Italy, with its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture, has been a favorite setting for countless movies over the years. From heart-wrenching dramas to pulse-pounding thrillers, Italy’s cinematic offerings are as diverse as the country itself. This guide will delve into the captivating world of movies about Italy, offering a curated selection of films that beautifully portray the country’s landscapes, culture, and history.
Classic Movies About Italy
Roman Holiday (1953)
A quintessential classic, Roman Holiday, stars Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a delightful romantic comedy. Set against the backdrop of Rome, the film explores the blossoming love between a European princess and an American reporter. The movie is a tour de force of Rome’s iconic landmarks, from the grandeur of the Colosseum to the bustling streets of the historic city center. This film is a testament to the timeless charm and allure of Italy.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Directed by Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita is a cinematic masterpiece that explores the decadence and hedonism of Rome’s high society. The film follows a journalist’s pursuit of love and happiness in Italy, beautifully capturing the glamour and excess of the era. La Dolce Vita remains one of the most revered films in cinematic history, and its iconic fountain scene is etched in pop culture.
Contemporary Films Set in Italy
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
An intriguing psychological thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, unfolds in picturesque Italy. The film depicts a young man’s descent into obsession and deceit as he covets his friend’s luxurious lifestyle. The movie showcases Italy’s breathtaking landscapes and architecture, adding a layer of seductive allure to its intense storyline.
“The Talented Mr. Ripley” is a 1999 psychological thriller film directed by Anthony Minghella, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. The movie is set in the 1950s and follows the life of Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon), a young and talented but socially awkward man who becomes involved in a web of deceit, manipulation, and murder.
Tom is sent to Italy by a wealthy shipbuilding magnate named Herbert Greenleaf (played by James Rebhorn) to convince his son, Dickie (played by Jude Law), to return to the United States and take over the family business. However, Tom becomes infatuated with Dickie’s glamorous and carefree lifestyle, and he harbors a deep desire to become part of it.
As Tom ingratiates himself into Dickie’s life, a complex and toxic friendship develops. However, when Tom’s presence becomes burdensome to Dickie, tensions rise. In a fit of jealousy and desperation, Tom murders Dickie and assumes his identity to maintain the lifestyle he has come to covet.
As Tom continues to impersonate Dickie, he becomes embroiled in a series of deceptions and betrayals, as he navigates relationships with Dickie’s girlfriend, Marge (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), and other acquaintances who knew the real Dickie. Tom’s actions spiral further into darkness as he tries to protect his secret, leading to more lies and crimes.
“The Talented Mr. Ripley” is a psychological thriller that delves into themes of identity, obsession, and the lengths to which a person can go to preserve a facade. The film is known for its suspenseful plot, complex characters, and compelling exploration of the moral ambiguity of its protagonist.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
A poignant coming-of-age tale, Call Me By Your Name, is set in the serene Italian countryside. The film follows a blossoming romance between a young man and a visiting scholar, beautifully capturing the bittersweet nuances of first love. With its lush cinematography and compelling performances, Call Me By Your Name is a cinematic love letter to Italy.
Italian Cinema: The Golden Age
The Leopard (1963)
Directed by Luchino Visconti, The Leopard chronicles the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy against the backdrop of Italy’s unification. With its lavish production and stellar performances, the film beautifully captures the socio-political shifts of the era.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Another gem from Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita is a dramedy that explores the hedonistic lifestyle of Rome’s elite. The film, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, is regarded as one of the greatest films of world cinema.
Thrillers Set in Italy
The Italian Job (1969)
A thrilling heist Italian movie, The Italian Job, is an action-packed ride set in Turin. Featuring a group of British thieves plotting a major gold heist, the film is renowned for its legendary car chase sequence involving Mini Coopers racing through the city’s streets.
“The Tourist” is a 2010 romantic thriller film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The movie follows the story of Frank Tupelo (played by Johnny Depp), an American tourist traveling to Venice, Italy. During his visit, he meets a mysterious woman named Elise Clifton-Ward (played by Angelina Jolie) on a train.
