If you want to watch Italian films at home or on your own device, you are bound to have Netflix or Amazon Prime. There is a fairly large selection of (free) Italian movies .

Watching Italian movies

Italy has been famous for its films since the invention of the cinema, especially since World War II. Names like Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are world-famous. But nowadays Italy is still a force to be reckoned with. Paolo Sorrentino, for example, is one of the most appreciated directors in the world.

RELATED: Also check out which films make up our top 12 best Italian (anti-) mafia films

But watching Italian films outside Italy is not that easy. Fortunately, there are (legal) streaming services. However, most streaming services such as Lulu, HBO, Showtime and Disney+ have few Italian offerings. Amazon Prime does have a reasonable content of Italian films, but some content does not come free within the subscription. Netflix also offers some interesting (free) Italian movies.

Italian movies on Netflix
screenshot

Best Italian movies on Netflix and Amazon

In my top 24 italian movies on Netflix of the moment (summer 2021) I made a mix of films of the last 75 years. My selection is a blend of newly released films, older ones, comedy, drama, TV series, but all chosen films are quality movies. However, it is not to say that these are the best Italian films of all time. I have kept to what the streaming services offer.

24 best recommendations in 2021

The titles can be watched from within the US and UK, among others. The films have been adapted for audiences who do not understand Italian. In Europe and especially in Italy, the choice of Italian movies on Netflix and Amazon is bigger.

Here are my top 24 best Italian movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime, ordered by the year of release:

Stromboli 

Experience neo-realism

  • Director: Roberto Rosselini
  • Leading Actor: Ingrid Bergman
  • Year: 1949
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: Experience neo-realism: a story set among the poor, long shots, on location, use of non-professional actors
  • PlatformAmazon (IMDb TV)
  • English subtitled: yes

Our lineup should include a film by Roberto Rosselini, the master of neo-realism. The film on the volcanic island of Stromboli is seen as a high point of neo-realism, but not at the time of the release of the film. International audiences and critics reacted in a particularly volcanic manner to the extra-legal relationship between the director and his muse, Ingrid Bergman, the Hollywood star.

3 minutes clip

Beautiful

A satire on the romantic illusions of the movie industry

  • Director: Luchino Visconti
  • Leading Actor: Anna Magnani, Walter Chiari
  • Year: 1951
  • Italian title: Bellissima
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: A satire on the romantic illusions of the movie industry – still very much relevant. And to watch Magnani
  • PlatformAmazon
  • English subtitled: yes

Maddalena (Magnani) lives in a poor neighborhood in Rome. She enrolls her young daughter in a talent show at the Cinecittà studios. Maddalena wants her daughter to be chosen. She has spared no expense to ensure that her daughter is the most beautiful and best-dressed contestant.

The film is quite topical, because the film makes a mockery of outward appearances. The director is one of the most famous directors of the post-war period. The leading lady is another tiger of European film: Anna Magnani (won an Academy Award).

Totò, Peppino and the Hussy

Italian comedy

  • Director: Camillo Mastrocinque
  • Leading Actor: Totò, Peppino De Filippo
  • Year: 1956
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Why to watch: to find out for yourself if Italy’s most famous comedian is really that funny
  • Platform: Amazon Prime
  • English subtitled: yes

Totò is still considered Italy’s greatest comedian. In nearly 100 films the Neapolitan (1898-1967) has often formed a duo with Peppino De Filippo. He is another famous actor from Naples (theater city par excellence).

In this film, two Neapolitan brothers and their sister go to Milan to convince their young relative to come back to Naples (that he had left for the love of a woman). A common feature of many Italian comedies is making fun on the difference between north and south. In this clip below, it is very evident how the two brothers are lost after they have arrived in Milan:

La Dolce Vita

Post-war Italy when anything was still possible

  • Director: Federico Fellini
  • Leading Actor: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg
  • Year: 1960
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: The title of the film (The sweat life) represents post-war Italy when anything was still possible
  • Platform: Amazon Prime
  • English subtitled: no

Considered one of Fellini’s masterpieces and one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. The film is packed with iconic images, such as Ekberg and Mastroianni in the Trevi fountain in Rome and paparazzi on their scooters. The term ‘paparazzo’ comes from this film and is now synonymous with an intrusive society photographer.

