Top 10 Woody Allen Films

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The trouble with coming up with the top 10 Woody Allen films is ditching the other 50-odd contenders. I know already that I’ve done an inadequate job – I switched Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo in and out, I promise – but I’m going to write this one up as confusion in the face of an exceptional filmography.

There’s no writer and director, in my book anyhow, so consistently both funny and intelligent. Of course, there’s his personal life (but I’m running out of words now…) which seems to have set so many permanently against him. You couldn’t accuse him of not empathising with his characters, though.

10. Sleeper (1973)

sleeper, woody allen,

Tempting as it is to put an Allen clanger like Match Point down here at number 10, I’m going to go for a partial pleasure instead. Sleeper has a lot of faults – it doesn’t so much have a plot as a wander and the jokes about health food stores haven’t stood the test of time. On the plus side: that shuffling robot walk.

9. Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)

woody allen, vicky christina barcelona,

Let’s get it out in the open: I’m not a big fan of Allen in Europe. Like Match Point, this is showy, over serious and severely lacking in Allen-ish wit. Unlike Match Point, some great performances almost make up for it.

8. Oedipus Wrecks (1989)

oedipus wrecks, film, woody allen,

Along with Coppola and Scorsese, Allen contributed a short for release under the title New York Stories. Allen plays Sheldon a lawyer whose dead mother comes to haunt his love life as embarrassingly as possible, hovering over the city. “You really have to have some sense of humour about [her criticism],” Sheldon’s therapist says. Allen does.

7. Small Time Crooks (2000)

small time crooks, film, woody allen,

An under-rated farce, Small Time Crooks pairs Allen with Tracey Ullman. He’s a – somewhat feckless – crook, trying to pull off a bank robbery; she’s a surprisingly good cookie chef with pretentions. It’s light and fast-paced. Watch with Allen’s debut Take the Money and Run (1969).

6. Everything you always wanted to know about sex* but were afraid to ask (1972)

everything you ever wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask, woody allen, film

Least useful sex education film ever. Because of Allen, a generation harbours suspicions about the fantasies of rabbis and can’t hear the magic words “I’m a graduate of New York University” without a hopeful jolt. You know, more than usual.

5. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

mighty aphrodite, film, woody allen

Another lovely, light comedy with the twist that, as seems to happen so often in life, a Greek chorus is in control of the action. Lenny sets out to track down the mother of his adopted son Max who turns out to be a prostitute played by Mira Sorvino with predictably messy results.

4. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

sweet and lowdown, film, woody allen

Allen finally gets to express here what he had his characters talk about so often elsewhere – jazz and La Strada – in this tale of Django Reinhardt obsessive Emmet Ray. Sean Penn is excellent in the title role and Samantha Morton got an Oscar nomination without saying a word.

3. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

hannah and her sisters, woody allen, film,

A portrait of (sometimes) happily convoluted family life told between two thanksgivings. Allen always does perfectly planned messiness well – as usual, someone should be making martinis – but never as well as here. Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest play the three sisters.

2. Annie Hall (1977)

woody allen, annie hall,

Annie Hall is one of those films that has fallen into my vocabulary – from my favourite excuse (“sorry, my raccoon has hepatitis”) to my favourite break-up line (“sorry, it’s a dead shark”). Even so, I laugh the whole way through and Allen’s outlook is never so sweetly expressed.

1. Manhattan (1979)

manhattan, film, woody allen,

How could you not love Manhattan? It’s a film about beauty – Mariel Hemingway’s face, Diane Keaton’s neurotic intellect and, most of all, the beautiful city itself – shot in semi-grainy black and white. The jokes balance out the sentiment, though.

Written and compiled by Julia Kukiewicz

Julia Kukiewicz is editor of Choose.net, a news and reviews site covering – among other things – DVD rental. The site covers big names like Lovefilm and ways for film-lovers to save money like blu ray rental.

Read Anthony Nield’s Top 10 Undervalued Woody Allen Films

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Yeah, I didn’t like Match Point either. I have to admit, I’m not a big Woody Allen fan, and have only seen a handful of his films – my favorite being Mighty Aphrodite. Great list though!

  2. Avatar
    filmgurl Reply

    I have not seen most of these but have heard of them. I’ve heard his earlier works were better than his later works (which I’ve seen some). I’ll have to check these out, thanks for sharing!

  3. Avatar
    badblokebob Reply

    Have to say, I liked Match Point. Maybe not as “A Woody Allen Film”, but as a thriller in its own right I enjoyed it.

    Putting Manhattan above Annie Hall seems to go against conventional wisdom (based on looking at a big pile of Best Of lists they both appear on), but I agree completely. Also, Oedipus Wrecks is excellent, and the only reason to watch New York Stories.

  4. Avatar
    Gavin Bollard Reply

    What?

    No Love and Death?
    No Bananas?

    Sleeper at a lousy No.10?

    I don’t think so.

  5. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Can’t argue with your top 10 Julia. I’m so glad Match Point failed to make the list – one of Allen’s worst (and part of that European period of films as you mention).

    Predictably, I suppose, Annie Hall and Manhattan would be my one and two – perhaps with the order switched.

    I would have definitely included Purple Rose though! 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Ross McG Reply

    not the biggest Woody fan either. Annie Hall is great though. glad to see Small Time Crooks in there too. crap but good. it has Hugh Grant!

  7. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Ross: I like Small Time Crooks too…I think it’s one of his most easily accessible films.

  8. Avatar
    Dave B. Reply

    I’m a Woody Allen fan, and have seen most of his films.

    It’s hard to argue with your #’s 1 & 2, even with the ranking. Annie Hall is a great film, but Manhattan is not only great, but beautiful. And having Hannah and Her Sisters at #3 was a good choice as well.

    The other seven Films I’d probably throw on my list would be:

    THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO
    LOVE AND DEATH
    ZELIG
    BANANAS (still funny as hell all these years later)
    MATCH POINT (I know this film has it’s haters, but I personally found it incredibly engaging)

    And then two that I’d have to concur are purely personal favorites, and would unlikely show up on any other top-10 Woody Allen list:

    A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY (A remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman’s SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHTS; I love the optimistic air of the movie, so unlike other Woody Allen films)

    MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (I found the whole premise of Allen’s neurotic alter-ego wrapped up in a murder mystery absolutely hilarious).

    And as loathe as I am to admit it, I have not yet seen MIGHTY APHRODITE!

    Nice article. Thanks for it.

  9. Avatar
    Andrew Robinson Reply

    I still haven’t seen a lot of these… but Sleeper doesn’t deserve to be on this list… I’d prefer Scoop be as #10 as opposed to Sleeper

  10. Avatar
    Kyle Reply

    I have two words: CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS!!!!

    that’s it.

  11. Avatar
    Ben Boodman Reply

    Seriously, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Broadway Danny Rose, Radio Days, Love and Death, did you see those films? Woody definitely deserves more than just a top ten!

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