5 Top Italian Comedies of All Time

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5 Top Italian Comedies of All Time

Italian cinema is one of the most successful from Europe. With big names such as Mario Monicelli, Antonio Albanese or Roberto Benigni, its tradition dates back from the beginning of the twentieth century; it reached its climax with the “Commedia all'italiana.” In the 1960s the Italian film industry produced many brilliant comedies, with some common traits like satire of manners and a prevailing middle-class setting, often characterized by a substantial background of sadness that would dilute the comic content. These are five Italian comedies nobody should miss.

Big Deal on Madonna Street (I soliti ignoti) - 1958

Directed by Mario Monicelli, this is a comedic crime film considered to be among the masterpieces of Italian cinema. Its original title translates as "the usual unknown persons," a journalistic and bureaucratic euphemism for "unidentified criminals" in Italy. The film is a comedy about a group of small-time thieves and ne'er-do-wells who bungle an attempt to burglarize a state-run pawn shop called Monte di Pietà in Rome. Two remakes of the movie were shot in the USA: Louis Malle’s 1984 Crackers (set in San Francisco), and the 2002 film by Anthony and Joe Russo, Welcome to Collinwood (set in Cleveland). The Malle film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 31st Academy Awards.

The Great War (La grande guerra) - 1959

Directed by Mario Monicelli, the film tells the story of an odd duo of army friends in World War I, united in their lack of idealism and their desire to avoid any danger and get out of the war unscathed. The movie included Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman in the cast. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was an Academy Award nominee as Best Foreign Film. In 1999 the critics of Ciak magazine chose it as one of the 100 most important films in history.

La Dolce Vita - 1960

A masterpiece by Federico Fellini, La Dolce Vita is a comedic drama starring Marcello Mastroianni as a playboy journalist spending his life surrounded by celebrities and society’s elite. He pursues a gorgeous actress and is totally charmed by her feminine guile. Fellini had a unique gift for abstract symbolism, which shaped his later movies. La Dolce Vita is a chronicle of a decadent society where there are no values except alcohol and the pursuit of sex, and no solution to the debauchery except suicide. The film won a Golden Palm at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Costumes.

The Cop in Blue Jeans (Squadra antiscippo) - 1976

Directed by Bruno Corbucci, this is an Italian "poliziottesco," a comedy about a police agent who scoots around Rome on his motorbike to hunt criminals. The film obtained a great commercial success in its homeland and generated a film series consisting of eleven chapters, all starring Tomas Milian as Inspector Nico Giraldi.

Whatsoeverly (Qualunquemente) - 2011

Directed by Giulio Manfredonia, Whatsoeverly shines the light of laughter onto the darkest political secrets. This seedy world is the perfect home for Cetto La Qualunque, a clumsy, careless politician who makes big mistakes in pursuit of bigger dreams. His story is a comedic one, but it’s also a little scary as you have to wonder: Are all of our elected leaders as foolish as Cetto? Whatsorverly was a box office hit in Italy, earning $7.4 million in its opening weekend. Critics have drawn comparisons between the main character and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, particularly regarding his contemporary sex scandals.

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