As Frank becomes infatuated with Elise, he unwittingly finds himself caught in a web of intrigue and danger. Elise is being pursued by both law enforcement and criminals because she is believed to have knowledge of her former lover, Alexander Pearce, who stole a considerable sum of money from a gangster named Reginald Shaw (played by Steven Berkoff).
Throughout the film, Frank and Elise navigate the stunning backdrop of Venice while trying to evade the various threats closing in on them. The movie blends elements of romance, espionage, and suspense as the two characters become entangled in a cat-and-mouse game.
“The Tourist” is known for its picturesque Venetian setting and the chemistry between its two lead actors, Depp and Jolie. The film combines elements of action and mystery as it unfolds a plot filled with unexpected twists and turns, keeping the audience guessing until the final moments.
Part of the James Bond franchise, Spectre features some of its most exciting action sequences in the iconic city of Rome. From high-speed car chases to intense fight scenes, the movie offers a thrilling tour of Italy’s captivating landscapes.
Another James Bond movie, this one, was filmed in the famous country.
“Casino Royale” is a 2006 spy film and the 21st installment in the James Bond franchise, directed by Martin Campbell. This film serves as a reboot of the Bond series, introducing a younger and more raw version of the iconic British secret agent, James Bond, portrayed by Daniel Craig.
The movie follows James Bond as he earns his license to kill and is assigned to a mission that takes him to various glamorous locations, including the Bahamas, Montenegro, and Venice. His mission is to thwart a financier of terrorism, Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen), who is involved in a high-stakes poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro.
Italy Through the Lens of Italian Directors
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Cinema Paradiso is a nostalgic tribute to the magic of cinema. The film, set in a small Sicilian village, follows a young boy’s friendship with a cinema projectionist. Evocative and deeply moving, the film beautifully encapsulates the charm of Italy’s rural landscapes.
Life is Beautiful (1997)
A moving tale of love and resilience, Life is Beautiful is a critically acclaimed film by Roberto Benigni. Set against the horrors of a concentration camp, the film tells the story of a father’s unwavering determination to protect his son from the grim realities of their surroundings. With its poignant narrative and powerful performances, Life is Beautiful is a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity.
Movies About Italy’s History
The Godfather (1972)
Arguably one of the most influential movies of all time, The Godfather presents a riveting portrayal of a Sicilian crime family. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film offers a glimpse into Italy’s underworld, exploring themes of power, loyalty, and betrayal.
The first movie, set more in New York City, helped launch the career of Al Pacino. But the second one looked back at the early days of Don Vito Corleone, set in Sicily. In this movie, Robert de Niro and Al Pacino were in the same movie for the first time.
An epic historical drama, Gladiator depicts the life of a Roman general turned gladiator. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, the film offers a grand portrayal of ancient Rome, immersing viewers in its grandeur and brutality.
Rom-Coms Set in Italy
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
A heartwarming tale of self-discovery, Under the Tuscan Sun, follows a woman’s journey as she embarks on a new life in Italy. The movie beautifully captures the enchanting landscapes of Tuscany, from its lush vineyards to its charming villas.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Set in the romantic city of Verona, Letters to Juliet is a charming tale of love and destiny. The film, starring Amanda Seyfried, centers around a woman who embarks on a journey to reunite a pair of long-lost lovers after discovering an unanswered “letter to Juliet.”
Eat Pray Love
“Eat Pray Love” is a 2010 drama film directed by Ryan Murphy, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir of the same name. The movie tells the real-life story of Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts), a successful writer who embarks on a life-changing journey of self-discovery after a painful divorce.
The film is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a different country:
Eat (Italy): Elizabeth begins her journey in Italy, where she indulges in the pleasures of food, wine, and culture. She learns the Italian language, explores the country’s culinary delights, and makes new friends who help her embrace the joy of living in the moment.
