Must-See Italian Movies

Here is a photo of hubby’s uncle taken with Sophia Loren a few years ago. LOOK AT THIS WOMAN! At the time, she was 81! This is just a snapshot, no photoshop or retouching – just a regular pic. She is amazing and an inspiration.

Sophia Loren on the set

Hubby’s family works in the film industry handling special effects. They work on most of the Hollywood movies filmed in Italy or with Italian production teams around the world and have been doing so for a long time. Think: “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”

This photo got me to thinking about Italian cinema. Here is a list of must-see Italians movies. Ok…some of them are “must-see” (like what your film professor would tell you to see) and some are just movies that I like.

1. La Dolce Vita (1960) Federico Fellini. I may as well start with ultimate in Italian cinema. I admit that this was not my favorite movie, but I enjoyed watching suave Marcello Mastroianni and beautiful Anita Ekberg wade through the Trevi Fountain. This movie follows gossip journalist, Marcello (his name in the movie too) over a period of a week as he lives the good life or “the sweet life.”  The question is: Is it really that sweet?

2. Cinema Paradiso (1988) Giuseppe Tornatore. The title to this movie in Italy is Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (translation: New Cinema Paradiso). Personally I like the American title better. In the movie, the old movie house burns down and they build a new one, hence the name:  “New.”  However, just Cinema Paradiso captures the essence of the movie a little bit better to me. It shows what the cinema in this small Italian town was to the people living there:  a little escape, a little piece of paradise. That is what the movies are after all. Right?  A way to lose ourselves in something fantastic and beautiful.

Anyway, this is probably my favorite film on the list. This touching story is about an Italian director and shows his life as a child and a young man in Sicily. It focuses on his father figure relationship with the projectionist at the local cinema.

3. The Bicycle Thief (1948) Vittorio De Sica. The title to this movie in Italy is: Ladri di Biciclette. The actual translation in English would be:  Bicycle Thieves – which is sometimes reflected. Ugggg…this movie is difficult to watch. It takes place during post-war Italy. The film follows Antonio as he finally gets a job in which he can only do with a bike that he must provide himself. The bike is stolen and things get ugly from there.

4. Johnny Stecchino (1991)  Roberto Benigni. Ok, so the first time I saw this film, I was in a movie theater in Houston, Texas completely alone. Laughing and laughing and laughing all alone. It is a fantastic movie with a mistaken identify premise. It reminds me a lot of the old Bob Hope movies. Goofy fun. It stars Benigni’s real-life wife as most of his movies do. You might know Roberto Benigni from Life is Beautiful. He is a wonderful comic and nearly every movie he has ever made is hilarious. In Italy he is also famous for his thought-provoking interpretations of Dante’s, “Divine Comedy” and “The Ten Commandments.”

5. Two Women (1960) Vittorio De Sica. Again De Sica focuses on the effects of war in Italy and again he deals with a difficult subject matter. During the war, an Italian widow and her daughter experience a series of  tragedies including sexual assaults that alters them forever. Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her performance in this film.

6. Mediterraneo (1991) Gabriele Salvatore. This movie is “Dedicated to all those who are running away.”  Hmmm…maybe that is one of the reasons I like it so much. It won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1991. It takes place during World War II when a group of mis-fit Italian soldiers are sent to a Greek island. Lucky soldiers! Little by little the Italians integrate with the locals as well as the Greek way of life. The music is wonderful as well, which you can hear in this clip.

7. Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)  Mario Monicelli. This comedy has an impressive ensemble cast including Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale and Toto’. The movie is about a group of inept thieves and their attempt to make a big time heist.

8.The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ( 1966)  Sergio Leone. This is a classic Spaghetti Western. And although these movies were produced and directed by Italians, a big portion of these films were shot in Spain. Here is the music everyone knows by Ennio Morricone.

PS: Many of these movies you can find on Youtube with English subtitles….in case you are curious.

Of course there are many other fabulous Italian movies such as Il Postino, La Grande Bellezza, Pane e Tulipani, Life is Beautiful – it would be impossible to list them all. What is your must-see Italian film?


44 Comments on “Must-See Italian Movies

  1. I would choose Cinema Paradiso and Mediterraneo. Cinema Paradiso reminded me a lot of the little village I lived in many years ago in southern Italy, and I just loved that little boy.

    • Debra! was that little boy the cutest or what?!?!!? And Mediterraneo I saw at least 10 times…loved the story…but even scenery and the music!

  2. Ah, Cinema Paradiso is one of my all time favourite movies. What an interesting family you’ve married into, Diana. And my word, does Sophia Loren look good!

    • I know! Isn’t she fantastic! Gosh….This photo just blew me away. Yes…hubby’s family is HUGE and they also work in this cool industry…they just did the James Bond movie and also the Avengers movie that was shot in Aosta….but you know? To me it is cool…to them: just work.

