Allen. I’m a great admirer of the work of Woody Allen. I hesitate saying “fan” because I feel like that implies some sort of personal affinity or preference and I don’t think that’s an accurate description of my appreciation of his films. It’s certainly tough comparing Woody with his large oeuvre (edges out Hitchcock with 1 for an astounding 33 archiveable films) which admittedly, has many lightweight artistic entries (Take the Money and Run, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Mighty Aphrodite), with those like Leone, Malick, Dreyer, Griffith, Eisenstein, Tarantino etc with fewer films but undoubtedly a higher quality per-film ratio. The bottom line is the only directors with more films in the all-time top 500 are Hitchcock, Bergman, Ozu, Kubrick and Ford so his filmography get in in the 17th slot but he can’t quite touch the stylistic mastery of a few that have slipped past him.
Best film: Manhattan. Another tough decision for me here. Manhattan is his most beautiful film in Allen’s filmography and Annie hall his most innovative and formally groundbreaking. I’m fine with either as his best film. Manhattan is wonderfully shot—it’s Gordon Willis’ best work along with The Godfather and Godfather II which is saying something because he also did some amazing work for Pakula as well.
total archiveable films: 33
top 100 films: 2 (Manhattan, Annie Hall)
top 500 films: 7 (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Broadway Danny Rose, Stardust Memories)
top 100 films of the decade: 11(Manhattan, Annie Hall, Love and Death, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, Husbands and Wives, Match Point)
most overrated: Zelig. Zelig is overrated. It’s not the 6th best Allen film nor is it the 715th best film of all-time in my mind as TSPDT would argue. I still admire the film and it does have its admirers as a “groundbreaking mockumentary” but really Bunuel was doing this long before and that’s a pretty specific genre to be praising something for its pioneer-ness.
most underrated: Husbands and Wives. There are a ton of candidates here including Interiors (growing on me) Match Point, and even Hannah and Her Sisters at #537 all-time but leaving off Husbands from the top 1000 is the most egregious I believe.
gem I want to spotlight: I’ll just spotlight the entire 80’s period (or work with Mia Farrow which is technically 1982-1992) for Woody Allen because I think it gets overlooked too often. Everyone talks about his films with Keaton, his early “funny” films, and his recent mixed results in this century are all well-known and discussed…. but his 1980’s films, from is 8 ½-inspired Stardust Memories to Husbands and Wives, Woody made 12 archivable films in 13 years, 7 top 10 films of their year, and a whopping 6 top 5 films of their year…. Wow… it’s an amazing run and that’s coming off Annie Hall, Interiors and Manhattan from 1977-1979.
stylistic innovations/traits: Allen is not just a writer (though he’s amongst the best in the history of cinema). His best work has great visual prowess (Manhattan) and/or incorporates a rigid formal structure (Hannah and Her Sister with the titles). Allen’s greatest stretch (certainly from 1977-1989) have spectacular images (as you can see here). Gordon Willis who I mentioned earlier on Manhattan made 34 total films as DP and 8 of those are with Allen (from 1977 with Annie Hall and ending with Purple Rose in 1985). A great period of director and DP collaboration. He worked with Antonioni’s DP (Blow-Up) Carlo Di Palma from 1986-1997), Sven Sykvist (famous frequent Bergman collaborator of course) on Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors and I honestly think there will be a delayed appreciation for Allen’s most recent work with Vittorio Storaro in Café Society and Wonder Wheel (Storaro from Apocalypse Now and The Conformist). Unfortunately, we have his missteps this century fresh in our memory that sometimes it seems like gems like Blue Jasmine, VCB, and Match Point are few and far between. When he was at his heights his films were sumptuously shot and inventively edited. Think of how Annie Hall must have looked to people in 1977. I think the cuts to cartoons, breakaway dialogue segments and interaction with memories, the narrator, etc seem common today but were anything but in 1977. Clearly Allen was influenced by Bergman but equally he was influenced by the Marx brothers and his best work combines the two (amongst other things including Russian literature and Greek (and really all including kant) philosophy). Of course Allen incorporates his love of jazz music, his simplistic black and white titles, reoccurring narrative things on love, sex, neurosis, infidelity, psychoanalysis.