Pray (India): In search of spiritual growth and inner peace, Elizabeth travels to an ashram in India. Here, she devotes herself to meditation, self-reflection, and the study of ancient spiritual teachings. She forms meaningful connections with fellow seekers and gradually begins to heal from her emotional wounds.
Love (Indonesia): Elizabeth concludes her journey in Bali, Indonesia, where she finds love and a deeper understanding of her own desires and needs. She meets a Brazilian businessman named Felipe (played by Javier Bardem) and begins a passionate romance that helps her reconcile with her past and envision a more fulfilling future.
Throughout the film, Elizabeth’s journey represents a quest for self-fulfillment, balance, and personal growth. “Eat Pray Love” explores themes of self-discovery, healing, and the importance of taking time for oneself. It serves as an inspiring tale of a woman’s journey to reclaim her sense of identity and purpose.
Under the Tuscan Sun
“Under the Tuscan Sun” is a 2003 romantic drama film directed by Audrey Wells, based on the memoir of the same name by Frances Mayes. The movie tells the story of Frances (played by Diane Lane), a recently divorced writer who impulsively purchases a villa in Tuscany, Italy, as she seeks a fresh start and a new direction in life.
Devastated by her divorce and feeling adrift, Frances embarks on a tour of Tuscany with her best friend, Patti (played by Sandra Oh). During the trip, she impulsively decides to buy a crumbling villa named Bramasole, despite not knowing much about home renovation or the Italian way of life.
As Frances sets out to restore the villa, she becomes entangled with the colorful characters of the local village. She forms friendships, experiences the beauty of the Tuscan countryside, and even finds herself drawn to a handsome Italian man named Marcello (played by Raoul Bova). Her journey of transformation is marked by personal growth, self-discovery, and the rekindling of her passion for writing.
“Under the Tuscan Sun” is a heartwarming and visually stunning film that explores themes of healing, second chances, and the rejuvenating power of embracing a new chapter in life. It celebrates the beauty of Italy’s landscapes and culture while telling a story of resilience and the search for happiness and love.
Movies About Italy: Biopics and True Stories
The Two Popes (2019)
A compelling drama, The Two Popes, explores the unique relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Set within the confines of the Vatican, the film offers an intimate portrayal of the papacy, presenting a nuanced exploration of faith, friendship, and power.
The Hand of God (2021)
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, The Hand of God is a deeply personal film that explores the director’s adolescence in Naples. The film, which beautifully captures the vibrant spirit of Naples, is a poignant exploration of loss, resilience, and the transformative power of cinema.
Italian Cinema: The New Wave
The Great Beauty (2013)
A visual and narrative tour de force, The Great Beauty, delves into Rome’s decadent high society through the eyes of an aging writer. The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, presents a mesmerizing portrait of Rome, capturing its timeless allure and captivating beauty.
The Life Ahead (2020)
Starring the legendary Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead is a touching drama set in a seaside town in Italy. The film explores the unlikely friendship between a Holocaust survivor and a young Senegalese immigrant, offering a poignant exploration of resilience, connection, and the enduring power of kindness.
A Walk Down Memory Lane: Nostalgia-Inducing Movies
The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
A delightful romp through Rome, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, takes viewers on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The film, starring Hilary Duff, captures the excitement and wonder of a high school trip to Italy, making it a perfect throwback for those who grew up watching the beloved Disney Channel series.
Only You (1994)
A charming romantic comedy, Only You, follows a woman’s journey across Italy in search of her soulmate. Starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr., the film beautifully captures the enchanting beauty of Italy, from the romantic canals of Venice to the bustling streets of Rome.
From iconic classics to contemporary masterpieces, these movies about Italy offer a captivating glimpse into the country’s rich history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned cinephile or a casual moviegoer, these films are sure to transport you to Italy’s charming towns, bustling cities, and enchanting countryside, making you fall in love with the country all over again.