5 Sicilian Movies You Need To Watch In Your Lifetime

Not only are these films some of the most iconic in Italian cinema, but they are all set on the island of Sicily. It goes to show that Sicilians possess a unique way of life and cultural difference which sets them apart from mainland Italy. Our top five cover the main themes of Sicily and its common stereotypes held by foreigners.

1. Baarìa

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Slang for Bagheria – this is what the townspeople of this quaint Sicilian town used to call it. A Bagheria native and now famous Italian film director, Giuseppe Tornatore glorifies Bagheria and showcases the history and family bond of those originating from his hometown. The film recounts the history of three generations of a Sicilian, peasant family during the Fascist period of Italy – Ciccio, a humble sheppard, his son Peppino who joins the Communist party and his grandson Pietro. Generation to generation we see a constant theme of love, dreams and many disappointments revolving around the community in the province of Palermo. Bagheria post WWII has grown in tourism immensely and is highlighted as the setting in many Dolce & Gabbana campaign clips with Italian actresses such as Sophia Loren and world class models such as Vittoria Ceretti and Chiara Scelsi. Definitely a must-see film and an essential for the travel bucket-list!

2. Cinema Paradiso

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This film showcases many themes of Italian society in the 1940s through to the 1980s. It demonstrates predominantly the theme of love, shown in different ways through self-discovery; and the themes of politics vs the Church, as well as an Italian society modernizing and moving out of little village towns. It uses the media and location of a cinema to demonstrate these themes which is playful way of communicating to those of all ages, as well as foreigners, the life of Italians in the time of filming.

3. The Leopard/Il Gattopardo

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The Leopard is hardly a must see as much as it is a must read. Novel turned film, The Leopard is a historical, political and cultural analysis of Italian and Sicilian ideals. Set in the era of the movement of the unification of Italy, this film displays the wealth of a Sicilian aristocratic life in the late 19th C whilst examining the end of an era of the Kingdom of Naples (The Two Sicilies (potential link to another blog post here)). It is told from the viewpoint of a Sicilian prince, Fabrizio – Prince of Salina who is an owner of large estates in the Sicilian heartland. This story is one about him deciding how and whether to embrace the new monarchy about to crush the previous one. It has become an essential historical fiction novel studied in classrooms worldwide because it delves deep into the end of the royal dynasties of other Italian city states and the beginnings of the World Wards.

4. Malena

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The top Sicilian films cannot escape one about a beautiful Sicilian women, and women in general. After the notorious quote in the Godfather trilogy, “In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.”, it makes sense why the whole town of Castelcuto is in utter admiration of one woman – Malena. This film is adored mostly for such an elegant, Italian bombshell, Monica Bellucci; but also for the scenes set in the Sicilian towns of Siracusa and Noto. If you like a simple film noir, this is a great classic to add to the list. Malena is the gossip of the town while her husband is away at war. Get a glimpse of young boy, Renato’s imagination gone wild and the gossipy dynamic of small villages in Southern Sicily during WWII, which perhaps hasn’t changed much since then…

5. Respiro/Breath

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Again, the main theme being Sicilian women, Respiro meaning Breathe focuses on the free-spirited mother of three on the island town of Lapedusa. Like Malena, we see that the small, Sicilian towns are full of gossip and unnecessary judgments. Grazia seeks to be free in her daily life, but her role is expected to be a casalinga –housewife. This leads the town to plot for her to go to a mental institution in Milan. Respiro is full of beautiful ocean scenery, island life and religious and cultural values which put pressure on a woman’s motives and role in the family, regardless of the era pre or post WWII.

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4 thoughts on “5 Sicilian Movies You Need To Watch In Your Lifetime

  1. This is awesome!!! I just had my dna done and found out I am Sicilian!!! I am learning so much about Sicilian life!!! Thank you 🙏🏽 thank you!

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