Woody Allen's greatest films

Slide show: In a career with more stages than Coachella, these 10 movies are the director's finest

By Matt Zoller Seitz
November 19, 2011 5:30AM (UTC)
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Woody Allen, whose career will be celebrated next week by PBS' documentary series "American Masters," has been making films for so long that it's a wonder the program didn't profile him sooner. With 47 directing credits, 68 screenwriting credits, and let's-not-even-start-totaling his Oscar wins and nominations, he's a gray-haired machine who gets more done in a decade than most artists accomplish in a lifetime.

When I decided to pick my favorite Allen films for a slide show, I thought it would be easy. After all, he tells "American Masters" that he's pursued a quantity-over-quality strategy, making as many pictures as he can and hoping his batting average stays solid over time. Filtering out the really horrible titles wasn't tough -- so long, "Curse of the Jade Scorpion," "Celebrity" and "Hollywood Ending."

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But picking the best took longer than I expected, because while most filmmakers are lucky to have one career phase, Allen has had at least five. There was the "earlier, funny phase," the late-'70s American urban artiste phase, the 1980s chameleon entertainer phase, the post-Soon-Yi-scandal 1990s phase in which his scripts got a lot angrier and more profane, and most recently a European phase -- one that delivered his top-grossing feature, 2011's "Midnight in Paris." And in between phases he's had slumps so dispiriting that some people figured he was done.

I decided to be tough and limit my list to 10. That leaves 37 titles to plug into the sentence, "Hey, what about 'X'?" Have at it -- and if you want to know how Allen's morality studies "Crime and Misdemeanors" and "Match Point" got omitted, I'll explain my reasoning in the Letters section, where I hope we can swap favorite lines as well. My selection process was totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I kept going through it because I needed the eggs.


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