Great Italian Films

A chronological list of my favourite Italian films - some well-known, others less so - from Rossellini through to Sorrentino.
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1.
Rome, Open City (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
During the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1944, resistance leader Giorgio Manfredi is chased by Nazis and he seeks refuge and escape. (103 mins.)
“ Harrowing throughout, 'Rome, Open City' offers an insight into the activities of the Italian resistance in Nazi-occupied Rome. Some characters ring truer than others - in retrospect the camp Gestapo commander comes across as rather contrived - but powerful performances from Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi easily compensate for the film's weaker moments. The conclusion is deeply moving and leaves you with a glimmer of hope, after a very distressing final act. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
2.
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it. (89 mins.)
 
3.
Miracle in Milan (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
An old woman finds a baby among the cauliflowers in her garden. She takes care of the orphan, and calls him Totò... (100 mins.)
 
4.
Umberto D. (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
An elderly man and his dog struggle to survive on his government pension in Rome. (89 mins.)
“ Of all Italian Neo-Realist cinema that I've seen, this film left by far the greatest impression on me. Umberto D. is the ultimate outsider - forgotten and humiliated by the country he once served. His plight is profoundly upsetting, yet the film's ending is incredibly life-affirming. De Sica cited this as his personal favourite among his own films and Ingmar Bergman named it his favourite film - it's easy to see why. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
5.
I Vitelloni (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A character study of five young men at crucial turning points in their lives in a small town in Italy. (107 mins.)
“ A much overlooked Fellini film, which deserves a place amoung his best works. Structurally much more straight-forward than his later films, it explores the lives of five lazy young Italians, living in a provincial seaside town. Their sense of apathy remains just as relevant today: there are still countless men in their 30s living with their mothers in Italy, unable to find work. Notably, 'I Vitelloni' was responsible for launching the career of Alberto Sordi (see below). ” - MaestroMoretti
 
6.
An American in Rome (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Nando Moriconi is a young Italian living in the early '50s Roma. He is completely crazy for everything that comes from the States... (94 mins.)
Director: Steno
“ Genius comedy about a young Roman who wants to be American. Sordi, one of the best comic actors of all time, oozes charisma as Nando Moriconi - his incomprehensible attempts at American English will have you in stitches. Really can't understand why is this isn't much rated higher here - the macaroni scene alone is one of the most iconic sequences in Italian cinema. "M'hai provocato e io te distruggo, macaroni!" ” - MaestroMoretti
 
7.
The Nights of Cabiria (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finds only heartbreak. (110 mins.)
 
8.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome. (174 mins.)
 
9.
Rocco and His Brothers (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Having recently been uprooted to Milan, Rocco and his four brothers each look for a new way in life when a prostitute comes between Rocco and his brother Simone. (177 mins.)
 
10.
Divorce Italian Style (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A married Sicilian baron falls in love with his cousin and vows to wed her, but with divorce illegal he must concoct a crime of passion to do away with his wife. (105 mins.)
Director: Pietro Germi
“ Mastroianni gives a memorable performance as a selfish, amoral Sicilian baron intent on murdering his wife at a time when divorce was illegal in Italy. Black humour at its best - an Italian 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
11.
Il Sorpasso (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
An impulsive braggart takes a shy law student for a two-day ride through the Roman and Tuscany countries. (105 mins.)
Director: Dino Risi
 
12.
The Leopard (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The Prince of Salina, a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity, tries to preserve his family and class amid the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860's Sicily. (186 mins.)
“ I would definitely advise people to read the novel first, one of the masterpieces of Italian literature. This is a fairly faithful adaptation, which, with its talented cast and lavish sets, beautifully presents the tale of a powerful man's dilemmas in the face of great social change. Burt Lancaster plays the Prince well - my only complaint is that an Italian actor wasn't used - it somehow jars, hearing such a recognizable actor speaking with a dubbed voice. In fact Visconti initially shared this sentiment - it was 20th Century Fox's stipulation that a Hollywood star be used in order the justify the large budget. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
13.
The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Joe This richly symbolic film is really impossible to understand without some knowledge of 20th Century Italian history... (89 mins.)
 
