Woody Allen Movies

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Woody Allen movies, perhaps more so than those of any other director working today, are easily identifiable. And that isn’t to say Woody Allen movies repeat themselves. On the contrary, though there has been a Woody Allen movie almost every year since the early 1970s, he’s explored themes as wide-ranging as falling in love, falling out of love, infidelity, religion, death, and morality, as well as life in New York, London, Paris, Barcelona, etc.

Woody Allen movies can be easily divided into different periods. His early works were straight comedies; Woody Allen movies like Bananas and Sleeper don’t serve much greater purpose than to entertain the viewer. With Annie Hall, Woody Allen movies tonally shifted. His Oscar-winning treatise on neurotic New Yorkers in love allowed him to dip his foot into the waters of drama. His next film, Interiors, saw him dive into those waters head first.

Heading into the 1980s, Woody Allen movies were romantic comedies with an edge. Woody Allen movies were relational dramas packed with levity. Woody Allen movies were odes to renowned directors like Bergman, Fellini, and Cassavetes. Woody Allen movies were nods toward authors like Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Above all, Woody Allen movies were always interesting.

And then, they weren’t. Not long after his creative and personal partnership with Mia Farrow ended (for reasons I probably don’t need to get into here), Woody Allen movies entered a dark period. His schtick was becoming less and less novel, his ideas more and more played out. Some would say Woody Allen movies still haven’t left that dark period. To that I’d instruct “some” to watch (or rewatch) Match Point, Midnight in Paris, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Wherever you fall on the debate, however, it’s tough to argue that Allen’s output is anything less of astonishing. I’ll look forward to our yearly date for as long as he keeps making movies.

Woody Allen Movies

What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?

In his “directorial debut,” Woody Allen redubs a Japanese action movie and, in the process, turns it into a comedy about egg salad.

(0 viewings)

Every summer, I go through a Woody Allen binge and catch up with four of five older titles of his I haven’t yet seen. I haven’t yet gotten around to some of his earliest films (and as you’ll see, there’s a gaping hole that runs from the late 1980s to the early 2000s). So I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but suffice it to say What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? has been in my queue for some time, and is a Woody Allen movie I very much look forward to…whenever the time comes.

Take the Money and Run

Presented as a faux-documentary, Woody Allen’s proper first film chronicles the life and times of the world’s most inept bank robber.

(0 viewings)

I mean, sounds like a can’t miss film, right? Woody Allen’s first few movies are straight-up comedies. There’s something very refreshing about that. Might see this one sooner than most of my other unseen Woody Allen movies.

Bananas

When a schmuck named Fielding is dumped by his political activist girlfriend, he travels to a fictional Latin American country and joins a communist revolution.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Woody Allen’s greatest movie gags (at least of the films I’ve seen) come from Bananas. The plot is virtually non-existent, but I’ll never forget Howard Cosell’s play-by-play or Allen on the subway trying to flirt his way out of a beating.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*
*But Were Afraid to Ask

Woody Allen takes on sex in seven semi-related segments.

(0 viewings)

I own this one on DVD, and I’m not at all sure why I haven’t watched it yet.

Sleeper

A regular guy is cryogenically frozen for generations before re-entering a world in need of a hero.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Basically, it’s Bananas in the future. Less funny, but it has its moments.

Love and Death

Set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, the unlikeliest of soldiers falls in love with his cousin and plots an assassination.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Sure as hell doesn’t sound like a comedy. That’s perhaps what makes this Woody Allen’s oddest pre-Annie Hall feature. Like Sleeper, it doesn’t land every joke, but you’ll laugh plenty.

Annie Hall

A semi-autobiographical film, Annie Hall tells the story of a neurotic New York comedian and his on-again-off-again romance to the titular character, who’s just as neurotic. (Click here for my full Annie Hall review.)

RATING:
(3 viewings)

Woody Allen plays with tone for the first time in his career, and the results are damn near perfect. The film, mind you, is still hilarious, and Allen’s tendency to toy with form has never been more evident. The film took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay, and it’s widely regarded as Woody Allen’s best movie. I wouldn’t call it that, but it’s definitely among my top five.