The Thursday

The modern theme of complex divorce was no different 60 years ago

  • Director: Dino Risi
  • Leading Actor: Walter Chiari, Michèle Mercier
  • Year: 1964
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Italian title: Il giovedì
  • Why to watch: The modern theme of complex divorce was no different 60 years ago
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

Walter Chiari (1926-1991), a contemporary of Mastroianni and at the time at least as famous as him, plays in this film a divorced father who sees his son for the first time in five years. To win the affection of his son, he invents a story about his past. At the end of the day, the Thursday of the title, however, he will succeed in establishing a positive relationship with his son and telling the truth about himself. 

Marriage Italian Style

The best Italian film couple

  • Director: Vittorio De Sica
  • Leading Actor: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni
  • Year: 1964
  • Italian title: Matrimonio all’italiana
  • Genre: Drama / Comedy
  • Why to watch: For admiration of the best Italian film couple
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

The successful businessman Domenico begins an affair with the beautiful Filumena. She had ended up in prostitution due to poverty and becomes his mistress. When Domenico is about to marry a young employee, Filumena pretends to be dying. He cancels the wedding. 

The storyline as told now looks like a cheap play, but is one of the golden films of the Loren-Mastroianni couple. The film grossed in nominations (two Academy Awards) and received a Golden Globe.

Gang War in Milan

Italian police genre has influenced American crime movies

  • Director: Umberto Lenzi
  • Leading Actor: Antonio Sabàto
  • Year: 1972
  • Italian title: Milano rovente
  • Genre: Crime
  • Why to watch: Successful example of the Italian police genre that has influenced even American crime movies
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

‘Gang War in Milan’ is one of hundreds of films in the poliziottesco genre, often very violent films from the 1970s. The good-looking Antonio Sabàto (1943-2021), always with a mustache, stars as a fighter for justice, a role he has played in dozens of films. In the 1980s, Sabàto continued his career in the United States.

The Octopus: The Complete Serie

First true-to-life (TV) film about the Sicilian mafia

  • Director: Damiano Damiani (and 3 others)
  • Leading Actor: Michele Placido
  • Year: 1984-2001
  • Italian title: La piovra
  • Genre: Crime / TV serie
  • Why to watch: One of the first true-to-life (TV) film about the Sicilian mafia
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

The Octopus was a global hit that ran from 1984 to 2001. This epic Mafia thriller explores the criminal culture that extends its tentacles into all of society. Music is from Academy award winning composer Ennio Morricone.

One of the first series to show the ruthlessness of the Sicilian Mafia, and its intermingling with society. Be sure to watch the first four seasons when Michele Placido is the mafia fighter.

Life is Beautiful

A lighthearted account of persecution

  • Director: Roberto Benigni
  • Leading Actor: Roberto Benigni
  • Year: 1998
  • Italian title: La vita è bella
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: A lighthearted account of the persecution of Jews
  • Platform: Amazon, Disney+
  • English subtitled: yes

This film is in the English speaking world one of the most appreciated Italian film of the last 25 years. The movie is set during occupation (WW2) in Tuscany, home of Benigni. The Italian comic pulls out all the stops to allay his son’s fears and present the occupation to him as a game

Roberto Benigni was the first non-English speaking actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor for this film. The theme song (‘Beautiful That Way’) is sung by Noa. 

Detective Montalbano

Sicily always attracts

  • Director: Andrea Camilleri
  • Leading Actor: Luca Zingeretti
  • Year: 1999-2019 (31 episodes)
  • Italian title: Il commissario Montalbano
  • Genre: Series / Crime
  • Why to watch: Sicily always attracts, and it doesn’t have to be just because of the mafia
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

RELATED: We have selected four books as the best works on the Italian mafia in the English language

Crime and Sicily go well together in the imagination, and this highly successful series also has the two ingredients. This time no mafia, but ‘ordinary’ murders that are solved each time by the charming Salvo Montalbano. Each episode stands alone

Malèna

Stunning Monica Bellucci and Sicilian locations

  • Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
  • Leading Actor: Monica Bellucci
  • Year: 2000
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: Strong storyline, stunning Monica Bellucci, locations in Sicily
  • Platform: Netflix, Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

The 65-year-old Giuseppe Tornatore is a director with few films to his name, but the few he does make (12) are worth a look. ‘Nuovo Cinema Paradiso’ won him the Oscar for best foreign film in 1988.

