Can you remember your language or Italian lessons from school? You almost certainly had to listen to recordings or watch videos. Can you learn Italian in the same way by watching films?
Of course, you can! While we’re focusing on Italian in this article, this method can work for any foreign language. If you're an amateur filmmaker or critic, you should combine your love of cinema with your language learning.
We’ve picked out the 5 best Italian for beginners films that could help you improve your language skills.
You should watch them as follows:
Firstly, watch the Italian version of the film with English subtitles.
Next, watch the film again with Italian subtitles.
Finally, watch the film without any subtitles.
This will help you work on your reading comprehension and listening. You’ll also pick up some of the grammar, too.
Of course, you can repeat each step multiple times if you aren’t yet comfortable with moving onto the following step. Make sure you take things at your own pace. If you're watching films to learn Italian online, you have to watch actively. This means that if you don't understand something, don't be afraid to rewind the scene and listen to the same piece of dialogue repeatedly until you understand exactly what they said. You can also keep a notepad next to you and write down words to look up later or make a note of expressions you like.
With that said, let’s get back to the 5 films you should watch to improve your Italian.
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The Last Kiss (L’ultimo bacio)
The Last Kiss is a 2001 Italian film directed by Gabriele Muccino. It stars:
The Last Kiss was Gabriele Muccino’s 3rd shot at directing and while it didn't take home any Oscars, it did win a number of prizes including five David di Donatello awards which are basically the Italian Oscars, anyway.
Best Supporting Actress (Stefania Sandrelli)
NB: There was an American remake of the film also titled “The Last Kiss” starring Zach Braff which wasn't as good.
The plot is fairly simple: we follow the story of a couple of 30-somethings in the middle of a crisis. After several years living together, adultery looks set to tear the couple apart.
According to critics, the film is a realistic portrayal of modern relationships. You can relate to the characters and their shocking-yet-touching stories. The film stays away from the trite clichés that tend to plague most films with a romantic plot.
You should certainly check it out! You should also check out our list of the most important Italian writers and painters, too.
The Girl by the Lake (La ragazza del lago)
The Girl by the Lake is Andrea Molaioli’s first feature film. The 2007 film is an adaptation of a novel by the Norwegian author Karin Fossum.
If you like thrillers, you’ll love The Girl by the Lake.
The story takes place in a small town in the north of Italy. Anna, a 17-year-old girl, is found drowned by the side of the lake.
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Other than a blue cover, the girl is completely naked. It seems that the killer put this there.
We follow detective Sanzio’s investigation as he attempted to unravel the mystery of the drowned girl. The death of this girl uncovers a lot of secrets.
The variety of characters in this film is particularly interesting. The two suspects said to have been Anna’s lovers despite Anna still seeming to be a virgin.
The detective and his family are also fascinating. The detective has neurasthenia and his wife suffers Alzheimer’s, doesn’t recognise their daughter, and is getting worse by the day.
The director seems to have used the investigation as a means to introduce us to the interesting people in the film.
The film took home 10 David di Donatello awards including:
Best Actor (Toni Servillo)
Best New Director
Best Visual Effects
You can learn more about this film on IMdB.
The Great Beauty
The Great Beauty was directed by Paolo Sorrentino in 2013. It stars Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, and Sabrina Ferilli.
When it comes to dramatic comedies, you have to watch The Great Beauty.
In addition to being nominated at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d'Or, this masterpiece won plenty of awards, including:
The Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Foreign Film
BAFTA for Best Film not in the English Language
Best European Film at the Cinema Bloggers Awards in Portugal
Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes
Best European Film at the Cinema Bloggers Awards in Portugal
David di Donatello Award for Best Actor (Toni Servillo)
David di Donatello Award for Best Director
David di Donatello Award for Best Editing
We obviously can’t mention them all!
This film takes place in Rome and follows the story of Jep Gambardella, an ageing writer who still remains popular and influential in Roman high society. As a leading socialite, he enjoys Rome's dolce vita and attends all the parties in the city. This is all thanks to his one and only novel. On his 65th birthday, he starts looking for meaning in his life.
Loved by critics and viewers alike, The Great Beauty is a mesmerising and witty film. The protagonist is a modern-day Casanova trying to escape the superficial world of socialites he lives in.
The film beautifully portrays its main character the way the city of Rome has been filmed is incredible.
The characters are funny, moving, proud, miserable, and lively at the same time.
In short: The Great Beauty is a masterpiece of Italian cinema.
You can find out more about the film on IMDb.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Italian filmmaking was at its peak in the 1960s and this film is a fine example of the popular Spaghetti Western movies of the time.
Thanks to Sergio Leone’s cinematography, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is timeless. The kind of film you can watch again and again and again.
All the actors in the film speak their mother tongues: Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef speak English while Eli Wallach speaks Italian.
This means that some people will think that it’s an English film. Others will say it’s an Italian film. Either way, the director was Italian and it’s not hard to find an Italian version of the film.
Released in 1966, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is famous for being one of the best Spaghetti Westerns of all time. It’s the last film in the Dollars Trilogy.
The film takes place during the American Civil War. Three gunslingers are looking for a hidden treasure: Two of them have important information about where the treasure is buried. One is a bloodthirsty brute who’s willing to do anything it takes.
Whether you like Westerns or not, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a masterpiece that you should watch at least once in your life.
Excellent dialogue, brilliant music, and a fantastic cast: the film’s a masterpiece.
Find out more about the film on IMDb.
Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)
Let’s finish with one of Italian cinema’s most moving pieces: La vita è bella.
The film came out in 1998 and was directed by and stars Roberto Benigni (is he one of our 16 famous Italians?) and is both a drama and a comedy.
We find ourselves in 1939 at the start of the Second World War and Italy under the control of a fascist government. Since they’re Jewish, Guido and his son are deported to a German concentration camp.
Since the protagonist is an optimist, he does everything he can to convince his son that they’re playing a game. This is to hide him from the horrors of the concentration camp.
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As funny as it is tragic, La vita è bella is a film that you have to see. It’s the kind of film you can watch again and again and critically acclaimed.
Find out more on IMDb.
Of course, this isn’t every single Italian film you should watch. There are plenty of both older and newer films that you can watch if you’d like to improve your Italian. Whether you like a thriller or or a comedy, there'll be an Italian film director you should check out.
However, these 5 are films you should watch as soon as you can. You can kill two birds with one stone by watching a critically-acclaimed films while improving your Italian.
Soon you’ll be speaking Italian fluently!
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