- Annie Hall
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Crimes and Misdemeanors
- Husbands and Wives
- Broadway Danny Rose
- Stardust Memories
- The Purple Rose of Cairo
- Match Point
- Love and Death
By year and grades
|1969- Take the Money and Run||R|
|1972- Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But were Afraid to Ask||R|
|1975- Love and Death||MS|
|1977- Annie Hall||MP|
|1980- Stardust Memories||MS|
|1982- A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy||R|
|1984- Broadway Danny Rose||MS|
|1985- The Purple Rose of Cairo||MS|
|1986- Hannah and Her Sisters||MP|
|1987- Radio Days||HR|
|1988- Another Woman||R|
|1989- Crimes and Misdemeanors||MP|
|1991- Shadows and Fog||R|
|1992- Husband and Wives||MS|
|1993- Manhattan Murder Mystery|
|1994- Bullets Over Broadway|
|1995- Mighty Aphrodite||R|
|1996- Everyone Says I Love you||R|
|1997- Deconstructing Harry||R|
|1999- Sweet and Lowdown||R|
|2005- Match Point||MS|
|2008- Vicky Christina Barcelona||R|
|2011- Midnight in Paris||R|
|2013- Blue Jasmine||HR|
|2016- Café Society||R|
|2017- Wonder Wheel||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
I simply adore his films, I can’t help it. I dislike him as a public figure, but when appreciating cinema I can’t let his personal life get in the middle. He has written some of the most profound, sophisticated and oddly real characters I have ever seen on film. They’re just real, real people with real issues, you almost feel as if you’ve met them at some point in your life. Manipulators you never suspected (Farrow’s character in Husbands and Wives is so well-written, it blew me away), mini philosophers, everyone. They make for some excellent studies honestly. Out of all the directors I admire, he is my favourite (professionally speaking). I agree that Manhattan is his best from what I’ve seen and I have a soft spot for Husband’s and Wives and Interiors (I think they’re slept on)
@Georg—- thanks for sharing. I adore Allen’s films as well clearly. I’m especially happy to hear your admiration for Husbands and Wives and Interiors. Those are the first two I mention for Allen in the underrated area.
Have you had a chance to see Cafe Society or Wonder Wheel? Any thoughts?
@Drake- no unfortunately I haven’t caught up with those yet, so I’m sorry I can’t give you an opinion on them. When his style first caught my attention, I decided to start with his most known work, while also watching some of his other work sporadically (TV etc). Here is a list of what I’ve seen:
1977- Annie Hall
1984- Broadway Danny Rose
1985- The Purple Rose of Cairo
1986- Hannah and her Sisters
1992- Husbands and Wives
1994- Bullets Over Broadway
1997- Deconstructing Harry
2001- The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
2005- Match Point
2008- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
2013- Blue Jasmine
2013- To Rome With Love
2014- Magic in the Moonlight
I’m very late to watch Crimes and Misdemeanours, Radio Days and Love and Death. So I’m still missing out on some of his most acclaimed work. I’ve heard that Café Society is very tasteful and not like most of his recent films but nothing about Wonder Wheel. But I’m kind of new to “studying” cinema so I’m trying to catch up with the best of the bunch. But when I begin directors’ studies, I will definitely start with Allen (primarily because I am very fond of his style and I find it easier to digest- I wouldn’t start with Bergman- I would probably finish with him tbh) and I’m thinking of giving a look to all of his “corpus” if you will.
Woody may not be a bad human being. His own son Moses Farrow denies that his father did anything wrong and his accusations still have not been proven.
Speaking of his movies, my favorite is Annie Hall. What’s yours?
If you want to get into Ingmar Bergman, I strongly suggest starting with Winter Light. It’s 80 minutes long and an absolute masterpiece with terrific acting. Bergman didn’t make movies for critics. He made accessible, emotional movies for regular movie-goers like me and you who don’t really ‘study’ movies.
Bergman on Goddard: “I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them… I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull… I’ve always thought that he made films for critics.”
