Top Italian Movies of all time

From drama to comedy, suspense and thriller, western and neorealism, Italian movies have been admired all over the world for more than a century.

Top Italian movies rated by viewers

The top Italian movies listed below have been rated by users and reviewers at imdb.com and variety.com. The images are linked to amazon.com with the option to buy the DVD, Blu-ray, Stream, Rent, and Download the Italian movie of your choice.

1The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) on IMDb 8.9/10

The number one of the Top Italian Movies of all times is the third in the Clint Eastwood series of Italo westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is exactly that – a curious amalgam of the visually striking, the dramatically feeble and the offensively sadistic. Story concerns search for buried treasure by ‘Good’ Eastwood, ‘Ugly’ Eli Wallach and ‘Bad’ Lee Van Cleef. Along the way they taunt and torture each other and also contribute a total of 20 dead bodies to the western landscape, reasonably well-faked by European exteriors. As befits his star status, Eastwood kills 10 of these; as befits his titular Goodness, his victims all draw first. Unlike the earlier Leone efforts, however, the violence here has little of the balletic, even erotic quality. Leone’s visual sense is as strong as ever, however, and his effective alternation of extreme closeups and long shots renders much of the pic graphically electric. Much of Tonino Delli Colli’s photography is a knockout. (Variety)

2Life is Beautiful

Life Is Beautiful (1997) on IMDb 8.6/10

One of the bestsellers in the Top Italian Movies of all time takes place in 1930s Italy, where a carefree Jewish book keeper named Guido starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying a lovely woman from a nearby city. Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces. In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish Concentration Camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank. (Anthony Hughes)

3The Best of Youth

The Best of Youth (2003) on IMDb 8.5/10

The Number 3 in the list of the Top Italian Movies is The Best Of Youth. The Best Of Youth has wowed critics and earned honors at numerous film festivals worldwide. As Italy explodes in an era of social unrest, a single ill-fated incident sends the lives of equally idealistic brothers Nicola and Matteo Carati careening in opposite directions. Divided by politics but bonded by blood, the next 40 years will find the brothers’ divergent paths intersecting through some of the most tumultuous events in recent history! A stunning cinematic achievement – you don’t want to miss this incredible motion picture!

4Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso (1988) on IMDb 8.5/10

Cinema Paradiso follows Toto (Jacques Perrin), a Sicilian boy who persuades the town projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), to teach him how to show films. Spanning nearly 50 years, the film craftily draws parallels between Toto’s life and those lives he sees on screen. As Toto matures into Salvatore, a successful Italian filmmaker, the Cinema Paradiso ages as well. Salvatore’s return home for Alfredo’s funeral is also a goodbye to his Paradiso, demolished to become a parking lot. The film’s heightened sense of nostalgia subtly mirrors our humanistic love of movies, making it a tribute to cinema as an artistic genre.

5Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (1948) on IMDb 8.4/10

Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award–winning Bicycle Thieves defined an era in cinema. In postwar, poverty-stricken Rome, a man, hoping to support his desperate family with a new job, loses his bicycle and main means of transportation for work. With his wide-eyed young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and dazzlingly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodied all the greatest strengths of the neorealist film movement in Italy: emotional clarity, social righteousness, and brutal honesty.

6The Nights of Cabiria

The magnificent Giulietta Masina (Fellini’s wife) plays an eternally optimistic Rome streetwalker with a heart of gold and a head of cotton candy in her husband’s Oscar-winning masterpiece. Cabiria is a wide-eyed waif, a streetwalker living in a poor section of Rome where she owns her little house, has a bank account, and dreams of a miracle. We follow her nights (and days): a boyfriend steals 40,000 lire from her and nearly drowns her, a movie star on the Via Veneto takes her home with him, at a local shrine she seeks the Madonna’s intercession, then she meets an accountant who’s seen her, hypnotized on a vaudeville stage, acting out her heart’s longings. He courts her. Is it fate that led to their meeting? Is this finally a man who appreciates her for who she is?

7Divorce Italian Style

On the sun-blasted island of Sicily, Baron Ferdinand “Fefè” Cefalù (Mastroianni) breaks out of his heat- and boredom-induced stupor long enough to be smitten with mad passion for his 16-year-old cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli). But he’s married–to Rosalia (Daniela Rocca), she of the unfortunate mustache–and the Italian Penal Code gives him no way out… except, of course, for catching his wife in adultery and availing himself of the patriarchal license to commit a “crime of honor.” So Fefè searches for a way to fling Rosalia into the arms of another man.

