45 Best American Italian Movies: Top Italian-American Films & Shows

As An American Who Lives In Italy And Loves Films And Shows Set In Italy As Well As Films About Italians - Here Is A Collection Of Some Of My Favorite Classic, Romance, Drama And Mafia Films

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Are you looking for the best American Italian movies?      You’re in luck.   As an American living in Italy who loves great Italian movies, I will share some of the greatest Italian films and TV shows made by American and Italian filmmakers.  

Together we will cover the best movies set in gorgeous Italian locations like Rome, Venice, Sicily, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast.  

In the United States, we will explore films shot in iconic locations like New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Chicago.

We will discuss actors and actresses who have won numerous awards in film, such as Academy Awards and Emmys, for portraying memorable characters in these movies.

If you’re a fan of great Italian American actors like Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro, Sophia Loren, Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, and Robert Duvall, you will love this list of my favorite American Italian movies set in Italy and the United States.

Best Epic Drama Films Set In Italy


This fantastic film is one of my all-time favorites.  

The brilliant Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe who portrays Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius.  

Besides being the second highest-grossing film of 2000, Gladiator was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 5, including Best Actor to Russell Crowe, and Best Picture.

The cast included Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, and, in his final role, the remarkable Oliver Reed who portrayed Julius Ceaser.

Hans Zimmer was also nominated for an Oscar for the original score he composed for the film.  

Set in the year AD 180, during the height of the Roman Empire, Gladiator is perhaps the most epic tale of revenge ever portrayed on the silver screen.  

Watch Gladiator on Amazon Prime here.

Angels & Demons

Ron Howard is the brilliant director of this 2009 mystery thriller, which is the sequel to Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.  

Tom Hanks stars as Professor Robert Langdon who is trying to solve the case of the kidnapped cardinals who have been taken from the Vatican to a secret location in Rome, Italy by an Illuminati terrorist.  

The cast includes Ewan McGregor as Father Patrick McKenna and Ayelet Zurer as Dr. Vittoria Vetra.  

Besides the excellent cast, Hans Zimmer wrote the score for the film.   Due to its portrayal of the Catholic Church, the film was banned in certain locations.  

You can watch the film on Amazon Prime.

The Two Popes

Set in Vatican City and based on a true story, this Netflix film covers the story of Pope Benedict XVI, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, and the future Pope Francis played by Jonathan Pryce.  

This 2019 film and its actors were nominated for numerous awards, including Golden Globes and British Academy Film Awards.  

To watch the film sign in or sign up for Netflix here.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

This wild that this deliciously dark and twisted psychological thriller came out in 1999, more than a quarter century ago. 

Nominated for three Academy Awards, the all-star cast includes Matt Damon, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who were all still at the beginning of their careers.  

This film is set in 1950s Italy and is a dazzling feast for the eyes.  

This is easily Matt Damon’s darkest role and watching the film is an emotional rollercoaster between hoping Damon’s Tom Ripley does or doesn’t get caught in his devious ways.  

I recently watched Netflix’s Ripley remake of this classic and it’s an even deeper dive into this dark world of murder and deception.  

Watch The Talented Mr. Ripley on Amazon Prime.

Ocean’s 12

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Ocean’s Twelve is the 2nd film in the Ocean’s trilogy and has some of the most beautiful scenes shot on location in Northern Italy.  

The villa on Lake Come from the film, in the city of Laglio, is actually owned by George Clooney.  

The main character of the film, Danny Ocean is portrayed by George Clooney along with an incredible cast of his real-life actor friends including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Scott Caan Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, and Casey Affleck.  

Watch this thrilling American film, set in both Northern and Southern Italy, on Amazon Prime. 

Room With A View

While Room With A View is technically a British film adapted from E. M. Forester’s 1908 romantic novel by the same name, Americans have considered it to be a favorite since the film’s premiere in 1985.  

Set in both Italy and England, this film has a cast that is truly remarkable.  

Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Judi Dench round out one of the most talented casts ever assembled.  

Room With A View was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 3, along with multiple British Academy Film Awards and Golden Globe Awards.  

If you’ve never seen this classic film, treat yourself to it today on Prime.

Best American Italian Romance Films

Under The Tuscan Sun

Of all the films on this list, Under The Tuscan Sun might just be the most iconic Italian American film since Roman Holiday.  

In Diane Lane’s most famous role, she portrays author Frances Mayes, a recently divorced middle-aged woman who unexpectedly falls in love with a dilapidated Tuscan villa.  

In 2023 this delightful romantic comedy-drama celebrated its 20-year anniversary.  

This is one of those films you can watch again and again but it never gets old.  

Escape to Tuscany by watching this beautiful film today on Amazon Prime.

Roman Holiday

Speaking of Roman Holiday, nothing says Italian American romance like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on a Vespa in Rome.  

