Roberto Benigni says the title comes from a quote by Leon Trotsky. In exile in Mexico, knowing he was about to be killed by Joseph Stalin's assassins, he saw his wife in the garden and wrote that, in spite of everything, "life is beautiful".
The screenplay by Roberto Benigni and Vincenzo Cerami was published in Italy in 1998. The published version featured a few more scenes that were not in the final movie, most notably a scene in which Guido inadvertently witnesses a mass execution of Partisans, spotting his friend Ferruccio among them.
The movie based on his experience tells the story of fictional Jewish Italian Guido Orefice - played by Roberto Benigni who also directed and co-wrote the film - who employs his fertile imagination to help his family during their internment in a Nazi concentration camp.