The 15 Best Italian Movies on Netflix to Watch in 2022
You can learn Italian by literally watching Netflix and chilling in your sweatpants.
The beauty of Italian is that it’s dynamic and fun, with a rich artistic culture.
Whether you opt to delve into Italian music, the vibrant Italian YouTube community, or these magnificent Italian movies, even the pickiest learners can find an aspect of modern Italian culture to complement their learning.
Let’s take a look at exactly how you can blend Netflix into your study time and check out our awesome recommendations for you to watch in 2022.
- 1. La vita davanti a sé (The Life Ahead)
- 2. Lazzaro felice (Happy as Lazzaro)
- 3. Sotto il sole di Riccione (Under the Riccione Sun)
- 4. 18 Regali (18 Presents)
- 5. Slam: Tutto per una ragazza (Slam)
- 6. Gli infedeli (The Players)
- 7. Natale a 5 stelle (5 Star Christmas)
- 8. L’incredibile storia dell’Isola delle Rose (Rose Island)
- 9. Sulla mia pelle (On My Skin: The Last Seven Days of Stefano Cucchi)
- 10. Il legame (The Binding)
- 11. È stata la mano di Dio (The Hand of God)
- 12. L’uomo senza gravità (The Man Without Gravity)
- 13. Lo spietato (The Ruthless)
- 14. Il filo invisibile (The Invisible Thread)
- 15. Caffè Sospeso (Coffee for All)
- How to Get the Most Out of Italian Movies on Netflix in 2022
1. La vita davanti a sé (The Life Ahead)
Can you ever get enough Sophia Loren?
The answer is “no,” and that’s why this is the first movie on our list.
Loren stars as Madam Rosa, a Holocaust survivor who runs a brothel in Bari. When the young son of a Senegalese immigrant attempts to rob her, she takes him in, agreeing to care for him while his father is away.
Even though it seems that Madam Rosa sacrifices a lot for the child initially, it turns out that he also has something to offer her, especially as Madam Rosa’s mental state begins to decline.
There’s also the opportunity to learn Italian words related to history, hardship and slang.
2. Lazzaro felice (Happy as Lazzaro)
“Lazzaro felice” is a critically-acclaimed Italian movie that’s perfect for viewers who want a little taste of Italian high cinema. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.
It follows Lazzaro, a young worker on a farm estate, as he befriends the young estate manager to extort money from the estate owner.
When Lazzaro falls down a cliff and wakes up years later without having aged a day, the estate Lazzaro remembers is drastically different.
The acting in this movie is amazing, and the twist at the end is well worth the wait. While the language in this film can be quite advanced and much is implied, there’s ample vocabulary about farm life, friendship and life in general.
3. Sotto il sole di Riccione (Under the Riccione Sun)
A teen coming-of-age film, anyone?
Set on the beach (of course!), this movie follows a group of teenagers as they spend their summer in Riccione, a seaside resort town on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
The movie intertwines several storylines of love and friendships, throwing in some healthy doses of heartbreak, drama and tear-jerking romance.
This movie has a modern flair too: it incorporates the phenomena of social media and finding love interests through dating apps.
If you’re looking for a feel-good film that perfectly blends comedy and drama, then “Sotto il sole di Riccione” is a great choice that will help you learn informal Italian and slang as it’s spoken by Italian youth.
4. 18 Regali (18 Presents)
Based on the true story of an Italian woman named Elisa Girotto, you’re definitely going to need a tissue box handy for this movie.
The movie follows Elisa as the main character. She’s pregnant with a daughter at the age of 40. Before she gives birth to the child, she discovers that she has terminal breast cancer, and she likely won’t live long enough to see her daughter grow up.
To cope with the grief, Elisa decides she’ll collect 18 gifts for her unborn daughter with the intention of her daughter opening one each year until her 18th birthday.
To say that this movie is emotional is an understatement. However, it’s a good one, and its exploration of the themes of love, loss and life is truly stellar.
5. Slam: Tutto per una ragazza (Slam)
Tutto per una ragazza means “all for a girl,” and that’s just what Sam thinks he’s sacrificing when he discovers he has gotten his new girlfriend pregnant.
Just as his future as a professional skateboarder seems to be slipping away, he finds support from an unlikely: famous skateboarder Tony Hawk! Okay, well…he doesn’t actually get support from Tony Hawk, but he reads a lot about his skateboarding idol.
This allows him to make decisions that will impact the rest of his life as well as consider how his girlfriend’s life is also being changed by the pregnancy.
This movie is surprisingly lighthearted for the subject matter, and the soundtrack is awesome! Learners can expect to access a lot of vocabulary related to youth, slang and, of course, skateboarding.