Interiors

A family gathering on the Long Island beach goes horribly wrong as the family’s recently divorced matriarch pushes her three daughters, all artists, to the brink. (Click here for my full Interiors review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Sandwiched between to all-time classics, Interiors is, in my opinion, unfairly maligned. It’s Woody Allen’s first foray into hard drama, and while the results are uneven, there’s enough here—including some expert performances and fantastic Gordon Willis cinematography—to warrant checking this one out if you haven’t.

Manhattan

New York love gets complicated: A divorced man is dating a high-schooler, but he really loves his best friend’s mistress. (Click here for my full Manhattan review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Beautiful, black and white poetry. Manhattan is another truly sensational comedy-drama hybrid from Woody Allen. It’s also, perhaps, the film of his I’d recommend Allen newcomers check out first.

Stardust Memories

Woody Allen by way of Fellini. A successful filmmaker reflects on his work and the various relationships that have shaped his films.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

This one is a tough nut to crack, and I probably owe it another visit soon. I remember finding it rather entrancing, if a little alienating.

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy

Around the year 1900, an inventor and his wife host her cousin’s wedding to the inventor’s ex, and the inventor’s best friend will stop at nothing to derail the coming nuptials, for which they’ve all gathered at the inventor’s country estate. (Click here for my full A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

This is just a straight up fun movie. Woody Allen rides a flying bicycle. A stuffy professor argues with everyone. Various spirits and ghosts pop in and out. This often rates among the worst films of the Mia Farrow period (which starts with this film, incidentally), but I hold it in rather high regard.

Zelig

The titular character is a human chameleon, capable of physically and socially adapting to any situation. His story is told as a fake documentary.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

There aren’t enough words for this film. It’s so bizarre, but it’s also truly fascinating and arguably the best crafted Woody Allen film ever.

Broadway Danny Rose

A hack talent agent gets into trouble with the mafia trying to do a favor for his #1 client.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

The film’s framing structure, which involves a group of friends reminiscing about the title character, almost sets the film up for failure. We’re promised the greatest story ever told, and what follows is pleasant and amusing. Still, it’s hard not to have some fun with Danny Rose. Also worth noting is Mia Farrow, who gives her best performance in a Woody Allen movie right here.

The Purple Rose of Cairo

During the Great Depression, a woman with an abusive husband finds an escape at the movies. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when the leading man in her favorite picture jumps out of the screen and enters her life.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Woody Allen is on record calling this his favorite of all his movies. It’s a brilliant fantasy that’s surprising around every corner. Nothing is more surprising, however, than its sobering conclusion, which knocks you and Mia Farrow’s lead character, back into reality with a thud.

Hannah and Her Sisters

The story of three women and their complicated love lives told between two Thanksgivings.

RATING:
(2 viewings)

My favorite Woody Allen movie by a nose. There’s nothing here but character, and my how rich these characters are. There’s Elliot, the discontented husband; Mickey, the hypochondriac; Holly, the recovering addict and black sheep of the family; Lee, the alluring but aimless one; and Frederick, the older man and the hardcore artist. I love their stories. I love the film’s tone. Woody Allen has since expressed regret that he let these characters off too easy, but I don’t see anything wrong with a little redemption.

Radio Days

The story of an ordinary but quite large family from Queens, set in the 1920s, and the one thing that brought them together—the radio. (Click here for my full Radio Days review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

This is arguably Woody Allen’s sweetest movie. It’s one I have fondness for, but it’s a tad meandering and doesn’t amount to all that much.

September

During a weekend in Vermont, six people all love someone other than the person they’re supposed to love.

(0 viewings)

These are themes Woody Allen seems to have exhausted out, and while I can’t speak for September‘s quality at this time, that’s the general consensus on September. Bizarrely, Allen shot this film with an almost entirely different cast before going back to the drawing board and redoing the entire thing.

Another Woman

A woman rents an apartment next to a psychiatrist’s office only to become invested in the life of one of his patients.

(0 viewings)

This one has quite a few admirers, but it never received the acclaim of a Hannah and Her Sisters or Crimes and Misdemeanors of the same time period. Sounds like material that could make for a thriller, but I understand that’s not the direction Allen goes in.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Tells two stories related almost exclusively by theme. In one, an opthamologist must decide what to do about a mistress who threatens to tell his wife about their affair. In another, a documentarian is forced to make a film about his successful but dislikable brother-in-law.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Both stories resonate deeply, and the way they connect to each other is nearly miraculous. I probably owe this one a rewatch as so much of what worked for me came after stewing on the whole thing. Still, it’s among my favorite Woody Allen movies—just a step down from Hannah.

