9 Awesome Italian Films to Watch

The Italian flair for beauty and romance has made Italian artists very prominent in western culture. The advent of “moving pictures” opened up a new canvas for artistic visionaries from Italy. Several of the below Italian films to watch were directed by Italians while others are set in Italy or inspired by its landscape and people.

Movies by Italian directors

Life is Beautiful (1997): Roberto Benigni both directed and starred in this funny and tragic story of an Italian Jew, who meets and marries the love of his life in the years before WWII. As the story progresses, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) and his family are imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Guido strives to protect his young son and give him hope in the midst of their dire circumstances.

The Dollars Trilogy – Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Perhaps the most famous of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, the Man With No Name trilogy starring Clint Eastwood was filmed in Italy and utilized a mostly Italian cast, including Mario Brega and Benito Stefanelli. Though the plots are not necessarily related, the cool, dangerous character played by Clint Eastwood is basically the same in all three movies.

La Strada (1954) tells the story of a girl who is sold into a life of circus performing and hardship. The movie was Italian film legend Federico Fellini’s fifth directorial effort and was the first movie to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

8 ½ (1963) is another well-known Federico Fellini film, depicting a director who is supposed to be working on a new movie, but has no interest in it, and leads a confused personal life.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977) debuted on British television on March 27, 1977. Based on the four gospels’ accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry, Franco Zeffirelli’s TV miniseries won few awards but is still shown on Easter.

Romeo and Juliet (1968): Franco Zeffirelli’s screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play stars Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as the doomed lovers. Set in Verona, Italy, the movie was filmed in several Italian locations.

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Movies set in Italy

Roman Holiday (1953) stars Audrey Hepburn as a princess out for a lark in Rome. Gregory Peck co-stars as a jaded American reporter working for a local newspaper who is trying to get an exclusive interview with the princess. During their explorations of Rome, the film shows several famous locations in the city, including the Spanish Steps and La Bocca Della Verità.

The Italian Job (2003) is an American remake of the 1969 British heist film bearing the same title. The 2003 movie is about a team of thieves who track down and recapture a load of gold that their double-crossing partner has absconded with. The movie was filmed in LA and Venice.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) is based on the 1996 memoir of Frances Mayes. The movie is about a recently divorced writer who vacations in Tuscany and decided to buy a villa. The plot is not very dramatic, but the film does show some lovely scenes of Positano, Florence, Cortona and other locations in Italy.

Italy is a beautiful country and makes a great filming location. It is no surprise that Italy has been providing a backdrop for romantic or dramatic films for decades. Whether planning a trip to Italy or just looking for an interesting Friday night movie, there are a wide variety of Italian films to watch and maybe even inspiration.


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  • “8½.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 03 AUG 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011.
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  • “Romeo and Juliet (1968 film).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 21 June 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011.
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  • “Dollars Trilogy.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 July 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011.
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Photo: dalbera