Imagine going to a party and speaking like Fred Astaire or Jackie O.
If it wasn’t a Halloween party, you’d probably get carted away pretty quickly.
So why would you focus your Italian learning on films made decades ago?
Any Italian culture or language lover has laughed with Benigni, cried with Fellini and gotten the creeps with Argento, but there’s only one problem with the golden age of Italian cinema: it’s over.
And it’s been over for a while.
The best way to get at the heart of modern Italian culture through the lens of a camera is to explore the world of Italian short films. Our list of Italian short films with English subtitles will take your skills to street level and show you how modern Italians are using their language.
The Big Benefits of Bite-sized Italian Short Films with English Subtitles
We all know how it feels to burn out after an hour of trying to understand what every character on the screen is saying. It can make an otherwise great movie seem like a complete drag.
But there’s no need to ruin your favorite Italian classics. If you’re not quite ready to watch a feature-length film, trying short films instead is the perfect solution.
Here are some of the benefits of watching Italian short films with English subtitles:
- Straight to the point: Short films cover just one topic and the stories are usually linear. This makes it much easier to follow along without getting lost.
- Fewer faces: In short films, there are only a few characters (sometimes just one) to get to know. This allows you to focus on the story and the language instead of wondering “who’s that guy again?” the whole time.
- Conversational: Short films in Italian are known to offer a more raw, less scripted form of Italian than highly produced features. This makes for a more immersive and effective learning experience.
- Non-commercial: Full-length features are full of product placements and stereotypes that don’t define normal Italians. Short films in Italian aren’t bound by these restrictions and provide a glimpse into real, street-level Italian.
Can’t Get Enough Italian Videos with Subtitles? Here’s How to Find More
The short films in Italian on this list are great, but they’re not the only videos out there that can help you learn Italian. If you love these films, check out these resources for more thrills, adventure and romance in Italian.
- YouTube: YouTube is full of excellent Italian language learning resources. In fact, many of the short films on this list are available on YouTube. YouTube is also full of Italian lessons, documentaries, music videos and more. A quick search is all it takes!
- FluentU: FluentU takes subtitled Italian learning to a whole new level. On FluentU, you can watch authentic Italian videos—like movie trailers and clips, funny commercials, inspiring speeches and more—that’ve been supercharged with language learning tools.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. Click any unfamiliar word and the video will automatically pause to show you an in-context definition, grammar info and memorable picture. There are also professionally translated English captions you can toggle on or off.
When you’re done watching, there are flashcards and fun quizzes to make sure you remember what you’ve learned.
It’s the perfect way to absorb real-world Italian language and culture, without ever worrying about missing a word.
- Netflix: Netflix is an Italian sensation just as much as an American one. There are even Netflix exclusives produced in Italy! To access Netflix content in Italian with subtitles, simply select the language option when choosing a show and switch to Italian.
If you go into your account options and switch your default language, you can transform the entire platform into Italian.
- Docums.it: This website has collected Italian documentaries from all over the web and put them in one convenient place. From natural science to history, this site has documentaries on just about everything. Be warned, some of these films don’t have subtitles.
Breve ma Bello (Short but Sweet): 8 Italian Short Films with English Subtitles
Silenzio! (Quiet!) It’s time to start our marathon of Italian short films with English subtitles!
Remember to write down any new words with their translations as you watch! We’ll tell you what to keep your ears open for.
“Il Supplente” (“The Substitute”)
Nominated for an Oscar in 2008, “Il Supplente” is one of the most famous shorts in all of Italy. It’s the story of a normal day at a Roman school… until a not-so-normal teacher steps in. Hilarity and antics ensue until the substitute has to make a difficult choice.
The language in “Il Supplente” is quick, witty and full of emotion. It’s not too easy to grasp, but one thing that we can take from it is all of the great exclamations used in a high school classroom. Silenzio! (Be Quiet!) Stai zitta! (Shut up!) Siediti! (Sit down!) Fa Schifo! (Gross!)
Exclamations are a big part of Italian. Try to find all of these and more in this popular short film.
Much less a story and more of an ode to the southern region of Puglia, “Armonia” takes us on a beautiful ride through one of Italy’s most beautiful provinces. The narrator, a woman who calls the region her home, speaks of how the locals live their life and how she’s come to appreciate her motherland.
“Armonia” is a slow, landscape-driven film with language that’s easy to understand. Those who’ve just covered the present simple will appreciate this film, as it’s the tense used throughout. The narrator also speaks quite slowly and with long pauses, making this a great choice for beginners.