In this film twelve-year-old Renato is enamoured with Malèna. But when jealous townsfolk begin spreading rumours about her, Renato must separate fact from fiction. The absolute leading role is played by sensual Monica Bellucci, who launched her international career with this film.

The Last Kiss

Breakthrough of new generation of Italian actors

  • Director: Gabriele Muccino
  • Leading Actor: Stefano Accorsi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno
  • Year: 2001
  • Genre: Drama / Comedy
  • Title in Italian: L’ultimo bacio
  • Why to watch: Dynamic storyline, breakthrough of director and new generation of actors
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

“As Carlo prepares for fatherhood, he grapples with settling down. And he’s in good company: His close friends also are struggling with love and life.”

So reads the effective, but also vague two-lines synopsis from Netflix. The film is indeed a coming-of-middle-age story, very cleverly and attractively filmed by the then young director Gabriele Muccino. Muccino would later make two successful American films with Will Smith.

Muccino’s style is dynamic with the camera close to the leading actors, always adorned with beautiful locations and people. In 2006, American Tony Goldwyn made a remake of the film under the same English title.

This film was also the breakthrough for, among others, Pierfrancesco Favino, one of the best Italian actors of the moment. His work includes small roles in American films like ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Night at the Museum’.

RELATED: If you are interested in ‘Angels and Demons’, you should read this article about where they filmed the movie in Rome.

The Great Beauty 

Rome at its very best

  • Director: Paolo Sorrentino
  • Leading Actor: Toni Servillo
  • Year: 2013
  • Genre: Drama
  • Italian title: La Grande Bellezza
  • Why to watch: Rome at its very best, fabulous scenography, Fellinian exuberance
  • Platform: Amazon, Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

The Great Beauty is a great film. I am not alone in my opinion. It won the Oscar for best foreign film. The Guardian put it in the top 20 best films of the 21st century. This English newspaper writes:

The Young Pope director Paolo Sorrentino crafted this swooningly beautiful love letter to Rome – “la grande bellezza” – in its decadent, jaded glory. Toni Servillo, Sorrentino’s regular onscreen foil, plays journalist Jep Gambardella, a bon viveur beginning to sense the dying of his personal light, and hunting out meaning and substance in the world around him

The music, a mix of sacred and profane rhythms, is also fantastic. Strangely enough, perhaps, the film is less appreciated within Italy. The movie would be based too much on cliches and Fellini.

They Call Me Jeeg

Original script and Rome locations

  • Director: Gabriele Mainetti
  • Leading Actor: Claudio Santamaria, Luca Marinelli
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre: Sci-fi / Comic
  • Italian title: Lo chiamavono Jeeg Robot
  • Why to watch: original script, acting, Rome locations
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

This low-cost production (€1.7 million) is the debut of Mainetti (who has made only one other film since). The film is a cheerful break with the usual themes of most films. The leading actor (who we also know from ‘The Last Kiss’) is excellent. Like many Italian films, this feature was shot in Rome (and in the studio).

The title of the film is a reference to the so called mecha anime series ‘Jeeg Robot of Steel’ by Gō Nagai, as one of the main characters believes that Hiroshi Shiba, the hero of the series, exists in the real world and identifies him with the leading character.

Human Capital

Tense and well-told film in high pace

  • Director: Paolo Virzì
  • Leading Actor: Fabrizio Bentivoglio,  Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre: Drama, Chic Thriller
  • Italian title: Il capitale umano
  • Why to watch: Tense and well-told film in high pace set near Varese in northern
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

The film is more than just a chic thriller. Alongside its clear depiction the pain and vanity of social inequality, Virzi and the fine cast explore the unhappiness of rich and poor alike in a society that measures a person’s value in terms of euros.

