Woody Allen, one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, has produced 62 films to date (almost one per year since 1965). He is one of the most discussed writer-directors out there, not only because of the heaps of film reel he has delivered to the world, but also because of his distinctive signature style that includes studying relationships, nostalgia and death peppered with quirky, self-deprecating humour.
Personally I feel the golden era of Allen was during the 70s and 80s, and that everything since then has gone a bit downhill. What makes these early films so special is that Allen puts so much of himself into the characters. However, with a body of work so extensive, I am quick to forgive such lame additions to his filmography as Cassandra’s Dream and Scoop, and will continue to harbour an ardent, and perhaps slightly inappropriate (he is pushing 80 after all), crush on him.
5 Annie Hall (1977)
Just because it is simply impossible to draft up an article about Woody Allen without mentioning Annie Hall. The ultimate Allen film that even non-Allenists know of is bursting with great quotes, humour and dexterous dialogue; this film practically covers the entire spectrum of what it is to be a slightly neurotic New Yorker who plays tennis and wears a lot of tweed. If this film doesn’t make you nod in agreement or at least guffaw every now and then, we can never be friends.
4 Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
My favourite of all Allen films. If you’ve ever thought you had a brain tumour or worried about death and the meaning of life (haven’t we all?), this is for you. This is the only film that has managed to make feel okay about death. Allen’s hypochondriac, death-obsessed character – who tries on religions like they were hats – is over the top and ludicrous but completely relatable. In the background there is a juicy love triangle happening, but let’s face it, no one really cares about that. Watch the scene where Mickey (Allen) wanders into a cinema, at the end of his rope, and finally finds solace. Gets me every time.
3 Bullets over Broadway (1994)
Want to see John Cusack in something that’s not shit besides High Fidelity? Watch this. Not only is it a 1920s period film with divine costumes, it is simply hilarious. Dianne Wiest shines as the pompous, well-past-her-glory-days actress Helen Sinclair who manipulates the poor idealistic playwright (Cusack) in every turn.
2 Midnight in Paris (2011)
Ever fantasize about being able to travel back in time to the roaring 20s, attending parties thrown by the Fitzgeralds and perhaps stumbling across a stellar writer or two? That is pretty much what wannabe novelist Gil (Owen Wilson) gets to do, with the aid of a time-travelling Peugeot. Gil is living out his ultimate dream: Paris and its artists in the 20s. All of us have daydreamed of visiting an era we think glamorous, exciting or revolutionary, but what transpires so poignantly in this film is that by revelling in nostalgia we miss the beauty of the present.
1 Blue Jasmine (2013)
This is one of Allen’s newer pieces that I really enjoyed thanks to Cate Blanchett’s impeccable cheekbones (and acting). The fall from grace of the high-flying rich and powerful makes for delicious watching, conveyed so marvellously by Blanchett as she struggles to keep the rapidly unravelling threads of her life in her hands with the aid of pill-popping. Blue Jasmine feels sharp, witty and surprisingly sad at the same time.