Alice

A New York housewife finds her life shaken up after visiting a medicinal healer in Chinatown.

(0 viewings)

It’s hard to find much in the way of jubilant praise for this fantastical Mia Farrow vehicle, but I’m sure I’ll check it out one of these days.

Shadows and Fog

A strangler is on the loose and a nebbish bookkeeper gets roped into a vigilante group that’s out for blood. Meanwhile, a circus performer stumbles into a brothel where she’s a hot commodity.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

One of the oddest films (from any director) you’ll ever see is this hybrid of a German Expressionist nightmare and a classic Woody Allen comedy. I wanted to love it because it’s damn gorgeous, but man, does it miss the mark. It’s not particularly funny. It’s bizarrely cast (take a look around the brothel and find numerous Oscar-winning actresses, which isn’t to mention Madonna playing a slutty tightrope artist). And while the atmosphere is built on fear and tension, those qualities are completely squandered by Allen’s approach.

Husbands and Wives

A husband and wife start to find cracks in their marriage after their best friends announce they’re separating.

(0 viewings)

Overshadowed by what was going on between Allen and Farrow off screen at the time, critical consensus has come around on this film, and it’s generally regarded as one of Allen’s best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors films.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

When their elderly neighbor drops dead suddenly, a Manhattan couple investigates. (Click here for my full Manhattan Murder Mystery review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Outside of its terrific conclusion (an homage to The Lady from Shanghai), this film is only noteworthy for the reunion between Allen and Diane Keaton.

Bullets Over Broadway

In 1920s New York, a writer needs his next play financed, so he casts a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in the lead role in exchange for the money he needs.

(0 viewings)

Dianne Wiest’s second Oscar came for this comedy with a pretty killer premise. I might be seeing this one sooner rather than later.

Mighty Aphrodite

When a man realizes his adopted son is a genius, he obsesses over finding his birth mother (and is disappointed when he learns she’s a porn star and an idiot).

(0 viewings)

“Fine” seems to be the general consensus on this film, though Mira Sorvino took home an Oscar for her work.

Everyone Says I Love You

A married couple deals with the neuroses and romantic problems of those closest to them.

(0 viewings)

Noteworthy for being Woody Allen’s one and only musical. It’s hard to find a lot of love out there for this one, but the genre bend alone makes it one to see.

Deconstructing Harry

As a writer awaits an award from his college, he reflects on his life and relationships, which for better or worse, always provided him with his best material.

(0 viewings)

Woody Allen does Wild Strawberries? Sounds like it. This is actually one of Allen’s best regarded 1990s films. That, of course, isn’t saying much, but still, the film has its fans.

Celebrity

After a husband and wife divorce, they both intermingle with the rich and famous to varying degrees of success.

(0 viewings)

Kenneth Branagh seems like an odd fit for a Woody Allen stand-in, but he gives it his all here. I actually know very little about this film, which could be good or bad when I finally get around to seeing it.

Sweet and Lowdown

A fictional biopic about a jazz guitarist with a drinking problem and an obsession with a rival.

(0 viewings)

Neither Allen’s best nor his worst, according to almost everyone with an opinion. It sounds a little like Zelig to me, which is great because that film’s premise is aces. Sean Penn and Samantha Morton both earned Oscar nominations for their work.

Small Time Crooks

A bumbling thief and his wife set up a cookie business as a front while trying to rob a bank. But the business takes off, and they find themselves struggling at being wealthy.

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Far too disjointed a film to leave much of an impression, as funny as it might be at times. The film starts and ends terrifically. It’s in the middle that it suffers.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

An insurance investigator and his co-worker are hypnotized and end up committing robberies that he’s then forced to investigate.

(0 viewings)

By many accounts, this is the worst Woody Allen movie of all. I can’t say I’m too keen to find out just how bad it is.

Hollywood Ending

An aging director is forced to work with his ex-wife and the man she left him for on his latest film. The stress of the situation causes him to go blind.

(0 viewings)

Sounds a little “slapsticky” for my taste. Another late-career Woody Allen movie that doesn’t have many admirers.

Anything Else

An older man guides his younger friend through a rocky patch in his relationship.

