From the rubble of a devastated postwar Italy, an extraordinary artistic flowering sprang forth that soon took the world by storm. Led by figures such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti, a generation of filmmakers gave stirring expression to the concerns, struggles, and humanity of ordinary, working-class people with a blend of earthy naturalism and bittersweet lyricism. From early postwar landmarks like ROME OPEN CITY and BICYCLE THIEVES through later films like ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS and IL POSTO that built upon neorealism’s concerns while opening up new thematic and aesthetic territory, this overview showcases multiple masterpieces that forever changed the course of film history by revealing the drama and poetry inherent in everyday life.
Introducing Italian Neorealism
The Children Are Watching Us
Directed by Vittorio De Sica • 1944 • Italy
Starring Emilio Cigoli, Luciano De Ambrosis, Isa Pola
In his first collaboration with renowned screenwriter and longtime partner Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica examines the cataclysmic consequences of adult folly on an innocent child. Heralding the...
Rome Open City
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1945 • Italy
Starring Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello Pagliero
This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with more melodramatic flair than the films t...
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1946 • Italy
Starring Carmela Sazio, Robert Van Loon, Dots M. Johnson
Roberto Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout ROME OPEN CITY was the ambitious, enormously moving PAISAN, which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World ...
Directed by Vittorio De Sica • 1948 • Italy
Starring Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell
Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, the Academy Award-winning BICYCLE THIEVES, directed by Vittorio De Sica, defined an era in cinema. In poverty-stricken postwar ...
Germany Year Zero
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1948 • France, Italy, West Germany
Starring Edmund Meschke, Ernst Pittschau, Ingetraud Hinze
The concluding chapter of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. L...
Directed by Giuseppe De Santis • 1949 • Italy
Starring Silvana Mangano, Vittorio Gassman, Doris Dowling
During planting season in Northern Italy’s Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the...
The Flowers of St. Francis
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1950 • Italy
Starring Brother Nazario Gerardi, Brother Severino Pisacane, Esposito Bonaventura
In a series of simple and joyous vignettes, director Roberto Rossellini and co-writer Federico Fellini lovingly convey the universal teachings of the People’s Saint: hu...
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1950 • Italy, United States
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Mario Vitale
The first collaboration between Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman is a devastating portrait of a woman’s existential crisis, set against the beautiful and forbidding backdrop of a volcanic isla...
Directed by Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada • 1950 • Italy
Starring Peppino De Filippo, Carla Del Poggio, Giulietta Masina
Made in collaboration with Alberto Lattuada, Federico Fellini’s directorial debut unfolds amid the colorful backdrop of a traveling vaudeville troupe whose quixotic im...
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1952 • Italy
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox
In the Italian-language version of this film, Ingrid Bergman plays a wealthy, self-absorbed Rome socialite racked by guilt over the shocking death of her young son. As a way of dealing with her grief and findin...
Directed by Vittorio De Sica • 1952 • Italy
Starring Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio
This neorealist masterpiece by Vittorio De Sica follows an elderly pensioner as he strives to make ends meet during Italy’s postwar economic recovery. Alone except for his dog, Flike, Umberto struggles to main...
Directed by Federico Fellini • 1953 • Italy
Five young men linger in a postadolescent limbo, dreaming of adventure and escape from their small seacoast town. They while away their time spending the lira doled out by their indulgent families on drink, women, and nights at the local pool hall. Fed...
Journey to Italy
Directed by Roberto Rossellini • 1954 • Italy
Starring Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders
Among the most influential films of the postwar era, Roberto Rossellini’s JOURNEY TO ITALY (VIAGGIO IN ITALIA) charts the declining marriage of a couple from England (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) on a tri...
Directed by Federico Fellini • 1954 • Italy
Starring Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart
With this breakthrough film, Federico Fellini launched both himself and his wife and collaborator Giulietta Masina to international stardom, breaking with the neorealism of his early career in ...
Rocco and His Brothers
Directed by Luchino Visconti • 1960 • Italy
Starring Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori
Looking for opportunity, five brothers move north with their mother to Milan. There, Simone and Rocco find fame, in the boxing ring, and love, in the same woman. Jealousy mounts, blood is shed, and...
Girl in the Window
Directed by Luciano Emmer • 1961 • Italy, France
Starring Lino Ventura, Magali Noël, Marina Vlady
Luciano Emmer, one of the unsung figures of the neorealist movement, directs this slice-of-life immigrant’s tale cowritten by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Beginning with a visceral look at the harsh working...
Directed by Francesco Rosi • 1962 • Italy
July 5, 1950--Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano's bullet-riddled corpse is found facedown in a courtyard in Castelvetrano, a handgun and rifle by his side. Local and international press descend upon the scene, hoping to crack open the true story behind ...
Directed by Ermanno Olmi • 1961 • Italy
Starring Sandro Panseri, Loredana Detto
When young Domenico (Sandro Panseri) ventures from the small village of Meda to Milan in search of employment, he finds himself on the bottom rung of the bureaucratic ladder in a huge, faceless company. The prospects...