Netflix and Chill in Italy
Our Favorite Italian Films
Italy has a rich cinematic history, producing some of the world’s most iconic and influential movies. From the classic Italian films of Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone to contemporary works, Italian cinema has captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Among my favorites are Cinema Paradiso, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1989, and 8 1/2, widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. These movies exemplify the artistry and passion of Italian filmmaking, drawing on themes of love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships.
In addition to these classics, there are also many excellent films about trips made to Italy, including the critically acclaimed Roman Holiday and, dare I say the HBO series, White Lotus. As an Italian American, I also have a special affinity for movies that explore the Italian American experience, such as The Godfather and Big Night. Whether you’re a classic cinema or modern drama fan, Italian-themed movies offer a rich and diverse storytelling array that captivates and inspires.
On With The Show
Credited with revitalizing Italy’s film industry, this 1990 drama was shot and set in Sicily. The story centers around the friendship between a boy and an aging movie theater projectionist. Romantic and emotional, this Academy Award-winning film lets you feel like you’re strolling old stone streets late at night with fireworks overhead.
Life is Beautiful
This 1998 drama tells the story of a Jewish Italian bookstore owner, played by the film’s co-writer Roberto Benigni, who goes to imaginative lengths to shield his son from the horrors of internment at a Nazi concentration camp. It’s delightful and quirky, and heavy and profound as it gets.
The Great Beauty
Paolo Sorrentino wrote and directed this relatively recent (2013) art drama, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Filmed in Rome with under a $10 million budget, it’s full of complex characters inside a crafty context. Every shot is epic and glamorous in this exuberant modern masterpiece. (Photo above courtesy of Medusa Films, Italy.)
Fellini’s 1963 surrealistic masterpiece centers on Guido Anselmi, an Italian film director who breaks through his own stifled creativity by creating a science fiction film. “I wanted to make an honest film with no lies of any kind,” says its narrator, “A film that could be useful to anyone, that would help us to bury all that’s dead inside us.” It’s as meta as it gets and packed with commentary on the isolation of modern times.
La Dolce Vita, Malena
Films Set in Italy
Call Me by Your Name
A rolling, atmospheric summer of a movie, set in Lombardy and starring Timotheé Chalamet, who falls in love with his father’s male research assistant who comes to visit his sophisticated family. Beautiful and transportive, the film is directed by Luca Guadagnino, and stylized by Giulia Piersanti, who splits her time as a designer for the fashion brand, Celine. You’ll want more of this movie when it’s over.
For an American perspective on Italy, William Wyler gives us Audrey Hepburn, a princess out to see Rome. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasing premise for 1953, when it was created, and it stands the test of time. It’s fuzzy and black and white, but if you squint your eyes, you’ll see your own dreams in it.
Eat Pray Love, Stealing Beauty, Under the Tuscan Sun
Italian American Movies
Stanley Tucci co-wrote this 1996 comedy-drama in which Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini star. We’re in a restaurant on the Jersey Shore in the 1950s. What more could we want? Heartwarming, fun, and light-hearted, it will bring you closer to food, and in doing so, to God.
Francis Ford Coppola’s three-part masterpiece was inspired by a 1969 novel, and if you haven’t seen it, you may want to wait until you’re seriously holed up. From baptisms to basements, murders, secrets, and more – there’s nothing more mafia, or more captivating, than these long, arduous, and absolutely satisfying 539 minutes.
A Bronx Tale, My Cousin Vinny, Moonstruck, Saturday Night Fever
With much thanks to Medusa Films (Top) for the photo.