Top-5 — Woody Allen Films of the 80’s

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Film, Justin Wagner, Top5
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[Posted by: Justin Wagner]

Woody Allen has always been a busy filmmaker, showing astonishing productivity and consistency throughout his career, and while in the 80’s he made 10 films, it was still one of his least fruitful decades. During the ending of the 70’s – beginning with Annie Hall – he ventured into a more sophisticated, dramatic comedy that would hint at the future filmmaker he would become. A year later he released Interiors which marked the first time he would direct a dramatic film. While these changes in style were new to Woody Allen, he would advance upon these changes very successfully in the 80’s with his increase of comedy/dramas and his new leading lady, Mia Farrow. Though the 80’s showed him making some of the best films of his career, it also was the start of him making bad films, or as bad as a Woody Allen picture can be. Let’s take a look at the best films Woody Allen has to offer from his career in the 80’s.

5. Zelig

Allen’s most original film is a period piece, a historical re-documentation, and mockumentary all wrapped into one. The story is centered around lead character, Leonard Zelig, who can change his whole appearance to the likes of the people surrounding him. Mia Farrow, in only her second leading role of thirteen in a Woody Allen film, stars as psychiatrist Dr. Eudora Fletcher who tries to cure Zelig of his disorder. During this time she begins to fall for Zelig, but who is Zelig, really?

4. Hannah and Her Sisters

Undoubtedly Allen’s most popular and most critically acclaimed film from the 80’s. Nominated for 7 Academy awards, and winning three (including best original screenplay), this film was his biggest hit at the academy since Annie Hall and he hasn’t had another run like it since. With a wide array of characters the film has a lot of story arcs, but with zero fat. Each scene adds something new to the story, and the pacing of the overall film is great. Michael Caine gives one of his best performances, and one of the most memorable of any Woody Allen film.

3. Crimes and Misdemeanors

While death and the thought of it are recurring themes in Woody Allen’s films, this was one of the first to deal with the subject of murder as a main plot point. Two stories are presented in Crimes and Misdemeanors each one depicting the same moral issue, but with different outcomes. The lust of another woman while still in a marriage is the issue that respected ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau, giving the best performance of a Woody Allen film) and not so successful documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) are dealing with. While Judah’s story is a dead serious drama, Cliff’s story is a strong contender for some of the funniest moments of any Woody Allen film.

2. Stardust Memories

Often called Allen’s answer to Fellini’s , this is his most beautifully shot film. While borrowing heavily from ‘s formula, Allen is still able to make the film unique to him by adding his signature brand of comedy to the mix with a story that all artists can relate to. Woody Allen stays in the comfort zone with his character, but the other leading counterparts in the film breathe new life to his otherwise similar characters. This film shows Woody Allen’s most genuine relationships between the characters on-screen from the conflicting lust for two women while Allen’s character, Sandy Bates, is still in love with his ex to the relationship between Sandy and the fans turned against him. This film shows perfectly how Woody Allen can condense a classic film into better, more fun, more beautiful comedy.

1. The Purple Rose of Cairo

One of Allen’s most unique films is also one of the few that he actually likes the finished product. The love of cinema, the preferences of the fictional over reality, and all things enchanting and heartbreaking that go along; these are the backbone to one of the Allen’s most charming and most witty films. Led by a perfectly casted Jeff Daniels as Tom Baxter – arguably the best non-Allen character of all his films – and a wonderful Mia Farrow as the naive dreamer, Cecilia, the film is about the wishful hopings of exiting your life and joining the one on-screen, except in The Purple Rose of Cairo Tom Baxter enters Cecilia’s life. The two venture in the fantasies of the film, but in the 1930’s depression era real life that Cecilia dreads so much making allusions to the power cinema had on the public in the Great Depression.


  1. I loved your insight into what makes Allen so great. Despite his “bad” films he must still be considered among the greats! Thank you for this tribute to his 80s films.

  2. threelilly says:

    great post, it encourage me to watch them.

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