The Best Movies About Rome - An American in Rome (2022)

Films have always offered a kind of escapism. From vintage classics to modern cinema marvels, movies about Rome can transport you to the Eternal City from anywhere in the world.

Not only is Rome ridiculously picturesque, but the city also has a long tradition with filmmaking. It has been the set of some of Italy’s most celebrated classic films as well as providing a backdrop for thrillers and comedies that have been contemporary blockbusters.

Here are the best movies about Rome, in the order that they were made.

Ladri di Biciclette – The Bicycle Thief

Year:1948
Original language: Italian, available with English subtitles
Director:Vittorio De Sica

This classic drama tells the story of Antonio Ricci, a man who is struggling to support his family in Rome during World War II.

He finally finds work and his family makes great sacrifices to buy back his bicycle from a pawn shop because he will need in order to earn a living. Tragically, the bicycle is stolen on the first day.

He desperately sets out to search the city for his much-needed bicycle, making his way through Rome with his young son. Watch closely and you will be able to spot film locations that include Porta Portese, Piazza Vittorio, and Porta Pia.

You can find unofficial versions on YouTube or pay to stream it (or keep it forever) from Amazon. Not available on Netflix (US or Italy).

Roman Holiday

Year: 1953
Original language: English
Director: William Wyler

If you haven’t seen Roman Holiday, you have missed out on a true cinema classic. The film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck is one of the best romantic comedies ever made about the city.

The black and white movie was filmed in English, and it tells the story of a princess (Hepburn) who slips away from her chaperones while visiting Rome.Peck plays an American reporter living in the Eternal City who soon sets out to give her a tour of what makes Rome one of the most magical places in the world.

Locations you might notice are the Mouth of Truth, the Spanish Steps, and Via Marguetta – the pretty cobbled street where Peck’s character lives. Of course, they also pass by the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Colosseum, seeing Rome in a whirlwind tour from Peck’s vintage Vespa.

Unfortunately, the movie is not available on Netflix but you can rent or buy it on Amazon for instant watching.

Un Americano a Roma – An American in Rome

Year: 1954
Original language: Italian, available with English subtitles
Director: Steno

If you have no already made the connection – this blog is not named for my own nationality, it is actually a homage to Un Americano a Roma. At one point, moving to Rome felt like such an insurmountable challenge and one of the things that kept me going was this comedy from the 1950s.

In the film, Sordi (one of Italy’s greatest cinema stars) plays Ferdinando “Nando” Mericoni, an overgrown youngster who lives in Trastevere but who dreams of nothing more than becoming American. His attempts to imitate American culture often disappoint him or get him into trouble. And yet he perseveres, adopting the alter ego of Santi Bailor of Kansas City.

The movie is satire, poking fun at the belief in post-war Italy that a mythical America held all the answers.

Places you will recognize are Trastevere, Portico d’Ottavia, and the Colosseum.

Sadly, this film is currently hard to track down online but worth there is currently a pirated version on YouTube.

La Dolce Vita

Year: 1960
Original language: Italian, available with English subtitles
Director: Federico Fellini

La Dolce Vita is one of the best movies ever made about Rome because it shows the gloss of the glamour city, as well as the less desirable vices of the city. Fellini’s brilliant film tells the story of Marcello Rubini, a reporter who is dissatisfied with life in Rome and disillusioned by the richness and vulgarity he sees.

Though he should be looking after his trouble partner, Marcello is soon caught up with persuing a gorgeous movie star named Sylvia, played by Anita Ekberg. The most iconic scene is when Ekberg jumps into the Trevi Fountain with her evening gown on- an act that would get you a heavy fine these days.

Places you will recognize in the Roman movie include Via Veneto, the Trevi Fountain, Terme di Caracalla, and Parco degli Acquedotti. And for even more movie trivia – the film is where we get the word paparazzo from.

You can sometimes find pirated versions online, but unfortunately, La Dolce Vita (like most of the classic Italian movies) is not available on Netflix. You can stream or buy the film instantly on Amazon.

Un Sacco Bello (Fun is Beautiful)

Year: 1980
Original Language: Italian
Director: Carlo Verdone

A movie about the unique characters and stories you can find in Rome when the city is deserted for Ferragosto – Italy’s August 15th holiday. All of the main characters in the three storylines are played by the director, Carlo Verdone. Diehard fans of the film always carry nylons and ballpoint pens with them on the 15th of August, but you will have to watch it to find out why.

You will spot landmarks like Piramide and the Mouth of Truth as the characters move through a hot but quiet Rome.

You can find the DVD here.

Il Marchese del Grillo

Year: 1981
Original language: Italian
Director: Mario Monicelli

Il Marchese del Grillo was made in the 1980s but it depicts Rome in the early 19th century. The misbehaving nobleman at the center of the story is the Marquis Onofrio del Grillo played by Alberto Soldi. While the city is being threatened by Napoleon’s army, the Marquis keeps up his prankster ways and is known for committing sometimes cruel jokes on even the highest figures in Roman society. These pranks take a new turn when the Marquis meets a poor coalman who is his exact doppelganger.

Some of Rome’s prettiest places are featured as backdrops in the film, including Palazzo Pamphilj and Palazzo Braschi, and Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco.

You can stream or buy the movie from Amazon.

The most famous line from the movie is Io sò io, e voi non siete un cazzo. (A line which I would, at this time, like to dedicate out to the website that keeps copying all of my Rome articles word for word and passing them off as their own. Sti cazzi).

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Year: 1999
Original language: English
Director: Anthony Minghella

Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, is completely enamored by the lives of the young and rich. The problem is, he doesn’t actually belong to that society, so he has to create a persona (and commit many crimes) in order to blend in.

The film takes place in various parts of Italy, including some glorious scenes set on the island of Procida. In Rome, you will notice Piazza di Spagna, the turtle fountain, Piazza Navona, and Ponte Sant’Angelo, among others.

Finally- this one is available on Netflix! You can also stream it or buy it on Amazon.

To Rome with Love

Year: 2012
Original language: English and Italian
Director: Woody Allen

I have mixed feelings about including this film because of my feelings towards Woody Allen, but I do think that the movie does a good job of capturing some of the most gorgeous parts of Rome. The film tells four parallel love stories that are taking place in various corners of the Eternal City at the same time.

You will see lots of Trastevere because it is where some of the characters live, as well as Prati. You can also spot Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, and Piazza Navona.

You can find the Rome movie on Netflix, or rent/buy it on Amazon.

La Grande Belleza

Year: 2013
Original language: Italian
Director: Paolo Sorrentino

This is my favorite movie about Rome because it is all about the city’s immense beauty. Of course, it also highlights the ridiculousness that beauty can hide. The cinematography is stunning and the movie won the Oscar for best foreign film for good reason.

La Grande Belleza tells the story of an aging culture writer who has been caught up in Rome’s nightlife scene for years. After a milestone birthday, he starts to actually perceive the frivolousness of his life and the lives of those around him. He finds solace in the beauty of the city – both in its monuments and its hidden corners.

It is impossible to list of the Rome filming locations because there are simply too many but the movie opens on the fountain atop the Gianicolo Hill, then takes you on an unforgettable tour of the city.

You can watch La Grande Belleza on Netflix – dubbed in English or in Italian with subtitles, or rent/buy it here.

Other movies about Rome

The above list are my personal favorite films set in the Eternal City, but there are also many others that you might enjoy, including:

  • Roma Città Aperta (1945)
  • I Soliti Ignoti (1958)
  • Una Giornata Particolare (1977)
  • Caro Diario (1993)
  • Pranzo di Ferragosto (2008)

Do you have any other personal favorite films set in Rome?

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