Woody Allen may be one of the few directors in cinema history whose career has become its own genre.
Incredibly productive, Allen has made a film every year since 2000. Once accused of recycling old ideas, Allen has bounced back in recent years with several critically acclaimed films, including Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine among them. Cafe Society was a good addition to his
Here now is the very best of Woody Allen.
1. Annie Hall (1977)
The only Woody Allen film to be named Best Picture and perhaps his most timeless film. Annie Hall chronicles the ill-fated romance between Allen’s character Arvy Singer and the iconic muse played by Diane Keaton. It has some of the most memorable scenes of any Allen film including Marshall MacLuhan’s cameo and the lobster scene in the kitchen.
2. Manhattan (1979)
Allen’s love letter to the city that raised him. Issac (Allen) is a classic neurotic case who begins to re-evaluate his life after falling in love with his friend’s mistress played by Diane Keaton. It is a classic example of the instability of love, a theme behind almost all of Allen’s films.
3. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
This film revolves around three sisters and their relationships over a 12 month span. Hannah, played by Mia Farrow is the anchor of the family. Perhaps Allen’s most deeply layered film. Hannah and Her Sisters has various subplots overlapping with one another. It is an excellent study of personality types and whether people of different characters can be truly happy with one another. It also has the best cast of any Allen film.
4. Blue Jasmine (2013)
Allen’s fascinating look at class in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life after her husband (Alec Baldwin) goes to jail for running a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme. The film is an unofficial remake of A Streetcar Named Desire but Allen manages to make it his own. Blanchett was a deserving recipient of an Oscar for Best Actress.
5. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Midnight in Paris is a magical exploration of nostalgia as well as an ode to the charm of the French capital. Owen Wilson’s character Gil is hoping a trip to the city would give him the inspiration to finish his first novel but finds it somewhere unexpected. Allen uses magic realism to perfection, paying tribute to some of his greatest influences.
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Another tribute to a beautiful European destination. This film won Penelope Cruz an academy award but features several great performances including Patricia Clarkson, Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall. Hall and Scarlett Johansson play two friends who meet a mysterious Catalan painter named Juan Antonio (Bardem). A provocative testament to the tempestuousness of love.
7. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
A satisfying story from an auteur at the top of his game in the early 1980s. Allen plays the title character Danny Rose, a small-time show manager trying desperately to keep his biggest act from destroying his career. Filmed in black and white to convey a 1930s feel and starring Mia Farrow, Broadway Danny Rose is one of Allen’s most charming films.
8. Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Mia Farrow stars in a charming depression-era story about a lonely housewife who finds solace in cinema. Downtrodden and desperate Mia Farrow’s Cecilia goes to see the Purple Rose of Cairo several times which in Allen’s film is an escapist adventure. One night one of the characters named Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels) walks out of the screen. The Purple Rose of Cairo is an excellent homage to a period that he returns to various times in his career.
9. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
A struggling playwright (John Cusack) is forced into casting a mobster’s girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) in order to obtain funding for his latest project. An ode to 1920s gangster films, Bullets Over Broadway is also an entertaining character study in how far an artist will go to succeed. Tilly won an academy award for the role. Great performances by Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri, Ed Broadbent and Mary-Louise Parker.
10. Match Point (2005)
Considered by many as a strong departure for Allen. Match Point is a psychological thriller starring John Rhys Meyers as a former tennis pro named Chris. Chris is engaged to Chloe ( Emily Mortimer) and destined to live a comfortable living. But he finds passion with the more unstable Nola (Scarlett Johansson). A classic Allen tale about how happiness is just not enough. There is always something else that people need. A theme also explored in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
11. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Two different stories that are vaguely linked together. Martin Landau plays Judah, a successful ophthalmologist whose life is almost torn apart after his mistress Dolores (Angelica Huston) threatens to expose their affair. At the same time, Woody Allen’s character Cliff Stern, suffering from a career setback begins to contemplate infidelity.
12. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
Another depression-era film, this time Sean Penn plays a fictional jazz guitarist named Emmet Ray. Ray, a deeply flawed character eludes gangsters and falls in love with a mute played by Samantha Morton. Full of charm, with a terrific performance by Sean Penn.
Honourable Mention: Husbands and Wives (1992), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Cafe Society (2016).