Recommended Sicilian films list.

Recommended Film

There are scores of movies about Sicily or filmed in Sicily. In some, Sicily is the protagonist. In others it is a setting for another story. Here is a list of some films where one can see various parts of Sicily and learn more about its history, culture, and people.

This is a lovely short film that talks about some of the food traditions of Sicily. Made by Fabrizia Lanza, who runs the esteemed cooking school founded by her mother Anna Tasca Lanza, it touches on some of the best in Sicily. A film like this is a good taste of Sicily, but to be perfectly satisfied, you must go to explore, experience, and enjoy for yourself.

Sicily In Film

A Ciascuno il Suo (To each his own)
1967 Directed by Elio Petri with Gian Maria Volontè and Irene Papas
Inspired by a novel by Leonardo Sciascia, the film narrates the story of a teacher who, in what looks like a crime of passion, discovers the hand of the mafia.
Many of the scenes were shot in Cefalù. You can recognize the beautiful
Norman cathedral, the long main street, and the courtyard of the monastery, Santa Caterina. For the hunting scene, the director chose the countryside around Finale di Pollina

Caro Diario
1994 Directed by and starring Nanni Moretti.
This semi-autobiographical film, for which Nanni won Best Director at Cannes, reads like a diary and is divided into 3 episodes: In Vespa, Isole (filmed on the Aeolian Islands) and Medici.

Cinema Paradiso
Giuseppe Tornatore's 1989 Academy-Award-winning film is a romantic look at growing up in a remote village. The filmmaker returns to his Sicilian hometown, Bagheria, for the first time in 30 years and looks back on his life. A poignant classic.

Diario di Una Siciliana Ribelle
1997 Marco Amenta.
This is a documentary of Rita Atria, a 17 year-old daughter of a mafia don who gives her diaries to the authorities to avenge her father’s death. Her evidence and work with Borselino and Falcone proved extremely valuable in the exposure and convictions of many important gangsters. Bravely told, Amenta was so captivated by the story that he made a second film, The Sicilian Girl (2008) to explore Atria’s psychological and emotional journey. The rest is history. Filmed around Palermo.

Divorzio all'Italiana (Divorce, Italian Style)
Pietor Germi's 1961 comedy had Marcelo Mastroianni as a Sicilian aristocrat seeking a divorce when divorce in Italy was not legal.  Filmed in Catania. Pretty funny.

Don Giovanni In Sicilia
1967 Directed by Albert Lattuada
Filmed in Catania. This is the story of a boy who is raised and pampered by his three sisters. He adopts the persona of Don Giovanni to hide his insecurities about romance and love but then meets the love of his life.

Excellent Cadavers
2005 Documentary, Marco Turco
The name in Italian is used to describe high-profile victims of the mafia such as politicians, judges and police chiefs. Based on Alexander Stille’s book of the same name, this movie guides the viewer through important events including the assassinations of Falcone and Borselino. The remarkable photojournalist and anti-mafia activist Lettizia Battaglia (whose books are available online) plays a role in the film. Filmed around Palermo.

Ginostra
2002.
Filmed on the Aeolian Islands, in the town of the film title. Director Manuel Pradal tells the story of an FBI investigator who is sent to Italy to investigate the death of a Mafia informant.

I Cento Passi
Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, in 2000, with Luigi Lo Cascio and Luigi Burruano
The film reconstructs the story of Peppino Impastato, born at Cinisi a hundred steps from the house of Tano Badalamenti, a powerful mafia boss to whom Peppino’s father was related and for whom he worked. Young Peppino, deaf to all the admonishments, rebelled against the arrogance of Badalamenti, and for this reason in 1978 was killed.
The set was reconstructed in the places in which the events really took place at Cinisi.

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)
Luchino Visconti's 1968 film version of Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel. Set in revolutionary Sicily in the mid-1800s, the film stars Burt Lancaster as a Sicilian prince who seeks to preserve his family's aristocratic way of life in the face of Italy’s unification by Garibaldi.  Filmed in Palermo, Mondello and Ciminna.

Il Giorno della Civetta (The Day of the Owl)
1968 Directed by Damiano Damiani, with Claudia Cardinale and Franco Nero
Sciascia’s great novel inspired this film: a builder is killed and the mafia wants the crime to be dismissed as a crime of passion. This time we are in the village of Partinico, west of Palermo.

Il Postino
Michael Radford’s ultra lovely romance set in a small Italian town during the 1950s where exiled Chilean poet Pablo Nerudo has taken refuge. A shy mailman befriends the poet and uses his words, and, ultimately, the writer himself - to help him woo a woman with whom he has fallen in love. Filmed in Procida (Bay of Naples) and the Aeolian Island of Salina.

Johnny Stecchino
Wonderful 1991 comedy directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. Stecchino (toothpick) is a hapless bus driver who is believed to be a snitch for the mob. Filmed in Bagheria and Capo Mulino.

Kaos (Chaos)
Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani and released in 1984, Kaos tells four stark and really powerful tales of Sicilian life based on stories by Luigi Pirandello. Filmed with haunting and mesmerizing music around Pirandello’s hometown of Agrigento.

L'Avventura
The first half of Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece was filmed off the coast of Panarea and on the nearby island of Lisca Bianca. The film is a mystery story on the surface of a scathing examination of Italy's aristocratic classes.

L'Uomo Delle Stelle (The Star Maker)
1995, Giuseppe Tornatore
This is an affecting story from "Cinema Paradiso" director Giuseppe Tornatore about a con man from Rome who, posing as a Hollywood talent scout in post-war Sicily, travels with a movie camera to impoverished villages, promising stardom - for a fee - to gullible townspeople.

