When one separates the artist from the man, one cannot deny that the career Woody Allen has established for himself is astounding and very versatile in content. While his films always capture neurotic and compulsive human nature in his writing, it is within his actors that artistry must shine. It is up to the actors within Allen’s films to adequately sell the content of his scripts to the film viewers, otherwise the films could be perceived as manic and overbearing to view. Spanning 36 years, Allen has managed to get 18 performances nominated for an Oscar, with 7 of them winning the coveted award. This feature seeks to rank these performances from memorable to most memorable, a sort of go-to list for those who aren’t well versed with Woody Allen’s work.
18. Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977)
This is the performance that started it all, which built the foundation and scope of all the future characters of Allen’s films. The rationale of placing this performance at the bottom of this list is due to this performance being Allen’s default acting style in any of the films he starred in.
This performance was nominated for Best Actor (1977)
17. Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan (1979)
Her performance is perhaps one of the most innocent performances in any of Allen’s films, who plays his 17-year-old girlfriend in the film. Her optimism and belief in true love is endearing and heartbreaking when he refuses to take her seriously.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (1979)
16. Chazz Palminteri in Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
His performance as a hit-man who discreetly enjoys writing Broadway plays is both hilarious and satirizes the macho gangster image.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (1994)
15. Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
Her acting is astounding considering she plays a mute and relied only on her facial expressions and body language.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (1999)
14. Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Sorvino is acting perfection as the cliched bimbo prostitute. However, she offers an edge of flair to this role by emphasizing that despite her not being the most educated person, she still desires to find her own form of happiness.
This performance won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (1995)
13. Maureen Stapleton in Interiors (1978)
Her role as the new girlfriend to E.G. Marshall’s character, much to the chagrin of his family, is expert acting from Stapleton considering she had to initially convey being shy and somewhat awkward upon her character’s introduction in the film, and immediately portray her character as extroverted and lively once the character is established.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (1978)
12. Jennifer Tilly in Bullets over Broadway (1994)
Before she destroyed her career with the Chucky films, Tilly proved she was capable of acting with her role in this film. Playing the aspiring actress who has no talent, Tilly is hilarious in this role with her exaggerated voice and stagnant demeanor. Her scenes with Chazz Palminteri are especially comedic, to which their personalities perfectly clash with each other to evoke some of the most hilarious scenes of the film.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (1994)
11. Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
His performance is the perfect combination of strength and weakness as Penn gives his character moments of artistic brilliance, but also conveys him being susceptible to his vices at the same time.
This performance was nominated for Best Actor (1999)
10. Diane Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Wiest plays the role of the youngest sister who has been continually outshined by her oldest sister. She offers a great range of emotions by showing moments of aspiration, resentment and frustration in her performance.
This performance won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (1986)
9. Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
He is a scene-stealer in this film, playing the husband who engages in an affair with his wife’s sister and feels conflicted as to what to do after. Caine perhaps offers the most realistic reactionary performance from a Woody Allen film.
This performance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (1986)
8. Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine (2013)
Playing the working class sister of Cate Blanchett, Hawkins is a surprising standout in the film who infuses both emotional conflict and insecurity issues within her character so effectively.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (2013)
7. Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Her role as Javier Bardem’s mentally unstable ex-wife is unlike any other Allen character primarily due to her expressive acting that goes beyond what she says, but by how she says it and utilizing her body language to her advantage with the performance.
This performance won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (2008)
6. Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Conflict is entirely the foundation of Landau’s performance, but he does it by showing a difference between situational conflict and moral conflict, both of which offer a stellar performance from Landau.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (1989)
5. Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977)
Her performance is so iconic from her catch phrases even down to her choice of fashion. Keaton perfectly chronicles the concept of a relationship from its shy beginnings to the realization that it no longer functions. The progression of character Keaton provides with the character is extraordinary to watch.
This performance won the Best Actress Oscar (1977)
4. Geraldine Page in Interiors (1978)
This is perhaps the densest and most nuanced performance out of any Woody Allen film. Her performance is subtle, but hinges on the verge of emotional destruction. Page uses her character’s delusional attitude of a future that will never happen to lead the performance, categorizing her as unpredictable and selectively repressed, to which she is unable to control her emotions as a result.
This performance was nominated for Best Actress (1978)
3. Diane Wiest in Bullets over Broadway (1994)
“Don’t speak!” is the infamous line associated with Wiest’s performance as the eccentric and alcoholic Broadway actress. She steals every scene she is in, which incidentally is in line with the character she is portraying.
This performance won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (1994)
2. Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives (1992)
Davis’ performance is the most emotionally unleashed of all Allen’s characters, but she is able to maintain rationality with the character by establishing overcompensating tendencies that she uses as a guise to shield her social insecurities from others.
This performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (1992)
1. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (2013)
Without a doubt, this is the best performance in a Woody Allen film and any future performance will be difficult to top this one. Starring as an unlikable person, Blanchett is still able to provide sympathy and pity towards her character whose mental stability is causing her to be on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
This performance won the Best Actress Oscar (2013)
Performances that should have been nominated:
Javier Bardem…Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Scarlett Johansson…Match Point (2005)
Barbara Hershey…Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Kristin Griffith…Interiors (1978)
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