I can’t say I am movie expert but watching a good movie is definitely one of my most favorite pastimes.
When you are tired or feeling a bit down or simply in need of a boost of energy, sitting on the couch and watching a movie is just the perfect thing to do. Movies can change your mood, make you dream, make you want to go out and explore new places, and also make you discover new cultures.
As a matter of fact, movies are a great way of learning more about a culture or a country you are interested in. Everybody says – myself included – that they are a great way of practicing languages but they are actually much more: they give you a clear insight into the way people in a certain place live, their daily habits, their beliefs and much more.
Moreover, movies are a great way of learning about the history of a country, as I have already written in this old post, where you can find some movie titles which are useful to know more about Italian contemporary history. Today, however, I want to focus on a more lighthearted selection.
In this post, I’d like to recommend you some of my favorite Italian movies. As I said before, I am not a movie expert so these are just some recommendations that come from my heart. The titles listed below might not be masterpieces of the Italian movie scene but they are some of the films that I enjoyed the most and that I’ll never get tired of watching.
In general, my kind of movies are independent, funny but not silly, entertaining but with some serious meaning as well. To give you an example, some of my favorite movies are Juno, Little Miss Sunshine and Lost in Translation (I also like all Quentin Tarantino’s movies but that’s another story).
Therefore, the movies I am recommending you here, in most cases, fall under this category. You will not find any classics (even if Federico Fellini’s La strada made a huge impact on me when I first saw it, back in the days) nor any big production. These are just light-hearted movies – except one or two – that will make you spend a nice and relaxed couple of hours.
Let’s focus on the selection, then!
Pane e tulipani (Bread and Tulips)
This is probably the Italian movie I have watched the most in my life. I adore it and I never get tired of watching it. It tells the story of Rosalba, who is forgotten in a bar by his husband during an organized tour. When she finds out, she decides not to go back home but to visit the place she has always dreamt of: Venice.
Once in Venice, she builds a new life and makes a lot of weird friends. But her husband wants her back and this gives way to a lot of adventures. I like the movie because it is funny and romantic and amazingly weird all at the same time. The characters are lovely and you can’t help but fall in love with them all.
Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch)
This is another super sweet movie, which will fill your heart with grace. It tells the story of Gianni, a middle-aged man who lives in Rome with his demanding old mother. They have some debts with the condo manager, who offers Gianni to reduce his debts if he looks after his mother for Ferragosto (Italy’s biggest summer holiday). Gianni accepts the offer and ends up accepting more old ladies into the house.
Not much happens in the movie, whose main features are the amazing characters and the great actors who portray them. If you watch it, you’ll spend some time with four old ladies who surely know how to enjoy life and with Gianni, who does his best to keep up with them while running the house and making sure that they have all they need. Lots of laughs guaranteed.
La prima cosa bella (The First Beautiful Thing)
This is another movie I utterly loved. I have already mentioned this movie in a post I published last year because it has been directed by my favorite Italian movie director, Paolo Virzì. I really like all his movies but I have a special thing for this one, which tells the story of Bruno, a high school teacher who returns home from Milan to assist his dying mother.
Bruno’s mother is the central character in the movie: she is incredibly beautiful, quite frivolous and has always caused some embarrassment to the family. With lots of flashbacks, the movie tells her story and that of the family from the 1970s to the present day and it is incredibly beautiful and touching. You’ll end up laughing and crying at the same time.
Basilicata coast to coast
Nicola, played by Rocco Papaleo – one of my favorite Italian contemporary actors – is a high school teacher who loves music. He is the member of a band, where he plays with his best friends, each one with its own quirks and problems in life. The band decides to take part in a festival held in Scanzano Ionico, which is 100 kilometers away from Maratea, where the group lives.
Instead of driving to Scanzano Ionico, Nicola suggests they walk there, as an opportunity to reflect on life. The band is then joined by a tv crew and by some other weird characters and the trip throughout Basilicata will give them a new energy and purpose in life. The movie is lighthearted and lovely and gives you the chance of discovering one of the lesser-known Italian regions.
