Annie Hall or Bananas? Blue Jasmine or Sleeper? Our critics Robbie Collin and Tim Robey rank all 47 Woody Allen movies
13. Blue Jasmine (2013)
Of Allen’s many mooted returns to form, here’s the film that actually was one: a lacerating comedy of financial and romantic recessions, and his best work since his extraordinary mid-career hot streak came crunching to a halt in the early 1990s. Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her heart-tightening performance in the title role – a kind of Blanche DuBois of Park Avenue brought low by her husband’s economic chicanery. Jasmine’s dogged denial of her desperate circumstances is the fire under the film’s feet, and watching her crumble is agonising, thrilling – and, most damning of all, great fun.
12. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
After the breakdown of his relationship with Mia Farrow, Woody called up some old pals – Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, co-writer Marshall Brickman, and even long-absent muse Diane Keaton – for this decompression exercise, which is a lovely, elegant diversion: a sprightly comic spin on the kind of material he’d attacked before for trenchant irony. Woody and Diane enter Nick-and-Nora detective mode when their elderly neighbour (Lynn Cohen) abruptly drops dead. The dimestore plot – not always Woody’s main point of interest – is satisfyingly wrought, perhaps thanks to Brickman’s input, and the quartet of leads fall back into a mutually sceptical sparring mode that’s flat-out irresistible.
11. Interiors (1978)
The most hair-shirt-ish of all Allen’s projects, and his most self-consciously “serious” enterprise, Interiors walks a tightrope between ballsy, committed artistry and self-parodic doffing of the cap to Ingmar Bergman. Choose your side. The Swedish auteur could hardly have his fingerprints on this more if he’d been credited as the decorator – we spend most of it inside a gloomily beige Long Island beach house pontificating on everyone’s misery, and Geraldine Page’s witchy obsession with expensive vases gets quickly hard to take. That said, the emotional effort being expended is cumulatively hard to shrug off, and Maureen Stapleton’s touching late intrusion as a klutzy, vulgarian stepmom does have absolutely the liberating effect intended.
10. Stardust Memories (1980)
If Allen’s first truly great film arrived in 1977 (see no 3), it was three years later that his greatness began to rankle – with both his audience and himself. Stardust Memories is about the moment that artistic success feels like failure: it was Allen’s own, chortlingly prosaic version of the high-toned creative ennui of Fellini’s 8½. Allen plays himself – or, rather, the filmmaker Sandy Bates, who’s buffeted by fans and torn between lovers to the point that chaos starts to take on the shape of art itself. Slammed at the time, it’s a retrospective knock-out, thanks to its ambitious structure, vinegary gags and the searing monochrome photography, courtesy of Gordon Willis.
9. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Sometimes Allen has a knack for casting himself ideally, sometimes he doesn’t. Despite his terrible wardrobe, beleaguered variety agent Danny Rose is one of Woody’s most snugly tailored roles: instantly funny, a little sad, and right up at the most endearing end of the characters he’s played. It helps that Mia Farrow, as a girl-next-door with a criminal ex, is such a sweet moll, too: sharp-tongued but vulnerable beneath it. The film is deceptively throwaway, but has a neat nugget of philosophy to cleave to, about loyalty to anyone who has offered you theirs. The warmth of the payoff spreads through you like a ray of sunshine.