On the 1st of December 1935, Nettie Cherry and Martin Konigsberg welcomed to the world their first child, Allan Stewart who would grow up to become the revered Woody Allen. Allan and his younger sister, Letty, were raised in the Jewish way as his family hailed from a long line of Jews who had moved to America from Russia. As a child, he always had a knack for comedy and it helped him get through the toxic environment he had at home as a result of his mother’s ill temperament.
By the time he was 15, Woody Allen started to write short jokes and when he was 16, he commercialized his skill and sold most of the jokes he wrote – it was at this time he created the nickname Woody Allen, a name that would eventually stick to him for most of his lifetime. Allen made two attempts to get a college degree in writing but was never successful and so he decided to learn writing by himself. In 1944, he snagged a job at The NBC Comedy Hour as a comedy writer and by 1960, he started to perform as a stand-up comedian.
With a career that has lasted for more than sixty years, Woody Allen has risen from the ranks of being a comedy writer to acting and directing films. The entirety of his career is replete with films that speak of his genius as a writer, director, and actor, but in his rich career of more than forty films, there are movies that have been great and others that are not so remarkable. This is a list of Woody Allen’s movies ranked from best to worst; it includes movies he has acted in, directed or wrote.
Woody Allen’s Best and Worst Movie Efforts
Annie Hall (1977)
For many critics, this is the best film in all of Woody Allen’s movies. He wrote the film, directed it and played the lead role as Alvy Singer, a young comedian who tries to navigate the world of love and sexuality. Diane Keaton who plays the titular character is Singer’s love interest and the best one he has had in his string of lovers, but despite the love they feel for each other, their relationship keeps failing. Their failing relationship drives the young comedian to many questions and he wonders what love and life mean. Annie Hall has been described as biographical by critics, a notion that has been supported by Keaton who was in an actual relationship with Allen but Woody himself has refuted this claim. For the work he did on the film which includes writing and directing, he won two Academy Awards and two BAFTAs.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Made on a budget of $17 million, Midnight in Paris was able to make more than $150 million. Allen wrote and directed the film and in the usual pattern of Woody Allen’s movies, there is the motif of the artist’s life coupled with nostalgia. The brilliance of this film is how Allen combines these two elements and makes a film about time travel and the creative world of the early twenties also known as the modern era. Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a man who writes movie scripts for a living but wishes to branch into fictional writing; a trip to Paris changes his life drastically.
This is one of the later films in his long career and Allen is still able to remind critics of the skill he possesses when it comes to crafting a good story and bringing it to life on the screen.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
An Academy Award, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe were the three awards Woody Allen bagged for this film. In his usual fashion, he wrote, directed and starred in it. This film is at the top of the list of Allen’s highest-grossing films and it is yet another proof of how talented he is. It was made with $6.4 million but grossed $40.1 million in box office sales. The film revolves around the lives of three sisters and how their lives are entwined. Allen plays a minor role in the film but the crafting of his story is what makes the film stand out.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
This is one of the few Woody Allen’s films that were not successful at the box office but this was not a reflection of the feelings of critics who praised the novelty of the story despite it being an adaptation. Allen wrote and directed the film and for its lead role, he cast Mia Farrow who he was in a relationship with at that time. Farrow plays Cecilia, a woman who finds escape from her terrible life by going to the movies. One day she chooses to see the film, The Purple Rose of Cairo and while she is seeing the film, one of the characters breaks the fourth wall to join her and they have an adventure by themselves. Allen claimed that he became confounded while writing the film, however, the film does not show any signs of confused writing.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Blanchett is the star of this Woody Allen movie, and she plays Jasmine Francis. Jasmine had a good life in New York where she was married to a man named Hal (played by Alec Baldwin). Hal was a money manager who had fraudulent dealings which were the biggest source of his earnings; his business was not the only aspect of his life where he was fraudulent as he was cheating on Jasmine with different women. When she found out that he was leaving her, she decided to call the FBI and report him. Blue Jasmine was a huge success at the box office and with critics. For her performance, Blanchett won the award for Best Actress at the Golden Globe and BAFTAs.
This 1979 film was made in black and white which just adds to the artistic allure of Allen’s directing. Woody Allen is Isaac Davis, a man who is caught in a love triangle with an underage girl and the mistress of his best friend. For all the awards the film was nominated for, it won only a few, however, the real win was at the box office where it grossed $39.9 million. The movie features an ensemble cast of Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Meryl Streep, and Anne Byrne. Allen said he was inspired to make the film by listening to the music of George Gershwin. This music and the black and white feature of the film are some of the major things that appealed to critics.
Husbands and Wives (1992)
A recurring theme in the films of Woody Allen is a preoccupation with romantic relationships and in this film, he does that with the love story of two couples and how they go from friends to being in a love triangle. This film is particularly important because it is the last film he made that featured Mia Farrow, a woman he dated for more than ten years and made thirteen films with. Their relationship was already over by the time the film was released in 1992.
New York Stories (Segment: Oedipus Wrecks)
New York Stories is a 1989 anthology made up of three films. Richard Price wrote the first film and it was directed by Martin Scorsese while the second was written by Sofia Coppola and was directed by her father, Francis Ford Coppola. The last part of the anthology titled Oedipus Wrecks was written and directed by Woody Allen – who also starred in it. The title of the film is an indication of the actions that happen in Oedipus Wrecks. Sheldon, the character played by Allen has issues with his mother who is very controlling. He wishes that she disappears and she does – only for her to appear in the sky to terrorize him. The film was a success at the box office but mostly had mixed reactions from critics.
Hollywood Ending (2002)
This is one of the few films Woody Allen has made that can be considered a failure. It was not successful at the box office neither was it a huge hit with critics who felt that Woody was not in his element with his writing and directing. Allen plays the role of Val Waxman, a director whose career is winding down and is stuck making TV commercials. He gets a call to come direct a film and to his dismay, it is his ex-wife and the man he lost her to that want to enlist him. The film chronicles the issues that arise in the course of making the film.
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
This Woody Allen movie is a complicated one and this is not just in the story but also for the reception it received and the reputation it has. This is the only one of the director’s films that received a Raspberry nomination and it was for the performance of Mia Farrow who played the lead actress. Despite it, the film was a success with a lot of critics but some felt the film lacked some elements that could make it much better than what it was.