Anthology films are tricky. The idea of combining a series of short films by different directors seems perfect on paper, but unfortunately it has never quite worked in practice.

Many anthology movies feature excellent short films, but there is always at least one failure in the mix. This Friday, New York, I Love You adds yet another title to the ever-growing list of anthology films and will inevitably feature a few brilliant pieces and a few duds.

With this release in mind, we would like to take a look back at some of the finest anthology films ever produced.

New York Stories
New York Stories was the first project to combine short films about the greatest city in America, featuring 30-minute entries from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen. Coppola’s short is forgettable, but Allen crafted a hilarious movie about a domineering mother and Scorsese produced one of his finest pieces of filmmaking in a visually aggressive work starring Nick Nolte as a tortured audience. Even though one filmmaker dropped the ball, the other two shorts in New York Stories are strong enough to make it a must see for any film fan.

Fantasia
Each of the directors in the first era of Disney produced a short film based on a piece of classical music for this animated classic. Some shorts such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice have become iconic pieces of animation, but the entire project holds up remarkably well almost 60 years later. Possibly the best anthology film ever produced and one of the highlights of the golden era of Disney.

Paris Je T’aime
New York, I Love You is essentially a sequel to this 2006 love letter to Paris. Twenty-one directors contributed a brief movie about Paris and while the results are predictably hit or miss, this is easily one of the finest examples of the anthology format to date. Special note goes to the Coen Brothers (Fargo) and Alexander Panye (Sideways) whose 10-minute entries (about Steve Buscemi’s troubles on the subway and a middle-aged woman’s first trip to the city respectively) sit comfortably next to their best feature-length work.

The Twilight Zone
This adaptation of Rod Serling’s classic TV series is forever marred by the preventable deaths that occurred on set. But, two of the four shorts produced are simply too good to be ignored. Joe Dante’s (Gremlins) cartoony tale of a psychotic psychic child and George Miler’s (The Road Warrior) depiction of John Lithgow going insane on a plane might be even better than the original episodes. A film crying out for rediscovery.

Coffee And Cigarettes

This movie breaks the anthology mould by only showcasing shorts by a single director; however, Jim Jarmusch’s love letter to caffeine and nicotine deserves recognition for being one of the dryly funniest nights at the movies around. Watching the likes of Tom Waits, The White Stripes, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and The Wu-Tang Clan discuss their love of the title substances is a true cinematic treat that everyone should experience (whether you’re an addict or not).

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