Click the links for all about the films and where to find them.
Here they are, in no particular order, updated 12/17/2019
These, from Paolo Sorrentino:
1) La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
For Gep Gambardella, (Toni Servillo) a journalist who wrote an important book years ago and has spent the time since resting on the laurels, everything in life seems like an exaggeration; a vapid, narcissistic, waste of time.
2) Il Divo
Was the Prime Minister (Again, Toni Servillo) incredibly unlucky or undeniably guilty? – that is this film’s question, because in Giulio Andreotti’s 20 some years in office, there were a whole bunch of “unfortunate” assassinations and killings made to look like suicides – people that were creating problems for the Christian Democratic Party.
3) The Young Pope
Newly elected Pius XIII, aka Lenny Belardo drinks diet cherry cokes, smokes like a chimney, and is making everyone at the Vatican nervous. Stars Jude Law and Diane Keaton.
4) This Must Be The Place
This English language film by Paolo Sorrentino is one of the most underrated films out there.
Cheyenne, played by Sean Penn, is a bored, aging rock star that lives off his royalties in a mansion outside Dublin. When he learns that his father is dying he travels to America (on a cruise ship – he’s afraid to fly) but he arrives too late; his father has died. He hadn’t talked to his father in thirty years because he, years ago, decided that his father didn’t love him. He’s told what his father had been doing with himself all that time, hunting the nazi war criminal that had humiliated him at Auschwitz. With little apparent thought to what he will do if he finds this Nazi, Cheyenne sets out on a road trip across America to finish his father’s work.
From Francesco Munzi
5) Anime Nere (Black Souls)
The best film of 2014 is the story of three brothers in a Calabrian crime family.
From Nanni Moretti
6) La Stanza Del Figlio (The Son’s Room)
A family deals with the death of a son.
From Marco Bellocchio
7) Vincere (Winning)
In a way, this is just your ordinary “boy’s an abusive pig, girl gets off on abuse” kind of love story, but in this film, the boy in this story is Benito Mussolini.
8) Il Traditore (The Traitor)
Pierfrancesco Favino plays Tommaso Buscetta, a boss in the Cosa Nostra, who, when cornered, turns state’s evidence and testifies (in the wildest courtroom scenes you’ve ever seen) against his old friends and associates. If you think Bellocchio has exaggerated, go ahead and check out YouTube videos of the trial and you’ll see that there is no need to embellish the drama in that judicial circus.
9) Buongiorno Notte (Good Morning Night)
Buongiorno, Notte is director Marco Bellocchio’s 2003 story about the 1978 kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, Italian president of the political party, Democrazia Cristiana.
Get the DVD here
From Matteo Garrone
Matteo Garrone’s latest film will make your heart break and your stomach hurt just like all of the great Italian neorealist films.
11) Gomorra (Gomorrah)
Gomorra (Gomorrah) is an extremely complicated crime story about the day-to-day operations of the lesser known and yet more prolific crime organization in Italy,the Camorra. It’s based on the book by Roberto Saviano.
From Paolo Virzì
12) Il Capitale Umano (Human Capital)
Stephen Amidon’s novel about upper crust Connecticut becomes Paolo Virzì’s story of upper crust northern Italy in this stunningly complex drama about money, families going haywire because of it, and a guy on a bike who, one dark snowy night, loses his life and brings theirs into glaringly sharp focus.
13) Caterina Va In Città
Caterina’s heading for her dad’s new teaching position in Rome, and having burned every bridge in their hometown, he’s outta there. Narcissistic Giancarlo hasn’t a clue of what he’s done to his daughter, tearing her away from her happy hometown life that she loves and throwing her to the sharks (er, I mean, the teenage girls) in her new city. And now Caterina must make a choice, because as in any good high school clique system, she can’t be friends with everyone. She must pick the group that will define her and do it quick. She’s lucky, after figuring out that she’s not the simpleton that they at first thought she was, everybody sees her potential and wants her.
From Emanuele Crialese
14) Nuovomondo (Golden Door)
Nuovomondo tells of the realities of an Italian’s immigration to America. Instead of the usual scenes of weary but happy foreigners smiling brightly from a ship’s deck at the first sight of the statue of liberty, Golden Door shows the heartbreak and hardships of preparing for the move, dangers on board the ship, and degradations at Ellis Island.
