp is more of a dramatic figure than a comedic one – but Willis gets plenty of laughs with his dry line deliveries.

NEXT: 8 Funniest Characters In The Life Aquatic

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About The Author Ben Sherlock (3673 Articles Published)

Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, independent filmmaker, and Burt Reynolds enthusiast. He writes lists for Screen Rant and features and reviews for Game Rant. He's currently in pre-production on his first feature (and has been for a while, because filmmaking is expensive). You can catch him performing standup at odd pubs around the UK that will give him stage time. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema, Comic Book Resources, and BabbleTop.

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