6. Gli infedeli (The Players)
“Gli infedeli” is a movie that’s pretty much about what the title says: it centers on a number of men who are players, each with their own story of infidelity and relationship drama.
It’s a collection of vignettes, each with its own flavor. Some of the vignettes are dramatic and intense, others sad, and there’s even humor in some of the vignettes. There are also definitely some well-known names starring in this one.
This movie is also a great way to practice romance vocabulary, and a lot of it! With each vignette focusing on its own style of a fractured relationship, learners can find words to express pretty much anything about love and betrayal in Italian.
7. Natale a 5 stelle (5 Star Christmas)
Reminiscent of “Weekend at Bernie’s,” this film follows Italian Prime Minister Franco Rispoli who goes on an official diplomatic trip to Budapest during Christmas with his secretary, Guilia Rossi.
While Franco and Giulia are engaging in “official business,” if you catch my drift, they spot a man in a Santa costume dangling from the hotel room’s window. It turns out the man’s dead, and thus begins a farce.
How can Franco and Giulia keep their scandalous relationship secret while disposing of a corpse and as their respective spouses arrive in Budapest?
This funny movie is a great one to grow love vocabulary as well as political and government vocabulary. The humor can also be a little cultural, so some of the jokes may be worth looking into.
8. L’incredibile storia dell’Isola delle Rose (Rose Island)
This film is based on the true and strange story of Giorgio Rosa, who literally built his own island off of the coast of Rimini.
Rosa started building the island in 1958. His masterpiece—more of a concrete platform than a typical, land-based island—took nearly a decade to construct.
Rosa, an engineer, provoked the ire of the Italian government when he proclaimed his island an independent state with its own ministers and Esperanto as the official language.
Shortly after the establishment of the Republic of Rose Island in May 1968, Italian police forces made their presence known upon the island. By February of 1969, the island had become but a memory. Now, nearly half a century later, it’s a legend.
9. Sulla mia pelle (On My Skin: The Last Seven Days of Stefano Cucchi)
The real-life story of Roman building surveyor Stefano Cucchi is dramatized in this dark film that was written and directed by Alessio Cremonini.
Cucchi was taken into police custody on a drug charge. While he was in custody, Cucchi died as a result of savage beating, a victim of police brutality.
The film is not only the tale of Stefano himself, but also the story of how his family fought to find the truth and bring justice to Stefano’s memory.
This work was honored with four Premi David di Donatello (David di Donatello Awards) from the Accademia del Cinema Italiano (Italian Cinema Academy), including one for Best Actor (Alessandro Borghi) and Best Début Director (Alessio Cremonini).
10. Il legame (The Binding)
Are you in the mood for a scary movie? At first glance, “Il legame” seems like your typical horror fare. But wait! It’s more than that.
While visiting her soon-to-be husband’s family in southern Italy, Emma finds out that her daughter has been “bound” to an evil spirit who wants nothing but to claim the little girl as its own.
Throw in some jump scares, creepy music and a pretty good twist at the end, and this movie is much more than just a scary flick.
This movie is also good for learning vocabulary related to family and the occult—if you’re into that sort of thing! It’s not for the faint of heart, of course, but it could give your Italian a little jolt.
11. È stata la mano di Dio (The Hand of God)
This quiet coming-of-age film, set in Naples in the 1980s, is directed by Paolo Sorrentino and is based on his own life experiences. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 78th Venice International Film Festival and several other awards.
The main character, Fabietto, is preoccupied with girls and soccer, when, halfway through the film, his family experiences a tragedy which turns his life upside down.
He’s forced to grow up quickly and reflect on how he wants to live his life moving forward.
Beside referring to the elements of life out of our control, the title also refers to the famous soccer player, Diego Maradona, and his infamous goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.
12. L’uomo senza gravità (The Man Without Gravity)
After the melancholic feels of many of the movies on this list, here is a beautiful modern day fairy tale film filled with magical realism, about a man who’s not weighed down by gravity.
Oscar is born floating and needs a special backpack to keep him on the ground. His mother and grandmother make him keep it a secret and he grows up isolated and sheltered.
Only one person finds out his secret while he’s a child, and that is his friend Agata. Once he becomes an adult, he decides to run away and share his secret with the whole world.
You’ll come across language about family relationships, friendship and fame in this film so get ready to improve your Italian vocabulary in those topics.
13. Lo spietato (The Ruthless)
Well, there needed to be at least one mafia movie in here. But just one, as there is so much Italian film has to offer beyond gangster movies!
