Top 5 Italian movies for all abilities

How can watching Italian movies teach you Italian from the comfort of your own home?

Learning Italian or want to learn Italian but textbooks and websites seem too hard or don’t fulfil your potential of learning? I have another alternative to learning authentic Italian which will be both an enjoyable experience and beneficial by witnessing first hand pronunciation and body language. You will feel as if you’re sitting in a coffee bar in the middle of Rome listening to different conversations!

Italian movies are an example of learning authentic Italian from the comfort of your sofa whilst eating popcorn. If you’re a movie fanatic, this will be a wonderful experience for you by watching award winning movies.

Why will Italian movies help you learn Italian?

Watching an Italian movie is perfect for visual learners, analysing the way how the actors carry the language through conversation and express their personality through their body language and mannerisms. Pronunciation of words is key to learning, pay close attention to the actors speaking and the context of the scene.

The narrative and characters are crucial to learning Italian, once you’ve figured out the genre of the movie and the overall plot, you will easily become immersed within the scene of the movie, making you gain a greater understanding of the storyline. This is the first step into your learning of authentic Italian.

Different movie genres present to you a wide range of vocabulary and context of words in different situations. For example, genres such as comedy, drama, romance; the characters will express a variety of emotions through their body language and the context of the scene will represent the conversation between the characters. This unique way of learning offers you an experience which you wouldn’t fully understand when reading a textbook or in a classroom. Interactive conversations are key to taking on a board a second language.

La Grande Belleza

How do you learn when watching an Italian movie?

I will share with you the few steps that you have to take when watching the movie:

When learning a second language or learning in general revision is essential! Like anything new that you want to learn, revising the movie will definitely improve your understanding of the overall message as well as learning the character’s role and personality.
You must re-watch the movie in order to become familiar with the language and the plot. The first time watching your chosen movie sit back, relax and enjoy the narrative.

Follow the storyline and observe the characters- put on subtitles which will present to you the words spoken and how they are pronounced by the characters during the context of the scene, is it a conversation about love or an action scene? Pay close attention to what is actually going on and what is being said, this will lay the foundations of understanding the conversation.

When watching the movie for a second time, you will have greater knowledge of the narrative and the characters. Get rid of the English subtitles and swap to Italian subtitles, listening and reading will give you a huge boost in learning. Are there words with similar spellings to English in the particular context? Make a note!

Become an active learner by taking notes by comparing the spellings and pronunciation. This will be extremely beneficial for you when revising the language.

Another vital factor for learning when watching the movie is sound! As already stated-pronunciation is key, listen carefully to how the characters talk and their facial expressions. Whilst watching the movie, don’t be afraid to talk aloud and imitate the character’s through the duration.

This will benefit your learning experience, although you will make mistakes and won’t be able to keep up with the actors; this is how you will learn due to the rhythm of the conversation. Take your time there is no rush, going at your own pace is essential for your learning.

List of Movies to watch that are great for Italian learners:

  • La vita é bella
  • Mauale d’amore
  • Mine vaganti
  • La grande bellezza
  • Perfetti sconosciuti

La vita è bella – Life is beautiful

The oscar winning film directed by Roberto Benigni is perfect for beginners due to the simplistic vocabulary and heart- warming storyline. Set in a Nazi concentration camp during the holocaust, a Jewish bookshop owner Guido and his 5-year-old son are captured by Nazi soldiers.

Guido uses his imaginative mind and fatherly shield to protect his son from the harsh reality of their current situation by creating a fictional gameshow to distract his son.

Guido tells his son they must complete a number of tasks in order to win a tank (a real-life army tank). This moving film highlights the love a father has for his son and will go to the end of the earth to protect him.

Manuale d’amore – Manual of love

Giovanni Veronesi’s romantic comedy is also great for beginners because of the simple storyline and range of body language. The multi-strand narrative records the lives of four couples who are at different stages within their relationships: Falling in love, crisis, cheating and break up.

The contrasting scenarios interestingly come together as all the characters are weirdly related to one another. If you’re a Love Actually fan, this movie is for you!

Mine Vaganti – Loose canons

Directed by Furzan Ozpetek, this complicated narrative portrays a homosexual man living a double life, recommended for those at an intermediate level. The narrative follows the life of Tommaso, son of a pasta company owner in the conservative Southern Italy; portraying the issues of homosexuality and coming out story.

Tommaso is fed up of keeping this secret from his family and is determined to come out to them at dinner. However, not everything goes to plan for Tommaso.

La Grande Bellezza – The Great Beauty

Paolo Sorrentino’s great movie won Best foreign language film at the 80th Academy awards! This complicated storyline is recommended to advanced level. The storyline follows Jep Gambardella, a costume journalist and theatre critic. He published one novel but life takes its toll on Jep in which he is stuck in a bubble where he has lost his creative mind.

Throughout the movie, Jep faces turbulent events which challenge his view on life. After facing these disturbing experiences, he bursts his uncreative bubble and attempts to write a second novel.

Perfetti Sconosciuti – Perfect Strangers

Paolo Genovese’s comedy is suitable for all abilities; this movie is actually one of the most remade movies in cinema history! The comedy drama criticizes modern technology and invasion of mobile phones. The plot surrounds seven friends at dinner, who challenge each other to share every text they receive during their evening.

Unexpectedly their dinner is filled with twists and turns, portraying the dangers of keeping secrets from one another. Exaggerated body language and stereotypical Italian behaviour is perfect for a diverse audience to gain knowledge of phrases and gestures.

Of course there are tonnes of Italian movies that you can watch in order to learn but I recommend you start off lightly with this list which will give you an insight of the Italian cinematic production as well as the representation of Italy.

So why not get cosy during this second lockdown, put one of these films on and start learning Italian! It’s never too late to learn a second language.

Raffaella Palumbo

Passionate about languages & good food. I hold a Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French, a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions and the CLTA teaching certificate. My hobby is chasing the sun around the globe. My favourite quote: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Frank Smith)

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