Annie Hall or Bananas? Blue Jasmine or Sleeper? Our critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey rank all 47 Woody Allen movies
18. Radio Days (1987)
Radio Days is Allen being nostalgic about nostalgia: it’s the kind of film about the olden days they just don’t make any more. The model was Fellini’s free-flowing 1973 masterpiece Amarcord, with Rimini swapped for Rockaway Beach in Queens, where a working-class Jewish family buzz and drift through everyday life, while the music of Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington crackles comfortingly from the living room set. Allen weaves in further stories of stars and wannabes, muddling memory and fantasy. The result isn’t so much a collage as a patchwork quilt.
17. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
It sounds like Shakespeare laid the template for this gauzy upstate romp, but it was really the “weekend in the country” conceit of Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night (spun off by Stephen Sondheim, too, in A Little Night Music). There’s a lot of sneaking around, love being kindled, or rekindled, and so on: you imagine the Porky’s crowd lured in by the title may have been disappointed. As an Allen milestone, it’s mainly notable as the first of his (unlucky) 13 films with Mia Farrow, who took the role originally written for the too-busy Diane Keaton. She gets more dreamy close-ups than he’d ever give her again.
16. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
The best of Allen’s Europe-trotting films is the one most in touch with its touristic soul. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall are two young American women who fall for Javier Bardem’s divorced artist during a Catalonian excursion – and like A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, it’s the idea of romance as a mini-break for the soul that gives the film its rosily libidinous power. Of its unspeakably attractive cast, Penélope Cruz was the eventual Oscar-winner; oftentimes, you sense Allen’s just happy to be tagging along for the ride.
15. Take the Money and Run (1969)
“This is a bank robbery, not a movie,” complains Allen’s Virgil Starkwell – although in this case, it’s easy to get the two confused. Allen rushes into this mock-biopic of a hapless serial crook all puns blazing, with concepts pilfered from Chaplin and the Marx brothers, and an arsenal of brilliant sight gags, one-liners and physical comedy routines. (For the sheer comic density of the idea, the marching-band cellist might be the best thing he ever did.) It’s his archetypal early, funny film: one may have come earlier, but none were funnier.
14. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
This is a throwback to when Allen’s sheer confidence with the pen ruled: the idea of a theatreland gangster farce, with playwright John Cusack finding an unexpectedly brilliant collaborator in the form of Chazz Palminteri’s Mob bodyguard, isn’t inspired per se, but the characters he flings together keep it brimful of pep and ideas. Jim Broadbent and Tracey Ullmann both ham it up marvellously as seen-it-all Broadway stars, and Jennifer Tilly scores as the squeaky moll cast to guarantee financing, but the jewel in this ensemble is Dianne Wiest, walking off with her second Allen-derived Oscar as the sublimely melodramatic diva Helen Sinclair.