Terraferma is a movie set on Lampedusa, an island south of Sicily, and tells the tale of a fishing boat captain who runs into a raft filled with African immigrants and loses his boat after he saves them, an act that has been proclaimed illegal by the Italian government. Are the police and the government the bad guys in this movie, or is it a little more complicated?
From Silvio Soldini
16) Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips)
Pane e Tulipani (Bread & Tulips) is about Rosalba, the unappreciated wife and mother who looks for the life she wants to live and goes and gets it.
17) Giorni e Nuvole (Days and Clouds)
Giorni e Nuvole is about a man who loses his job, and the subsequent downward spiral for him and his wife.
From Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza
For Salvo, more lonely gunslinger than slick mafioso, any joy he’s ever gotten from the proficiency of his chosen profession seems to have been sucked out of him.
19) Sicilian Ghost Story
Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s explosion of themes, abstractions, reality, and emotion is everything you want a movie to be. Sicilian Ghost Story is a Romeo and Juliet for today, told in a way that would make Shakespeare proud.
From Laura Bispuri
20) Vergine Giurata (Sworn Virgin)
Laura Bispuri’s ‘Sworn Virgin’ (Vergine Giurata), a lot of good things, but for me, it was like a favorite fairy tale. The heroine, Hana, was lost in the woods for a while, but bread crumbs lead her out of the darkness and she found her way home.
Hana’s life is dictated by the tradition of her northern Albanian homeland. There, women can’t hold a man’s job, smoke, drink, or carry firearms, UNLESS, they give up their femininity. Women can renounce their gender, and live as men, but they must swear to remain virgins.
21) Figlia Mia (Daughter of Mine)
Laura Bispuri’s story of secrets, insecurity, the meaning of motherhood, and a young girl’s search for identity asks one basic question: Who am I?
Everyone wants to know. Adoptive mother Tina (Valeria Golino) wants to know if the daughter she’s raised since infancy thinks of her as a real mother, daughter Vittoria (Sara Casu) wants to know why she feels so out of place in the world, and birth mother Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher) is wondering if she has a maternal bone in her body.
There’s a tug-of-war for the girl; it’s subdued and in many ways ambiguous, but the conflict between the two mothers is a conflict waiting to happen.
From Alice Rohrwacher
22) Lazzaro Felice (Happy As Lazzaro)
Here’s the first thing you are going to be wondering when you start watching director Alice Rohrwacher’s Lazzaro Felice: What year is this? Is this in the ’30s? Is it modern day? In the remote village of Inviolata, farmers work like slaves for Marquise Alfonsina de Luna (played by Nicoletta Braschi) but enjoy their meager existence the best they can. A flood has cut them off from the rest of the world and they rely on the marquise for everything, which isn’t much. Their hard work never pays off; they are sharing light bulbs while she’s sitting pretty high above them in a luxurious villa. When a young couple decides to get married and move away, they are told that the marquise won’t allow it.
23) Le Meraviglie (The Wonders)
Quiet, slow-moving, artistically filmed Le Meraviglie made a big impression at the Cannes Film Festival. Alice Rohrwacher’s visually stunning film stars her sister, Alba, and leaves a lasting impression in this semi-autobiographical film.
From Ferzan Ozpetek
24) La Finestra Di Fronte (Facing Windows)
On paper, Ferzan Ozpetek’s “La Finestra di Fronte” looks ridiculous. It’s the story of a sexually frustrated, dissatisfied housewife who loves to bake, lusts after her neighbor and makes friends with an elderly holocaust survivor. Sounds like a sentimental Lifetime movie, I know. It just didn’t feel like one.
This is my favorite of Ozpetek’s work and my favorite of Giovanna Mezzogiorno’s, who plays Giovanna, the dissatisfied housewife. She’s like a lot of women – for any number of reasons she may have married the wrong guy. She’s smarter, more driven, and more responsible than her husband and is starting to resent having to carry the weight of the entire family. Watching the extremely hot, single neighbor is the only happy thing in her life.
By the way, the hot, single neighbor is played by Raoul Bova.
25) Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)
Handsome and heterosexual heartthrob, Riccardo Scamarcio plays Tommaso, a gay man in love and with story that parallels his Grandmother’s.