  3. I have to admit I’ve only seen three of these movies! I’ll have to check out the others! if only everyone could look so beautiful and be so gracious as Sophia Loren, at any age!

  4. All good ones. I would dare adding Anthony Minghella’s “The Talent Of Mr Ripley”. Although techniically it’s not an Italian movie, is beautifully set in Italy and it looks like one.

  5. Good mix of arthouse and mainstream Italian films. I’d also add 8 e mezzo (Fellini again) and Il sorpasso (Dino Risi)…

    • I admit I could never get into 81/2 – – – Errrr…Il Sorpasso??? I don’t know it! I will check that out for sure! Thank you!!!!!! 🙂

      • For some reason I prefer 8 1/2 to La dolce vita. Il sorpasso, do look out for it. Wonderful road trip film starring Vittorio Gassman. Sorry, have forgotten how it’s translated in English…

        • Well…I have to say that even La Dolce Vita was not my fave. I for sure will look for Il Sorpasso…love Vittorio Gassman…

  6. Sophia, it just isn’t fair! Great post Diana….The Good, the Bad and the Ugly brings back memories. Just hearing that song….talk about a shoot ’em up film:)

    • Yes….Il Postino is wonderful…love the music in that movie as well…I am very moved by music-movie combos!

  7. Thanks for the list. Just saw Elsa & Fred, that uses the fountain scene from La Dolce Vita. Guess I need to see La Dolce again.

  8. Great post – you have inspired me to dig out my old italian DVD collection! My must-see film is from about 10 years ago & I have seen it about a dozen times – “Respiro” with Valeria Golino

    • OHHHH…”Respiro”….that movie! Very haunting……loved Valeria Golino was amazing in that movie….

  9. Sophia must have a portrait in her attic that is getting old instead of her! She has great genes. I love all of these movies and also Ciao Professore, Respiro and Malena. I have to watch La Grande Bellezza again because the leading lady (Roma) is so stunning I’m sure I missed stuff. Ciao, Cristina

    • Ha, ha, ha…right Cristina?!?!?! For sure she has a portrait! Ohhhh! Ciao Professore…loved that movie. Also loved the dance scene in Malena…do you remember? When she dances with the photo of her husband to the song, “Ma L’amore No.” such a sweet scene and Monica Bellucci is fantastic just like Sophia.

      • Malena was so underrated. I have to watch all of these movies again. In case I confused you with my comment, I was referring the the movie ‘ the portrait of Dorian gray’ where he makes a deal with il diavolo and has eternal youth, but the portrait in his attic ages instead of him. Monica Belluci is gorgeous and she’s now the first over 50 Bond girl. Thanks for reminding me about all of these wonderful movies!

  10. I can’t believe she is 81 years old! Impressive..she looks stunning! Thanks for the list, I have watched several Italian movie and I was hooked on one of their series: Romanzo Criminale, we have it here with Dutch subtitle 🙂

    • Oh Indah! We are watching that right now! You might also like “Gomorra” Excellent series…..check it out.

  11. Wow she looks incredible!!!! I think I’ll go slather my face in night cream now…
    I always love your posts like this, you give me so much inspiration! First the music, now the movies – perfect!!

    • Sophie! You are so funny! Yes….I need to get out the face cream ASAP too! She is a total inspiration! Thank you for your kind words! Have a nice evening…

    • I love Il Posiino too…..ok…so that is Zio Claudio…he is the youngest of Gina’s brothers and sisters and rarely attends any family gatherings because of big family drama going back for more than 25 years. He was ostracized and never wants to create more drama by showing up….we see him quietly on the side.

  12. I took a class in Italian cinema in undergrad, and loved it! We got all into that Neorealism stuff (which I admit fascinated me)..and saw lots of great Italian classics. I’ve seen several of these movies, but not all of them.
    One I recently saw was Once Upon a Time in America–the uncut version, in the movie theater. It was amazing. A marathon (like over 4 hours I think), but amazing.
    Thanks for the list! Now I have some good Italian classics to watch 🙂

  13. Thank you for the inspiration, Diana! My husband and I are always trying to find classic movies with an Italian flair. If you’re looking for a non-subtitled movie, we really enjoyed A Trip to Italy with Steve Coogan – beautiful scenery and very funny! Another one of my go-tos is Under the Tuscan Sun. Ready to get out my Rosetta Stone Italian lessons and fully emerge myself 😃

  14. I’ve seen all these movies. Some are before my time, others when they were first in the theaters. One of my all time fave is Cinema Paradiso! I was so touched with the ending. ❤

  15. All the best movies here! I know Licia Maglietta the actress of Pane e Tulipani. She is originally from Rome but she married a man from my hometown in Friuli and her daughter was in class with my sister. She later moved back to Rome. I remember her as very charismatic and beautiful.

    • Alida! I love, love, love Licia! She is fantastic! Super cool that your sis got to go to school with her daughter! I just loved her in that movie…she reminded me a lot of my mother-in-law (another fantastic woman)

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