Calling Woody Allen an influential filmmaker would be understatement. One of the most prolific auteurs, active since 1966, Allen has been debuting a new movie almost every year since the beginning of his career. Influenced by European art cinema, Allen presents everything atypical, including big screen spectacles that we usually get from mainstream Hollywood.
In fact, it would be a mistake to call Allen a Hollywood director (even though he likes old Hollywood and movie magic), because he paved the way for independent directors who can make great art with little money and simply great ideas. If you are a Woody Allen fan, you have probably seen all or most of his movies, so here is a list of similar films that are hugely influenced by his works.
10. The Squid and the Whale (2005, Noah Baumbach)
This comedy-drama follows a Brooklyn family after the parents decided to separate. Like in Allen’s films, we focus on family dynamics, similar to “Interiors” (1978) and “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986). The characters are typical New York art scene intellectuals, with father Bernard being a once-promising novelist. After his wife Joan’s published work starts to get critical acclaim, the tension between them increases and leads to separation.
We also follow their teenage sons as they try to make sense in their parents’ complicated relationship. The characters could easily be caricatures if they weren’t played by amazing actors like Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and Jesse Eisenberg, who balance with ease between comedy and dramatic moments. The film is directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Wes Anderson, two distinct auteurs who are highly influenced by Allen’s works in two similar but also very different ways.
9. Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman)
Woody Allen is probably just as much a symbol of New York as the Statue of Liberty. With his distinct New York don’t-care-but-will-have-an-opinion-about-anything attitude, his characters like to talk, ranging from banal topics to those that can lead to trying to understand the meaning of life.
Whit Stillman’s debut “Metropolitan” follows a group of rich New York friends from college during their winter break. Set in a world of debutantes, they spend their time drinking, partying, and talking, trying to sound smarter than they are and pretending that they are above emotions, only caring about social status and money, but true emotions and pain still find their way.
Stillman lets his characters be unlikable, but everyone can relate to pretentious young people who are still trying to find themselves and be accepted by their peers, even if we’re are not part of high society like them.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)
This nonlinear sci-fi romantic comedy-drama follows a couple who decided to erase each other from their memories. Allen likes to make movies about dating and love, but also about breakups and the end of love; the most famous movie about this topic being “Annie Hall” (1977).
Directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman, this story about falling in and out of love stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, playing against their usual types of roles. Their masterful performances show us how sometimes the things about someone that make us fall in love with them could, in the end, be the exact reason why we break up.
It asks the question about whether is it easier to forget beautiful moments that turned painful, or if we should learn from them so we don’t make the same mistakes twice.
7. Brick (2005, Rian Johnson)
When we think about the typical Woody Allen film, we mostly think of those that are about intellectual, artistic people with family or romantic problems. Thus, many would wonder why Rian Johnson’s neo-noir thriller “Brick” would be on this list. However, Allen loves directing thrillers, like “Match Point” (2005) and “Cassandra’s Dream” (2007), or mixing them with comedy like in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) and “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993).
“Brick” follows a lonely teen, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who starts to investigate the murder of his ex-girlfriend after she called him for his help before she died, and after he found (and hid) her body. Set in high school in suburban California, the movie evokes a noir atmosphere with the characters speaking in long, beautiful sentences.
The world of “Brick” is full of stock characters like jocks, popular girls, and nerds and mixes them with noir types like the femme fatale, the brilliant but damaged detective, and shady drug dealers and criminals. The element of mystery is the least interesting part of this movie, and the twists and coincidences can be too much at times, but the atmosphere and unusual mix of neo-noir thriller esthetic and high school suburban drama with black humor is what makes this a great film experience.
6. Lost in Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola)
Critics who don’t like Sofia Coppola point that are her movies are boring, the scenes are too long, and she is mostly focused on atmosphere rather than creating a good story.
The same criticism could be used by Woody Allen haters, but those of us who are fans of both filmmakers know that those criticisms about their works are exactly what we like about them – characters who ponder the meaning of life as they talk to each other, and long beautiful takes that focus on atmosphere and help us understand the character’s emotions, even though sometimes they themselves can’t understand them.
“Lost in Translation” is about an American actor and a newly-married college graduate, played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. They find themselves in Tokyo for different reasons, one of the most unusual and beautiful places in the world, but they are both very lonely and they find comfort in each other. What is beautiful is that their romance is not physical, but rather is based on understanding and friendship.
It’s about how two very different people found each other at another part of the world and developed a real connection. Will they stay friends in the end? The last scene with Murray whispering something in Johansson’s ear before he leaves, one that we can’t hear, is one of the best movie endings ever made. It could be just the start of their relationship or possibly the end, and it’s up to you to decide.