The nice film description comes from The Hollywood Reporter.  The term ‘human capital’ is legalese that designates an accident victim’s net worth in compensation claims. The theme is reflected in the structure of the film, told in four chapters, each focusing on a different character.

Where am I going?

Funny on cultural differences

  • Director: Gennaro Nunziante
  • Leading Actor: Checco Zalone
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Italian title: Quo Vado
  • Why to watch: funny on cultural differences
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

This film is the most successful film of all time in Italy (not corrected for inflation). Is this film also the best? No, but it is one of the funniest Italian comedies of the 21st century. The movie makes fun showing the differences between Latin and ‘western’ characters. Obviously you should not be bothered by too much political correctness.

Perfect Strangers

Sparkling one location film

  • Director: Paolo Genovese
  • Leading Actor: Marco Giallini, Anna Foglietta
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Drama / comedy
  • Italian title: Perfetti Sconosciuti
  • Why to watch: Sparkling one location film, top script
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

‘Perfect strangers’ has a special record to its name, and that says a lot about its universal value. The film has the most remakes in the history of cinema, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The film cleverly taps into the then (2016) general spread of smart phone use. This is how Netflix presents the film:

A dinner party unravels when a group of friends agrees to leave their phones on the table, airing the contents of their correspondences – and secrets.

Suburra: Blood on Rome

Brash and brutal crime thriller

  • Director: Stefano Sollima
  • Leading Actor: Alessandro Borghi
  • Year: 2017-2020 (3 series so far)
  • Genre: Crime
  • Italian title: Suburra – La Serie
  • Why to watch: strong script and acting performance
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

Foreign critics rate this crime series as top notch. One named it a “brash and brutal Italian crime thriller”, another “Netflix’s Italian answer to Narcos”. This is also understandable when you make a mix involving Rome, Italian politics, the Vatican and the mafia.

The series has a strong script (two renowned writers are behind it), good acting and, of course, the locations in Rome and its surroundings always contribute to a nice result.

On My Skin 

Into the skin of a victim of violence

  • Director: Alessio Cremonini
  • Leading Actor: Alessandro Borghi
  • Year: 2018
  • Genre: Drama
  • Italian title: Sulla mia pelle
  • Why to watch: into the skin of a victim of violence, excellent acting
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

The film is based on a in Italy well-known true story of police violence. Arrested in Rome for a drug-related offense, Stefano Cucchi endures a harrowing week in custody that changes his family forever. Cucchi is played by Alessandro Borghi, who was widely acclaimed for this role. As one critic stated:

Borghi stitches Cucchi into his skin. He tattoos Cucchi on himself. He cuts his hair as he wore it. He makes us see on his body, as we have rarely seen in cinema, the irresolvable mystery of living and dying.

This is one of the first Italian productions that was (is) exclusively distributed by Netflix.

The Traitor

A genuine mafia story

  • Director: Marco Bellocchio
  • Leading Actor: Pierfrancesco Favino
  • Year: 2018
  • Genre: Biopic / Crime
  • Why to watch: genuine mafia story, the actor Favino
  • Platform: Amazon, Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

The film is based on the life of mafioso Tommaso Buscetta, who is portrayed in the film by Pierfrancesco Favino. This actor proves again to be one of Italy’s best.

Buscetta was the first mafioso of significance to cooperate with the judiciary (1980s) that led to the mafia being virtually defeated (1990s).

I find the film, which is also known by its English title ‘The Traitor’, quite deja vu. That may have something to do with the fact that we in Italy are familiar with Buscetta’s life and the long court cases it led to.

Anyway, the film is good as a proper mafia film without too much glamour.

Martin Eden

An Italianate version of world literature

  • Director: Pietro Marcello
  • Leading Actor: Luca Marinelli
  • Year: 2019
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: Actor performance, Campania (Naples area) locations, social theme
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

In this film based on Jack London’s novel, California has been exchanged for Naples, Italy. Luca Marinelli is an excellent Martin Eden, a self-taught man who belongs to the working class. He falls in love with Elena Orsini, who is a member of the middle class. Eden subsequently ends up in socialist circles, which brings him into conflict with the bourgeoisie to which Elena belongs.

