People have been ranking Woody Allen movies ever since he made his second one, 'Take the Money and Run,' in 1969. (No. 2 on that list was 'What's Up, Tiger Lily?')

But with his 40th film due out in September, the 74-year-old Allen has now offered a list of his own. In no specific order, he told the London Times last week that his six favorites are 'The Purple Rose of Cairo,' 'Match Point,' 'Bullets Over Broadway,' 'Zelig,' 'Husbands and Wives' and 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona.'

Judging his overall career, Allen proves to be his harshest critic, saying there is "a surprising paucity of worthwhile celluloid." Indeed, it would be a paucity of worthwhile celluloid if his six faves were, in fact, his six best. But only two of them -- 'Purple Rose' and 'Bullets Over Broadway' -- might rank as high as sixth on a less personal assessment of his work.

I have seen all 39 of Allen's past movies and reviewed almost 30 of them at the time of their release. I have strong opinions about the best and worst of them, and will get to those lists at the bottom of this story.

People have been ranking Woody Allen movies ever since he made his second one, 'Take the Money and Run,' in 1969. (No. 2 on that list was 'What's Up, Tiger Lily?')

But with his 40th film due out in September, the 74-year-old Allen has now offered a list of his own. In no specific order, he told the London Times last week that his six favorites are 'The Purple Rose of Cairo,' 'Match Point,' 'Bullets Over Broadway,' 'Zelig,' 'Husbands and Wives' and 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona.'

Judging his overall career, Allen proves to be his harshest critic, saying there is "a surprising paucity of worthwhile celluloid." Indeed, it would be a paucity of worthwhile celluloid if his six faves were, in fact, his six best. But only two of them -- 'Purple Rose' and 'Bullets Over Broadway' -- might rank as high as sixth on a less personal assessment of his work.

I have seen all 39 of Allen's past movies and reviewed almost 30 of them at the time of their release. I have strong opinions about the best and worst of them, and will get to those lists at the bottom of this story. But the list that tells the best story is this one, which I created using box office grosses with ticket prices adjusted for inflation:

Top 10 Woody Allen movies at the box office:

1. 'Annie Hall' (1977) $136.5 million.
2. 'Manhattan' (1979) $126.4 million.
3. 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986) $85.9 million.
4. 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask' (1972) $84 million.
5. 'Sleeper' (1973) $82.2 million.
6. 'Love and Death' (1975) $77.9 million.
7. 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' (1989) $36.6 million.
8. 'Interiors' (1978) $35.3 million.
9. 'Stardust Memories' (1980) $30.7 million.
10. 'Radio Days' (1987) $30.1 million.

One thing that stands out about that list is that it doesn't contain a single movie made after the public learned of Allen's affair with girlfriend Mia Farrow's adopted teenage daughter in 1992. Also missing are any of Allen's proclaimed favorites.

His failure to mention 'Sleeper' or 'Love and Death' as personal favorites reminds me of his character in 1980's 'Stardust Memories,' a neurotic, self-absorbed, quick-witted, intellectual Jewish New York filmmaker who shuns crowds and is particularly repelled by fans who adore his "early, funny" movies.

In an interview Allen gave me in his New York office not long after 'Stardust Memories,' he expressed surprise that so many of his own fans had felt personally insulted by the attitude of the film's antihero.

"The thing that surprised me was that people really believed it was about me," he said, causing my head to spin around about three times. Really? You create a character whose personal tics mirror yours, you cast yourself in the role and are then surprised that people confuse the two?

I love 'Stardust Memories' and Allen's later confessional 'Deconstructing Harry' precisely because he's digging beneath the glib surface of his comic persona. The movies are both funny and revealing; they're real artistic achievements as opposed to the hilarious but superficial sketch comedies with which he launched his career. I love both his early, funny movies and his mature mid-career movies, and think that leaving 'Annie Hall' and 'Manhattan' off his list of personal favorites approaches perverse self-loathing.

After poring over the list of Allen's 39 features, I disagree that there's a paucity of worthwhile celluloid. That is certainly true of his production since 'Sweet and Lowdown' in 1999, but he made 20 movies between 1969 and 1999 that are eminently worthwhile, and in some cases, great. It's a winning three-decade record that few filmmakers have matched.

These are the best (in order):

1. 'Sweet and Lowdown' (1999) Best balance of humor and pathos of any Allen movie, with great performances from Sean Penn and Samantha Morton, plus the music of Django Reinhardt. Sublime.
2. 'Annie Hall' (1977) Oscar winning career topper gets even better with age.
3. 'Stardust Memories' (1980) Despite his denials, it's the most telling movie of Allen's early career.
4. 'Deconstructing Harry' (1997) Despite his denials, the most damning self-examination of his career.
5. 'Bullets Over Broadway' (1994) John Cusack is the best of Allen's alter egos in this nifty stage potboiler.
6. 'Manhattan' (1979) One of Allen's creepiest May-September romances, but his hometown never looked better.
7. 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' (1989) The only serious Allen movie one needs to see.
8. 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986) Allen's second Best Picture Oscar nominee is an actors showcase.
9. 'Sleeper' (1973) It makes my list for its invention of the Orgasmatron alone.
10. 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' (1984) The ultimate moviegoer's fantasy is perhaps Woody's most poignant lark.
11. 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex...' (1972) Especially the segment where Burt Reynolds plays a sperm.
12. 'Broadway Danny Rose' (1984) If only the Borscht Belt comedians were this funny.
13. 'Radio Days' (1987) A sweet and perfectly toned ode to another time and another medium.
14. 'Love and Death' (1975) Hit-and-miss period comedy that introduces Woody's twin obsessions.
15. 'Zelig' (1983) Its breakthrough visual effects seem clumsy by today's standards, but it's still great fun.
16. 'Husbands and Wives' (1992) With this tale of dysfunctional couples, Woody knew of what he wrote.
17. 'Interiors' (1978) Not in the league with his idol Ingrid Bergman, but it's a stylish attempt at earnest drama.
18. 'Everyone Says I Love You' (1996) What Allen's only musical lacked in musicality, it made up for in romance.
19 and 20. 'Bananas' (1971) and 'Take the Money and Run' (1969) Dated now, but wicked funny at the time.

These are the middling films:

'Whatever Works' (2009) Vintage Allen cynicism with Larry David showing he's even better at it than the creator.
'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008) Woody tries on a little Almodovar, and little it is.
'Melinda and Melinda' (2004) An idea -- a woman's life in parallel tales of comedy and tragedy -- in search of a story.
'Match Point' (2005) A lazy drama based on a visual gimmick.
'Mighty Aphrodite' (1995) Toss-off comedy with career performance from otherwise un-gifted Mira Sorvino.

These are the bad films:

'Cassandra's Dream' (2007) This drama about brothers who plot a crime is a leaden failure.
'What's Up, Tiger Lily?' (1966) The least of Allen's larks.
'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' (1982) A lot of whimsy, but not much wit.
'Anything Else' (2003) Misbegotten comedy in which Allen teaches young Jason Biggs how to be Allen.
'Another Woman' (1988), 'Alice' (1990) and 'September' (1987) Three humorless and unconvincing attempts at drama.
'Scoop' (2006) It's hard to watch Woody work with Scarlett Johansson knowing how badly he would like to have given himself a love scene.
'Hollywood Ending' (2003) and 'Celebrity' (1998) In which Allen attacks his twin nemeses of Hollywood and celebrity.
'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion' (2001) and 'Small Time Crooks' (2000) Lighter and less filling than a couple of beers.

The worst Allen movie of all time is:

'Shadows and Fog' (1991) As murky and about as much fun as it sounds.

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