8Umberto D.

Umberto D. is one of the enduring masterpieces of Italian neorealism, considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made. Everything that neorealism represents can be found in this simple, heartbreaking story of an aged Roman named Umberto (played by Carlo Battisti, non-professional actor and retired college professor) who struggles to survive in a city plagued by passive disregard for the post-World War II plight of the elderly. With his little dog, Flike, as his only companion, Umberto faces imminent eviction, and his insufficient pension and failed attempts to raise money lead him to contemplate suicide… if he can find a home for Flike.

9Il Sorpasso

The ultimate Italian road comedy, Il sorpasso stars the unlikely pair of Vittorio Gassman (Big Deal on Madonna Street) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (Z) as, respectively, a waggish, free-wheeling bachelor and the bookish law student he takes on a madcap trip from Rome to rural Southern Italy. An unpredictable journey that careers from slapstick to tragedy, this film, directed by Dino Risi, is a wildly entertaining commentary on the pleasures and consequences of the good life. A holy grail of commedia all’italiana, Il sorpasso is so fresh and exciting that one can easily see why it has long been adored in Italy.

10We All Loved Each Other So Much

In a retrospective allegory, Ettore Scola examines the lives of three resistance fighters and their transformations over thirty years. Each of these friends fall in love with the beautiful Luciana, an aspiring actress, testing the friendship and idealism they all shared. Throughout the story Scola plays to the masters of Italian cinema by weaving classic film clips and iconic personalities into the background, as the film reveals which of the three friends remains true to the spirit of liberation they had once fought to achieve.

11

Marcello Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a director whose new project is collapsing around him, along with his life. One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini’s 8½ (Otto e mezzo) turns one man’s artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema. An early working title for 8½ was The Beautiful Confusion, and Fellini’s masterpiece is exactly that: a shimmering dream, a circus, and a magic act.

12Rome, Open City

This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with a bit more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring well-known actors — Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member — Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work was an international sensation, garnering awards around the globe and leaving the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.

13Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

In a time of internal political disturbance, Roman police inspector Gian Maria Volontè gets that plum assignment: crack down on political dissidents; then proceeds to slash the throat of married mistress Florinda Bolkan. But as homicide cops swarm over the murder scene, guess who gets tapped to head the investigation? And, as every clue unearthed – most perversely planted by Volontè himself – leads right back to… is anybody going to do anything about it? Investigation becomes a biting critique of Italian police methods and authoritarian repression, a psychological study of a budding crypto-fascist, a probing why-dun nit, and a buildup to a question-stamped finale.

14The Leopard

An epic on the grandest scale, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (Il gattopardo) re-creates, with nostalgia, drama, and opulence, the tumultuous years of Italy’s Risorgimento, when the aristocracy lost its grip and the middle classes rose and formed a unified, democratic Italy. Burt Lancaster stars as an aging prince watching his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation, represented by the gorgeous Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale.

15The Conformist

In Mussolini’s Italy, repressed Jean-Louis Trintignant, trying to purge memories of a youthful, homosexual episode–and murder–joins the Fascists in a desperate attempt to fit in. As the reluctant Judas motors to his personal Gethsemane (the assassination of his leftist mentor), he flashes back to a dance party for the blind; an insane asylum in a stadium; and wife Stefania Sandrelli and lover Dominique Sanda dancing the tango in a working class hall. But those are only a few of this political thriller’s anthology pieces, others including Trintignant’s honeymoon coupling with Sandrelli in a train compartment as the sun sets outside their window; a bimbo lolling on the desk of a fascist functionary, glimpsed in the recesses of his cavernous office; a murder victim’s hands leaving bloody streaks on a limousine parked in a wintry forest. Bernardo Bertolucci’s masterpiece, adapted from the Alberto Moravia novel, boasts an authentic Art Deco look created by production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, a score by the great Georges Delerue (Contempt, Jules and Jim, and That Man From Rio) and breathtaking color cinematography by Vittorio Storaro.

16La Strada

Federico Fellini had been making films for a few years, but with the 1954 release of La strada, the Italian director set himself on his way to becoming one of international cinema’s household names. A delicate, immensely moving tale of love and loss between strongman Zampanò (Anthony Quinn) and his silent long-suffering charge, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), La strada introduced many viewers to two of the filmmaker’s lasting passions the circus and Masina, his wife.

