Watching movies is a great way to improve your Italian, as they not only expose you to more of the language but also to the culture. We have selected a list of the best films to learn Italian.
The only problem with watching films in to learn Italian is sometimes the language in films is much more difficult than the language used in materials that are designed to help you learn.
Films will often use more slang words and this can be difficult to understand. On the other hand you’re getting exposed to more natural dialogue which can be a bonus if your Italian is already at a higher level, but you want to start speaking like a native.
If you want to get straight to our list of best films to learn Italian then use this handy table of contents to skip on down, but if you want to hear some of our tips and tricks first then keep reading.
How To Watch A Film To Learn Italian
It’s important to remember that watching a film to help you learn a second language isn’t the same as watching a film purely for enjoyment.
If you simply switch on a complicated Italian film and sit down with your pop corn as a beginner, you’re going to barely understand a word. But don’t worry there are things you can do to make this process easier.
One of the important things to take into account is the difficult level of the film you’re watching. If the film has a complicated plot or uses a lot of technical language, then you’re going to struggle with it more than if you were simply watching a romcom.
A lot of people think that pure exposure will help them learn but it won’t. If you watch something that is too difficult and you can’t understand a word, you’re going to switch off and not really learn anything.
The best thing to do is to get it in your challenging zone. You want material that is challenging, where you have to concentrate and listen out for new words, maybe even look the odd one up. But you want to (with or without subtitles) understand the gist of what’s going on. Or you’re probably not going to learn very much at all.
Which leads onto our next issue, should you be using subtitles?
Subtitles Or No Subtitles?
Whether or not you should use subtitles when you’re trying to improve your skills in a foreign language is something that divides opinions, but we believe that it depends on the learner.
If you are an advanced learner and can pick up a lot simply by listening then for you it might be a good idea to switch off those subtitles and see how you get on without them.
If you’re an intermediate learner and you’re understanding more and more but you still struggle to hear everything then having Italian subtitles might be the answer for you. That way you can read along as you watch. Which will not only help improve your listening skills but also your reading skills at the same time as you’ll be reading quickly to follow the movie.
If you’re a beginner learner and you can’t understand anything even with the Italian subtitles on, then you might want to switch to subtitles in your own language, or check out our next tip which might be more suited for you….
Choose English Films With The Italian Audio
A really useful trick we’ve learnt if you’re finding Italian movies too difficult is to watch a film that was originally filmed in English (or a different language) and switch the audio to Italian.
Audio translations available on movies tend to be a lot simpler than the language in the original film.
That way you’re listening to the dialogue as quickly as you would if you were watching a normal Italian film but it’ll be easier to understand and you may have more success.
We have used this method time and again and it has helped with our comprehension to the point that we can start watching films in the original language with no problems.
Or Try Series Instead
The language in films often tends to be more complicated than the language used in series. So if you’re finding the film choices a bit too difficult then why not consider switching to an Italian series instead.
Our recommendation would be the Netflix series ‘Baby,’ which follows students in an elite school in Rome as they lead their public and private lives.
Baby exploded on Netflix due to its popularity so even if it doesn’t help with your Italian, it might be worth a watch anyway.
Another mention for great Italian series is Gomorrah, a series that has taken the world by storm.
We love the Wire, Narcos, The Sopranos, now it’s time to turn your attention to the crime world within Gomorrah. And see a world within Italy that you won’t have seen before.
Best Films To Learn Italian
We’ve put our choices in order of their age, so if you’re not as into old fashioned movies you can skip down the list to find something more modern.
La Dolce Vita – 1960
La Dolce Vita may be an old film but it’s a classic and probably the most famous film to come out of Italy. So if you want to learn more about Italian cinema and join in with Italian culture while you learn then this may be the film for you.
It might not be the first film you watch (depending on your current Italian level) but it should definitely feature on your list somewhere.
Cinema Paradiso – 1988
The film documents Salvatore Di Vita from a boy to a man and how by escaping worn torn Sicilia in the cinema, he began his romance with the world of cinema.
La Vida È Bella – 1998
La vida è bella is a wonderful film set in tragic circumstances. Italian Jew Guido meets and falls in love with Dora and have the perfect life, until him and his son are taken away to a concentration camp. Guido tries to use humour and pretend that being in the camp is a big game to keep his son’s spirits up.
La Grand Belleza – 2013
La Grande Belleza might be our favourite on our list of best films to learn Italian. Our protagonist Jep has lived the high life all of his life. From coming to Rome when he was 26, he was swept up into the world of beautiful women and parties, living in high society.
But after his 65th birthday he becomes trapped in himself. He can’t help but look back with sad nostalgia at the life he has led but is going and uncertainty for where the future will take him.
With this in mind, Jep tries to move beyond the parties and money to see what real beauty he can find.
If you’re going to watch any film on this list, then La Grande Belleza would definitely be our recommendation.
Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti – 2018
Our list of best film to learn Italian wouldn’t be complete without a mention from a Netflix original. Netflix are continuing to produce top quality content so of course there would be a film in Italian too for the list.
Rimetti a noi i nostri debiti is a a drama about a man who is struggling so much to pay off his own debts that he starts to work as a debt collector.
When choosing a film to watch to help you learn Italian, it’s important that you not only find an Italian film, but you check that (with or without subtitles) you can understand the gist of the dialogue and it’s something that interests you.
Choose the type of films that you would enjoy in your own language anyway and you’ll have much greater success with watching the same films to help you learn Italian.
We hope you’ve found our best films to learn Italian useful. What did you think of our selection? Are there any that you think should’ve made the cut that we’ve missed out? Let us know in the comments below.
Now that you’ve found the films you’re going to watch to improve your Italian, why not check out our recommendation of Italian graded readers and improve your reading skills as well.