Italy’s timeless beauty and captivating landscapes have drawn in artists, poets, and dreamers alike, with many exceptional movies filmed in Italy. From the picturesque hills of Tuscany adorned with vineyards and olive groves to the sun-kissed Amalfi Coast, where colorful cliffside villages overlook the azure Mediterranean, the country is the ideal backdrop for creative expression. Its cities, steeped in history, boast architectural marvels that narrate centuries of artistic and cultural evolution. The Colosseum in Rome, the intricate beauty of Florence’s Duomo, and the romantic canals of Venice all contribute to Italy’s unparalleled allure.
With so much passion embedded in every facet of Italian life, it’s easy to see why Italy is a timeless muse for those seeking inspiration and culture. NYFA Florence, for instance, has welcomed aspiring visual storytellers through our hands-on curriculum and study abroad programs.
“There are many stories hidden among these statues and monuments,” says Diana Santi, the head of NYFA Florence, in a recent Instagram Live event.
“It’s fascinating because the city inspired artists for centuries, and the students here can feel it. It’s a magical place.”
Cinema Italiano! Exploring Movies Filmed in Italy
The history of filmmaking in Italy spans over a century and holds the distinction of being the birthplace of cinema pioneers. The Lumière brothers showcased their Cinematographe in Turin in 1896, and it was the groundbreaking work of Italian director Giovanni Pastrone with his epic silent film Cabiria in 1914 that brought international acclaim and set the stage for the Italian film industry’s Golden Age in the 1940s and 1950s. Directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini emerged during this period, creating masterpieces like Rome, Open City, and La Dolce Vita.
Here are some of the best films shot in Italy from all genres.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The Talented Mr. Ripley unfolds a gripping narrative centered around Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, a cunning and talented imposter. Set against the backdrop of 1950s Italy, the film navigates Ripley’s descent into deception and murder as he assumes the identity of the affluent and charismatic Dickie Greenleaf, portrayed by Jude Law, leading to a tense exploration of identity, obsession, and the blurred lines between reality and fiction.
House of Gucci (2021)
House of Gucci, directed by Ridley Scott, is a gripping drama that delves into the story of the rise and fall of the Gucci family empire. Starring Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and NYFA Guest Speaker Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, the film unravels a tale of betrayal, greed, and high-stakes power struggles within the iconic Italian fashion dynasty. Dramatic films with the same glamour and flair as House of Gucci include Marriage Italian Style (1964) and Bread and Tulips (2000).
8 ½ (1963)
8½, directed by the iconic filmmaker Federico Fellini, is a cinematic masterpiece that blurs the lines between reality and imagination. Starring Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, the film explores the tumultuous creative process of a director struggling with artistic block, offering a surreal and introspective journey through his memories, dreams, and fantasies.
Audiences can also watch a clever musical adaptation of the film, titled Nine (2009), which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, and iconic Italian actress Sophia Loren. Image via Los Angeles Magazine.
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a cinematic landmark, weaving a gripping tale of power, family, and organized crime. Marlon Brando’s unforgettable portrayal of Don Vito Corleone and NYFA Guest Speaker Al Pacino‘s compelling performance as Michael Corleone anchor this epic saga, which not only redefined the gangster genre but also earned its place as one of the greatest films in cinematic history. The Godfather is one of a few movies that every aspiring filmmaker should watch, especially before going to film school.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Cinema Paradiso, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, is a heartwarming ode to the magic of cinema and the nostalgia of childhood. The film follows the journey of Salvatore, played by Salvatore Cascio and Jacques Perrin, from his formative years spent in a small Sicilian village’s movie theater to his return as a successful filmmaker, celebrating the profound impact of movies on one’s life and memories. Other classics filmed in Italy include Roman Holiday (1953) and La Dolce Vita (1960).
Hannibal, directed by Ridley Scott, is a chilling psychological thriller that is a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. In this gripping film, a masterclass in how to write a horror sequel, Anthony Hopkins reprises his iconic role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and the film unfolds a gripping narrative as FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Julianne Moore, becomes entangled in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the brilliant but malevolent Lecter. The Tourist (2010) and The Italian Job (1969 & 2003) are other great action-packed films for audiences.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Under the Tuscan Sun follows Frances, portrayed by Diane Lane, as she impulsively purchases a villa in Tuscany after a painful divorce. Amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Italy, the movie beautifully explores themes of renewal, self-discovery, and the healing power of embracing new beginnings as Frances navigates the challenges and joys of rebuilding her life. Additional romantic comedies and slice-of-life stories filmed in Italy include Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Eat, Pray, Love (2010) and Love in the Villa (2022).
Spettacolo, a documentary film directed by Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen, offers a captivating glimpse into the Italian village of Monticchiello, where the residents engage in a unique form of communal theater, blending real-life stories with fictional narratives. The film unfolds as a poignant exploration of the intersection between art and life, portraying the transformative power of theater in a small community grappling with change and tradition. Other documentaries that tell captivating stories of Italy include Fire at Sea (2016) and Terraferma (2011).
Only You (1994)
Only You, directed by Norman Jewison, is a romantic comedy starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. The film follows a young woman named Faith as she embarks on a quest across Italy to find her supposed soulmate based on a childhood prediction.
Filled with charming escapades and unexpected twists, Only You is a delightful journey of self-discovery and love in the picturesque backdrop of Italy. Image via Google Play.
Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
Spider-Man: Far From Home, directed by Jon Watts and produced by NYFA Guest Speaker Kevin Feige, swings into action as Tom Holland’s Peter Parker embarks on a European school trip, hoping for a break from superhero responsibilities. However, he finds himself thrust back into action when elemental creatures wreak havoc, and with the arrival of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, the film delivers a thrilling blend of high-stakes heroics and teenage coming-of-age moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Viewers may also enjoy Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022), which is set in Italy, as well as Luca (2021).
Il Postino / The Postman (1994)
“Il Postino” (The Postman), directed by Michael Radford, is a poignant and visually stunning film that tells the story of a simple postman named Mario, played by Massimo Troisi, who befriends Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, portrayed by Philippe Noiret. Set against the backdrop of a small Italian island, the film beautifully captures the transformative power of poetry, love, and friendship as Mario learns about life and love through his encounters with the charismatic Neruda. Similar films include The Bicycle Thief (1948).
Find Your Inspiration at NYFA Florence
At NYFA Florence, students enhance their appreciation and engagement with Italian culture through the artistic journey of filmmaking and acting for the screen. Through directing, filming, editing, and performing in their own projects, students build their portfolios and have the opportunity to have their work influenced and enriched by the traditions and customs of Italy. Explore Florence’s Florence-based programs, youth programs, and summer camps today!