No, we aren't talking Hollywood movies with directors who happen to have Italian heritage! When we say "Italian movies," we mean authentic Italian films that come from Italy itself.
Indeed, Italian cinema is diverse and has given us famous films known all around the world. Yet, many of these movies that deserve our attention have been overlooked or forgotten.
Here are my picks for the best Italian films that represent the best of Italian cinema from all kinds of viewpoints. If you're looking for movies that are genuinely from Italy, check these out!
10. The Tiger and the Snow (2005)
Also known as La Tigre e La Neve, The Tiger and the Snow was directed by Roberto Benigni, one of the most beloved and famous Italian actors of our time.
Together with his wife and lifelong collaborator Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni gives us this movie where they fall in love, showing us the best ups and downs of their romance.
He plays Attilio de Giovanni, a poetry professor who follows his love interest, a journalist named Vittoria. She's at a conference? He's there, too. She's at a restaurant? He's also dining there!
But then she has to travel to Iraq for an interview, where she becomes victim to an explosion and falls into a coma. Upon hearing this, Attilio drops everything and jumps on a plane.
9. Rome, Open City (1945)
When discussing Italian movies, it's impossible to avoid mentioning Italian neorealism, one of the most influential film movements in the history of cinema.
Rome, Open City (also known as Roma Città Aperta) is a perfect example of this movement, and it's a must-watch for anyone who's interested in historical Italian cinema.
Set in 1944 during the Second World War, Luigi Ferrari is the leader of the Resistance and he's being hunted by German officers. He must do everything in his power to continue fighting against the enemy, but difficult times lie ahead.
8. L'Anatra All'Arancia (1975)
Also known as Duck in Orange Sauce, L'Anatra All'Arancia centers on Livio and Lisa Stefani, who have been married for a long time and things aren't going so well for them anymore.
While extramarital adventures begin to feel like plausible options, the truth is that they still care about each other a lot.
Mainstream cinema likes to simplify human relationships, which are unsurprisingly complex. That's not the case in L'Anatra All'Arancia, where we get to see these two navigate a struggling marriage in an ironic, humorous, and self-reflective way.
7. Stork Day (2004)
Pretty much everyone has heard of the classic time loop film Groundhog Day. A decade later, we got Stork Day (also known as È Già Ieri), which is basically the Italian version of it.
Starring one of the most acclaimed Italian actors in Antonio Albanese, Stork Day centers on a famous Italian presenter named Filippo Fontana who specializes in zoology. He's self-centered, spoiled, unpleasant, and arrogant.
He's sent to the Canary Islands for work—and once there, he finds himself stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over again.
Stork Day may not live up to the greatness of the original Groundhog Day, but this small movie from Italy is worth a watch if you're interested in seeing what Italian cinema is capable of.
6. Uomo d'Acqua Dolce (1997)
In Uomo d'Acqua Dolce (also known as Freshwater Man), Antonio and Beatrice are happily married and expecting a baby. Due to Beatrice's frequent food cravings, Antonio is the one who has to go out to the store and get what she needs.
But once there, his life changes forever: a huge bag of sugar falls on his head, erasing his memories.
He ends up wandering around for several years before he's able to make it back home. Where has he been? How did his family change after all this time? What can he do now?
5. The Great Beauty (2013)
In The Great Beauty, Gep Gambardella is a successful journalist who has spent decades of his life indulging in Dionysian pleasure, living up the good life in Rome.
He's about to turn 65 years old and thinks his life couldn't be more perfect. Indeed, an idea suddenly forms in his head: from this point on, he won't do anything he doesn't feel like doing.
Soon enough, his life is about to change as his truest wishes begin to appear in the background.
4. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
The unemployed Antonio Ricci can't believe his luck when, after a long time searching, he finally lands a nice job.
There's just one requirement for said job: he must own a bicycle. Even though he previously sold his bicycle to the pawn shop due to financial hardship, now he can finally get it back!
But while working, his precious bicycle is stolen by someone who's as desperate as he is.
Bicycle Thieves is one of the greatest classic movies, not just from Italy but from around the world. This heartwarming movie about poverty and gratitude is Italian neorealism at its best.
3. Mid-August Lunch (2008)
Gianni lives with his elderly mother, cooking for her and taking care of her to the best of his abilities.
But money is tight, so he often has to find ways around paying the bills. Plus, the Mid-August Feast (Ferragosto) soon approaches!
To make ends meet, Gianni ends up hosting several elderly ladies in his apartment—and he learns that taking care of them won't be as simple as he initially thought!
2. Bread and Tulips (2000)
Bread and Tulips (also known as Pane e Tulipani) centers on Rosalba, who's left behind at a gas station on her way back home after a family vacation. While waiting to be picked up by the tour bus, she decides she can just hitchhike home instead. Easy!
As fate would have it, she finds herself in Venice, not quite where she's meant to go—but it's exactly where she's meant to be.
This magical realism Italian movie deserves far more recognition than it tends to get. It's a beautiful tale of love where friends appear out of the blue and tulips grow in secret corners.
1. My Friends (1975)
My Friends (also known as Amici Miei) sits among the most iconic and most important Italian movies ever made.
It tells the story of a group of friends and their lives together, serving as a satirical work about friendship, society, class, and what it meant to be an Italian male during the 70s.
Tragic yet hilarious, My Friends is a must-watch masterpiece, especially for new enthusiasts of Italian cinema. Directed by Mario Monicelli and starring an outstanding cast of actors, My Friends is my clear pick for the best movie to come out of Italy.