(0 viewings)

Eh, of all the Woody Allen movies I’ve missed, this is one I’m not particularly keen on catching up with. Doesn’t sound particularly memorable, and Jason Biggs is a man whose charms and talent have thus eluded me.

Melinda and Melinda

Is life comic or tragic? This film explores both possibilities with dueling stories about a woman named Melinda.

(0 viewings)

I’ve always found this premise rather interesting and have always wondered why it didn’t make for a more beloved film. Perhaps I’ll find out soon…

Match Point

A tennis instructor marries into money but finds himself infatuated with his brother-in-law’s fiance. Will he choose love or money?

RATING:
(5+ viewings)

Much more than a revamped Crimes and Misdemeanors, even if its highs don’t reach those of Allen’s 1989 picture. Scarlett Johansson is a weak link, but the film is nearly perfect otherwise. Richly detailed characters come together and create chaos in London’s one percent. It’s horrifying and sexy. I love it.

Scoop

An American journalism student in London uncovers a huge story and finds herself getting more and more involved with its subject—a wealthy aristocrat with a possible murderous streak in him.

RATING:
(3 viewings)

Following the critical success of Match Point, Woody Allen fans came back down to Earth: their hero wasn’t exactly experiencing a late-career renaissance. That said, I rather like Scoop. It’s a harmless farce that’s very easy to digest.

Cassandra’s Dream

Two brothers with financial problems turn to crime before turning on each other.

(0 viewings)

This is the only Woody Allen movie I haven’t seen since I first started following the director. I think that came from the mostly negative reviews, though I remember the trailer looking rather appealing back in late 2007. I’m sure I’ll see it sometime.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

A passionate Spanish man tries to woo two female tourists before his ex-wife re-enters his life.

RATING:
(3 viewings)

This film isn’t funny in the same way Bananas or even Scoop is. It isn’t trying to be. Its humor is subtler and derives from the characters and the ways they interact with one another. It’s all quite strange, to be perfectly honest, but so easy to digest and a lot of fun. Penelope Cruz, it should be noted, won an Oscar for her work. She knocks it out of the park.

Whatever Works

A Mississippi runaway moves in with a grouchy New York know-it-all. (Click here for my full Whatever Works review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

This is actually not Larry David’s first appearance in a Woody Allen movie; he played the communist neighbor in Radio Days (though he was only visible for a brief second). Anyway, the promise of these two joining forces is mostly wasted.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

A family finds itself drifting apart as romantic entanglements force strain on even the tightest bonds. (Click here for my full You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

A truly dreadful film—easily the worst Woody Allen movie I’ve seen. There’s nothing new or surprising about it, and while its cast is packed with huge names and great actors, no one seems to know what direction to go in. The end result? Something almost comically disjointed and borderline unwatchable.

Midnight in Paris

A man vacationing in Paris with his fiance and her family goes on nightly walks throughout the city which lead to adventures that make him question the direction of his life. (Click here for my full Midnight in Paris review.)

RATING:
(3 viewings)

Of course, you’ve probably seen Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s biggest box office hit ever and one of his very best films, so my plot description is perhaps needlessly vague. But the thrill of Midnight in Paris is not knowing where it’s going, and as such, I’ll never spoil its wildly charming surprises.

To Rome with Love

Tells four unrelated stories about love and lust in Rome. (Click here for my full To Rome with Love review.)

RATING:
(1 viewing)

Parts of this film are amusing, but for the most part, To Rome with Love is a stinker.

Blue Jasmine

After her husband is arrested for financial crimes, a woman suddenly with nothing moves to San Francisco to reconnect with her sister.

(0 viewings)

I hear it’s very good, if not great Woody Allen, and Cate Blanchett could be looking at an Oscar nomination. After To Rome with Love, that’s just fine with me. Very excited.

 

More Director Spotlight posts:
Sofia Coppola Movies
Noah Baumbach Movies
Guillermo del Toro Movies
Nicolas Winding Refn Movies
Woody Allen Movies
Christopher Nolan Movies
Jeff Nichols Movies
Lee Daniels Movies

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One Response to Woody Allen Movies

  1. Steven Flores July 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I’m half-way done w/ my Auteurs piece on Allen as I’m now ready to cover the films he did from 1993-2003. Some of it I haven’t seen while there’s others I need to re-watch as I’ve never wrote proper reviews on those films. I hope to have his entire body of work finished by the end of the summer.

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