Woody Allen

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People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn't and you lose.

Woody Allen (born Allen Stewart Königsberg, 1935-12-01) is an American film director, writer, musician, actor and comedian.

See also: Woody Allen films


To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
Maybe the poets are right. Maybe love is the only answer.
Can we actually "know" the universe? My God, it's hard enough finding your way around in Chinatown.
  • I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot.
  • Allen: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it?
    Woman: Yes, it is.
    Allen: What does it say to you?
    Woman: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation, forming a useless, bleak straitjacket in a black, absurd cosmos.
    Allen: What are you doing Saturday night?
    Woman: Committing suicide.
    Allen: What about Friday night?
  • Millions of books written on every conceivable subject by all these great minds and in the end, none of them knows anything more about the big questions of life than I do ... I read Socrates. This guy knocked off little Greek boys. What the Hell's he got to teach me? And Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said that the life we lived we're gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again. It's not worth it. And Freud, another great pessimist. I was in analysis for years and nothing happened. My poor analyst got so frustrated, the guy finally put in a salad bar. Maybe the poets are right. Maybe love is the only answer.
  • What a world. It could be so wonderful if it wasn't for certain people.
  • We're worth a lot of dough. Whatever you see is antiques. This thing here. This is from — I don't remember exactly. I think it's the Renaissance or the Magna Carta or something. But that's where it's from.
  • The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn't and you lose.
  • As a filmmaker, I'm not interested in 9/11 [...] it's too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings. So in 2001, some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral, not important. History is the same thing over and over again.
  • I have no apprehension whatsoever. I've been through this so many times. And I found that one way or the other, your life doesn't change at all. Which is sad, in a way. Because the people love your film... nothing great happens. And people hate your film... nothing terrible happens. Many years ago, I would... I would... a film of mine would open, and it would get great reviews, and I would go down and look at the movie theater. There'd be a line around the block. And when a film is reviled, you open a film and people say "Oh, it's the stupidest thing, it's the worst movie." You think: oh, nobody's going to ever speak to you again. But, it doesn't happen. Nobody cares. You know, they read it and they say "Oh, they hated your film." You care, at the time. But they don't. Nobody else cares. They're not interested. They've got their own lives, and their own problems, and their own shadows on their lungs, and their x-rays. And, you know, they've got their own stuff they're dealing with.... So, I'm just never nervous about it.

Bananas (1971)

  • I remember when I was a little boy, I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in Braille. I used to rub the dirty parts.
  • Prosecutor: Tell the court why you think he is a traitor to this country.
    Miss America: I think Mr. Mellish is a traitor to this country because his views are different from the views of the president and others of his kind. Differences of opinion should be tolerated, but not when they're too different. Then he becomes a subversive mother.

Getting Even (1971)

  • I don't believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.
    • "Conversations with Helmholtz"

My Philosophy

  • Can we actually "know" the universe? My God, it's hard enough finding your way around in Chinatown.
  • It is impossible to experience one's own death objectively and still carry a tune.
  • Eternal nothingness is O.K. if you're dressed for it.
  • Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.

Sleeper (1973)

  • My brain: it's my second favorite organ.
  • Oh, he was probably a member of the National Rifle Association. It was a group that helped criminals get guns so they could shoot citizens. It was a public service.
  • I'm not really the heroic type. I was beat up by Quakers.
  • Sex and death are two things that come but once in my lifetime, but at least after death you're not nauseous.
  • [After discovering that they are trying to clone "the leader" from his only nose] Now is the time to strike. The Leader is at great handicap, he has no head or body!