I love Godard and Bergman so I won’t compare. For Godard start with bande a part and Bergman definitely Winter Light. Winter Light is like any regular movie. It isn’t really experimental and certainly not boring. The story and themes of faith and ‘God’s Silence’ are similar to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2013)
@Azman– Thanks as always for your comments. Your enthusiasm for cinema is inspiring. However, not sure I’d agree with that description of Bergman. “He made accessible, emotional movies for regular movie-goers like me and you who don’t really ‘study’ movies”
In Bergman’s own words, he didn’t like Godard because he felt Godard only made movies for critics and film students ( I strongly disagree and I’m sure you do too but Bergman obviously knows more than me). Bergman didn’t want to make movies like Godard(because he didn’t like his movies). He wanted to make movies to impress people in Sweden and around the world. He used great filmmaking techniques and told stories with complex themes in unique ways which is why he was popular with both critics/film students and people like Georg (who said he didn’t used to study film).
@Azman– I’m not talking about Godard. Bergman was no populist.
@Azman- thank you I appreciate the suggestions. Just to clear up a small misunderstanding, I didn’t really mean that Allen is a bad human being, I just said that I “dislike him as a public figure”, in the sense that his public image is not the best and this creates some problems, regardless of whether the accusations are true or not -I couldn’t possibly be in a position to judge him as a person. It’s just that there is a discussion regarding the degree to which we can separate the artist from their art, and all I’m saying is that we can and that we should (think of all the masterpieces coming from Polanski, even though Polanski is a much worse case). So here I am being a great admirer of Allen’s work.
Anyway, thank you for the suggestions, I don’t think Bergman is impossible to grasp (I’ve managed to do so occasionally), but I’ve watched about four movies and from what I got he is generally grappling with more complex themes – I don’t think there have been many auteurs willing to explore such depths of the human soul. Think of Persona, which I loved but didn’t fully understand, and I certainly hope to do so with a few more viewings. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch Bergman- quite the opposite, I certainly will, when I feel willing to do so.
So have you seen Winter Light?
If not I strongly suggest you do. It’s basically a perfect film.
The opening scene and the explanation of the Silence of God scene are PROFOUND. The effect will stay with you long after the movie is done whether you are religious or not. The acting is brilliant too. It’s clearly Bergman’s most accessible and whether you know about Bergman or not you will like it. Its quite different from Wild Strawberries or Persona though it has some similarities. It’s only 80 minutes long too and available fully on you tube with subtitles!
@Azman- ooh you got me hooked. No unfortunately I haven’t watched it. The ones that I have watched were Persona, Face to Face (not much other than Ullmann’s incredible performance), Scenes from a Marriage and the Touch (I wanted to see what all the bad press was about- I understood upon watching). So no, Winter Light is not on my map yet, and as you can see I have watched very few of his films and some them are not even remotely close to his best. But I’ll definitely catch up with it
What do you think is Woody Allen’s best performance as an actor? It’s quite difficult because a bit like Chaplin, Buster Keaton and to a lesser extent Pesci, Harrison Ford, Cruise and maybe even Diane Keaton, (many other examples) he is always playing a pretty similar character. Manhattan might be the choice because it could be the most Woody character-esque Woody character.
Hey @Graham, here I am jumping in 3 months later. So I will definitely agree with the Chaplin comparison – they also have in common the fact that they both direct(ed). I will respectfully disagree with Keaton (I recommend Reds or Looking for Mr. Goodbye – she also nails the Godfather Pt. II) and Tom Cruise (his work up to late 90’s shows rare range – one can’t deny Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut and especially Magnolia).
But back to the point. Even though I still find Manhattan to be Allen’s best film, I think his best performance is in Annie Hall. I don’t know if it matters, considering I just assume he has always been simply playing himself, but I think he is at his funniest and most sophisticated in Annie Hall – even if Keaton pretty clearly steals that show. In Manhattan, I find that nearly everything is just a touch better and a little more nuanced and artful, but Woody’s character a little less effective.
Hello Drake, 1st off let me start by saying I f*cking love this site. I visit it damn near everyday. I feel like you’ve established such an accurate metric by which can be graded.
Where would rank Manhattan amongst the greatest photographed black & white films of all time. In terms of composition or as you say Mise-en-scène, Lighting, textures of images? You know all the encompassing technical yet creative aspects.
Is it crazy to say top 5?
Hi @Von. Interesting question, obviously i’m not Drake.
I think it would be out of the top 5, i think the first 5 i would mention would be Citizen Kane, 7samurai, Raging Bull, Sunrise and Persona.