“Il Premio” (“The Prize”)
A true story, this Italian short film captures the hope and frustration that modern Italian youth feel. A group of students have just won a prize for a brilliant invention, but now, as a result of the system, they’re faced with the fact that a small trophy may be the only thing that comes of their hard work.
Listen for the use of the second person plural in this film, which doesn’t exactly exist in English but can translate to “you (all).” This can be tough to remember to use when speaking Italian, and there are some good examples of it throughout this film.
Listen for some of these phrases:
“Se volete il mio consiglio…” (“If you want my advice…”)
“Alla vostra età è molto importante…” (“At your age, it’s really important…”)
“…per cui dovrei consegnarvi questo biglietto?” (“…why I should give you this card?”)
If you need a bit more help, study up on the voi form and verb conjugations here.
Don’t leave to grab popcorn or you might miss this one. Clocking in at just two minutes, this micro film captures a sweet moment between a woman in crisis and her admirer.
Easy-to-understand present tense phrases are used in this film and words are spoken slowly and clearly. Not only that, but most of the verb phrases contain subject pronouns—io, tu, lui/lei… (I, you, he/she…)—which is uncommon in day-to-day Italian but great for new speakers.
Also, note the use of the imperative. The title, “Decida,” is a verb in the imperative (meaning it’s giving a command). See if you can pick up on other verbs in the imperative (hint: there’s one at the very beginning).
Warning: Contains violence
Who says short films have to be all touchy feely? Tommy is the story of a hitman in the present and the past. Why does this hitman do what he does, and how did he get this way?
Both action-packed and reflective, “Tommy” delivers on two fronts.
“Tommy” provides Italian learners with a great look at past tenses in Italian. As he describes his childhood and upbringing, we can hear a varied mix of passato prossimo (past simple) and imperfetto (imperfect). From the beginning we can hear examples of both, side by side:
“ero diverso…” (“I was different…”)
“É stato in quel preciso momento…” (“It was in that very moment…”)
Learning how and when to use these similar past tenses takes time, and this film is an action-packed way to practice. If you’re not familiar with these tenses, they’re worth taking a look at.
The title “Notte Sento” is a play on words. It combines the words notte (night) and sento (I hear) in a way that sounds similar to the phrase non ti sento (I can’t hear you).
Why? Because the main character is deaf. Confronted with a night alone in Rome, she has a chance encounter with a local and embarks on an adventure through the city.
Maybe the most touching film on this list, “Notte Sento” is also the easiest to understand. The film is largely without dialogue—as the characters scratch notes to one another, the words in Italian scribble across the screen.
Having both English and Italian subtitles along with some very simple phrases makes this a great Italian short film for absolute beginners.
Warning: Contains violence and adult themes
“Angelika” is the story of a desperate woman looking for her little sister among the seediest of sorts. Where has the girl gone and how far will her sister have to go to get her back? Definitely not a film for the faint of heart, “Angelika” is a miniature thriller full of twists and turns.
“Angelika” is the crudest and most raw film on this list. Those looking for parolacce (curse words) will surely find them, but they may be difficult to decipher between the slang and quick speech. Those looking for an easier language boost can focus on the questions. Most of the film revolves around interrogations, so a lot of questions fly by.
Listen for the basics: Chi sei? (Who are you?) Cosa vuoi? (What do you want?) Te la ricordi? (Do you remember?)
Once you can identify these, use the English subtitles to help you piece together more questions in Italian.
“Rosso Ribes” (“Red Currant”)
“Rosso Ribes” is the story of a professor who seems to have everything on her plate at once. She’s a shy woman who wants more from life but can’t seem to find it. Full of love, loneliness and ambition, this film will surely stick with you.
As the longest and most complex Italian short film on this list, “Rosso Ribes” is ideal for more advanced learners. Upper-level verb tenses such as the condizionale (conditional) and congiuntivo (subjunctive) are used throughout, as are idiomatic expressions.
Learners who are ready will find this a treasure trove of humor and complex conversational Italian, while those less experienced can enjoy the story and listen for greetings and formal Italian verb forms.
Italian Short Films with English Subtitles Deliver Lessons in Seconds
Who needs their eyes plastered to the screen for two whole hours to learn some new words and phrases? We all know that great things come in small packages, so grab your pocket dictionary, tiny popcorn and a small screen (a phone will do!) and turn down the lights.
Italian short films with English subtitles deliver relevant Italian hot, fresh and just how we like it. And the best part? You can watch these films anytime. Even if you’ve only got a few minutes to spare, there’s a short film in Italian out there waiting.
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