Love and Death (1975)

To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness — I hope you're getting this down.
  • To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But, then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness — I hope you're getting this down.
  • Human beings are divided into mind and body. The mind embraces all the nobler aspirations, like poetry and philosophy, but the body has all the fun.
  • The important thing, I think, is not to be bitter... if it turns about that there is a God, I don't think that he is evil. I think that the worst thing you could say is that he is, basically, an under-achiever.
  • After all, there are worse things in life than death. If you've ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman, you know what I'm talking about.
  • The key is, to not think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses.
  • Regarding love... what can you say? It's not the quantity of your sexual relations that counts. It's the quality. On the other hand if the quantity drops below once every eight months, I would definitely look into it.
  • Where did you go to finishing school? On a pirate ship?
  • Sonja: "Violence is justified in the service of mankind!"
    Boris: Who said that?
    Sonja: Attila the Hun!
    Boris: You're quoting a Hun to me?
  • Sonja: Sex without love is an empty experience!
    Boris: Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best!
  • Countess: You are a great lover!
    Boris: I practice a lot when I'm alone.
  • Sonja: Boris, Let me show you how absurd your position is. Let's say there is no God, and each man is free to do exactly as he chooses. What prevents you from murdering somebody?
    Boris: Murder's immoral.
    Sonja: Immorality is subjective.
    Boris: Yes, but subjectivity is objective.
    Sonja: Not in a rational scheme of perception.
    Boris: Perception is irrational. It implies immanence.
    Sonja: But judgment of any system of phenomena exists in any rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
    Boris: Yeah, I've said that many times.
  • Him: Come to my quarters tomorrow at three.
    Sonja: I can't.
    Him: Please!
    Sonja: It's immoral. What time?
    Him: Who is to say what is moral?
    Sonja: Morality is subjective.
    Him: Subjectivity is objective.
    Sonja: Moral notions imply attributes to substances which exist only in relational duality.
    Him: Not as an essential extension of ontological existence.
    Sonja: Can we not talk about sex so much?
  • Sgt: Next week, we leave for the front. The object will be to kill as many Frenchmen as possible. Naturally, they are going to try and kill as many Russians as possible. If we kill more Frenchmen, we win. If they kill more Russians, they win.
    Boris: What do we win?
    Sgt: What do we win, private?
  • Boris: Nothingness. Non-existence. Black emptiness.
    Sonja: What did you say?
    Boris: Oh, I was just planning my future.
  • Boris: (a) Socrates is a man.(b) All men are mortal.(c) All men are Socrates. That means all men are homosexuals. I'm not a homosexual. Once, some Cossacks whistled at me. I happen to have the kind of body that excites both persuasions.
  • Boris: Then there is a God. Incredible. Moses was right. [a ray of light shines over Boris] He that abideth in truth will have frankincense and myrrh smeared on his gums in abundance, and he shall dwell in the house of the Lord for six months with an option to buy. But the wicked man shall have all kinds of problems. His tongue shall cleave to the roof of his upper palate. And he shall speak like a woman, if you watch him closely. And he shall... The wicked man shall be delivered into the hands of his enemy, whether they can pay the delivery charge or not. And... [ray of light turns off] Wait, I have more about the wicked man. [turns on again] I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death... In fact, now that I think of it, I shall run through the valley of the shadow of death, cos' you get out of the valley quicker that way. And he that hath clean hands and a pure heart is OK in my book. But he that fools around with barnyard animals has got to be watched.
  • Boris: I was walking through the woods, thinking about Christ. If he was a carpenter, I wondered what he charged for bookshelves.
  • Sonja: I do believe that this is truly the best of all possible worlds.
    Boris: Well, it's certainly the most expensive.

Without Feathers (1975)

What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?
  • As the poet said, "Only God can make a tree"—probably because it's so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.
    • "The Early Essays"
  • Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.
    • "The Early Essays"
  • The chief problem about death, incidentally, is the fear that there may be no afterlife — a depressing thought, particularly for those who have bothered to shave. Also, there is the fear that there is an afterlife but no one will know where it's being held.
    • "The Early Essays"
  • What a wonderful thing, to be conscious! I wonder what the people in New Jersey do.
    • "No Kaddish for Weinstein"
  • Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.
    • "Selections from the Allen Notebooks"
  • What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.
    • "Selections from the Allen Notebooks"
  • If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.
    • "Selections from the Allen Notebooks"
  • It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.
  • The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.
    • "Scrolls"
  • What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?
    • from the play "God"

Annie Hall (1977)

  • Don't knock masturbation — it's sex with someone I love.
  • Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. The horrible are the cancer patients and the terminal cases... the miserable is everyone else. So, be thankful that you're miserable.
  • There's an old joke... 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.
  • I thought of that old joke: This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken.' And the doctor says, 'Well why don't you turn him in?' and the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships. They're totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.