Here is a good list, i’m going to warn that the list is faulty so don’t claim me haha
Von- appreciate the comment and for the praise of the site. Means a lot. I have not ever attempted to list the greatest b/w photographed films but I would not get far before getting to Manhattan. If you’re asking me — “is it crazy to say top 5?”- absolutely not crazy.
Hello, I am not Drake either. I would say Manhattan is a possible top five photographed black and white film. Photography’s greatness is essentially the combination of only three elements: lighting, composition, and color. Obviously, monochrome movies do not include the last. The difference between motion picture and still is that there are so many more people with input into both the composition and lighting. There is the cinematographer’s lighting plans, lens choices, and suggestions of composition to the director; the director’s compositional mise-en-scene; the gaffer’s construction of the lighting; the set designers background on which to compose; and many more. With all this, deciding the quality of cinematography becomes difficult.
I would choose Persona as the leader among black and white cinematography works with little hesitation. Raging Bull and Citizen Kane have sequences that transcend nearly anything in lighting (the boxing scenes, any of the parts when characters are fully in shadow), but they lack the consistency of shot quality of Schindler’s List. We’ve got four now and I think Manhattan may come next. It is the best-shot work for both Allen and Gordon Willis (beating The Godfather series). The greatest shot is the iconic one by the bridge, but the standout sequences are the skyline montages. These demonstrate mastery of lensing, natural lighting choice, and composition.
@Graham & @Aldo, Thank you both so much! I truly appreciated both of your in depth answers (My favorite kind). It was a thought that was rattling inside my mind & I truly couldn’t find an answer as to why I might’ve thought Manhattan was either on the cusp or not on the cusp of the greatest photographed B&W film.
“Photography’s greatness is essentially the combination of only three elements: lighting, composition, and color.” YES.
“Citizen Kane, 7 samurai, Raging Bull, Sunrise and Persona” I’ve seen all 5 & I do think the edges out ahead of Manhattan under closer examination.
Loathe his stuff. Recently watched Crimes/Annie Hall/Manhattan. Manhattan was by far the best of the 3 and actually not bad at all, Crimes and Annie Hall were way worse. In the past I’ve seen Blue Jasmine, Midnight in Paris, Match Point. IMO Match Point and Manhattan are his best, by far, and I’d say hes a decent filmmaker if not for all of his other stuff. I have not seen hannah and her sisters because of how much I disliked Crimes and Annie
@Dylan- if you don’t like his stuff he’s in good company with Barry Lyndon, Thin Red Line, Tree of Life, Potemkin, The Searchers it sounds like
I hate Allen but that doesn’t stop me from seeing the greatness of his movies.
So why did you hate Annie Hall?
If Annie Hall isn’t “entertaining”, i’m not sure what movies you’re talking about when you mention “entertaining”
Here the mistake is to call him decent, he is a great filmmaker despite making mostly decent films these days.
Caught an error here, Crimes and Misdemeanours isn’t mentioned in the 7 top 500 films, even though it’s in your top 500 on the site.
@Harry- nice catch, thank you! should be fixed now
I am in a movie club with my family, this weekend we are watching Annie Hall. The only Woody Allen movie I’ve ever seen is Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) which I though was amazing. I want to watch one of his other movies before just to get a feel for his style.
Any recommendations from anyone? I am not planning an all out study (maybe later doing Coppola now and probably Polanski next).
I don’t think Manhattan is one that you can easily miss. I would say Drake’s top 10 here is a pretty good starting point actually. If you liked Crimes and Misdemeanors though I would also highlight Match Point, since the two are very much in conversation with each other.
@Declan – okay, yeah Manhattan is on Amazon Prime right now so maybe I’ll start there, always excited to explore a new (for me) auteur.
@James Trapp Admittedly, I have not seen a lot of his movies (and they were mostly fairly recent) but Hannah and her sisters, Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine were clear standouts.
Saw Annie Hall (1977) with my family movie club night.
– Really impressive stuff here, the sheer artistic ambition – split screens, breaking the 4th wall, flashbacks using cartoons, the flashbacks using school mates.