17Il Posto

When young, fragile Domenico (Sandro Panseri) ventures from the small village of Meda to Milan in search of employment, he finds himself on the bottom rung of the bureaucratic ladder in a huge, faceless company. The prospects may be daunting, but Domenico finds reason for hope in the fetching new worker Antonietta (Loredana Detto). A tender coming-of-age story and a sharp observation of dehumanizing corporate enterprise, Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto is a touching and hilarious tale of one young man’s stumbling entrance into the perils of modern adulthood.

18La Dolce Vita

Another way to look at La Dolce Vita is to think of Marcello’s journey (played by Marcello Mastroianni) as the cinematic version of the Book of Daniel which describes the “Apocalypse” or Revelation: a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception. The film begins with the imagery of Christ flying over Rome as a helicopter carries a religious statue aloft over the city — or visions of Angels. Marcello’s journey includes encounters with the “Great Whore” (Sylvia, played by Anita Ekberg), the suicide of his close friend whose life has descended into despair, a Judgment of the wicked (the orgy at the villa), the Beast (symbolized by the manta ray/devil fish on the beach), the purity of the virginal young girl who beckons to Marcello to save him but he chooses the decadent life — viewed in this way, the film has a layer of symbolism that deepens it.

19A Special Day

The film is set during the late 1930s: the occasion is the meeting between Mussolini and Hitler in Rome. Left alone in her tenement home when her fascist husband runs off to attend the historic event, Sophia Loren strikes up a friendship with her mysterious neighbor Mastroianni. As the day segues into night, Loren and Mastroianni develop a very special relationship that will radically alter both of their outlooks on life.

20A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars launched the spaghetti Western and catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom. Based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 samurai picture Yojimbo, it scored a resounding success (in Italy in 1964 and the U.S. in 1967), as did its sequels, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The advertising campaign promoted Eastwood’s character–laconic, amoral, dangerous–as the Man with No Name (though in the film he’s clearly referred to as Joe), and audiences loved the movie’s refreshing new take on the Western genre.

21Fists in the Pocket

Like a mortar fired into the heart of Italian cinema in the mid-1960s, Fists in the Pocket had an incendiary impact that’s still felt today. In addition to catapulting first-time director Marco Bellocchio to instant celebrity (and a degree of infamy) among European cineastes, this audacious drama challenged the foundations of Italian society–the institutions of family and Catholic religion–and ripped them to shreds without mercy.

22Big Deal on Madonna Street

Peppe, formerly a boxer, organizes the break-in of a pawnshop. Tiberio, an unemployed photographer, Mario, a receiver, the Sicilian Michele and Capannelle, an ex-jockey, are the other members of the gang. Though they are advised by Dante, a retired burglar, the task is not so easy… An all-star cast and jazzy score highlight this charming comedy, a deft satire of classic caper films like Rififi. Big Deal on Madonna Street hilariously details the plight of a sad-sack group of bumbling thieves and their desperate attempts to pull off the perfect heist.

23Love and Anarchy

In pre-World War II Italy, the employees of a popular Roman bordello realize that a new arrival (Academy Award (c) Nominee Giancarlo Giannini, Seven Beauties, Hannibal, Casino Royale) is planning to assassinate Mussolini. When one of the girls (Lina Polito, All Screwed Up) falls in love with the man, she’s torn between saving him and saving her country. This is the film that put Italian director Lina Wertmueller (Swept Away) on the map of world cinema. Giannini won a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal.

24Seduced and Abandoned

Shotgun weddings, kidnapping, attempted murder, emergency dental work-the things Don Vincenzo will do to restore his family’s honor! Pietro Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned was the follow-up to his international sensation Divorce Italian Style, and in many ways it’s even more audacious-a rollicking yet raw series of escalating comic calamities that ensue in a small village when sixteen-year-old Agnese (the beautiful Stefania Sandrelli) loses her virginity at the hands of her sister’s lascivious fianc‚. Merciless and mirthful, Seduced and Abandoned skewers Sicilian social customs and pompous patriarchies with a sly, devilish grin.

25I Vitelloni

Italian maestro Federico Fellini’s first international success is a nakedly autobiographical film that bears many of the formal and thematic concerns that recur throughout his work. Set in the director’s hometown of Rimini, I Vitelloni follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts, who while away their listless days in their small seaside village.

