Discover Italian through cinema: our selection of top 10 Italian movies for language learning

By Go! Go! Italia staff
17 Jan 2024
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Photo of someone watching Italian movies

Tired of traditional language learning methods with books and grammar rules? Before you go to Italy, try learning from movies and TV shows—to have some fun while you learn! Watching Italian movies helps you hear real language, like how people talk every day.

You get to know slang, cool expressions, and the little things about a culture that you might miss in language books. It’s like a sneak peek into daily life, showing how language is part of everything people do. This way, you don’t just learn words, but you also see how they fit into real situations. It makes the whole language experience more interesting and connected to how people actually live.

In today’s article, we will provide you with a list of 10 excellent Italian movies to watch.

1. La vita è bella (Life is beautiful) – 1997

Director: Roberto Benigni

“La vita è bella” is a touching and comedic film set during World War II that won 3 oscars and many other awards. The main character, Guido, played by Roberto Benigni, is a man of Jewish-Italian heritage. Alongside his young son Giosuè, they find themselves in the challenging environment of a concentration camp.

To shield Giosuè from the harsh reality, Guido tackles their difficult situation with humor and positivity, turning it into a playful game for his son. Using jokes, creativity, and an unwavering commitment to maintaining a positive outlook, Guido weaves a narrative infused with hope and love.

The movie beautifully illustrates the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity, demonstrating how humor and optimism can serve as powerful tools for strength during difficult times. This stands out as a must-watch among all Italian movies for anyone interested in Italy.

2. Il postino (The postman) – 1994

Director: Michael Radford

”Il postino” is a heartwarming Italian movie set on a small island. The main character, Mario Ruoppolo, played by Massimo Troisi, is a local postman. His life takes an unexpected turn when the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, portrayed by Philippe Noiret, comes to the island, and Mario is assigned to be his personal postman.

As Mario delivers mail to Neruda, he becomes captivated by the power of poetry. The film beautifully unfolds as Mario learns about the beauty of words and their ability to express deep emotions. Mario’s journey involves not only delivering letters but also discovering the transformative impact of art and language on his own life.

The narrative also explores the friendship that blossoms between Mario and Neruda, illustrating how the simple act of delivering mail can lead to profound connections and personal growth. “Il postino” is a touching exploration of love, friendship, and the profound influence of literature on the human soul.

3. La grande bellezza (The great beauty) – 2013

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

”La grande bellezza” (The great beauty) is a visually stunning Italian movie directed by Paolo Sorrentino, released in 2013. The story revolves around Jep Gambardella, a writer who reflects on his life and the decadent society of Rome’s high-class elite.

Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo, is a journalist and writer who once wrote a celebrated novel in his youth. As he turns 65, he navigates the glamorous yet shallow world of Rome’s upper crust. Surrounded by lavish parties, art, and an excess of luxury, Jep becomes introspective, questioning the meaning and purpose of his life.

The film unfolds as a visually mesmerizing journey through the exquisite landscapes and decadent lifestyles of Rome, delving into themes of beauty, art, and the search for genuine meaning in the midst of superficiality. “La grande bellezza” received critical acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. The award highlighted the film’s exceptional storytelling, cinematography, and the nuanced exploration of existential themes within the context of Rome’s high-society milieu.

4. Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect strangers) – 2016

Director: Paolo Genovese

Released in 2016, “Perfetti sconosciuti” it is an Italian comedy-drama film that revolves around a group of close friends who gather for a dinner party. To spice things up, they decide to play a game where they place their smartphones on the table, and any message or call received must be shared with the entire group. As the evening progresses, the seemingly harmless game unravels hidden secrets, exposing the complexities and secrets within each person’s life.

The film explores themes of trust, honesty, and the impact of modern technology on interpersonal relationships. With a skillful blend of humor and drama, “Perfetti sconosciuti” offers a thought-provoking commentary on the challenges of maintaining genuine connections in the digital age. The stellar ensemble cast, clever script, and engaging storyline contribute to the film’s success, making it a compelling and entertaining exploration of human relationships.

5. Cinema Paradiso – 1988

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

”Cinema Paradiso” is a story about a boy named Salvatore growing up in a small Italian village. He befriends Alfredo, the man who runs the local movie theater. The film shows how cinema becomes a big part of Salvatore’s life and the lives of everyone in the village. There’s a bit of trouble when the local priest decides to cut out romantic scenes from the films, but the magic of movies brings joy and a sense of togetherness to the community.