14.
Be Sick... It's Free (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The eventful ascent of a doctor in the corrupted Italian healthcare system. (98 mins.)
Director: Luigi Zampa
“ The literal translation is 'The National Health Service Doctor'. A very clunky title, but why they settled on the terrible one above is a mystery. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
15.
Amarcord (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A series of comedic and nostalgic vignettes set in a 1930s Italian coastal town. (123 mins.)
 
16.
Sogni d'oro (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
(105 mins.)
Director: Nanni Moretti
“ Nanni Moretti's early films have generally all slipped under the radar, at least outside of Italy, which is a great shame. He has been described as an Italian Woody Allen and there is some truth in this: like Allen, he often stars as the protagonist in his own films, exploring his personal neuroses and convictions through an exaggerated version of himself - Michele Apicella. 'Sogni D'oro' is a highly autobiographical film, which alludes to Moretti's own battle to maintain artistic integrity while his contemporaries willingly stoop to anything in order to achieve success. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
17.
Bianca (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Michele is a mathematics professor who just started a new job in a school with some peculiar teaching methods... (96 mins.)
Director: Nanni Moretti
“ 'Bianca' is the finest of the Apicella films - a gentle tragicomedy about a highly neurotic, intolerant man, obsessed with solving other people's problems, but incapable of finding happiness in his own life. There are some wonderful comic moments, most memorably in connection with the trendy new school where Michele teachers - the 'Marilyn Monroe' school. Listen out for one of the most beautiful Italian songs ever written - 'Il cielo in una stanza' by Gino Paoli, a masterful songwriter who Moretti repeatedly draws on in his films. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
18.
La messa è finita (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Don Giulio, giovane prete romano, ritorna a casa dopo essere stato parroco in un'isola del Mar Tirreno ed è destinato ad una chiesa di periferia... (94 mins.)
Director: Nanni Moretti
“ Here Moretti plays Don Giulio, who is Michele Apicella in all but name. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
19.
Johnny Stecchino (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A kindhearted but bumbling idiot who likes to steal bananas, is passed off for a snitch hiding from the mob. (102 mins.)
Director: Roberto Benigni
 
20.
The Monster (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A vicious serial sex killer is on the loose, and landscape gardener and shop-window outfitter Loris is the prime suspect... (112 mins.)
Director: Roberto Benigni
 
21.
The Best of Youth (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An Italian epic that follows the lives of two brothers, from the 1960s to the 2000s. (366 mins.)
“ One of my absolute favourite films - this should be seen by everyone, and particularly those with an interest in Italy. Every character in it is believable and complex - by the end of the film you feel totally involved in their lives and above all, profoundly moved. It is also a fascinating insight into Italian history from the 1960s through to the 2000s, as well as a reminder of the not-so-distant horrific malpractice in some psychiatric hospitals. Now if only they would bring out a Region 2 version with English subs so that this could be accessible to more people! ” - MaestroMoretti
 
22.
The Consequences of Love (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An introverted man's life changes completely when he finds himself attracted to a young bar-maid. (100 mins.)
“ Practically every frame in Sorrentino's films is an artwork in its own right - here the cinematography is bleaker and colder than in 'Il Divo' and 'The Great Beauty', an approach which perfectly matches the protagonist's isolation and loneliness. The film offers an unromantic view of the workings of organized crime in Italy, more akin to the stark realism in Gomorrah than to the world of Don Corleone. Tony Servillo is mesmerizing as the solitary Titto di Girolamo and the film boasts a brilliant, minimalist score from the likes of Mogwai and Lali Puna. ” - MaestroMoretti
 
23.
We Have a Pope (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A story centered on the relationship between the newly elected Pope and his therapist. (102 mins.)
Director: Nanni Moretti
“ This has garnered indifferent reviews because people find it difficult to place. Some have taken offense at its representation of the Vatican, while others argue that it isn't critical enough. Ultimately, Moretti wasn't intending to attack or defend the Church, but simply to humanize it. It is a gentle, thought-provoking film about human fragility, with a moving performance from Michel Piccoli and some great comic setpieces like the cardinals' volleyball tournament. It also contains some stunning cinematography, particularly during the scenes in the conclave. ” - MaestroMoretti