‘Hey, Don’t Knock Masturbation. It’s Sex With Someone I Love’ – The Best Woody Allen Films Of All Time

As movie icon Woody Allen turns 80, let's take a look back at some of his most famous films...

It’s hard to believe that Woody Allen, neurotic genius, figure of controversy and 24-time Academy Award nominee, is 80 years old today.

After a lifetime of creating memorable, magical and melancholy movies, from the early efforts of Sleeper to the newer offerings like Match Point, Woody shows no signs of stopping – he’s still creating a movie a year, and they’re still as impactful as ever.

It would be impossible to choose our top Woody Allen films – but here are eight that we’ll always love…

Annie Hall


Funny, heartbreaking, pioneering, completely unique and unbeatable in terms of its innovation (the subtitle scene, anyone?), Annie Hall is the quintessential Woody Allen film about love, sex and psychoanalysis. The Writers Guild of America named it the funniest screenplay of all time – but it’s not all a barrel of laughs. Woody’s first serious film, it focuses on the difficulties of modern relationships, and will always be remembered for Diane Keaton’s androgynous outfits, Woody’s neurotic humour, and the inimitable one-liners.

Favourite line: ‘Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.’

Blue Jasmine

Inspired by Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, the intense drama won Cate Blanchett an Academy Award – and a nomination for Woody for Best Original Screenplay. The film showed Cate Blanchett’s highly-strung character slowly falling apart in a whirlwind of her own delusions, and won Woody worldwide praise, with some critics calling the film his best work.

Favourite line: ‘Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.’

Manhattan

With a stellar cast including Meryl Streep, Diane Keaten and Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan was nominated for two Academy Awards and remains one of his biggest box office successes. However, despite the enduring charm of the film, which is essentially a love letter to Manhattan, accompanied by memorable jazz hits, Woody hated the final result and offered to make the film for free instead, saying ‘I just thought to myself, ‘At this point in my life, if this is the best I can do, they shouldn’t give me money to make movies.’

Favourite line: ‘I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.’

Hannah and her Sisters

Widely regarded as one of Woody’s finest works, and with three Academy Awards under its belt, the film stars Woody alongside Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher and Max Von Sydow, with cameo appearances from several of Farrow’s children, including Soon-Yi Previn, whom Woody would later go on to marry. Told in three main story arcs, the plot focuses around happenings at Thanksgiving parties hosted by Hannah, with most of the events in the film corresponding to her. Woody had been prompted to make the film after admitting he was fascinated by the idea of sisters, saying they were more complicated than brothers.

Favourite line: ‘I had a great evening; it was like the Nuremberg Trials.’

Midnight in Paris

One of Woody’s most nostalgic films, the movie sees Owen Wilson’s character travelling back each night at midnight, forcing him to confront the reality of his life with his materialistic soon-to-be wife. With a cast of well-known faces playing icons including Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Josephine Baker, the charming film, along with its melancholic soundtrack, makes for a must-see for anyone who’s ever wished they lived through the 1920s.

Favourite line: ‘That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.’

Husbands and Wives

It’s hard to watch this and not see the falling apart of the on-screen relationship between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow as mirroring their real-life relationship, especially because the couple parted before the film had even come out. Filmed with a handheld camera and featured documentary-like interviews with the characters, the innovation and real-life similarities have led to this movie’s firm place in the Woody Allen Hall of Fame.

Favourite line: ‘You use sex to express every emotion except love.’

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

As part of Woody’s European movie tour, a trip to Barcelona was obligatory – and this classic romantic comedy was born. Featuring Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, all entangled in various love affairs, the movie’s passionate, charming, funny script and colourful videography make for one of Woody’s best films of recent years.

Favourite line: ‘Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain. And this is a chance for something special.’

Crimes and Misdemeanors

This existential dramatic comedy film never really took off at the box office, but it’s still considered to be one of Woody’s best films – and indeed, was nominated for three Academy Awards. The movie about moral choices, guilt and dilemmas presents an unusual kind of suspense – what we, ourselves, would do in the same situation as the characters.

Favourite line: ‘People carry awful deeds around with them. This is reality. In reality we rationalise, we deny, or we couldn’t go on living.’

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