An Italianate name would be more appropriate in this very Italian (co-)production. How does Martino Ederle sounds?

Remember?

Ultimate romantic movie

  • Director: Valerio Mieli
  • Leading Actor: Luca Marinelli, Linda Caridi
  • Year: 2019
  • Genre: Drama / Romantic
  • Italian title: Ricordi?
  • Why to watch: Everything about the movie is romantic, the people, the colors, the locations, even if the story doesn’t end well
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

This film is for aficionados and lovers. The love story develops slowly with many flash backs. But the powerful lead actors, the beautiful photography and a sprinkle of sensuality helps that this little known work had become a gem. It won the Italy’s foreign press club ‘Golden Globe’ award for best photography.

Pinocchio

Famous children’s story is also great for adults

  • Director: Matteo Garrone
  • Leading Actor: Roberto Benigni
  • Year: 2020
  • Genre: Drama
  • Why to watch: New interpretation of one of the most famous children’s stories is also great for adults
  • Platform: Amazon
  • English subtitled: yes

Matteo Garrone, with Paolo Sorrentino the most acclaimed Italian director of this century, gives a new boost to the well-known story of Collodi. The leading role is for Roberto Benigni, who himself directed a (not so successful) Pinocchio film 15 years ago.

RELATED: read more about the Pinocchio Park in Collodi (Tuscany)

Rose Island

Nice summer hit

  • Director: Sydney Sibilia
  • Leading Actor: Elio Germano
  • Year: 2020
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Italian title: L’incredibile storia dell’Isola delle Rose
  • Why to watch: nice summer hit, Elio Germano
  • Platform: Netflix
  • English subtitled: yes

One of the top Italian actors I have yet to mention in this list of Italian movies on Netflix is Elio Germano. He stars in this light-hearted film (although he’s still beter in the great movie ‘Favolacce’ (to be rent on Amazon)).

This movie tells the real story of the Rose Island, an artificial platform created off the coast of Rimini in the 1960s. This vintage beach film is nice for a change from the sometimes ponderous Italian drama

Even more Italian Movies on Netflix (N) and Amazon Prime (A)

Some other also rather good Italian movies on Netflix and Amazon are the following:

  • Miracolo a Milano (1950, drama, Vittorio De Sica) A
  • Il Divo (2008, biopic, Paolo Sorrentino) N
  • Benvenuti al sud (2010, comedy, Luca Miniero) N
  • Loose Cannons (2010, drama, Ferzan Ozpetek) N
  • La pazza gioia (2016, drama, comedy, Paolo Virzì) A
  • Call Me by Your Name (2017, drama, Luca Guadagnino) N

Are there any Italian movies on Netflix and Amazon?

There are dozens of Italian films on Netflix and Amazon Prime outside of Italy, most with subtitles.

What is the number 1 Italian movie on Netflix and Amazon?

The best Italian film featured on Netflix and Amazon Prime is ‘The Great Beauty’. This can be objectively determined by, among other things, film awards and reviews from critics.

What are the best Italian movies on Netflix?

Malèna (2000), The Last Kiss (2001), The Great Beauty (2013), They Call Me Jeeg (2015), Where am I going (2016), Perfect Strangers (2016), On My Skin (2018), Il Traditore (2019), Rose Island (2020) and Suburra: Blood on Rome (2017-2020).

What are the best Italian movies on Amazon?

Stromboli (1949), Beautiful (1951), Totò, Peppino and the Hussy (1956), The Thursday (1964), Marriage Italian Style (1964), Gang War in Milan (1972),
The Octopus (1984-2001), Life is Beautiful (1998), Detective Montalbano (1999-2019), Human Capital (2015), Martin Eden (2019), Remember? (2019), Pinocchio (2020).

Ewout is based in Rome as Italy correspondent and writer (8 books). The Dutchman is an expert journalist on Italy and its political, cultural and everyday life culture. He particularly has a special interest in the Vatican and Italian films (not necessarily related to each other). In his spare time he writes for ItalyStart to immerse readers in the world's craziest, complex but most beautiful country.

ItalyStart
Logo