The five best Italian film directors ever

Italian Cinema - Bicycle Thieves

Since the end of world war II the Italian cinema has given us some truly amazing directors, most of whom made no concession to Hollywood or anywhere else for that matter. Here then is our pick of the five very best Italian film directors.

Italian Cinema Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves

1. Vittorio De Sica
He was best known as a comedic actor in his native Italy before he turned to directing and his 1948 film Bicycle Thieves would be a huge influence on cinema worldwide spawning a whole “neo-realist” school that would continue to echo for many years and eventually make massive inroads into French and British cinema in the fifties and sixties.

Italian Cinema Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli.

2. Roberto Rossellini
As famous for his personal life (he began an affair with and then married Ingrid Bergman leading her away from Hollywood in the process) as he was for his neo-realist films such as 1949’s Stromboli (which starred Bergman). Rossellini was very much into an almost documentary style utilising as many non-professional actors as he did professional ones. His other key films included Open City and Europa.

Italian Cinema - La Dolce Vita

Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita

3. Federico Fellini
He may have begun his career making movies (I Vitelloni and La Strada) that were heavily influenced by neo-realism but Fellini soon abandoned the genre for his own particularly personal and some would say exhibitionist movies such as La Dolce Vita, 8 and a half Women and Boccaccio 70. Many of Fellinis films are Proustian memories of childhood or deal with his troubled relationship with the Catholic faith. Always at his best when dealing with human relationships but prone to the overblown.

Italian Cinema - Blow Up

David Hemmings in Blow Up.

4. Michaelangelo Antonioni
It could be said that Antonioni never quite fulfilled his early promise. He made his breakthrough with L’Aventura (1959) before scoring a massive hit with his made in England at the height of the swinging sixties pop-art thriller Blow Up. Starring David Hemmings as a David Bailey style photographer caught up in murder, the success of Blow Up lead to a contract with MGM for whom he made Zabriskie Point. Zabriskie was a massive flop but he did recover somewhat with 1972’s The Passenger which starred Jack Nicholson.

Italian Cinema - Last Tango In Paris.

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in Last Tango In Paris.

5. Bernardo Bertolucci
Easily the most controversial director on our list both for his left wing views which have coloured many of his films, especially The Conformist and the epic 1900. However it was 1972’s Last Tango In Paris starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider that cemented his reputation for controversy. His Freudian view of sex was still a strong feature of his work as recently as The Dreamers.