Top ten films shot in Rome

While some of the following ten movies may not be the best or most important filmed on the streets of Rome, they are among the best-known to an international audience, and all have Roman sites as their backdrop

Roman Holiday

This classic 1953 romantic comedy follows a bored and sheltered princess who, after escaping her guardians to see Rome for herself, meets and falls in love with American reporter Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck. Audrey Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as the crown princess in the movie, much of which was filmed on Via Margutta near the Spanish Steps. The film launched the young Hepburn as a major international star. Her character was originally written with Elizabeth Taylor in mind but the part was offered to Hepburn after a chance occurrence during her screen test. The camera was left rolling after she gave a subdued performance, capturing her as she came to life while chatting to the film's director William Wyler.

I soliti ignoti

Three unlikely companions, a former boxer (Vittorio Gassman), an un-employed photographer (Marcello Mastroianni) and an ex-jockey (Carlo Pisacane) join forces to rob a pawn shop, guided by the advice of an experienced burglar (Totó) in Mario Monicelli’s 1958 satire. The audience follows the team around the streets of Rome including Via Nazionale. Though the heist was a flop, the movie, also known as “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” won several awards including the Italian Syndicate of Film Journalists’ Best Screenplay.

La Dolce Vita

One of the most famous and awarded films of the 1960s, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita tracks gossip journalist Marcello Rubini, played by Marcello Mastroianni, as he discovers Rome. The city he finds is a modern metropolis steeped in indulgence and pleasure. However, even with the company of an adventurous socialite (Anouk Aimée) and a Hollywood movie star (Anita Ekberg), and with the comfort of a profitable profession, Rubini can’t escape the vapid undertow of his shallow life. Helpless to escape it, he succumbs to it, giving up his dreams to be a serious writer with the thought that if his life is to be trivial, it should at least be fun. Filmed in 1960 in various locations around Rome including Via Veneto, the Trevi Fountain and Quirinal palace, the movie displayed some of the city’s treasures and vanities. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 and the following year was named Best Foreign Language Film by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Roma

Fellini’s 1972 film opens with a classic Roman traffic jam and proceeds in a similarly chaotic manner throughout the rest of the movie, following the loose story of a young man named Fellini who leaves his home in Rimini to discover himself in Rome. The partially autobiographical film also challenges Rome’s dual nature as a sacred and secular place through the protagonist’s encounters with a crazy boarding house, a prostitute, and a Catholic fashion show. Though criticised by some for its seeming lack of plot and over-the-top theatrics, the film won the Cannes Film Festival’s Technical Grand Prize in 1972 and the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics’ Best Foreign Film award in 1973.

Belly of an Architect

Directed by Peter Greenaway, this 1987 movie was filmed at Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon among other locations in Rome, perhaps chosen for their relevance to the overall theme that shaped the story. American architect Stourley Kracklite (Brian Dennehy) travels to Rome to open an exhibit on the 18th century French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée, famous for his spherical designs. Soon after his arrival Stourley begins to suffer from stomach pains. Over the course of nine months he becomes obsessed with his problems and loses his neglected, pregnant wife (Chloe Webb) to another man before losing his own life.

Caro Diario

In this 1993 film Director Nanni Moretti plays himself riding around Italy on his motor-scooter in pursuit of a place to finish his new movie. His journey is divided into three parts during which he explores the streets of Rome and the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Calabria. The film acts not only as a revealing, yet comical, personal diary hashing out the meaning of life and death amid a battle with a cancer-related skin rash, but also as a commentary on contemporary Italy. In 1994 Moretti won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for his work.

The Talented Mr Ripley

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Anthony Minghella's multi-Oscar winning psychological thriller, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett follows the story of Tom Ripley (Damon), a brilliant, charismatic psychopath who encounters Dickie Greenleaf (Law) and his girlfriend Marge (Paltrow) who have escaped to Italy to live leisurely off Greenleaf’s father’s money. Greenleaf’s father employs Ripley to bring his son home but after a while envy gets the best of Ripley who murders Greenleaf and subsequently assumes his identity. Filmed in 1999, the movie was shot in both New York and Italy, with well-known locations such as Piazza Navona, the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Hill making appearances.

Angels and Demons

Ron Howard directs this 2009 film based on Dan Brown’s novel in which Harvard symbologist (Tom Hanks) tries to decode the mystery surrounding a murder in order to foil a terrorist plot against the Vatican. This sequel to The DaVinci Code has scenes in the Pantheon, the Biblioteca Angelica, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, and in St Peter’s Basilica. The film was nominated for Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film at the 2009 Art Directors Guild.

To Rome with Love

Written and directed by Woody Allen, this light-hearted story was slated by the critics who accused Allen of littering it with out-dated clichés reminiscent of Rome's status in the 1960s as “Hollywood on the Tiber.” Told in four separate vignettes, the movie follows the lives of a number of visitors and residents of Rome and their romances, adventures and predicaments. Despite the picture-postcard tribute to the Eternal City and the big cast (Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Roberto Benigni) the film was seen as a failure, particularly as it came immediately after Allen's celebrated Midnight in Paris. During filming in 2012 Allen was regularly spotted around the centre of Rome, invariably wearing his floppy fisherman's hat.

La Grande Bellezza

This 2013 film, directed by Paolo Sorrentino follows the one-hit novelist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) as he parties his way through life, riding out the glory of his one great success until reality strikes him on his 65th birthday. Realising his life has blown by, Jep begins to look beyond the nightclub scene in search of the lost depth and beauty within himself and Rome. Some of the beauties displayed in the film include Terme di Caracalla, Parco degli Acquedotti, Villa Medici and Palazzo Barberini. The film won several silver ribbons and Best Cinematography in Italy’s Golden Globes.

Sarah Barchus