This was the film that launched Audrey Hepburn into international stardom when she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her brilliant portrayal of a European princess.  

The costumes and iconic Roman locations make this classic 1953 film really pop off the silver screen.  

If, for some reason, you have never seen this classic Italian American movie, grab a bowl of popcorn and watch it on Amazon Prime tonight.

Letters To Juliet 

If you’re not into slightly sappy American Italian romance films, this 2010 “chick flick” starring Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, and Vanessa Redgrave might not be for you.  

The city of Verona, which happens to be a short drive from where I live in Italy, is the set for this film based on a mystical letter-writing phenomenon that involves one of William Shakespeare’s most famous female characters – Juliet.  

Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime.

Eat, Pray, Love

Although the only chapter of this 2010 American Italian film that’s set in Italy is the “Eat” chapter, no one makes pizza, pasta, and wine look better than Julia Roberts, as Elizabeth Gilbert, in this delightful biographical romantic drama.  

Based on Gilbert’s memoir of the same name, the film was not a critic’s favorite but audiences loved it.  

Ryan Murphy was a co-writer and director of this film which turned out to be a financial success grossing over $200 million dollars worldwide.  

Watch it for the first or indulge again by renting or buying it on Amazon.

Call Me By Your Name

This is probably the most controversial film on this list of American Italian films.  

A coming of age drama, set in Nothern Italy in 1983, where 17-year-old Elio Perlman falls in love with his professor father’s 24-year-old graduate student research assistant Oliver.  

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer make the most unexpected romantic duo.  

No matter how you feel about this film, one cannot deny that it is beautifully filmed, the acting is superb, and the soundtrack is sublime.

Sufjan Stevens wrote and performed three original songs for this stereotype-breaking movie that was shot on 35 mm film rather than the more modern digital filmmaking.

Watch this award-winning film on Amazon Prime.

To Rome With Love

This unusual 2012 romantic comedy was written by Woody Allen.  

Woody Allen also has a role in the film.  

As the name would suggest, the film is set in Rome and features a dynamic cast.  

If you’re not a Woody Allen fan, this quirky American Italian film may not be for you, but if you’re up for something new watch it on Amazon Prime and take a trip to Rome with Woody.

Best American Italian Crime Films

The Godfather

The is no more truly American Italian film than Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.  

Based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel, published in 1969, the film premiered three years later in 1972.  

Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton are the incredible lead actors in this all-star cast.  

If for some reason you have never seen what is one of the greatest films on Italian Americans culture, from the organized crime mafia world, it is absolutely worth watching.  

Nominated for ten Academy Awards, The Godfather won three Oscars including Best Picture, and was a commercial success as, for a time, it was the highest-grossing film of all time.  

In case you think this classic film only focuses on the criminal underworld of Italian immigrants creating their own version of the American dream – you couldn’t be more wrong.  

Taking the best elements from Mario Puzo’s novel, the film focuses more on the family life of the Corleone family than the “family business”.  

In my humble opinion, this is one of the best Italian mafia movies of all time.  

The strong performances, great screenplay, and excellent cinematography make this one of those Italian-American movies you can watch again and again.

Speaking of watching The Godfather over and over, you can do just that when you rent or buy this film, for the first time or the 100th time, on Amazon Prime.

The Godfather II

Speaking of the Godfather, did you know that there are a total of 3 films in the Godfather series based on Mario Puzo’s books?  

The criminal activities of the infamous Corleone family continue in The Godfather Part II.  

Michael Corleone is forced to a small town in the region of Sicily, Italy during the second installment of The Godfather.   

While Michael had a love story in Sicily with a beautiful young Sicilian woman who is sadly killed in a car bomb, his true love played by Diane Keaton is rekindled when he returns to the United States.  

The head of the family Vito Corleone, who is the actual godfather in the story, recovered from a near-fatal shooting and is ready to turn the family business over to his son Michael.  

As with the first film, the iconic original musical score for the film was composed by Nico Rota as well as some additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.  

Unlike many sequels that fail to live up to the original, The Godfather Part II is one of the best Italian American movies ever made, according to both critics and audiences alike.

Rent or buy on Amazon Prime today.

The Godfather III

The conclusion of the Corleone Family saga takes place in The Godfather III.   Of all the Godfather films, this is my least favorite.  

It is still a good film though and once you start the saga, you can’t watch just one or two films, you have to watch them all.  

Although these films technically fall into the “gangster films” category, Francis Ford Coppola’s are, hands down, among the best Italian films made in Hollywood.  

Add this to your library or watchlist on Amazon Prime.

My Cousin Vinny

On the opposite end of the “gangster films” spectrum from The Godfather is My Cousin Vinney.  

