10 Essential Italian Films

Arguably the greatest entry in Italian neorealist cinema, Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 portrait of a struggling pensioner and his faithful dog, Umberto D., arrives on Blu-ray this week. It’s a poignant commentary on the country’s postwar strife and working class disillusionment, quietly portrayed by university professor-turned-actor Carlo Battisti’s retired government worker who faces desperation with sorrowful dignity. Still, the heartbreaking tale is never maudlin or overstated. In honor of the film’s Criterion Blu-ray release, we wanted to explore other essential Italian titles. Click through our gallery to check out a diverse list of the country’s masterworks that have left their mark on generations of audiences and filmmakers alike. Add your own picks in the comments section.

L’avventura

The lead players in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura are too empty to feel strongly about anything when it comes to life and love — a true existential nightmare. “The Adventure” is a sardonic misnomer for the trip taken by a group of wealthy friends sailing the Mediterranean. One of them goes missing and the absentee’s lover and best friend entertain a growing attraction — but these are characters that simply go through the motions, and sex is effortless for them. Antonioni paints the duo’s emotional detachment and isolation with lingering strokes, inventing an unconventional and stunning filmic language.