In a 45-year career that's been filled with screwball comedies, touching love stories and the occasional serious drama, there's one thing that's been a constant in Woody Allen's filmography: his love for the ladies.
"My heart is in it more when I'm writing for women," Allen said once in an interview, and he's certainly given us some of the most memorable female characters in movie history. (Credit must also be given to Allen's longtime casting director Juliet Taylor.)
Often starring opposite a neurotic schlub (played by Allen until recently), the
Allen female character knows how to deliver a joke, exudes sexuality, and amidst adultery, arguments and other relationship problems is almost always clearer on what she wants than her male counterpart.
Allen's latest film, 'Midnight in Paris' (his 41st!), which opened this year's Cannes Film Festival and will be released stateside this weekend, the newest on-screen incarnation of Allen, Owen Wilson, is torn between two women (and two eras). Inspired by the beauty of Paris while on vacation, Gil (Wilson) must decide if he still wants to marry his hottie fiancée (Rachel McAdams) or run away with a French beauty (Marion Cotillard) he met after magically being swept back to the 1920s.
Following Allen's nostalgic state of mind, we decided to look back on our favorite actresses from his films. Here are 15 with whom we'd love to have a rendezvous in the City of Light.
'Midnight in Paris' Trailer:
Film:'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008)
Why: Topping the marquee names in 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' was Penélope Cruz in her Oscar-winning performance as fiery ex-wife Maria Elena. Combining her beauty with her often unutilized comedic talents, Allen molds an incredible performance that is up there with her work with Pedro Almodóvar.
Films:'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' (1982), 'Zelig' (1983), 'Broadway Danny Rose' (1984), 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' (1985), 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986), 'Radio Days' (1987), 'September' (1987), 'Another Woman' (1988), 'New York Stories' (1989), 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' (1989), 'Alice' (1990), 'Shadows and Fog' (1991), 'Husbands and Wives' (1992)
Why: A muse of Allen's from the '80s into the early '90s (they also dated; you may remember how that ended), Mia Farrow's soft-spoken style was a perfect companion to Allen's eccentricities. She didn't do badly when Allen stayed behind the camera either, with incredible performances as a Depression-era woman whose life changes when her matinee idol jumps out of the screen in 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' and as a New York housewife who goes on an internal exploration after visiting a herbalist in 'Alice.'
Films:'Manhattan' (1979), 'Deconstructing Harry' (1997)
Why: In her most famous role, then 16-year-old Mariel Hemingway plays the high school girlfriend of 42-year-old Isaac (Allen) in 'Manhattan.' Nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Hemingway's maturity and sense of self impressed audiences and critics alike.
Film:'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion' (2001)
Why: One of the few highlights during a low era in Allen's career is Helen Hunt's performance as an efficiency expert who falls for Allen after being hypnotized in 'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.' Her years on a comedy series made her perfect for the role, as she is relaxed and confident trading barbs with Allen.
Films:'Match Point' (2005), 'Scoop' (2006), 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008)
Why: If it weren't for Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johansson might not be one of Allen's most recent go-to actresses. Winslet was supposed to play Nola Rice in 'Match Point,' but she dropped out during pre-production, causing Allen to scramble to find a replacement. Johansson's seductive performance, which garnered her a Golden Globe nomination, is one of her best to date. With comedic parts for Allen since, she's shown a range that has only elevated her stock in Hollywood.
Films:'Sleeper' (1973), 'Love and Death' (1975), 'Annie Hall' (1977), 'Interiors' (1978), 'Manhattan' (1979), 'Radio Days' (1987), 'Manhattan Murder Mystery' (1993)
Why: Before Farrow, Diane Keaton epitomized the Allen female character. (They also dated.) She possessed the exquisite beauty that Allen always wants, while having the chops to play the "straight man" to Allen's bumbling buffoonery. Starring in seven of Allen's films (and one he wrote and starred in but didn't direct), Keaton will always be known best for her Oscar-winning performance as Annie Hall, whose unorthodox fashion sense of wearing oversized men's blazers and vests with ties became an iconic symbol in the late '70s.
Films:'What's Up, Tiger Lily?' (1966), 'Take the Money and Run' (1969), 'Bananas' (1971), 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask' (1972), 'Stardust Memories' (1980)
Why: Not as well recognized as Keaton or Farrow, Louise Lasser was the first female regular to appear in Allen's films. (They were married briefly.) She also has a screenwriting credit and was one of the voice-over characters for Allen's directing debut, 'What's Up, Tiger Lily?' But her most memorable moment in an Allen film is her breakup scene in 'Bananas.'
Film: 'Shadows and Fog' (1991)
Why: The Material Girl's cameo in 'Shadows and Fog' is an example of Allen and casting director Juliet Taylor having fun with a small role. Allen's interest in casting outside the box often leads to him toward directors and musicians to play small roles. Madonna's performance as a sexed-up tightrope artist is perfect and her stardom doesn't overshadow the progression of the story.
Film:'Sweet and Lowdown' (1999)
Why: Samantha Morton gives a hilarious, heartwarming, Oscar-nominated performance without saying a single word as the mute girlfriend of guitar great Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) in 'Sweet and Lowdown.' What's most remarkable is that without dialogue or the need to garner laughs through physical comedy, her subtle reactions to Emmet's constant blabber or skills on the guitar convey to the audience exactly what she's feeling.
Film:'Mighty Aphrodite' (1995)
Why: In the role that made her a star, Allen cast Mira Sorvino as happy-go-lucky prostitute Linda Ash in 'Mighty Aphrodite.' Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her hilariously raunchy performance, it has turned out to be the high-water mark in Sorvino's career.
Film: 'Stardust Memories' (1980)
Why: Appearing only briefly in the opening scene of 'Stardust Memories,' Sharon Stone's striking looks bedazzle Sandy Bates (Allen) as well as the audience. The scene was the first time we'd ever seen Stone on screen (yes, before 'Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol') and the rest is history.
Films:'Celebrity' (1998), 'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion' (2001)
Why: Sex mixed with comedy has always been a major trademark of Allen's, so it's easy to see why he cast Charlize Theron in two of his films. And she doesn't play on her Amazonian looks any better than as a model who is proud to say she doesn't struggle to have an orgasm in 'Celebrity.' Showing her comic chops for the first time in her career, Theron holds her own opposite Kenneth Branagh.
Films:'Bullets Over Broadway' (1994), 'Small Time Crooks' (2000)
Why: A comedic legend even before crossing paths with Allen, Tracey Ullman's wacky characters in the ensembles 'Bullets Over Broadway' and 'Small Time Crooks' get some of the biggest laughs, especially in 'Crooks' where her Golden Globe–nominated performance steals the film.
Films: 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' (1985), 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986), 'Radio Days' (1987), 'September' (1987), 'Bullets Over Broadway' (1994)
Why: A veteran character actor, Dianne Wiest was born to star in Woody Allen films. Flawless in either dramatic or comedic roles for Allen, she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 'Hannah and Her Sisters,' but more memorable was her performance as diva actress Helen Sinclair in 'Bullets Over Broadway,' in which she garnered another Best Supporting Actress win.
Evan Rachel Wood
Film:'Whatever Works' (2009)
Why: Though most will remember 'Whatever Works' as the film that brought the pairing of America's two great neurotic comedians, Allen and Larry David, it's Evan Rachel Wood's performance as Southern belle Melody that stays with you. Melody is a not-too-bright runaway who can't hold a conversation with her genius husband (David), but in many ways she has far more sense than he does.