Manhattan (1979)

Talent is luck. The important thing in life is courage.
  • This is so antiseptic. It's empty. Why do you think this is funny? You're going by audience reaction? This is an audience that's raised on television, their standards have been systematically lowered over the years. These guys sit in front of their sets and the gamma rays eat the white cells of their brains out!
  • Talent is luck. The important thing in life is courage.
  • I think that people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics.
  • I can't express anger. That's my problem. I internalize everything. I just grow a tumor instead.
  • She's 17. I'm 42 and she's 17. I'm older than her father, can you believe that? I'm dating a girl, wherein, I can beat up her father.
  • You know a lot of geniuses, y'know. You should meet some stupid people once in a while, y'know, you could learn something.
  • I had a mad impulse to throw you down on the lunar surface and commit interstellar perversion.
  • What are you telling me, that you're, you're, you're gonna leave Emily, is this true? And, and run away with the, the, the winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald emotional maturity award?
  • It's just gossip, you know. Gossip is the new pornography.

Side Effects (1980)

  • It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off.
    • "The UFO Menace"
  • Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought — particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.
    • "The UFO Menace"
  • More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
    • "My Speech to the Graduates"

My Apology

Woody Allen as Socrates...
  • Of all the famous men who ever lived, the one I would most like to have been was Socrates. Not just because he was a great thinker, because I have been known to have some reasonably profound insights myself, although mine invariably revolve around a Swedish airline stewardess and some handcuffs.
  • Death is a state of non-being. That which is not, does not exist. Therefore death does not exist. Only truth exists. Truth and beauty. Each is interchangeable, but are aspects of themselves. Er, what specifically did they say they had in mind for me?
  • Hey listen — I've proved a lot of things. That's how I pay my rent. Theories and little observations. A puckish remark now and then. Occasional maxims. It beats picking olives, but let's not get carried away.
  • Agathon: But all that talk about death being the same as sleep.
    Socrates: Yes, the difference is that when you're dead and somebody yells, "Everybody up, it's morning," it's very hard to find your slippers.

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

  • My love life is terrible. The last time I was inside a woman was when I visited the Statue of Liberty.
  • Where I grew up... in Brooklyn, nobody committed suicide... you know, everyone was too unhappy.

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

  • Taste my tuna casserole — tell me if I put in too much hot fudge.
  • What has gotten into you lately? Save a little craziness for menopause!
  • I bought her this handkerchief... and I didn't even know her size.

Zelig (1983)

  • I worked with Freud in Vienna. We broke over the concept of penis envy. He thought it should be limited to women.
  • My brother beat me. My sister beat my brother. My father beat my sister, my brother, and me. My mother beat my father, my sister, my brother, and me. The neighbors beat our family. The family down the street beat the neighbors and our family.
  • I'm twelve years old. I run into a synagogue. I ask the rabbi the meaning of life. He tells me the meaning of life but he tells it to me in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew. Then he wants to charge me $600 for Hebrew lessons.

Don't Drink the Water (1994)

  • [about his daughter] I'd rather she grew up here than grew up as an orphan,

you know I can tolerate anybody's orphans but my own.

  • ...years of insanity have made this guy crazy!

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

  • Between the Pope and air conditioning, I'd choose air conditioning.
  • You think the President of the united states wants to fuck every woman he meets?... Well, bad example.
  • No, I don't think you're paranoid. I think you're the opposite of paranoid. I think you walk around with the insane delusion that people like you.
  • Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
  • [On being called a self-hating Jew] Hey, I may hate myself, but not because I'm Jewish.

Standup Comic (1999)

A CD compilation of Allen comedy routines from 1964-1968

  • A lot of things have happened in my private life recently that I thought we could review tonight.
  • I feel sex is a beautiful thing between two people. Between five, it's fantastic.
  • A fast word about oral contraception. I was involved in an extremely good example of oral contraception two weeks ago. I asked a girl to go to bed with me, she said "no."
  • Basically my wife was immature. I'd be at home in the bath and she'd come in and sink my boats.
  • I was in analysis. I was suicidal. As a matter of fact, I would have killed myself, but I was in analysis with a strict Freudian and if you kill yourself they make you pay for the sessions you miss.
  • I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.
  • I tended to place my wife under a pedestal.
  • I'm not a drinker — my body will not tolerate spirits. I had two Martinis on New Year's Eve and I tried to hijack an elevator and fly it to Cuba.
  • When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room.

