Happy Birthday, Woody!
Woody Allen was born on December 1, 1935 and though well into retirement age, he's still going strong. In honor of the great filmmaker's 81st birthday, here are 81 famous movie moments, great performances, one-liners and more that make us love Woody Allen.
"If my films make one more person miserable, I'll feel I've done my job."
"The most beautiful words in the English language aren't 'I love you' but 'it's benign.'"
— "Deconstructing Harry"
— Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) to David Shayne (John Cusack), "Bullets Over Broadway"
Woody's role as "Z" in "Antz" — There's an impish quality to Woody's onscreen persona that is somewhat cartoonish. So when he finally voiced an actual cartoon in Dreamworks' "Antz," it proved to be one of his most purely enjoyable performances since his '70s heyday. Casting Woody opposite Sylvester Stallone was a stroke of genius. Too bad Woody has yet to take another trip behind the microphone. We'd love to hear him as a neurotic hedgehog in the next Pixar movie.
"Scenes from a Mall" — Woody rarely acts in films he doesn't write and direct, but he made a rare exception to star opposite Bette Midler in Paul Mazursky's 1991 comedy. The film plays like "West Coast Woody Lite," only without the great filmmaker's signature snappy dialogue and insights into love and married life. Unsurprisingly, it was a bomb. If nothing else, "Scenes from a Mall" offers a peek into an alternate universe where Woody gave up filmmaking to become a poor man's Billy Crystal.
"I do the movies just for myself like an institutionalized person who basket-weaves. Busy fingers are happy fingers. I don't care about the films. I don't care if they're flushed down the toilet after I die."
"Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present." — For a filmmaker so in tune with the past, the moment in "Midnight in Paris" where Paul (Owen Wilson) realizes the dangers of pining for a bygone time is particularly wistful. It's also perhaps a summation of Woody's career — moving forward, while constantly looking back.
Christopher Walken in "Annie Hall" — Moviegoers got an early taste of Walken’s signature intensity when he played Duane, Annie’s off-kilter brother. Woody’s response to Duane’s creepy monologue (“I have to go now, Duane, because I’m due back on the Planet Earth ...”) is sheer comedic perfection.
The courtroom scene in "Bananas" — While he tends to be equated with romantic comedy and drama, it’s important to remember a time when Woody’s stock-in-trade was gut-busting slapstick. Check out the courtroom scene from "Bananas" as proof that Allen is capable of the type of go-for-broke wackiness that wouldn’t be out of place in the films of Monty Python and The Zucker Brothers.
The ending of "Match Point" — As a commentary on fate, luck and the nature of good and evil, the ending of Woody’s acclaimed 2005 thriller still haunts to this day.
Sean Penn in "Sweet and Lowdown" — Usually known for his high-strung dramatic work, Penn offers a, dare we say, sweet performance in Woody’s underrated musical riff on Fellini’s "La Strada."
“This year I’m a star, but what will I be next year? A black hole?” — Woody in 1977, following the success of “Annie Hall”
Mira Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite" — Sorvino’s performance as a helium-voiced prostitute in Allen’s 1995 comedy earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win and helped put the actress on the map (which she’s since fallen off of). Perhaps it’s time to dial up Woody for a reunion?
The moment Woody sings in “Everyone Says I Love You” — Once we realized that everyone in Woody’s boisterous 1996 comedy would be breaking into song, we were a bit concerned about how the Woodman’s pipes would sound. Well, darned if he doesn’t deliver a solid version of “I’m Through With Love.” Is there anything Woody can’t do?
That time he reunited with Diane Keaton to solve a murder — 1993’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” proved that Keaton and Allen could still muster up their old chemistry over a decade later. Is it too much to hope that they’ll do one more film together?
“Zelig” — Before Forrest Gump, there was Leonard Zelig, Woody’s human chameleon who always seemed to turn up at key moments throughout history. Viewed today, the "Zelig" mockumentary style feels both fresh and ahead of its time.