26L’Avventura

Michelangelo Antonioni invented a new film grammar with this masterwork. An iconic piece of challenging 1960s cinema and a gripping narrative on its own terms, L’avventura concerns the enigmatic disappearance of a young woman during a yachting trip off the coast of Sicily, and the search taken up by her disaffected lover (Gabriele Ferzetti) and best friend (Monica Vitti, in her breakout role). Antonioni’s controversial international sensation is a gorgeously shot tale of modern ennui and spiritual isolation.

27Amarcord

In his carnivalesque portrait of provincial Italy during the Fascist period, Federico Fellini satirizes his youth and turns daily life into a circus of social rituals, adolescent desires, male fantasies, and political repartee, all set to Nino Rota’s classic, nostalgia-tinged score. The Academy Award-winning Amarcord was one of Fellini’s most popular films and remains one of cinema’s enduring treasures. “Not only a great movie, it’s a great joy to see… this is a movie for everybody.” – Roger Ebert

28Shoeshine

Masterfully revealing post-WWII Italy, Academy Award®-winning director Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief) depicts the lives of two boys entrenched in a world of poverty and violence. Hoping to escape the harsh reality of life on the streets of Rome, Giuseppe and Pasquale spend their days shining the shoes of American troops for tips. But after the boys are sent to a brutal state juvenile detention center for a crime they didn’t commit, their lives are changed forever.

29Seven Beauties

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards, Seven Beauties follows the story of a petty thief who lived off the profits of his seven sisters while claiming to protect their honor at any cost. Seven Beauties is the film that brought Wertmuller the Oscar nomination. Giannini takes the lead role again (he copped a heroically earned Oscar nomination too), as a Neapolitan ne’er-do-well who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp. Wertmuller’s wild approach may be all over the place, but the movie certainly is alive.

30The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Once in a generation, a work of art appears as if by magic, to move and inspire its audience. A work that returns to a exhausted humanity the possibility of simple grandeur. We invite you to visit a time and place when life was still a sacred matter. When the family of man was still – a family. An absolutely engrossing film. A wonderful slice of life in rural Italy at the turn of the century. No great dramatics but a detailed examination of a year of peasant life…

31Kaos

Magic, drama, misery and hope are given life in five tales adapted from Luigi Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno (“The Other Son,” “Moonsickness,” “The Jar,” “Requiem” and “The Crow of Mízzaro”). With a strong, poetic vision of Sicilian life, directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone) imbue this epic masterpiece with a serene, sympathetic revelation of mankind that transcend the boundaries of time.

32Bellissima

Oscar® winner Anna Magnani (The Rose Tattoo) stars as a screen-struck mother, convinced that her daughter’s star potential is her ticket to a better life, in a performance that Hollywood legend Bette Davis called “brilliant, uninhibited and full of volcanic, earthy power.” Risking everything in pursuit of her dream, Maddalena (Magnani) finally arranges a screen test for her child, only to realize the cruel reality beneath the shimmering veneer of the filmmaking industry.

33General Della Rovere

In a magnetic performance, Academy Award nominee Vittorio De Sica (A Farewell to Arms) is Bardone, an opportunistic rascal in wartime Genoa, conning and cheating his fellow Italians, exploiting their tragedies by promising to help find their missing loved ones in exchange for money. But when the Nazis force him to impersonate a dead partisan general in prison to extract information from fellow inmates, Bardone finds himself wrestling with his conscience for the first time. Roberto Rossellini s gripping drama, among his most commercially popular films, is further evidence of the compassionate artistry of one cinema’s most important voices.

34La Notte

This psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work was director Michelangelo Antonioni’s follow-up to the epochal L’avventura. Marcello Mastroianni (Divorce Italian Style) and Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim) star as a novelist and his frustrated wife who, over the course of one night, confront their alienation from each other and the achingly empty bourgeois Milan circles in which they travel. Antonioni’s muse Monica Vitti (Red Desert) smolders as an industrialist’s tempting daughter. Moodily sensual cinematography and subtly expressive performances make LA NOTTE an indelible illustration of romantic and social deterioration.

35Mamma Roma

Anna Magnani is Mamma Roma, a middle-aged prostitute who attempts to extricate herself from her sordid past for the sake of her son. Filmed in the great tradition of Italian neorealism, Mamma Roma offers an unflinching look at the struggle for survival in postwar Italy, and highlights director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s lifelong fascination with the marginalized and dispossessed. Though banned upon its release in Italy for obscenity, today Mamma Roma is considered a classic: a glimpse at a country’s most controversial director in the process of finding his style and a powerhouse performance by one of cinema’s greatest actresses.

Ratings and reviews provided by imdb.com, variety.com and amazon.com
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