The story follows Santo Russo and his rise to becoming a prominent mobster around the height of criminal activity in Milan during the 1980s and 1990s.
The main character is based on the real-life mafia boss Saverio Marobito, who eventually became a police informant later on in his life.
If you’re a fan of classics such as Goodfellas and Scarface, then this might be right up your alley. There will be a lot of familiar themes, but the soundtrack, the aesthetics, the acting and comedic elements will make it worth it!
14. Il filo invisibile (The Invisible Thread)
This one is a family comedy drama that follows a teenage boy, Leone, who decides to film a documentary about his two dads for a school class.
While filming his school project, there’s an unexpected turn of events and Leone’s biological parentage is brought into question.
The film shows the prejudice the family experiences and shows all the ways their family is different and the same as other families. It’s also filled with family drama and a coming-of-age aspect as Leone falls in love with a girl from his school.
If you’re in the mood for a more feel-good movie, definitely give this one a go!
15. Caffè Sospeso (Coffee for All)
While reviews of this documentary film are mixed, it provides an interesting social perspective through the lens of Italy’s coffee culture.
The premise is the Neapolitan “pay it forward” gesture in which café patrons purchase two cups of coffee—one for themselves and one for someone in need.
The movement has now spread worldwide; even Starbucks in some countries had reportedly joined in.
The documentary about random acts of kindness and caffeine takes us from Naples, where the tradition originated, all the way across the Atlantic to New York and Buenos Aires.
How to Get the Most Out of Italian Movies on Netflix in 2022
Using Italian movies is one of the most effective—and the most fun!—ways to improve your Italian.
It exposes you to the real language as spoken by natives. While movies are scripted, they tend to use language that’s less formal (and more commonly used) than what Italian language learners are exposed to in a course or textbook.
I recommend following this simple, three-step strategy to improve your Italian speaking, reading and listening skills all at once through movies.
Step Zero: Watch Clips and Shorter Videos
Okay, so there’s an extra step. Before you dive head-first into Italian movies, start smaller. Look for clips of the video you want to watch on YouTube and watch little bits of it at a time to get a grasp of the language used.
The video below is a great example of how you can do this. It actually goes into detail about the language used in a scene from L’ultimo bacio (The Last Kiss), and even breaks down the grammar, so you can learn quite a bit from just the one scene.
You can also start by checking out the movie script: some are available online to read, so try searching for a written transcript of your movie of choice and read through it slowly. Highlight unknown words and try to understand their meaning in the context that they’re being used in.
FluentU language learning program is a good companion here, as it does all of the above for you.
On FluentU, you’ll find short authentic Italian videos, like movie clips and trailers, snippets from TV shows, music videos, news segments and other content that native Italian speakers actually watch.
The videos in its curated library also include interactive subtitles. These show you the contextual definition of any word at a click and let you add it as a flashcard to your vocab lists—all without leaving the video player.
You can also take interactive and personalized quizzes to reinforce your learning, or use the flashcards to see the words you’re learning in example sentences and clips from other videos.
Plus, the program is available on iOS or Android, so you can take your learning on the go with you.
Step One: Watch with English Subtitles
When you first watch an Italian movie on Netflix, turn on those English subtitles.
You may be tempted to not have any subtitles at all, but having English subtitles allows you to get familiar with the movie and the language while having a thorough understanding of what’s going on.
So, start with the first scene (or choose a favorite scene if you know the movie already), turn on those English subtitles and follow along.
Jot down any unfamiliar or useful phrases that you might not have heard before, but don’t go totally crazy with this. The purpose of watching with English subtitles in this step is primarily to understand the movie itself.
Don’t worry, because in a second we’re going to rewind and watch that scene again!
Step Two: Watch Again with Italian Subtitles
Rewind to the beginning of the scene you just watched with English subtitles.
Now I want you to switch on the Italian subtitles. By this time, you should be familiar with what exactly is going on in this scene. This time around, you can focus fully on the Italian language being used.
Make sure to keep your notebook and pen handy in case you stumble upon more words and phrases that you don’t know or that you’d like to remember for later Italian conversations.
Step Three: Watch Again With No Subtitles
Rewind one more time and turn those subtitles off!
By this time, you should be able to recite the entire movie scene without even the help of Netflix.
Watching the scene a third time without subtitles should help you to solidify the new words and phrases you picked up on the first two watches.
You’ll be surprised to discover that the scene you initially watched—you know, the one that seemed like a jumble of random Italian sounds—is now perfectly understandable to you!
With all these Italian films so readily available, I don’t even want to wait for a rainy day! I may just go on a Netflix binge tonight. Follow suit—select a film and enjoy!