His many Bergman and Fellini homages — Woody is an unabashed admirer of great European filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, and it shows in films like “Stardust Memories” (his take on Fellini’s "8½") and “Interiors” (aka, the most Bergman-esque American film ever made).
“Inside Woody Allen” — Created by artist Stuart Hemple, “Inside Woody Allen” brought the Woodman’s neuroses to the newspaper comics page. (You might also recognize Hemple’s artwork from the animated sequences in "Annie Hall.") Woody is quite possibly the only filmmaker who could make quips next to Garfield.
“Wild Man Blues” — Only Woody could make a documentary about a Dixieland jazz band touring Europe hilarious.
The rabbi scene from “Annie Hall” — Just try to think of Grammy Hall’s view of Alvy Singer without cracking a smile. It still remains one of the most referenced bits from any Woody film.
"Without Feathers" — Woody has penned countless essays and short fiction pieces for the New Yorker over the years, many of which are collected in the books "Getting Even," "Without Feathers," "Side Effects" and "Mere Anarchy." Check out “The Whore of Mensa” from "Without Feathers" for perhaps the most sublime example of Woody’s signature mix of high and low comedy.
Louise Lasser in “Bananas” — Diane Keaton gets most of the accolades when it comes to Woody’s batty comedic foils. But Lasser, who was married to Woody from 1966 to 1970, first appeared opposite Woody’s signature neurotics in films like “Take the Money and Run" and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).” But it’s her turn as the political activist that Woody’s Fielding Mellish tries to impress that is quite possibly the “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” star’s funniest role.
Gena Rowlands in “Another Woman” — Woody’s late '80s output tends to be overlooked (when’s the last time you watched “September”?), which is a shame when it comes to his 1988 Bergman-esque drama “Another Woman.” Worth discovering for Rowlands’ brilliant performance, as well as strong turns from Gene Hackman, Ian Holm, Sandy Dennis and others.
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality by not dying."
— Woody on his legacy
Judy Davis in “Husbands and Wives” — Davis scored an Oscar nomination for her role as a high-strung wife in Woody’s darkly comic 1992 dissection of marriage.
Scarlett Johansson in “Match Point” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — The actress showed there are layers to her sexuality in two Woody flicks that gave her some of her best roles. We’ll just pretend that “Scoop” never happened.
The cast of “Bullets Over Broadway” — Dianne Wiest scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for her hilarious performance as an aging theater starlet, while Jennifer Tilly and Chazz Palminteri earned nominations. The cast of this theatrical send-up is so strong, it’s no wonder that Woody is helping to bring “Bullets” to the actual Broadway stage.
“Sex with you is really a Kafkaesque experience.” — Pam (Shelley Duvall) to Alvy (Woody Allen), “Annie Hall”
"If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever."
– Boris (Woody Allen), "Love and Death"
The sperm sketch in “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” — One of Woody’s most iconic bits that’s still hilarious today. We learned more from this classic comedy than we’re willing to admit.
His love of basketball — Knicks games just wouldn’t be the same without Woody sitting courtside.
Howard Cosell in “Bananas” — The famed sportscaster played himself in one of Woody’s best gags, offering a play-by-play on Fielding (Woody Allen) and Nancy’s (Louise Lasser) lovemaking.
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” — Need proof that Woody can still create vivid characters that aren’t just stand-ins for his own neurotic persona? Look no further than Cate Blanchett’s brilliant performance as a down-on-her-luck socialite forced to live with her working-class sister.
Marshall McLuhan in “Annie Hall” — In one of the funniest scenes in Woody’s classic comedy, Alvy breaks the fourth wall to bring media theorist Marshall McLuhan himself into the film to reprimand a pretentious filmgoer. It’s the ultimate revenge on that annoying cinephile blowhard who we always end up in line behind at every foreign film screening.
