4 Best Italian Dramas Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

The Great Beauty is a film of superlatives! Originally titled La Grande Bellezza, this movie by Italian star director Paolo Sorrentino is so replete with lush, opulent cinematography, it sometimes borders on sensory overload. Having won Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, as well as the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA award in the same category, The Great Beauty is also a critics' darling and an award-show sweeper – in addition to being hailed as Paolo Sorrentino's greatest work to date.

Essentially a tragicomedy, it is both a study and a celebration of the hedonism and decadence of its main protagonist – the bon-vivant and modern-day Roman socialite Jep Gambardella (played by an electrifying Toni Servillo). Instead of honing the craft of writing, Gambardella at some point decides to become the self-proclaimed “king of high life” of Rome. After his 65th birthday, he experiences a shock that changes him for good, prompting him to look past the parties and the nightclubs and to discover the sublime beauty of his hometown, the eternal city. In this way, The Great Beauty is a meditation on art, regret, and pleasure – and Sorrentino's love letter to Rome.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aldo Ralli, Alessia Bellotto, Anita Kravos, Anna Della Rosa, Annaluisa Capasa, Carlo Buccirosso, Carlo Verdone, Dario Cantarelli, Elisabetta Ventura, Fanny Ardant, Francesca Amodio, Francesca Golia, Franco Graziosi, Gabriella Belisario, Galatea Ranzi, Gianpiero Cognoli, Giorgia Ferrero, Giorgio Pasotti, Giovanna Vignola, Giulia Di Quilio, Giulia Maulucci, Giulia Rinallo, Giulio Brogi, Giusi Merli, Iaia Forte, Isabella Ferrari, Ivan Franěk, Leo Mantovani, Lillo Petrolo, Luca Marinelli, Luciano Virgilio, Ludovico Caldarera, Manuela Gatti, Margherita Cornali, Maria Laura Rondanini, Maria Lovetti, Massimo De Francovich, Massimo Popolizio, Melania Fiore, Mirko Frezza, Monica Piseddu, Pamela Villoresi, Paolo Mazzarelli, Piero Gimondo, Roberto Herlitzka, Sabrina Ferilli, Serena Grandi, Sonia Gessner, Stefania Barca, Stefano Fregni, Toni Servillo, Vernon Dobtcheff, Yohana Allen

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Rating: Not Rated

Human Capital is a rich and absorbing tale of two families tied together by love, money and a hit-and-run accident. One family is wealthy, the other struggling to get by in the days after the 2008 economic meltdown. Human Capital dexterously contrasts the social calculations the characters make about who can afford to step outside the lines of law and morality. The story is told from different perspectives, a device that serves to give the tale and the characters greater depth. In Italian with English subtitles.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Betti, Bebo Storti, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Fabrizio Gifuni, Federica Fracassi, Gigio Alberti, Giovanni Anzaldo, Guglielmo Pinelli, Isabelle Tanakil, Luca Toracca, Luigi Lo Cascio, Matilde Gioli, Paolo Pierobon, Pia Engleberth, Saman Anthony, Silvia Cohen, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Bruni‑Tedeschi, Valeria Golino

Director: Paolo Virzì

Rating: Not Rated

This fiery coming-of-age drama has an unlikely origin story: director Jonas Carpignano was first introduced to the sprawling Roma clan that makes up most of the movie’s cast when one of them stole his car while he shot another film. The charismatic Amato family made such an impression on him that he decided to center a movie around their real lives, naming it for the insular neighborhood they live in on the outskirts of a Southern Italian town.

The Amatos are part of a much-maligned ethnic minority, but not the only one in the film. The Ciambra pokes at the idea of solidarity between the Amatos and local African migrants: while his elders are quick to reject the idea, plucky 14-year-old Pio (Pio Amato) flits across these invisible borders and bonds with Ayiva (Koudous Seihon). But Pio is desperate to win the respect of the men in his family, who might then allow him to take part in their criminal exploits — a crisis point The Ciambra chronicles with raw emotion. This is a movie whose grit and bleakness often recall the uncompromising gaze of neo-realist classics, as a child is heartbreakingly forced to declare his allegiances in the dog-eat-dog world his elders can’t imagine an alternative to.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Damiano Amato, Iolanda Amato, Koudous Seihon, Patrizia Amato, Pio Amato

Director: Jonas Carpignano

Set in 1970s Italian countryside, this is a quirky movie that’s full of plot twists.

Lazzaro is a dedicated worker at a tobacco estate. His village has been indebted to a marquise and like everyone else, he works without a wage and in arduous conditions.

Lazzaro strikes a friendship with the son of the marquise, who, in an act of rebellion against his mother, decides to fake his own kidnapping. The two form an unlikely friendship in a story that mixes magical realism with social commentary.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Alessandro Genovesi, Alice Rohrwacher, Antonio Salines, Carlo Massimino, Carlo Tarmati, Daria Deflorian, Daria Pascal Attolini, David Bennent, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Gala Othero Winter, Leonardo Nigro, Luca Chikovani, Natalino Balasso, Nicoletta Braschi, Pasqualina Scuncia, Sergi Lopez, Tommaso Ragno

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

Rating: PG-13