One of my favorite Woody Allen films is ANNIE HALL (1977), which just might be the quintessential Woody Allen movie.
I didn’t always feel this way. I remember feeling quite bitter as a 13 year-old when ANNIE HALL bested my beloved STAR WARS (1977) for Best Picture that year. Grrrr!!!
But it didn’t take me long to come around, as by the time I was in college I had watched ANNIE HALL multiple times and absolutely loved it. The jokes are nonstop and nearly all of them work, making ANNIE HALL the perfect subject for today’s MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES column, the column where we look at noteworthy quotes from some truly memorable movies.
ANNIE HALL works so well because Allen nails many of the truths that go along with relationships, and he finds humor in even their darkest moments. There’s an honesty in ANNIE HALL that lifts the humor to a whole other level. There are enough memorable quotes in ANNIE HALL for several columns. Today we’ll look at just a few of them.
The film opens with a memorable quote, as Woody Allen’s character Alvy Singer addresses the camera:
ALVY SINGER: There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
There are a ton of hilarious quips regarding the relationship between Allen’s Alvy Singer and Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall, like this split-screen exchange when they’re each seeing their respective therapists:
ALVY SINGER’S THERAPIST: How often do you sleep together?
ANNIE HALL’S THERAPIST: Do you have sex often?
ALVY SINGER (complaining): Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
ANNIE HALL (annoyed): Constantly. I’d say three times a week.
And this conversation:
ALVY SINGER: Hey listen, gimme a kiss.
ANNIE HALL: Really?
ALVY SINGER: Yeah, why not, because we’re just gonna go home later, right, and then there’s gonna be all that tension, we’ve never kissed before and I’ll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we’ll kiss now and get it over with, and then we’ll go eat. We’ll digest our food better.
And here’s one of my favorite jokes in the film, where Alvy confronts Annie about having an affair:
ALVY SINGER: Well, I didn’t start out spying. I thought I’d surprise you. Pick you up after school.
ANNIE HALL: Yeah, but you wanted to keep the relationship flexible. Remember, it’s your phrase.
ALVY SINGER: Oh stop it, you’re having an affair with your college professor, that jerk that teaches that incredible crap course, Contemporary Crisis in Western Man…
ANNIE HALL: Existential Motifs in Russian Literature. You’re really close.
ALVY SINGER; What’s the difference? It’s all mental masturbation.
ANNIE HALL: Oh, well, now we’re finally getting to a subject you know something about.
ALVY SINGER: Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.
Then there’s this observation on relationships:
ALVY SINGER: A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.
And of course there are jokes that have nothing to do with relationships that are flat-out hilarious in ANNIE HALL, like this comment by Alvy on California when he and Annie are visiting The Golden State:
ANNIE HALL: It’s so clean out here.
ALVY SINGER: That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.
Another of my favorite bits involves a scene with Christopher Walker as Duane.
DUANE: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you’ll understand. Sometimes when I’m driving… on the road at night… I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The… flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.
ALVY SINGER: Right. Well, I have to – I have to go now, Duane, because I, I’m due back on the planet Earth.
And like it begins, ANNIE HALL ends with another memorable set of lines, once more spoken by Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer, to close out the film:
ALVY SINGER: After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.
As I said earlier, there are so many more memorable quotes and jokes in ANNIE HALL, there’s enough to fill an entire second and third column. But that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed today’s MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES column and join me again next time when I look at cool quotes from another classic movie.
Thanks for reading!