23. Woody Allen (1935 – )
Woody Allen is one of the few directors who has successfully turned imitation into an art form. With an encyclopedic knowledge of film history and theory, Allen has used the discoveries and innovations of some of cinema’s greatest masters to come up with a conglomerate style of his very own.
His films combine the physical comedy of Chaplin and cerebral wit of The Marx Brothers with the psychological exposition of Bergman and the haphazard camera technique of Godard. He is paradoxically comedic and intellectual—able to espouse his philosophical or political beliefs in an entertaining way or choreograph a pratfall just as easily. Though his films have rarely been moneymakers in the United States, Allen is one of America’s most recognizable directors, with an enormous following the world over.
Says screenwriter Alan Sereboff: “Quite simply, Allen is 50 years into his film career and still making the movies he wants to make, taking lessons from the finest that preceded him in developing a style distinctly his own. Some of the more influential directors on the list have become so at the price of alienating a portion of their audience—such is the price of genius. He has remained an auteur, true to himself and his audience. And, perhaps most importantly, he made it okay for a writer to be neurotic and successful.”