To follow the locations of L'uomo Delle Stelle (The Star Maker) you need to move from one end of Sicily to the other. One can recognize: Monterosso Almo, an old village in the heart of the Iblei Mountains, and Ragusa Ibla, the old Benedictine convent just outside Gangi, in the Madonie Mountains, and the little fishing village, Marzamemi; the rural area of Casalgiordano, also in the Madonie, near the Petralies; the Gurfa Caves, a rock settlement in the territory of Alia (Palermo province), the Morgantina archaeological area and the ruins of the village of Poggioreale, destroyed by the 1968 earthquake and today used as a setting for a lot of films. The locations included in this movie inspired Theresa Maggio’s book The Stone Boudoir.

La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles)
Luchino Visconti's 1948 adaptation of Verga's I Malavoglia, the devastating story of a fisherman's failed dream of independence. Originally a failure at the box office, the film has emerged as a classic of the neo-realistic movement.  Filmed in Aci Trezza.

Malena
2001 Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Set during WWII and filmed in Messina, this is a great story of the life of beautiful Malena, her husband’s absence, a boy’s obsession, and angry townspeople.

Nuovomondo (The Golden Door)
2006 Directed by Emanuele Crialese
It is the turn of the century and these poor illiterate farmers want to emigrate to the land of opportunity, America. This is their story, the story of old customs, courage, fears and the importance of the homeland.

Placido Rizzotto
2000 Directed by Pasquale Scimeca
With Marcello Mazzarella and Vincenzo Albanese
The historical events that inspired this director took place at Corleone, but the film was set in the small village of Isnello in the Madonie, with less than two thousand inhabitants.

Rehearsal For A Sicilian Tragedy
John Turturro’s documentary set in his ancestral city, Palermo, and the art of Sicilian puppetry that so intrigued him as a child. A wonderful exploration of the art via Mimmo Cuticchio, whose puppet theater still operates in Palermo.

Respiro
2002 Directed by Emanuele Crialese
A story of family and misunderstanding. Very entertaining. Filmed on the island of Lampedusa.

Salvatore Giuliano
1961 Directed by Francesco Rosi
While exploring the Sicilian world where politics and crime exist in a turbulent marriage, Rosi sets this film in the 1950’s western Sicily. The city of Castelvetrano, the piazzas of Montelepre, the mountains, and the small villages are scenes of the life of the Sicilian Robin Hood, Salvatore Giuliano, one of Italy’s most beloved (and handsome) criminals. This dark Neo-Realist film tells the story of how his passion for an independent Sicily brought him to be murdered at the age of 27. The story is so captivating that Mario Puzo wrote The Sicilian a dramatized version of the story in 1984. It was subsequently made into a film in 1987. An opera entitled Salvatore Giuliano by Lorenzo Ferrero premiered in Rome in 1986

Sedotta e Abbandonata (Seduced and Abandoned)
1964 Directed by Pietro Germi
With Lando Buzzanca and Stefania Sandrelli
A masterpiece of a comedy narrating the grotesque story of a beautiful girl that is, as the title says, seduced and abandoned. Set in Sciacca, this satire on Sicilian society, focuses on the importance of saving honor.

Stromboli, Terra di Dio
1950 Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini filmed this classic on the Aeolian Islands in 1949. Stromboli, Terra di Dio marked the beginning of Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman's highly publicized affair.

Tano da Morire
1997Directed by Roberta Torre
A grotesque musical about the mafia. Alongside the actors, the protagonist of the film is the noisy and colourful Vucciria market in Palermo, one of the most picturesque and authentic places in the city.

The Godfather
1972, 1974 and 1990 Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
A mafia classic with Marlon Brando as the Don Corleone. This film, a classic, redefined the gangster film genre and earned many Academy Awards. Coppola chose a lot of Sicilian locations for this trilogy. One of these was the town of Forza d’Agrò (Messina province), in the Peloritani Mountains, which becomes Corleone in the fiction: one can see areas in town and the vantage point that looks out on the Ionian coast. Another important location, used in all three parts, is the Castle of Slaves, an eighteenth-century construction near Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, the villa of an old family friend, Don Tommasino. Lastly, some scenes of The Godfather part III were filmed in Palermo, specifically on the steps of the nineteenth-century Teatro Massimo. This movie has contributed to the perpetuation of a negative image for Sicily.

The Italian Americans
2014, John Maggio Productions
The Italian Americans is John Maggio’s film about the Italian immigration experience. This four part documentary is intelligently done and while exploring how they evolved, helps to dispel many misunderstandings about Italians. It can be seen on  PBS video, purchased, or rented through Amazon.

The Orange Thief
2006 Directed by Boogie Dean (aka Aristotle Silvio), Vinnie Angel, and Artie Wilinski
The Orange Thief is an independent film. It was created from scratch, in one month, in a foreign language, with Italian and Sicilian non-actors, by first time directors in the mountains of Sicily. It was filmed entirely in Lucca-Sicula, The entire production cost less than $15,000.

The Sicilian Girl
Marco Amenta’s fictionalized story of Rita Atria’s development from devoted mafia daughter to informer.

Vulcano
1950 Directed by William Dieterle
A lesser known Neo-Realist film with a great perfomance by Anna Magnani. The film is set on the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands. Maddalena is sent home after being disgraced in Naples. She spends time with her sister and brother. When her sister is about to meet the same fate, Maddalena steps in to help.

 

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