“They don’t throw their garbage away out here. They turn it into television shows.”
— Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) on California, “Annie Hall”
Woody’s 2002 Oscar appearance — One of the most cathartic post-9/11 moments came when Woody, the perennial Oscar no-show, took the stage to crack jokes and introduce a film tribute to the city he loves.
“Jimmy” Bond in “Casino Royale” — Before Daniel Craig, Woody joined Peter Sellers and an all-star cast in this spy spoof. Look for Woody as the evil Dr. Noah and (spoiler alert for a 46-year-old movie!) Jimmy Bond, James’ nebbish nephew.
“Love is too weak a word for what I feel … I lurrrve you.” — Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), “Annie Hall”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Celebrity” — Getting Leo to spoof himself during his heartthrob heyday was no small feat. But the “Titanic” star proved that he had a sense of humor about his pretty boy image in Woody’s underrated 1998 Hollywood satire.
“You're God's answer to Job. You would have ended all argument between them … He would have pointed to you and said, ‘Y'know, I do a lot of terrible things, but I can still make one of these.’"
– Isaac (Woody) to Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), “Manhattan”
“I had a great evening; it was like the Nuremberg Trials.”
– Mickey (Woody Allen), “Hannah and Her Sisters”
"I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox."
— Alvy Singer, "Annie Hall"
The coke sneeze in “Annie Hall” — Woody brilliantly skewers the LA party scene in a classic bit where a pile of cocaine causes him to get the sniffles.
“I think people should mate for life. Like pigeons or Catholics.”
— Isaac (Woody Allen), “Manhattan”
Mae Questel’s larger-than-life mother in “New York Stories” — Woody joined Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola for this 1989 anthology film that paid tribute to the Big Apple. The Woodman’s offering, “Oedipus Wrecks,” is easily the funniest, casting the late Mae Questel as a mom that continues to pester Woody’s character (from the sky, no less) even after death.
Luna: "So what do you believe in?"
Miles: "Sex and death."
“Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
— Alvy Singer, “Annie Hall “
Yale: "You are so self-righteous, you know. I mean, we're just people. We're just human beings, you know? You think you're God."
Isaac: "I gotta model myself after someone."
“What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” — Woody’s debut film, a hilarious overdub of a terrible Japanese spy flick, holds up perfectly in the age of YouTube movie re-cuts.
“That sex was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.”
— “Annie Hall”
Martin Landau in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” — Fans of “Match Point” will want to check out Woody’s acclaimed 1989 drama, which features a similar plot and examines themes inspired by Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” Landau scored a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as a successful ophthalmologist who plots the demise of his mistress.
“Play It Again, Sam” — Easily the best Woody Allen film that he didn’t direct (Herbert Ross helmed Woody’s screenplay based on his play), “Play It Again, Sam” would make for a good triple feature with “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Midnight in Paris.” The dynamic between Woody’s character and Humphrey Bogart inspired the scenes between Christian Slater and Val Kilmer’s Elvis in Quentin Tarantino’s “True Romance” screenplay.
Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it? … What does it say to you?
Museum girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence… The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void…
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?
—"Play It Again, Sam"
Elaine May in “Small Time Crooks” — May’s ditzy character is a highlight of Woody’s 2000 heist comedy.
“Sex alleviates tension. Love causes it.”
— Woody Allen
Corey Stoll in “Midnight in Paris” — Stoll brought genuine life and passion to the role of Ernest Hemingway in Allen’s literary fantasia. How about a full-length biopic, Woody?
“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.”
— Alvy Singer, “Annie Hall”
“Hope is not ‘the thing with feathers.’ The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.”
— “With Feathers”
“My apartment was robbed about four times in two years. Finally, I put on my door a little blue and white sticker that said ‘we gave.’”
— Stand-up joke, 1965
Woody’s many analyst jokes — Has any comedian ever gotten more material out of his therapy sessions?
