At 77, Woody Allen has written and directed more than 40 feature films—the latest, Blue Jasmine, which proves that what he really loved about Bergman, Fellini, and the other European directors he idolized was not their style so much as their work ethic.
With that many titles to choose from, everyone will have different best and worst lists. Here are the ones I’ll never stop watching and a handful that I don’t care if I ever see again.
BEST1. Broadway Danny Rose and Annie Hall
I refuse to choose. This is a dead heat. Two entirely dissimilar movies, and each one is a masterpiece. Annie Hall has the lobsters, brother Duane, and Marshall McLuhan—and Annie herself, one of the most enchanting heroines in any movie. Broadway Danny Rose has the comedians in the Carnegie Deli, Lou, the helium scene, Danny’s clients, especially the balloon man, and “Star, Smile, Shine.” It is simply the best portrait of small-time showbiz hustlers ever made. A.J. Liebling would have loved this movie. It is also impossibly sweet, funny, and heartbreaking all at once.
2. Love and Death
A funny movie built around great Russian literature—who would have thought? Not that you need to know the first thing about Russian lit to enjoy this nimble, laugh-filled movie: Sonia and her delicious dishes made of snow, the father with his “little piece of land,” “Welcome Idiots,” and all of it done to a great Prokofiev score.
3. Take the Money and Run
The funniest gangster movie ever—just the thought of Virgil Starkwell’s parents seeking anonymity behind the big glasses attached to the big noses and fake mustaches makes me laugh. And every time I mistype gub for gun, I want to go back and watch this again.
A clever idea, but that’s all. A short movie that seems long.
2. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex …
Weirdly (weird because they’re always anchored in a specific time and place), Allen’s movies don’t date. This one does. But I’d keep the episode of Gene Wilder and the sheep.
3. Whatever Works
No, it doesn’t.
That leaves out a lot. Where, you might ask, are Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan, Manhattan Murder Mystery, or Bananas? Nothing against them, they’re just not my favorites. While writing this, I considered making several lists, like a list of Allen movies I admire but don’t like much (Manhattan, Husbands and Wives) or movies I like for just one thing (Mighty Aphrodite for Mira Sorvino, To Rome With Love for the man who can only sing in the shower, Stardust Memories for the Fun Train).
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