Today we will talk about some Italian comedies you need to watch not only for the sake of historical importance but because they are hilarious.
As you will notice, Italy has given the world a number of comedians such as Totò, Ugo Tognazzi, Massimo Troisi, Oscar-Winner Robert Benigni, and more modern artists like Carlo Verdone, who have been Italian comedy’s primer movers.
Also, there are plenty of Italian romantic comedies proving that Italy masters the art of successfully mixing romance and laughs.
Let us not forget the cinepanettoni, which are those movies, mostly funny ones, released annually during Christmas time.
And then, let us say “lights, camera, action”… in chronological order, not before turning on captions in case you still feel a little insecure.
If you have the time (and the patience), we recommend you first watch it with captions in Italian, then in English (so not only do you learn Italian but improve your own native language, which can be fun because you may find inaccuracies in the translation).
And, last but not least… take the captions off for a total immersion!
AMICI MIEI (MY FRIENDS, 1975)
An original project by Pietro Germi, who did not live long enough to complete it, in fact, it takes its title from Germi’s farewell words:
Amici miei, ci vedremo, io me ne vado (My friends, we’ll meet again, I’m leaving).
This forefather of modern Italian comedies was ultimately directed by Mario Monicelli, which is why you can read in the film beginning Un film di Pietro Germi (A film by Pietro Germi) before the credits show Regia di Mario Monicelli (Directed by Mario Monicelli).
Amici miei is the cornerstone of a series of movies including the 2011 prequel Amici miei: come tutto ebbe inizio (How It All Began), besides the sequels Atto II (1982) and Atto III (1985).
It is about the lives and mishaps of five Florentian 50+-year-old friends, bringing upon actions that flutter between the laughs and the tears, as Amici miei is a Neo-Realist commedia all’italiana (comedy Italian style).
The film stars comedy giant Ugo Tognazzi, along with Phillippe Noiret, Olga Karlatos, and others. It was a smash hit, earning 7,572,000,000 lire during the 1975-76 season.
RICOMINCIO DA TRE (I’M STARTING FROM THREE, 1981)
Ricomincio da tre was starred and directed by Massimo Troisi, whom we remember internationally for the critically acclaimed masterpiece Il postino (The Postman, 1994). It is worth noting that the movie is spoken nearly thoroughly in Neapolitan dialect.
This was Troisi’s debut both as an actor and director and was well-received by moviegoers and film critics.
This is interesting, as the movie’s premiere took place in Messina, at a time when no other cinemas were interested in showing it.
People went crazy about the movie, and this craze spread to the rest of the country, making Ricomincio da tre the absolute 1980-81’s blockbuster. It was also awarded with several prizes.
This is the story of Gaetano, a shy but nice young man from Naples who moves to Florence in search of new experiences.
His adventures get tangled with those of others around him.
The movie turned Troisi into an instant star. The actor quit theater and launched a successful career, only interrupted by his untimely death in 1994.
IL MARCHESE DEL GRILLO (THE MARQUIS OF GRILLO, 1981)
This film was directed by Mario Monicelli, one of the Italian masters of moviemaking and comedy. And it features Alberto Sordi, one of the greatest Italian actors.
It is a historical comedy placed in Rome, in 1809 in which we follow the adventures of Marquis, prankster and in some way social rebel Onofrio del Grillo (Sordi), whose pranks tend to be a nuisance for his aristocratic and aloof family.
The movie character is based on a real papal gentleman who lived between 1714 and 1787.
As a curiosity, the phrase “Sor Marchese, è l’ora” (Sor Marquis, it is time), which is muttered by one of the characters while taken to the gallows, can be found on Alberto Sordi’s tombstone.
The cast includes Sordi, Paolo Stoppa, Caroline Berg and more.
NON CI RESTA CHE PIANGERE (NOTHING LEFT TO DO BUT CRY, 1984)
This 1984 sci-fi comedy was written, directed, and starred by Roberto Benigni and Massimo Troisi.
It is the only collaboration between both artists and has two versions, one for the big screen and the other for television.
The cinema version lasts 107 minutes, while the TV version is somewhat longer, clocking in at 145 minutes.
This is interesting, as it reminds us of historical paradoxes that can be the consequence of time travel.
The plot deals with time travel and the possibility that, based on very personal reasons, the two protagonists, coming from our era, prevent Christopher Columbus from ever traveling to the Americas.
JOHNNY STECCHINO (1991)
Another film directed and starred by Roberto Benigni, does not revolve around time traveling but mistaken identities that can get your life endangered if one is mistaken for a mobster who has betrayed Mafia.
At the same time, it delivers some social comment. A homonymous novel based on the film was also published in 1991. The film features Benigni’s wife, Nicoletta Braschi, as in many other productions including La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful).
At the time of its release, the film was financially successful regardless of the fact that critics were not as enthusiastic as the moviegoers.
It would gain a cult following over the years and it was back then the greatest Italian box-office hit of all time.
VIAGGI DI NOZZE (HONEYMOONS, 1995)
This black comedy, divided into episodes, tells the stories of three couples of honeymooning newlyweds and develops as it shows how evil and absurd people, including relatives and friends, can get to be, and to what extent the worst enemy of marriage is ourselves.
The action takes place in several locations, among which Venice, Rome, and others. The film is directed and starred by Carlo Verdone, who performs four different roles.
IL CICLONE (THE CYCLONE, 1996)
Directed and starring Leonardo Pieraccioni, this romantic comedy unfolds in the Tuscan countryside, where it can be assured that love is the air to shake the protagonist’s routine and whole life thanks to a road sign that had dropped on the floor, enabling a collision between worlds to happen.
In the cast, there are actors from Latin America such as the Colombian artist Lorena Forteza and some other Spanish performers.
The movie was awarded several prizes, especially for Barbara Enrichi (who plays the role of a closeted lesbian) and Leonardo Pieraccioni.
TRE UOMINI E UNA GAMBA (THREE MEN AND A LEG, 1997)
One more from our list of Italian comedies, this road movie is directed by the comedic troupe comprised of Aldo, Giovanni, and Giacomo plus Massimo Venier.
It is about the adventures of three friends who travel Southwards for a wedding while bringing the wooden leg that gives the movie its title; and how the lady they help and befriend along the way makes them question the real reasons for the trip.
It is the cinematographic debut of Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo.
MANUALE D’AMORE (MANUAL OF LOVE, 2005)
Directed by Giovanni Veronesi, the film is subdivided into four episodes.
Some of its stars are Carlo Verdone, Luciana Littizzetto, Silvio Muccino, Sergio Rubini, and Margherita Buy. The film goes through several stages of romantic love, from falling for someone to betrayal and abandonment.
SI PUÒ FARE (IT CAN BE DONE, 2008)
Directed by Giulio Manfredona; this film deals with mental health and disability upon the passing of the Basaglia Law in 1978.
In fact, the actions were set in 1983, when cooperatives were formed to give mental patients access to work. It was starred by Claudio Bisio and received several awards.
Finally, if you are looking for an Italian comedy on Netflix, we recommend titles as Benvenuti al sud, L’amore è eterno finché dura, La pazza gioia and Nessuno mi può giudicare. Just sign up to Nextflix… and don’t forget about the captions!