Charlotte Rampling in “Stardust Memories” — At the heart of Woody’s gorgeously shot black & white homage to Fellini’s "8½" is Rampling’s gut-wrenching performance as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Check out this gem to see one of the most underrated performances in all of Woody’s filmography.
Mia Farrow in “The Purple Rose of Cairo” — Farrow, whose on and off-screen partnership with Woody came to a famously public end during the '90s, gave a number of strong performances in her ex-partner’s films. Perhaps her strongest (and sweetest) role was as a down-on-her luck waitress during the Great Depression who finds herself in a love triangle with an actor (Jeff Daniels) and — in a bit of signature Woody magic — the black & white character he plays on the big screen (also Daniels). Farrow and Daniels have great chemistry in Woody’s moving ode to the power of movies.
“The Moose” — In this classic stand-up routine, Woody explains his hilarious hunting trip gone wrong.
“Don’t Drink the Water” — Woody has written a number of plays over the years, including this satire about a family who gets trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Howard Morris directed a lackluster 1969 film starring Jackie Gleason. Woody himself took a shot directing a TV movie version in 1994, in which he starred alongside Michael J. Fox and Julie “Marge Simpson” Kavner. Worth hunting down on DVD for Woody completists.
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
— Woody Allen
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
— Woody Allen
“80% of success is showing up.”
— Woody Allen
“He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that, he romanticized it all out of proportion.”
— Isaac (Woody Allen), “Manhattan”
“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering … and it's all over much too soon.”
— Woody Allen
Larry David in “Whatever Works” — Many actors have played the Woody part in Allen’s films over the years (remember Kenneth Branagh stammering his way through "Celebrity"?), but few have been a more perfect stand-in than the creator of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Fun fact: Woody originally wrote the role in the '70s for the late Zero Mostel.) While everything else in “Whatever Works” doesn’t really, uh, work, Larry David is a lot of fun as the curmudgeonly intellectual Boris Yelnikoff.
Paul Simon in “Annie Hall” — Who knew sensitive music legend Paul Simon could play the archetypal LA phony? Clearly, all that time he spent around record executives paid off.
Seth Green in “Radio Days” — The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Robot Chicken” star got his big break playing Woody’s young counterpart in this wistful ode to the Golden Age of radio.
Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — Cruz won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her fiery performance as Javier Bardem’s tempestuous ex-wife.
"A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."
— Alvy Singer, “Annie Hall”
The cast of “Hannah and Her Sisters” — Dianne Wiest and Michael Caine deservedly scored Best Supporting Actress and Actor trophies, respectively, for their performances in Woody’s acclaimed comedic drama. The rest of the cast shines as well, in what is easily one of the best Thanksgiving films ever made.
The final scene of “Manhattan” — Woody isn’t exactly an optimist when it comes to relationships, but the hesitant smile he gives when Mariel Hemingway’s Tracy tells him he has to have a little faith in people ends his masterful homage to the city that never sleeps on a (somewhat) hopeful note.
“After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I realized what a terrific person she was, and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I thought of that old joke. This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships. Y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and ... but, uh, I guess we keep going through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs.”
— Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), “Annie Hall”
The lobster scene in “Annie Hall” — If you want a perfect example of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s undeniable comedic chemistry, we humbly submit the scene in “Annie Hall” where they face off against some live lobsters.
Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” — Of all the wonderful performances Keaton has given, she will forever be remembered as quirky Annie Hall. Her chemistry with Woody set the template for every romantic comedy since, and her fashion sense continues to inspire today.
The bridge scene in "Manhattan" — Not only is it one of the most famous Woody Allen moments, it’s one of the most iconic New York City images, period. The swelling Gershwin music, Gordon Willis’ gorgeous cinematography and the sweet dialogue between Woody and Diane Keaton all add up to an unforgettable scene that likely inspired more than a few people to fall in love with the Big Apple. “This is really a great city,” Woody says. And it wouldn’t be the same without him.
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