In 2007, the American Film Institute revised their previous 1998 list of the 100 best American films of all time. This column will explore my thoughts on 35 films I’ve selected from this list, mostly following along with the Unspooled Podcast, which inspired my journey to complete the AFI Top 100. You can also follow my progress with my ranking and watchlist. This week’s film is Annie Hall (1977), #35 on the list.
Annie Hall might be the greatest romantic comedy of all time. It’s undoubtedly the most influential, as its impact is still apparent in films today (see: Marriage Story). By subverting genre conventions of the time, Woody Allen crafted a unique and refreshing film that revitalized the genre and paved the way for the best rom coms to come. Annie Hall opens with Allen immediately destroying the fourth-wall, delivering a monologue about his love life straight to camera. It’s a jarring and effective use of the technique that immediately sets a playful tone for the rest of the film. We’ve seen this gimmick repeated plenty of times since, like in High Fidelity, which also centers around a narcissistic intellectual recounting his previous failures with love. Diane Keaton is brilliant, playing Annie with a mysterious complexity that serves as the blueprint for the today’s manic pixie dream girl, while Allen completely upends the traditional ultra-charming romantic lead à la Cary Grant by portraying Alvy as a sniveling neurotic. He’s as insufferable as he is identifiable, setting the standard for the deeply flawed everyman type we frequently see portrayed in modern comedies. The rapid-fire pacing, unconventional structure, and inventive self-referential sequences make it the perfect rom com, even for people who typically avoid them.
Does it belong on the list?
It should be obvious by now, but yes. Even despite my personal opinion of it, its massive influence alone secures its well-deserved spot.