Editor’s Note: It can be overwhelming to approach a historic filmmaker’s catalogue of work. Our “Where to Start” feature calls attention to the most essential films by a director with a notoriously large filmography. Catch up with these five films and you’ll have a solid understanding of the director’s style, appreciation for their notoriety, and a few speaking points for any discussion on cinema.
With 49 directing credits since his debut “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” in 1966, Woody Allen has been a prolific director to say the least. With such an enormous filmography, it can be strenuous to decide which of his films to watch first. This list will take a look at 5 films that show off what Woody Allen is capable of when he’s behind and, in some cases, in front of the camera.
Probably the best example of Allen’s early comedies, “Sleeper” is a science-fiction comedy that borrows from the likes of H.G. Wells for its subject matter but is uniquely his own when it comes to the humor and the clever writing. It’s both a parody and a tribute to the science-fiction genre as well as an early indication that Woody Allen would be more than a joke writer.
Annie Hall (1977)
Probably his most beloved film, “Annie Hall” is a charming story about love and the unfortunate reality that all good things must eventually come to an end. As an audience, it’s impossible to deny Diane Keaton’s charm as Annie or Allen’s neuroses as Alvy, who together share wonderful chemistry on screen that would carry over to many of his other films. “Annie Hall” combines Allen’s humor with his views on reality and heartbreak and the result is an extremely earnest film continues to speak true to the nature of romantic relationships.
“Manhattan” proved to a skeptical public that Allen was more than just a clever writer. The film is simultaneously about romantic love and the love that someone can experience for a certain place. It’s a black and white love letter to New York City, with a multitude of shots that make it seem like the most wonderful place on earth. Of course, like most Woody Allen films, it’s also a carefully constructed comedy and it works brilliantly on that level, but it’s the romanticized vision of New York that makes “Manhattan” a memorable film in Allen’s filmography.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Probably the best example of Allen’s ability to navigate darker, more mature subject matter while keeping up his signature wit and humor, “Hannah and Her Sisters” is a must-see for anyone interested in familiarizing themselves with the work of Woody Allen. The real achievement of the film is it’s uncanny ability to show the characters for who they are without any kind of subjective judgment. There’s a sympathetic eye which studies each character, trying to understand rather than label or judge them. It’s a great film and a testament to Allen’s ability to write interesting and believable characters.
Midnight In Paris (2011)
Woody Allen has made one film each year since 1982. Such an impressive feat does not come without a few duds, but amongst them are some of the most unique and endearing films in contemporary cinema. The best example is one his most recent films, “Midnight In Paris,” a unique take on the time-travel movie that is one of Allen’s most earnest and memorable films to date. The story allowed Allen to write dialogue for some of the most important artists of the 20th century including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali just to name a few. The way he is able to capture their personalities is a testament to the respect and appreciation he feels for each of them, and the films is as much a tribute to a specific time as it is a specific place. Like in “Manhattan,” Allen paints a picture of Paris that is breathtaking. In terms of his most recent films, “Midnight in Paris” proves that Woody Allen still has new and interesting stories to tell.
What’s your favorite Woody Allen film? Tell us in the comments!