If you've got a director you want to nominate for Director Essentials, suggest him or her (because women can do anything boys can do if they put their minds to it) on our Facebook page or in the comments below.
1. Bananas (1971) - After four decades and over 40 films, it's easy to forget just how funny Woody Allen used to be. He's no longer associated with the kinds of movies he made early in his career, so it takes going back and seeing his first feature as a writer/director to remember what a great comic anarchist he was once. And, like the best of the Marx Brothers, the jokes in Bananas don't date. Funny is funny.
2. Love and Death (1975) -There are a handful of Allen's early films that could easily occupy this slot (most notably Sleeper), but this is a rare opportunity to champion one of Allen's funniest and most underrated comedies. This is the movie that suggested Allen had a lot more on his mind than just jokes (since it's mostly about Russian literature and philosophy), but it remains very accessible despite the heady subject matter.
3. Annie Hall (1977) - And here it is. Allen's best movie is the one that launched him from the ranks of great comedy director to Great Director. Over 30 years later and Annie Hall still feels new and relevant. It's a masterpiece.
5. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) - One of Woody Allen's sweetest movies, and one of my favorite movies ever about why movies are such magical, transformative experiences. This started one of his best streaks as a filmmaker -- possibly the last one he ever had.
6. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) - A beautiful movie about love both romantic and familial, Hannah hangs just behind Annie Hall and Crimes and Misdemeanors as one of Allen's best. If you want to understand his ability to write great parts and work with actors (he's directed more actors to Oscar than any other director, I believe), look no further than this movie.
8. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) - Woody Allen's last masterpiece, and one of his two best movies ever (it gives Annie Hall a run for its neurotic money as his crowning achievement). The director had been experimenting with dark character dramas for years, and Crimes is a perfect amalgamation of those films with his earlier comedic work. So good he basically remade it years later as Match Point.
9. Everyone Says I Love You (1996) - This isn't widely considered one of Woody Allen's best movies, and I'll never understand why. It's a wonderful, beautiful movie that places the Hollywood musical in a very real-world context. No, not all of the stars can sing or dance, but that's the point; the emotions in Everyone Says I Love You are so big that the characters can only express themselves in song, It's about the feeling, not the technique.