The Best Italian Movies, and Best Italian Comedies
When speaking of Italian movies, many only think of Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), Il Giardino dei Finzi Contini (The Garden of the Finzi Contini) and La Dolce Vita, of works by the Taviani brothers, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni and, of course, Federico Fellini.
Truth is these are movies only few Italians actually end up watching on a regular basis: it is Toto', Sordi, Manfredi, Verdone, Gassman, Pieraccioni, Aldo Giovanni e Giacomo that fill most of an Italian's DVD collection and these are the artists you should look for if you want to get a real idea of what Italians really love when it comes to cinema.
I, like most Italians, like comedies and I am really into Commedia all'Italiana, but Italy has produced amazing pieces in all genres. Here is a selection of them, based on my own personal preferences. Of course, there is more out there to discover and enjoy, so feel free to do some more field work and let us know about your favorite Italian movies!
- Matrimonio all'Italiana (starring Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, directed by Vittorio De Sica, 1964)
- Divorzio all'Italiana (starring Marcello Mastroianni and Daniela Rocca, 1961)
- Sedotta e Abbandonata (starring Stefania Sandrelli, 1964)
- Otto e mezzo (directed by Federico Fellini, 1963)
- La Dolce Vita (directed by Federico Fellini, 1960)
- Lo Sceicco Bianco (directed by Federico Fellini, 1952)
- Amarcord (directed by Federico Fellini, 1973)
- Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
- Il Postino (last movie starred and directed by Massimo Troisi, 1994)
- La Grande Bellezza (directed by Paolo Sorrentino, 2013 )
- Piccoli Maestri (historical film, from the novel by Luigi Meneghello, 1997)
La Grande Guerra - Scena finale.
- La Grande Guerra (starring Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman and Silvana Mangano, 1959): about the first world war, as a comedy - For me one of the best movies ever made.
- Il Ciclone (directed by Leonardo Pieraccioni, 1996): one of the best selling Italian movies of all time.
- Ricomincio da Tre (directed and starring Massimo Troisi): another masterpiece, even though the heavy use of dialect willl make understanding difficult
- Cosi' è la Vita (starring Aldo Giovanni e Giacomo, 1998): the popular cabaret trio's second movie (With English Subtitles)
- Febbre da Cavallo (directed by Steno, a light comedy, 1976)
- Amici Miei (an Italian classic, directed by Mario Monicelli, the first of a trilogy starring Ugo Tognazzi, 1975)
- Il medico della Mutua (starring Alberto Sordi, 1968)
- Il Professor Guido Tersilli, primario della Clinica Villa Celeste convenzionata con le mutue (starring Alberto Sordi, follows up Il Medico della Mutua, 1969)
- Maledetto il Giorno che ti ho Incontrato (starring Carlo Verdone and Margherita Buy, 1992): an easy to watch romantic comedy
- La Marcia su Roma (directed by Dino Risi, 1962)
- Il Federale (starring Ugo Tognazzi, 1961)
- Il Marchese del Grillo (starring Alberto Sordi, directed by Mario Monicelli, 1981)
- Pane Amore e Fantasia (first part of a trilogy, directed by Luigi Comencini and starring Gina Lollobrigida, Vittorio De Sica, Tina Pica, 1953): a true masterpiece in this field
- L'Anatra all'Arancia (starring Ugo Tognazzi and Monica Vitti, 1975)
- Bello Onesto Emigrato Australia, Sposerebbe Compaesana Illibata (starring Alberto Sordi, 1971)
- Totòtruffa '62 (starring Totò, 1961)
- L' Armata Brancaleone and its follow up, Brancaleone alle Crociate (starring Vittorio Gassman and directed by Mario Monicelli, 1966 and 1970)
- C'eravamo Tanto Amati (starring Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi, Stefania Sandrelli, available at Amazon, 1974 )
- La Scuola (starring Silvio Orlando, 1995)
- Non ci Resta che Piangere (starring Massimo Troisi, Roberto Benigni, 1984)
- Manuale D'Amore (starring Carlo Verdone, Silvio Muccino, Margherita Buy, Sergio Rubini, Luciana Littizzetto, 2005)
- Troppo Forte (starring Alberto Sordi and Carlo Verdone, 1986)
- I Complessi (starring Alberto Sordi and Nino Manfredi, 1965)
- I Mostri (starring Vittorio Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi, 1963)
- Un Americano a Roma (starring Alberto Sordi, 1954)
- Notte Prima degli Esami and its sequel Notte Prima degli Esami Oggi (2006 and 2007)
- Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo (from the bestseller by Federico Moccia, 2004)
- Ieri, Oggi e Domani (starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren, 1963)
- Le Notti Bianche (starring Maria Schell, Marcella Rovena and Marcello Mastroianni, 1957)
- Siamo Uomini o Caporali? (starring Totò, 1955)
- Totò d'Arabia (starring Totò, 1965)
- Miseria e Nobiltà (starring Totò, 1965)
- Finché c'è Guerra C'è Speranza (Alberto Sordi, 1974)
- Guardie e Ladri (starring Totò and Aldo Fabrizi, 1951)
- I Soliti Ignoti (starring Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni and Totò, 1958)
- Totò, Peppino e... la malafemmina (Totò, Peppino De Filippo, 1956)
The most beautiful scenes of the film: I Soliti Ignoti
How to find your movie
If you want to find a movie on the web, go to youtube.com and search for "film completo". You will find many italian movies there in original language.
If for example you are looking for Alberto Sordi movies just search on youtube for "Alberto Sordi film completo". The quality is not always excellent, but it's a good starting point.
Plenty of Italian titles are available in the US on dvd. Among them:
- I Soliti Ignoti
- Johnny Stecchino
- Il Mostro
- La vita e' bella
- il Postino
- Pane e Tulipani
- Le Fate Ignoranti
- Mad About Opera
If you have a region free DVD you can find several good Italian comedies with English subtitles on European DVD:
- Ma che colpa abbiamo noi
- Tre Uomini e una gamba
- La leggenda di Al, John, and Jack
- Le Tre Mogli
Another option is to get your Italian cinema fix on Netflix. Actually, if you have a subscription do ask them to get a better international cinema selection! It would help bring more Italian movies on the platform and to the US. For the moment, you can get a bunch of Italian based movies on it:
- Mostly Martha - German but with Sergio Castellito, quite good
- Italian for Beginners
- Under the Tuscan Sun - American, not a masterpiece but pleasant, about life around Cortona between Tuscany and Umbria.
On Netflix, you can also find some Italian 1970s B-Movies: Italian B-movies have been considered trash cinema for decades, however, they have been re-evaluated in the past couple of decades, especially thanks to the interest of great directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, in their style and aesthetics.
Another source of Italian movies (as long as you do not mind a poor picture quality) is youtube. Just go on youtube and search for "Film Completo"
See for example https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=film+completo
And here it is an Italian comedy with English Subtitles (I liked this indipendent film)
If you think they may be your cup of tea, you can check these out on Netflix: Quel Gran Pezzo dell' Ubalda and Giovannona Coscialunga both with Pippo Franco and Edwige Fenech. They are rated low on Netflix, because their sense of humor is quintessentially Italian and not everyone is apparently too fond of sexy trash Italian cinema, but do a bit of research online and you'll see the genre has been gaining more and more cred, also from critics.