As Salvatore grows up and becomes a filmmaker, he looks back on the impact of cinema on his life. It is a heartwarming tale about a boy’s love for movies and how they shape his life in a small Italian village. The film celebrates the joy and sense of belonging that movies bring to people, even when faced with challenges like censorship. It’s a tribute to the magic of filmmaking and its lasting impact on memories and relationships.

6. Ladri di biciclette (The bicycle thief) – 1948

Director: Vittorio De Sica

“Ladri di biciclette ” is a 1948 film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The story revolves around Antonio, a man in post-war Rome who depends on his bicycle for work. When his bicycle is stolen, Antonio and his young son, Bruno, embark on a journey through the streets of the city to find it. The film poignantly depicts the challenges they face and the impact of the loss on their lives. Set in the tough times of post-war Italy, “Ladri di biciclette” is a touching exploration of a father’s determination to provide for his family. Antonio’s desperate search for his stolen bicycle becomes a metaphor for the struggles of everyday life.

The film beautifully captures the relationship between father and son and the harsh realities of a society grappling with economic hardship. “Ladri di biciclette” is a timeless classic known for its emotional depth and portrayal of the human spirit in the face of adversity, another must watch among Italian movies.

7. La meglio gioventù (The best of youth) – 2003

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

“La meglio gioventù” is a big family story that starts in the 1960s and goes on for many years. It shows two brothers, Nicola and Matteo, and how their lives connect with Italy’s history. There are many important events like protests and changes happening in Italy, and the brothers experience them in their own ways. One becomes a doctor, and the other gets involved in politics. The movie is about their family, love, and how their lives change with Italy around them. Imagine a big family album with pictures from a long time ago until now. “La meglio gioventù” is like that, telling the story of two brothers and their family.

In the pictures, you see Italy changing too—people marching in the streets, talking about new ideas, and sometimes arguing. The brothers grow up, one becomes a doctor helping people, and the other is busy with politics, trying to make things better. It’s not just about them; it’s about how families change and grow with their country.

8. Io non ho paura (I’m not scared) – 2003

Director: Gabriele Salvatores

“Io non ho paura” stands as an exemplary thriller in the realm of Italian movies, unfolding its suspenseful tale in Southern Italy during the late 1970s. The narrative revolves around a young boy named Michele, who stumbles upon a shocking and dark secret concealed in the rural landscape. As Michele unravels the mystery, he confronts moral dilemmas and the harsh realities of adulthood.

The film masterfully combines elements of suspense, drama, and coming-of-age, offering a gripping narrative that explores themes of innocence, courage, and the complexities of human nature. “Io non ho paura” captivates audiences not only with its compelling storyline but also with its evocative cinematography, delivering a thought-provoking cinematic experience.

9. Le fate ignoranti (His secret life)- 2001

Director: Ferzan Özpetek

“Le fate ignoranti” takes its place among notable Italian movies as a compelling drama film. The story revolves around Antonia, a successful and happily married surgeon, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers that her late husband led a secret life. Antonia delves into her husband’s past, uncovering hidden aspects of his identity, including a same-sex relationship.

The film skillfully navigates themes of love, loss, and self-discovery, as Antonia grapples with her emotions and confronts societal expectations. “Le fate ignoranti” is praised for its poignant storytelling, nuanced characters, and Özpetek’s sensitive exploration of complex human relationships. The film offers a compelling narrative that goes beyond societal norms, inviting viewers to reflect on the intricacies of love and acceptance.

10. Luca – 2021

Director: Enrico Casarosa

“Luca” is a heartwarming animated film produced by Disney and Pixar. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Italian Riviera, the story revolves around a young sea monster named Luca Paguro. Luca experiences a life-changing summer as he ventures out of the ocean and discovers the human world. Alongside his newfound friend, Alberto Scorfano, Luca embraces the joys and challenges of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance. However, their secret sea monster identities are at risk of being exposed, leading to a tale of courage, adventure, and the transformative power of genuine connections. With its enchanting animation, memorable characters, and a touch of nostalgia, “Luca” is a delightful coming-of-age tale that appeals to audiences of all ages.

Image of remote for Italian movies night

Exploring Italian culture and language through Italian movies offers a unique and engaging approach to language learning. These selected films not only entertain but also serve as windows into the daily lives, expressions, and cultural nuances of the Italian people. By immersing oneself in these Italian movies, viewers can absorb colloquial language, slang, and the intricacies of communication, gaining a richer understanding of Italian language beyond traditional textbooks.

If you want to delve deeper into Italian culture, a wealth of additional insights can be found on our blog and social media.

Happy learning, and may your Italian language journey be as vibrant and enriching as the Italian movies that inspired it!

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