Top 10 List of Italian Movies

Fellini, Rossellini and Bertolucci Will Knock Your Socks Off

Fellini, de Sica, Rossellini, Visconti, Bertolucci, Antonioni -- Italian cinema has its fair share of masters who have influenced moviemaking around the world. This top 10 list isn't meant as an end-all compilation of the greatest films of Italy but rather as a starting-off point for exploration. Ciao ciao!

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'La Strada'

Show Of Strength
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It's unthinkable to talk about Italian film without including Federico Fellini, and "La Strada" (1954), a heartbreaking classic about a poor girl who is taken away by a cruel strongman to become a circus performer, is impossible to resist. It features wonderful performances by Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina.

It won the Academy Award in 1957 (it was released in the U.S. in 1956) for best foreign film -- the first time this award was given -- and several Italian movie awards, including for best director. The American Film Institute calls it "one of the most influential films ever made." For more early Fellini, check out "Nights of Cabiria," also with Masina.

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'Umberto D.'

Vittorio de Sica's 1952 neorealist film about an old man who is stripped of his dignity is sad but not sentimental. The legendary movie critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the best Italian neorealist films -- one that is most simply itself and does not reach for effects or strain to make its message clear."  De Sica is also renowned for 1948's "The Bicycle Thief."

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"1900" (1976), Bernardo Bertolucci's epic history about a peasant and a landowner over the course of the first half of the 20th century, stars Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu. If you don't have the time -- "1900" is more than five hours long -- try "The Conformist" (1970) or the renowned "Last Tango in Paris" (1972) with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider.

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'The Battle of Algiers'

'The Battle Of Algiers' Film Still
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"The Battle of Algiers" (1966) is Gillo Pontecorvo's legendary re-telling of the struggle for Algerian independence from France during the 1950s. This timeless and powerful film was nominated for three Oscars.

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'The Best of Youth'

This sprawling and all-engrossing 2003 drama by Marco Tullio Giordana, the most recent film on this list, follows two brothers from the 1960s to the 2000s. The film was first screened in Italy as a TV miniseries and released in the U.S. as two films at three hours each. The time flies by.

In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott says, "The story (Giordana) has to tell ... is full of nuance and complexity, but it is also as accessible and engrossing as a grand 19th-century novel."

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'La Dolce Vita'

Yet another masterpiece by Fellini, "La Dolce Vita" (1960) features Marcello Mastroianni as the original paparazzo who chases Anita Ekberg through the streets of Rome and right into the Trevi Fountain. "La Dolce Vita" won an Oscar for best costume design in a black-and-white film and was nominated for three others, including best director.

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'Rome, Open City'

Roberto Rossellini's landmark 1945 film portrays the struggle of Rome's citizens of the resistance during the final days of the Nazi occupation in World War II. The film was shot very shortly after Rome was liberated by the Allies and stars Anna Magnani. Kristen M. Jones, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2014. says the final moments of the film "are a still-thrilling call to conscience and hope." Cath Clark, writing in The Guardian in 2010, said: "There is perhaps no film to rival the humanism and clarity of purpose of Rossellini's neorealist masterpiece." 

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Massari And Ferzetti In 'L'Avventura'
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Monica Vitti plays a woman searching for a missing friend in the Mediterranean in Michelangelo Antonioni's breakthrough film from 1960, which won the Cannes Jury Prize.

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'The Leopard'

On the set of Il gattopardo
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Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon star in the 1963 epic story of elegiac grace in Luchino Visconti's Sicilian tale of revolution and decline in the 1860s.

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'Cinema Paradiso'

Giuseppe Tornatore's sentimental love letter to the movies from 1988 won the Oscar and Golden Globe for best foreign language film in 1990 and the Cannes Jury Prize in 1989. This magical film follows the life of an Italian director and is told in flashback.