Mere Anarchy (2007)

How could I not have known that there are little things the size of "Planck length" in the universe, which are a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter?
  • How could I not have known that there are little things the size of "Planck length" in the universe, which are a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter? Imagine if you dropped one in a dark theater how hard it would be to find.
  • And how does gravity work? And if it were to cease suddenly, would certain restaurants still require a jacket?
  • With that, he scribbled in an additional ninety thousand dollars on the estimate, which had waxed to the girth of the Talmud while rivaling it in possible interpretations.
  • I have also reviewed my own financial obligations, which have puffed up recently like a hammered thumb.
  • She quarreled with the nanny and accused her of brushing Misha's teeth sideways rather than up and down.
  • As we know, for centuries Rome regarded the Open Hot Turkey Sandwich as the height of licentiousness.
  • I was supremely confident my flair for atmosphere and characterization would sparkle alongside the numbing mulch ground out by studio hacks. Certainly the space atop my mantel might be better festooned by a gold statuette than by the plastic dipping bird that now bobbed there ad infinitum.
  • Bidnick gorges himself on Viagra, but the dosage makes him hallucinate and causes him to imagine he is Pliny the Elder.
  • To a man standing on the shore, time passes quicker than to a man on a boat — especially if the man on the boat is with his wife.


  • Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.
  • Eighty percent of success is showing up.
  • Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.
  • God is either cruel or incompetent.
  • Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
  • His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy.
  • How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?
  • How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?
  • I am at two with nature.
  • I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.
  • I believe there is something out there watching over us – unfortunately it's the government.
  • I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into it by all the organized hustles.
    • Rolling Stone, 1987
  • I don't believe in science. Science is an intellectual dead end. You know, it's a lot of little guys in tweed suits cutting up frogs on foundation grants.
  • I don't tan, I stroke.
  • I don't think my parents liked me. They put a live teddy bear in my crib.
  • I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.
  • I idolized Superman when I was younger. I thought he and I had a lot in common. He was always going into phonebooths and taking off all his clothes.
  • I have an intense desire to return to the womb. Anybody's.
  • I prefer masturbation. You meet a better class of people that way.
  • I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
  • I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead — not sick, not wounded — dead.
  • If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse
  • If my films don't show a profit, I know I'm doing something right.
  • If my film makes one more person feel miserable, I'll feel like I've done my job.
  • It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better ... while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.
  • Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.
  • Life is like a concentration camp... you can't leave without dying.
  • Love is the answer, but while you're waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty interesting questions.
  • Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all.
  • My luck is getting worse and worse. Last night, for instance, I was mugged by a Quaker.
  • My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.
  • On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.
  • Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.
  • Sex is only dirty if it's done right.
  • Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness.
  • The government is unresponsive to the needs of the little man. Under 5' 7", it is impossible to get your congressman on the phone.
  • The two biggest myths about me are that I'm an intellectual, because I wear these glasses, and that I'm an artist because my films lose money. Those two myths have been prevalent for many years.
  • There's more to life than sitting around in the sun in your underwear playing the clarinet.
  • Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.
  • Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?
  • You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

Quotes about Allen

  • In this land of unlimited opportunity, a place where, to paraphrase Woody Allen, any man or woman can realize greatness as a patient or as a doctor, we have only one commercial American filmmaker who consistently speaks with his own voice. That is Woody Allen, gag writer, musician, humorist, philosopher, playwright, stand-up comic, film star, film writer and film director.
  • With the possible exception of What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966), the schlocky Japanese spy movie to which he attached his own, sidesplitting English soundtrack, no Woody Allen movie has ever been more or less serious than another of his works. He's always been serious. It's the audiences who have been frivolous.
    In Zelig he reassures us that he can still be funny and moving without making the sort of insistent filmic references in which he delights but which can be infuriating to others. Zelig is a nearly perfect — and perfectly original — Woody Allen comedy.

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