Le fate ignoranti (Ignorant Fairies)
This was an incredibly successful movie, back in 2001, and made his director, Ferzan Özpetek, one of the most famous and acclaimed Italian movie directors. The movie begins in quite a shocking way: the husband of Antonia, the main character in the movie, is killed by a car. Such death leaves her completely lost and depressed until she finds out her husband was cheating on her with a man.
Such a discovery makes her want to know more about the life of his husband without her: she meets his husband’s lover and a colorful group of lovely people, who had been family for her husband. These people will completely change her life and help her find new meaning in life. An amazing movie that focused on gay issues, which was not that common in Italy more than fifteen years ago.
Io non ho paura (I am not scared)
Unlike the other movies on this list, this title is not exactly a lighthearted one. It tells the story of a ten-year-old boy who discovers something really terrible happening in his village. I don’t want to tell you much about it because the suspense leading to such discovery is a key part of the movie.
Even if quite harsh, I have loved the movie because it is an amazing portrait of childhood and innocence. Somehow children instinctively know what is right and what is wrong, while the adults behave in the most horrible ways. The movie, which is based on a great book by Nicolò Ammaniti, is also an amazing tale of friendship and courage.
This is probably the less acclaimed of all the movies I listed but I love it anyway. Sometimes you don’t need a movie to be a masterpiece to like it, do you? Probably I liked the film so much because I first watched it a phase of my life when I was going through the same struggles as Mario, the main character, who is full of life and dreams but is somehow forced to accept a “posto fisso” (permanent job).
This is something very Italian: il posto fisso is a goal for many people, a chance to lead a stable life, something your parents will strongly encourage you to find. In the movie, Mario struggles to accept the life other people want for him and finally manages to live the life he dreams. The movie is a bit old but still a good portrait of contemporary Italian society and culture.
Mio fratello è figlio unico (My Brother Is an Only Child)
This movie tells the story of two brothers, Accio and Manrico, who belong to a working-class family and have totally opposite political views. Manrico has strong left-wing ideas, while his younger brother is deeply fascinated by the Fascist party. They fight a lot and slowly grow apart while becoming older, each one deeply focused on his own political beliefs.
Although not exactly a funny and entertaining movie, I liked Mio fratello è figlio unico because it is an interesting story of brotherhood and politics and how the two somehow are intertwined. Moreover, it is a great portrait of Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, a period when politics were the most important thing in life, something people could easily die for.
This is another movie about politics but in a more bittersweet way. It tells the story of Luciana, a nine-year-old girl who is influenced by his older brother and his Communist beliefs. She actually becomes a fervid Communist and joins the local party at the age of fifteen only to be disappointed by her fellow party members.
I liked this coming-of-age story because it is a sincere tale about the pains of being a teenager and coming to terms with real life. With a good balance between drama and comedy, the movie shows how difficult growing up and having to let our dreams go is. Moreover, I really like the 1960s setting and all the Soviet imagery.
La kryptonite nella borsa (Kryptonite!)
The lovely story told by Ivan Cotroneo has been made into a movie by the writer himself. The main character of the story is Peppino, a ten-year-old who suffers from big myopia and is fascinated by his cousin Gennaro, a weird guy who believes he is Superman. At his death, Gennaro will become Peppino’s imaginary friend and guru and will help him in his life.
Set in Naples in the 1970s, this colorful and surreal movie is a delicate tale of childhood and family life. The setting is equally amazing – Naples somehow shines in this movie, while the characters are what make this film so special, Peppino in particular.
If you are looking for more movie recommendations, you can check this post about some of the best recent Italian movies.
Now tell me: what are your most favorite Italian movies? I am super curious!
If you are looking for interesting ways to practice your Italian daily, I’d suggest you check my brand-new program called Giorno dopo giorno, a daily Italian practice.
If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.