Woody Wednesday All 47 Woody Allen movies – ranked from worst to best Part A

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(L-R): Annie Hall, Sleeper and Vicky Christina Barcelona
(L-R): Annie Hall, Sleeper and To Rome With Love

Annie Hall or Bananas? Blue Jasmine or Sleeper? Our critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey rank all 47 Woody Allen movies

47. Hollywood Ending (2002)

The curtain-raiser for Cannes in 2002 was the definition of a duff opener, pleasing nobody: Allen cast himself as a once-fêted director who suffers an attack of hysterical blindness. Strenuous farce ensues, with a feature-length quantity of dead time on screen, and only Téa Leoni threatening to be an asset. The punchline explains its Cannes berth: when the $60m movie Allen’s character directs while blind is a resounding flop, his one consolation is that the French love it. But not even the French loved Hollywood Ending.

46. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

Allen has often shown an interest in stage magic and hypnotism (see also: Scoop, Magic in the Moonlight), but this enthusiasm reached its unfortunate nadir in this dodo of a light comedy, his most expensive film (it cost $33m) and by his own reckoning among the worst. His own performance as a wisecracking insurance investigator hypnotised into jewel theft was one problem, but Helen Hunt doesn’t fare much better as the ruthless efficiency expert he wants off his back. All the film achieves is managing to look lavishly nostalgic for a more sexist era.

45. Whatever Works (2009)

Imagine Manhattan if it’d been left to fester behind a radiator for a year. That’s more or less the measure of this comprehensively rancid May-September comic romance, although a fairer reflection of the age gap in question might be February-Hogmanay. Larry David’s sour particle physicist and Evan Rachel Wood’s blithering nymphette are Allen’s most flatly hideous screen couple, and the script clangs away deafeningly with misanthropy, misogyny and psychological false notes.

44. Don’t Drink the Water (1994)

In 1994, Allen adapted his first professionally produced play – a quick-fire Cold War farce in which a family of American tourists are mistaken for spies – for the television network ABC. A previous film version had been made in 1969, and apparently niggled away at Allen for years, though his own take in no sense redeems it: it looks shatteringly cheap and ugly, while the cast (which includes Michael J. Fox and Julie Kavner) have nothing to work with but reheated, three-decades-old schtick.

43. To Rome With Love (2012)
To Rome With Love
Credit: Rex

The worst of Allen’s late-period European films by some distance feels like a quartet of plots were randomly snatched from the director’s famous ideas drawer and liberally soused with Dolmio. They are, in reverse order of wretchedness: a shaggy dog story about singing in the shower, a middle-aged architect reflecting on a youthful romance, a grandad-ish kvetch about pointless celebrity, and a D.O.A. re-do of an early Fellini romp. The cast ranges from Jesse Eisenberg (fine under the circumstances) to Alec Baldwin (wail-out-loud terrible), with a monumentally insulting temptress role for Penélope Cruz.

42. Shadows and Fog (1991)

The great Italian cinematographer Carlo di Palma made 12 films with Allen, qualifying him as the director’s favourite director of photography, and was his chief accomplice in this stylistically bold homage to German Expressionism, which more or less does exactly what its title says. Plotwise, we’re stuck doing ill-thought-through Kafka pastiche, and despite the banner cast – Madonna, Kathy Bates, Lily Tomlin and Jodie Foster play prostitutes, with Mia Farrow and John Malkovich as a pair of circus performers – everything about it feels rattling and empty. It was a big flop.

41. Scoop (2006)

Scoop Trailer (2006)

 

The second of Woody Allen’s London films achieved the weird distinction of getting no theatrical release in its place of origin, despite the returning presence of Scarlett Johansson, and Hugh Jackman in the lead. The reasons are simple: it’s flagrantly disposable, continues Allen’s embarrassing love affair with a London that doesn’t exist, and cooks up no intrigue worth bothering with, for all the ins and outs of its Thin Man-esque plot. The one redeeming feature, surprisingly, is Allen himself, in the supporting role of an amusingly befuddled stage magician called The Great Splendini.

40. Anything Else (2003)

Allen has yet to submit a film entitled “Will This Do?”, but Anything Else comes closest, both in its title and for recycling old tropes about thwarted creativity and being stuck with a pesky, permanently difficult long-term girlfriend (Christina Ricci) who wants to move her mother in. Jason Biggs’s character is meant to be an aspiring comedy writer, but Allen’s script gives him not one funny line. All of these go to his ageing intellectual mentor, a veritable fount of park-bench philosophical witticisms, played by guess who. Go on, have a guess.

39. Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Allen’s European films have a definite touristic quality: watching them, you can almost sense the director location-scouting from an open-top bus. But in his third picture set in London, he goes off-piste, and things come seriously unstuck. Almost nothing in this Faustian thriller of two East End brothers (Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor) embroiled in a murder plot rings true: not the characters’ inner lives and aspirations, and certainly not their dialogue, which barely sounds human, let alone British. Compensation comes in the shape of a spirited supporting turn from Sally Hawkins and Philip Glass’s gathering storm of a score.

38. Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Magic in the Moonlight

A period frolic on the Riviera promises to be easy on the eye, and this fluffy time-killer is indeed bathed in seductive, slanting light. But Allen misjudges both the appeal of his main character, an arrogant English stage conjuror called Stanley Crawford, and the ability of Colin Firth to make him bearable, still less engaging. There’s a modicum of blithe-spirit fun to be had with Emma Stone, as an air-cupping young medium whose act Firth is furiously determined to debunk. Even setting aside their 28-year age gap, though, the romance here is a non-starter.

37. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

Woody’s fourth and, thus far, final London film is a lightly cynical ensemble juggling act, taking in gold-digging, psychic love advice and ambulance-chasing literary plagiarism. Josh Brolin is well cast as a desperate novelist, but Gemma Jones has the best of it as the jilted wife of Anthony Hopkins, whose new girlfriend is a tacky ex-hooker (Lucy Punch). Allen, alas, seems above all of his characters here, and inflicts petty twists of fate on them which feel forced and malicious rather than wise or illuminating.

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