Now that the holidays are coming at ludicrous speed, in this article we’ll be walking you through Italian Christmas movies. We’ll mention some that have been filmed even more than once, while others are animated or can be a bit grotesque.
Here it is important to stress that many Italian Christmas films fall into the so-called cinepanettone genre (panettone is Italy’s typical Christmas bread), but not all of them are up to the task of qualifying as good cinepanettone, or at least good cinema. Even though we have nothing against slapstick humour, truth is that most modern cinepanettone productions leave much to desire when it comes to quality, and can even be simply gross or vulgar, while perhaps not representing the “Christmas spirit” quite well.
So, here you are a list of Italian Christmas films to be considered the most representative of their genre.
NATALE IN CASA CUPIELLO (1962, 1977, 2020)
Directed by Edoardo De Angelis (2020)
Subject by Eduardo De Filippo
In the 2020’s version of one of the best-known and most important Italian Christmas movies, Luca Cupiello is obsessed with Christmas preparations every year. However, he is not precisely supported by his wife Concetta, his brother Pasqualino or his rather idle son Tomassino, who at all times states he does not like the Christmas crib his dad is working on.
Things are bound to become complicated when Luca’s daughter Ninuccia comes home along with her husband, rich businessman Nicola. Ninuccia is not truly in love with her husband and has written a letter through which she intends to leave him for Vittorio Elia, her lover.
It turns out, Ninuccia’s lover is also a good friend of Tomassino’s. Concetta is aware of her daughter’s intentions, while Luca is not. Ninuccia loses the letter upon a little accident stumbling upon the Christmas crib her father has taken so much care of; Luca retrieves the letter and, not knowing a thing, hands it down to Nicola.
Vittorio is invited by Tomassino to Christmas Eve’s dinner. Concetta asks the young man to leave but, unaware of the situation, Luca will insist that Vittorio stays. Nicola catches his wife and her lover in an instant of tenderness. He kicks the lovers out of the house and accuses the mother of being an accomplice.
Luca finds out about his daughter’s situation and after realizing he had created a family far from perfect, suffers a stroke. He has hallucinations and, according to his physician, his chance to recover is slim. Now Tomassino has a new perspective on life and, when asked by his father his opinion on the Christmas crib, ultimately answers he likes it.
VACANZE D’INVERNO (1959)
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
Considered among the best Christmas movies in Italy, it premiered in 1959. Its action takes place in the winter holiday town Cortina d’Ampezzo, very much appreciated by skiers. The characters are accountant Moretti, who gets to this town with his daughter Titti as a result of a TV contest she has won. Plenty of funny shenanigans ensue among several characters during this wintertime.
PARENTI SEPENTI (1992)
Directed by Mario Monicelli
In one of the Italian Christmas movies under review, we see through the eyes of Mauro, son of Lina and Michele, the story of an elderly couple from Sulmona, Abruzzo, Central Italy, which invites all their children and grandchildren for the Christmas holidays.
They spend a day in religious services and playing bingo at home; then the grandmother inquires about her four children, two men and two women, who will take her and the grandfather under their care as they are becoming older. Although these sons and daughters are initially ecstatic to hear about having their parents for a longer time, taking responsibility for their care did not look like such a pleasant thing.
Family secrets –including infidelities and the discovery that one of the siblings is a closeted homosexual– come to the surface along with their secret during sour arguments on who is keeping the folks.
Since the grandparents have been adamant in their refusal to end up in a retirement home (after they had personally explored one), the four siblings decide to kill their parents and make it look like a domestic accident. Later, when back to school, Mauro tells his class about his Christmas holidays and, inadvertently, reveals how his grandparents were murdered, getting his own parents and uncles, and aunts indicted.
Directed by Enzo D’Alò
This is an animated movie. The action takes place in Naples. Little Rocco is afraid his brother Francesco’s upcoming birth will steal his parents’ attention, depriving him of love. Satan wants to take advantage of Rocco’s ongoing feelings and sends three rather whimsical devils (Farfaricchio, Scarapino, and Astarotte) to make Rocco believe that if he prevents Baby Jesus’ birth, he will also impede his little brother’s birth. What he is told to do is break in the Christmas crib to stop the Virgin Mary and Joseph from getting to Bethelem.
In order to enter the crib, Rocco needs to pronounce the magic word Opopomoz. However, Rocco’s little cousin Sara follows him and is able to get him aware that he is being used by Satan. Rocco understands that he is doing wrong, but Satan hypnotizes the children so they resume and complete the mission. Nonetheless, a song comes up to send the Devil away, thereby saving Christmas.
We hope this short review of Italian Christmas movies will encourage you to go and find them. They are not only Christmas movies. They are also good cinemas.