Both Tommaso and his grandmother have been living in the shadow of a family who doesn’t really want to know who they are. Both long to live the life they felt destined to live, but have been denied because of the traditions and mores in the Italian culture. Of everyone in the family, the Nonna sees what is going on better than anyone, and what she does to herself at the end of the movie, she does for Tommaso. Cutting her own losses is a cry for help for the rest of her family. Mine Vaganti is not just about homosexuality, it’s about Italy in transition.
From Gabriele Salvatores
26) Io Non Ho Paura (I’m Not Scared)
Ten year old Michele finds Fillipo in chains in a hole in the ground covered with a sheet of metal and you might think that his first instinct would be to tell the adults – to get help. But Michele knows that the adults, even his own parents, are not to be trusted. As he begins to understand more about what’s going on he’s compelled to help Filippo.
From Pierfrancesco Diliberto
27) La Mafia Uccide Solo D’Estate (The Mafia Only Kills In The Summer)
La Mafia Uccide Solo D’Estate (The Mafia Only Kills In The Summer) is a clever child’s eye view of what it’s like for a city to live under the mafia’s thumb. Make you have a tissue box nearby for the ending!
From Marco Tullio Giordana
28) La Meglio Gioventù (The Best of Youth)
La Meglio Gioventù (The Best of Youth) follows two brothers from the ’60s to the 21st century in Italy.
29) I Cento Passi (The 100 Steps)
I Cento Passi is true life story of the murder of political activist Peppino Impastato who spoke out against organized crime.
From Luca Guadagnino
30) Io Sono L’Amore (I Am Love)
Not even her family had seen that she wasn’t who she was pretending to be for all those years, but when Antonio asked Emma about being Russian, it was as if no one had acknowledged it for a very long time.
For everything you need to know GO HERE
31) Call Me By Your Name
This beautiful love story is about Elio (Timotheé Chalamet) whose family invites a student to spend the summer and work as a research assistant for the dad; this particular year it’s Oliver (Armie Hammer) who is handsome, cocky, self-assured and admired by all the girls in town.
The remake of the classic Dario Argento horror film, young Susie Bannion arrives in Berlin to try out for the Tanztheater modern dance company and somehow manages to get an audition (she caught the Madame on a good day). She fits right in, and is immediately considered for lead roles; it’s like she belongs there.
From Gianni Di Gregorio
33) Pranzo Di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch)
Pranzo Di Ferragosto Mid-August Lunch is about an unemployed, middle aged Roman who lives with his 93 year old mother and starts babysitting and cooking for all the other old ladies in his neighborhood.
Doesn’t sound interesting? You will be surprised and delighted; it is ADORABLE.
From Sergio Castellitto
34) Non ti Muovere (Don’t Move)
Non Ti Muovere was first a very dark, disturbing book written by Margaret Mazzantini and then it became a very dark, disturbing movie directed by and starring her husband, Castellitto, who plays Timoteo, a prominent surgeon/debaucher. His co-star is Penelope Cruz in one of the most unflattering roles ever in the history of the movies, Italia, the prostitute.
From Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
35) Cesare Deve Morire (Caesar Must Die)
Cesare Deve Morire uses real inmates at a real maximum security prison in Rome who are staging a production of Julius Caesar. These inmates, nearly all incarcerated for drug trafficking or organized crime activity, played all the parts in the production and used it as an opportunity to tell their own stories as well as Shakespeare’s.
From Stefano Sollima
There are no good guys in Sollima’s new film, Suburra, and if you require a hero for your movie enjoyment, it’s really going to depend on your definition of the word.
From Giuseppe Piccioni
37) Luce Dei Miei Occhi (Light Of My Eyes)
Antonio is doing all kind of crazy, dangerous things to help Maria and risks his life and his job for this woman that has shown no real interest in him. “Sorry, I’m not that excited by you,” she tells him, “but I warned you.”
From Gianfranco Rosi
38) Fuocoammare (Fire At Sea)
Award-winning documentary about the European immigrant crisis, focused on the island of Lampadusa.
From Edoardo De Angelis
39) Indivisibili (Indivisible)
Conjoined twins who are great singers are the family’s meal ticket in southern Italy.
From Jonas Carpignano
40) A Ciambra
A Ciambra is a movie about the Amato clan, a real one, a Romani extended family living in a poverty stricken area of Calabria. In an interview Carpignano described meeting the family for the first time, right after they stole his car and held it for ransom. He talks about meeting the film’s star Pio Amato, then just 11, when the boy asked if he could bum a cigarette.
