Top up your watchlist... 31 classics of Italian cinema

From Argento to Fellini, get a grounding in the best of Italian film – all available with a free 14-day trial on BFI Player.

L’assassino (1961)

Director: Elio Petri

Elio Petri’s dazzling first feature stars Marcello Mastroianni as dandyish antiques dealer arrested for murder by a Kafkaesque police force.

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece about the last years of French colonial rule in Algeria, seen from the perspective of both the revolutionaries and the French authorities.

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of post-war Italian cinema.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969)

Director: Dario Argento

Dario Argento’s hugely influential thriller, about a murder witness who becomes amateur detective, added sex and style to the murder-mystery and kick-started Italy’s ‘giallo’ genre.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Lucio Fulci’s sensationally gory zombie horror finds undead hordes overtaking a sleepy New England town, with only a reporter and a local psychic to stop them.

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

Director: Michele Soavi

Michele Soavi’s compelling concoction of anarchic Evil Dead-style horror-comedy, tragic romance and gore.

Django (1966)

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Sergio Corbucci’s iconic and hugely influential western follows the titular coffin-dragging drifter as he becomes embroiled in a mortal feud.

La dolce vita (1960)

Director: Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini’s masterpiece depicting seven hedonistic days in the life of a tabloid journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as he searches for the sweet life.

8½ (1963)

Director: Federico Fellini

Fellini triumphantly conjured himself out of writer’s block with this magnum opus about a film director experiencing his own creative crisis.

Germany, Year Zero (1948)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

The concluding part of Roberto Rossellini’s celebrated war trilogy, set amid the war-torn ruins of Berlin.

Gomorrah (2008)

Director: Matteo Garrone

Matteo Garrone’s unnervingly authentic Naples crime drama won the Grand Prix at Cannes before inspiring a hit TV series.

L’innocente (1976)

Director: Luchino Visconti

Luchino Visconti’s final film is a brilliant and disturbing drama set against the opulent backdrop of decadent, late 19th-century aristocracy.

Journey to Italy (1954)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s acerbic but finally very moving masterpiece about marital crisis boasts great performances from Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders.

Marriage Italian Style (1964)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Sophia Loren and Marcelo Mastroianni are irrepressible as a long-married couple in this exquisite and timeless comedy of our all-too-human foibles.

The Mask of Satan (1960)

Director: Mario Bava

Italian horror classic from acclaimed Italian horror auteur Mario Bava, about a beautiful witch, Asa (Barbara Steele), who rises from her grave to take revenge upon her enemies.

Medea (1970)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini directs opera singer Maria Callas in a vivid adaptation of Euripides’s Greek tragedy.

La notte (1961)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece stars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau as a couple re-examining their emotional bonds.

Paisà (1946)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s ambitious and enormously moving follow-up to his breakthrough Rome Open City.

Le quattro volte (2010)

Director: Michelangelo Frammartino

Michelangelo Frammartino’s quirky, wordless account of rural Calabrian life is elegant, touching and funny, a philosophical poem to enduring tradition.

Red Desert (1964)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Antonioni’s mid-career masterpiece stars Monica Vitti as an emotionally anguished young woman embarking on a tentative affair with a businessman (Richard Harris).

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Director: Luchino Visconti

Italian maestro Luchino Visconti’s epic drama follows a mother and her five sons who move from a small town to Milan, changing their lives forever.

Rome, Open City (1945)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s landmark of Italian neorealism is often cited as one of the greatest films ever made.

A Special Day (1977)

Director: Ettore Scola

Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni deliver the finest and most nuanced performances of their careers in this understated masterpiece from director Ettore Scola.

Stromboli (1950)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

In her first collaboration with Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman stars as a refugee who marries a fisherman and moves to a barren island.

Suspiria (1977)

Director: Dario Argento

Dario Argento’s phantasmagoric gothic nightmare blends operatic violence, disorienting dream logic and hyper-real visuals to create a horror classic.

Theorem (1968)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pasolini’s classic about a handsome, enigmatic stranger (Terence Stamp) who arrives at a bourgeois household and seduces an entire family.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)

Director: Ermanno Olmi

Ermanno Olmi’s Palme d’Or-winner, about the hardships faced by peasants in late 19th-century Lombardy, is a masterpiece of neorealism.

Two Women (1960)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her performance as a mother trying to protect her daughter in wartime Italy, in Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic.

Umberto D. (1952)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio De Sica’s heartbreaking classic about a destitute old man in Rome, trying to survive with only his faithful dog Flike for company.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

The irrepressible De Sica (Bicycle Thieves) also directs this Oscar-winning film of three comic tales of love and sex in three cities.

The Wonders (2014)

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

An enchanting, otherworldly coming-of-age drama about a teenage girl who enters her unwilling family into a TV talent show.

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