– I have seen Godard’s name throw around on this page, the free flowing nature definitely reminded me of a Godard film and just the way it never lets up
– correct me if I’m wrong but is Allen essentially playing a fictionalized version of himself in this film? I really don’t know much about him, I mean he’s obviously extremely famous so I’m not saying I didn’t know who he was, I just never got into his work previously (except for Crimes and Misdemeanors which was amazing)
– I love the reference to Antonioni in the photos above on this page, I thought the same thing during the final shot (or close to final) of them in the coffee shop
– enjoyed the New York vs California theme
– needless to say the writing was incredible, hilarious start to finish
Hi Drake. I’M a huge Allen fan and I think you’ve been a little unfair to some movies. Wonder Wheel has stunning photography from the biginning to the end. I think one of the most “beautiful” films of the last years. Great acting performance by Kate Winslet and Belushi and the script seems like one of those beautiful old theatre drama that Allen loved so much ( Eugene O’Neill specially). I think should be HR.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, another beautiful script, a really enterteining movie, Bardem and Penelope Cruz steal the show every time that are on the screen in the same moment; she deserved the oscar tho. Beautiful camera work and there is the very first ( i think) actual sex scene. And is a beautiful one, between Bardem and Scarlett. I think it’s in the top 5 of 2008.
I think his recent works are kind of underrated. I know that they are no Manhattan or Annie Hall, but still beautiful movies, always with a great cast that under his direction can reach his full potential, and I just love this man that at 80 years old ( and counting) still wants to tell us this little fairy tales about love and meaning of life.
Wow, one of the top 5 sex scenes of 2008?
Top 5 movies of 2008…
*beginning, sorry for grammatical errors
** the very first actual sex scene directed by him
I just finished my Woody Allen study. Here’s my take at top 10 performances in his films,
1. Keaton in Annie Hall
2. Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose
3. Hemingway in Manhattan
4. Farrow in Purple Rose
5. Huston in Crimes and Misdemeanors
6. Page in Interiors
7. Hershey in Hannah and Her Sisters
8. Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters
9. Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters
10. Davis in Husbands and Wives
P. S. Out of all these, Huston in Crimes and Misdemeanors was the biggest surprise. What an amazing and underrated performance.
How far would you go before reaching one of Woody’s own performances?
@Graham- I’m not sure tbh. I’m not considering them seperate that’s for sure. I feel his performances in Annie Hall and Manhattan do lie above a lot of other actors’ career best works.
@MASH- great work! You’re taking Huston over Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors? And I would have the same question as Graham on Woody not getting a single mention among the ten. Feel like we need to see one Woody performance here.
@Drake- yup! Right now it’s Huston over Landau and I bet you’d have done the same if she spent 10-15 more minutes on screen. It’s simply a better written character with all its quirks and specifications you’d expect from Woody. All she gets are fight scenes (where she slays Landau) and monologues.
Woody is great in Annie Hall and Manhattan. He’s definitely in top 25. I just love Davis in Husbands and Wives more than any of Woody’s own performances.
@MASH- Thanks again for sharing- even if I’d definitely go both Landau/Huston and the lack of Woody.
I’m a fan. I think some of these films, rated only “R” above are better than that given when they were released. For example, “Take the Money and Run” might seem lightweight, but with a public that didn’t know “Blazing Saddles” had yet to be born in Mel Brooks’ mind, “Take the Money” was a breakthrough in style and laugh out loud fall off the chair funny. My two favorites, because of their breadth and depth, are ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Deconstructing Harry.” The distance he traveled from “Take the Money…” to “Crimes…” is astounding. And I think “Deconstructing Harry” is just overlooked. It is another film with great breadth and depth. Thanks to everyone who posted.
Take the Money and Run R
Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But were Afraid to Ask —
Love and Death HR
Annie Hall MS
Stardust Memories R
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy —
Broadway Danny Rose HR
The Purple Rose of Cairo R
Hannah and Her Sisters HR
Radio Days R
Another Woman R
Crimes and Misdemeanors MS
Shadows and Fog —
Husband and Wives HR
Manhattan Murder Mystery —
Bullets Over Broadway —
Mighty Aphrodite —
Everyone Says I Love you R
Deconstructing Harry R
Sweet and Lowdown —
Match Point HR
Vicky Christina Barcelona —
Midnight in Paris R
Blue Jasmine HR
Café Society —
Wonder Wheel —