From Susanna Nicchiarelli
41) Nico 1988
Nico 1988 is a biopic about the enigmatic and self-destructive Nico, Andy Warhol’s muse and the protopunk Velvet Underground singer stars award-winning Trine Dyrholm, and this performance deserves STARS in all caps.
From Alessio Cremonini
42) Sulla Mia Pelle (On My Skin)
Cucchi was a 31-year-old drug addict arrested for possession and distribution and was beaten so savagely by the police that he died a week later. The film highlights a case that alarmed the public but underlies a bigger story: 172 deaths of inmates in Italian prisons in 2009, the year in which Cucchi’s death takes place.
Beyond the horrifying statistics of inmate deaths is the shameful government bureaucracy that made it impossible for his family to help or even see him while he slipped away in the prison hospital ward. The lovely Jasmine Trinca is equally good as Cucchi’s no-nonsense and frustrated sister who had all but given up believing that her brother could change his ways.
From Various Directors
43) Suburra (The TV Series, seasons 1 and 2)
So much to love about this TV series: It’s got good looking actors, some great girl power, and a power struggle that you’ll find very entertaining.
From Saverio Costanza
44) L’Amica Geniale (My Brilliant Friend)
My Brilliant Friend is satisfyingly faithful to the book, beginning with Elena getting a call from Lila’s panicked son: “Where is my mother? Is she with you? All her things her gone, her winter clothes, her summer clothes, and all of her shoes.”
“I can’t help you”, Elena brusquely tells him.
Now we’re in Napoli in the ’50s, remembering the girls in their childhood, as is in the book, and Costanza has brought Ferrante’s words to life in a way that is honest, unflinching way that left me positively spellbound.
45) Hungry Hearts
Combining an Italian director and screenwriter (Saverio Costanzo),the English language, a New York location, a top Italian actress (Alba Rohrwacher) and an American rising star (Girls star Adam Driver), Hungry Hearts makes for an eerily engaging emotional thriller
A chance meeting in the bathroom of a New York City Chinese restaurant brings Jude, a young American engineer and Mina, an Italian girl working for the embassy together and a pregnancy seals the deal. But the romantic idea of throwing caution to the wind and marrying someone you know too little about is a bad one for Jude.
From Various Directors
46) Gomorra (Gommorrah) (the TV series, seasons one and two)
Gomorra is a crime show created and produced by Roberto Saviano and based on his book and the movie. It premiered in 2014, and has run for four seasons, but because of legal reasons (it was bought by the Weinstein Co.) the United States has only gotten the first two. I bought the UK version in DVD.
The story centers around Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore), a member of a Camorra crime family in Naples, the boss Pietro Savastano (Fortunato Cerlino), a high-ranking drug lord, and his son Gennaro, or Genny, played by Salvatore Esposito. As the story has developed, more characters and rich plot lines have made this one of the most exciting TV series on television.
From Claudio Giovannesi
47) La Paranza Dei Bambini (Piranhas)
In the opening scene of La Paranza Dei Bambini teenage boys brazenly knock down a giant Christmas tree in a Naples shopping mall and drag it out. They’re obviously not choir boys, but this petty theft and act of vandalism in no way prepared me for the life of crime they so easily and in such a short time transitioned into.
From Gabriele Mainetti
48) Lo Chiamavano Jeeg Robot (They Call Me Jeeg)
Director Gabriele Mainetti has given Italians what they say they’ve been wanting for years: an action packed, super hero movie with great special effects, and Call Me Jeeg is a good one for so many reasons.
A Roman thug (played by Claudio Santamaria) ends up with super powers when he gets exposed to radioactive waste after a dunk in the Tiber (and those who have seen the less than pristine Tevere lately will get their first laugh here).
From Ivano De Matteo
49) I Nostri Ragazzi (The Dinner)
Based on a book, The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch, Ivano De Matteo’s I Nostri Ragazzi is one of the best films of 2014.
From Piero Messina
50) L’Attesa (The Wait)
In L’Attesa, Juliette Binoche plays Anna, a mother in mourning who receives an unexpected guest; Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), Anna’s son’s girlfriend, arrives for the Easter holiday and hasn’t heard the news. She enters the darkened Sicilian villa; mirrors are covered and everybody’s in black. She’s clearly confused and concerned, but she’s told that Anna’s brother has died.