“Life is full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness and it’s all over much too quickly.” These were the words of Woody Allen in his most famous motion picture “Annie Hall.
For some people, the adjectives Allen used in his script actually describe their life, but in fact these words explain the themes used in his films as well as genius, entertainment and pure hilarity.
What’s interesting is that although Allen uses the filmmaking techniques of Jean-Luc Goddard, Federico Fellini or even Ingmar Bergman, the Academy Award-winning talent has his own uniqueness that will never be matched again by any Hollywood or foreign filmmaker.
Allen has made many pictures that include various slapstick and vaudevillian moments, existential moroseness and a lot of insight that many of the greats before him have pondered: what is life? Does man rationalize his immorality? Is life indeed full of suffering?
Each picture of his, including his DreamWorks Entertainment movies, has drawn out some kind of emotion from the viewer, whether they like to admit it or not – even questioning if he or she is a neurotic individual.
One particular scene in the film “Stardust Memories” that helped make the distinction that Allen, though paying homage to Fellini’s “8 ½,” is in fact a superb artist, is when he makes contact with extraterrestrials and seeks an answer if life is utterly meaningless – all this done with the background of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.”
Does Allen plagiarize great artists? Critics and fans have listed Leo Tolstoy (Love & Death), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crimes & Misdemeanors, Match Point), Federico Fellini (Stardust Memories), Ingmar Bergman (Interiors, Deconstructing Harry) and “The Thin Man” (Manhattan Murder Mystery) as examples. Perhaps he does, but paying homage or educating the audience is done by most legendary film directors.
Albert Camus once said, “If life were stable, art wouldn’t exist.”
With that being said, here is a list of Allen’s 10 best films he has ever made throughout his 40-year career.
“Manhattan” (1979) – starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Meryl Streep and Mariel Hemingway
Anyone who loves New York, enjoys black and white photography and adores the sounds of George Gershwin must see this movie immediately. It is understandable that a lot of people dislike Allen either for his work or personal life, but witnessing “Manhattan” was certainly one of the top pleasures for his fans in their early years – there’s also a wonderful scene of Allen’s character listing various aspects that make life worth living.
“Husbands and Wives” (1992) – starring Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Juliette Lewis, Mia Farrow and Sydney Pollack
The first time this picture was viewed, it immediately started on a high note with the Leo Reisman orchestra’s rendition of “What is This Thing Called Love?” As the movie continued on, the relationship between Pollack’s character and Davis’s character seemed to be more captivating than Allen’s character going after one of his pupils (Juliette Lewis).
“Stardust Memories” (1980) – starring Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern and Tony Roberts
As noted previously, Allen credited this film as paying homage to Fellini with his black and white cinematography, the opening train scene and a celebrated filmmaker having obsessed fans. Indeed, this would be a great introduction to the world of Italian neo-realism for those who have yet to see the classics.
“Match Point” (2005) – starring Jonathan Rhys Meyes, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer and Brian Cox
Maintaining the theme of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and even his earlier work with “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Allen provokes conversation over the morality of murder and what punishment fits the crime: moral suffering or jail.
“Everyone Says I Love You” (1996) – starring Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Goldie Hawn and Natalie Portman
Perhaps it’s the love of the old fashioned musicals, but this picture was surely one of his best ones when it comes to romantic comedies. It was fantastic to see Allen put on uplifting choreography to the classic tunes of Cole Porter, Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn and Harry Ruby.
“Annie Hall” (1977) – starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Christopher Walken and Shelley Duvall
Most will list this as Allen’s magnum opus. A lot will say that this was their first viewing of an Allen movie and this either made them fans of his or completely detest not only him but also his filmmaking abilities.
“Love and Death” (1975) – starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton and Feodor Atkine
If anyone is an adorer of classic Russian literature, including authors Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Alexander Pushkin, then this picture takes a comedic take on the stories of these excellent novelists.
“Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993) – starring Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Diane Keaton and Anjelica Huston
Inspired by “The Thin Man” series starring Myrna Loy and William Powell, “Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a hilarious tale about an aging married couple that solves a murder mystery, while also rekindling their marriage.
“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) – starring Woody Allen, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow and Max von Sydow
This was one of Allen’s only profitable films, but this is a warming and inviting story so it’s no wonder why audiences went to the cinema to watch this classic Allen endeavor.
There are a couple of bonuses about this movie: a Marx Bros. clip, the appearances of Lloyd Nolan and Maureen O’Sullivan and two vintage Harry James tunes: “You Made Me Love You” and “I’ve Heard that Song Before.”
“Radio Days” (1987) – starring Julie Kavner, Seth Green, Josh Mostel and Dianne Wiest
This picture is surely an underrated Allen film. It is definitely an educational movie about the golden age of radio, which is certainly a treat for those who admire the classic sounds of jazz, the prominent radio shows of the day and how important radio was to the American populace prior to the invention of television.