Since the beginning of cinema, Italian movies have stood out thanks to unmatched visuals, complex set designs, and lavish costumes. As of 2021, Italy has obtained 14 Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category, 12 Palmes d’Or (the most important award at the Cannes Film Festival), and innumerable Golden Globes, Lions, and Bears.
Italian movies are also incredibly eclectic, with Art cinema, Neorealism, and Spaghetti Western being just a few of the genres that Italy has given to the world. So, no matter which one is your favorite, there are dozens of Italian movies out there that you can stream right now to learn the Italian language while soaking in Italian culture.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many Italian movies on Netflix at the moment, but you can find them on other streaming platforms. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Comedy Italian Movies About Life in Italy
1. Divorzio all’italiana (Divorce, Italian Style) – 1961
Winner of an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1962, this Marcello Mastroianni international hit is a dark, hilarious satire on marital life in Sicily back in the 1950s.
The premise of the movie is based on an aspect of the Sicilian penal code which made divorce illegal. At the same time, the penal code allowed anyone to kill a cheating spouse and get a fairly light sentence. Cefalú, the cynical aristocrat played by Mastroianni, hears about this article and comes up with a plot to get rid of his wife. In this way, he can run away with an attractive, much younger woman.
2. Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch) – 2008
When it first came out, Mid-August Lunch was seen by some critics as “the big comeback of the Italian comedy.” This is a story about a man coming to terms with his mother’s aging. The film’s simple narrative revolves around a family lunch in which the man’s mother and aunts’ hilarious stories also serve as a slice of the history of a country.
Pranzo di Ferragosto was one of the biggest surprises at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. During this event, Gianni Di Gregorio revealed that the film, which had a budget of only 500,000 euros, had been shot in his own house. Want to learn Italian with Italian movies that have naturalistic dialogues and show real family dynamics? You can’t go wrong with this one.
Italian Movies for Beginners
3. La Vita è Bella (Life Is Beautiful) – 1997
If you still remember Sophia Loren shouting “Roberto!” at the 1998 Academy Awards as she announced Benigni as Best Actor, you know what film we’re talking about.
This 1997 masterpiece is still considered one of the best Italian movies ever made. It is certainly one of the most beloved. “Buongiorno Principessa” is one of the most iconic lines from its winning script.
La Vita è Bella is the story of a Jewish couple and their young child who are imprisoned in an extermination camp during World War II. This family goes through some horrific experiences. Yet, the simplicity of the dialogue and the expressiveness of the actors make this film for beginners who want to learn Italian with great cinema.
4. Manuale d’amore (Manual of Love) – 2005
In the mood for love? Then watch this 2005 Italian romantic comedy that deals with the 4 stages of a love relationship:
- Innamoramento(falling in love), in which a couple fall in love at first sight and begin an intense relationship
- Crisi(crisis), in which two people go through some rough times together and start to think about divorce
- Tradimento(cheating), in which a policewoman is cheated on by her partner and decides to get her own back.
- Abbandono(break-up), in which a successful middle-aged doctor is left by his lifelong wife.
This simple yet rewarding tale is similar to a lot of other Italian movies on Netflix, only better. What’s the best thing about it? That no matter which stage you are in, you will surely identify with at least one of these stories! Besides, if you want to learn Italian as spoken by young, contemporary people, this is the film for you.
Italian Movies About the Mafia
5. La Mafia Uccide Solo d’estate (The Mafia Kills Only in Summer) – 2013
One of the best Italian movies on Netflix. This black comedy directed by Pif tells 20 years of Sicilian history (from the 1970s to 1990s) through the eyes of a child.
Through a series of flashbacks, the protagonist recounts a bloody period of criminal activity while also dealing with bittersweet childhood memories. This is at the same time a coming-of-age movie and a film about the Italian mafia. Petro Grasso (then National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor) called Pif’s movie the best Mafia-related cinematic work he had ever seen.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to learn lots of vocabulary about crime, and to hear the beautiful Sicilian accent.
6. Gomorra – 2008
This contemporary Neapolitan mob drama exposes Italy’s criminal activity. This is done through the voices of five ordinary characters whose lives are touched in some way by the Camorra, the area’s infamous Mafia.
Unlike many Italian films about mobs, Gomorra focuses not on the life of hardened criminals. It also explores the lives of common people who, for one reason or another, find themselves involved in organized crime. This group of characters includes Totò, a young grocery delivery boy who sees a drug dealer leave behind a bag of drugs and a gun while running away from police. And there’s also Don Ciro, a shy middleman who raises money for the families of imprisoned gangsters.
Which of these Italian movies will you watch first? Is there any Italian film that you would add to any of the sections above? Let us know in the comment box.
Though Italian movies on Netflix and other streaming platforms are great learning companions, remember that, if you really want to boost your fluency, you will need to take a few lessons with native Italian teachers who are willing to give you lots of room to talk and express your ideas. Contact us now and we’ll pair you up with one of our best tutors so you can learn Italian the best way —by speaking!