This hilarious mafia comedy is a favorite of many Italian Americans.  

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 87% awarded by audiences, it’s clear that Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are fan favorites. 

If you are in the mood for a witty Italian American crime film, this is the one for you.

Watch on Amazon Prime anytime.  

Big Night

Are you as much of a Stanley Tucci fan as I am?  

Even if you are, it’s very likely that you haven’t seen this 1996 film about two Italian immigrant brothers.

These two brothers played by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott own a restaurant and in order to gain exposure for their restaurant they offer a night of free food.  

The stellar cast includes Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Tony Shalhoub, and Allison Janney.  

Set in the 1950s on the Jersey Shore, this indie film has flown under the radar of many lovers of Italian American films.  

It is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime.

A Bronx Tale

Robert De Niro directed this 1993 coming-of-age crime drama film which he also starred in along with Joe Pesci.  

The story follows the life of an Italian American boy named Calogero who gets involved with a local mafia boss.  

Set in the 1960s in a working-class Italian neighborhood of Bronx, New York, this is one of the most classic Italian mob films.

The perfect movie for anyone who enjoys an American Italian crime drama. 

Available on Amazon Prime for rent or purchase.


Al Pacino, Oliver Stone, and Michelle Pfeiffer, along with a brilliant cast, came together to remake this film in 1983.

The original film was made in 1932 based on the 1930 novel Armitage Trail.  

The film is based on the life of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee played by Al Pacino, who eventually becomes a ruthless drug lord.

Scarface has become a classic Italian American crime film and a favorite for those who enjoy the mafia genre.

Scarface can be rented or purchased on Amazon.

The Italian Job 1969

The genre of film referred to as “Italian crime” got a real shake-up when this “mold-breaking” film was released in 1969.  

Michael Caine portrays Charlie Croker, a clever ex-con who leads a team of fellow criminals to an epic heist of gold bars in the Italian city of Turin, Italy.

Some consider this to be the best film of the Italian crime genre.  

Not only is 1960s Italy a feast for the eyes, but the soundtrack is also excellent.  

The Italian Job 1969 can be rented or purchased on Amazon.

The Italian Job 2003

Based on the 1969 version of the film with the same name, this one takes it to the next level.  

With plenty of nods to the original, including the gold bullion that is the target of the heist, this 2003 remake is a wild ride.  

Set in Venice, Italy, and Los Angeles, the cast of this heist action film includes a star-studded cast with Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, and Seth Green.

Critics and audiences alike enjoyed this film and rated it one of the best films of the year.  

A sequel called The Brazillian Job was in production but never made it to the big screen after being canceled in 2004.   

The Italian Job 2003 can be rented or purchased on Amazon.

The Irishman

One of Netflix’s first big-budget films, this 2019 Italian American gangster film was directed by Martin Scorsese starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino.

Nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Irishman used a de-aging technology that made the truck-driving Robert De Niro look decades younger, although many viewers, including myself, felt that the technology looked blurry and artificial.  

Another thing that audiences and critics did not appreciate about this film was its length.  

At 209 minutes long, many felt that the story was unnecessarily lengthy. 

Watch on Netflix today.

The Untouchables

During 1930s Prohibition era, the infamous mafia kingpin Al Capone was growing his fortune by supplying illegal liquor from the Chicago area.

Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Andy García, and Charles Martin Smith, lead the cast of this 1987 classic Italian-American film.   

Written by David Mamet and directed by Brian De Palma The Untouchables covers one of the most famous American Italian mafia stories of all time.

Nominated for four Oscars, the film took home one Academy Award for Sean Connery who won Best Supporting Actor.

One of my favorite films on our list, this mafia classic can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime.


Goodfellas is one of the best Italian American movies of all time.  

One of Martin Scorsese’s most popular films, Goodfellas is a classic released in 1990 based on the 1985 book Wiseguy, a true story by Nicholas Pileggi.

Goodfellas recounts the true story of Henry Hill and stars Italian American actors Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino.  

The story of the film covers the years of Henry Hill’s life from a young boy in 1955 through 1980.  

Many people consider Goodfellas one of the greatest films ever made, and it was nominated for six Academy Awards.  

In 2000, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in the United States.   

Goodfellas can be rented or purchased on Amazon.


Another Martin Scorsese film, Casino was released in 1995 and is set in “Sin City” Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, and James Woods come together to bring this 1960s through 1980s film that was based on a true story.  

For her portrayal of Ginger, Sharon Stone received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination.  

If you’re in the mood for a non-feel-good film that recounts the epic rise and fall of a casino manager and his call-girl wife, this is the film for you!   

Casino can be rented or purchased on Amazon.


If you’re in the mood for a delightful family-friendly animated film set in Italy that is full of Italian culture and charm, this Pixar film is perfect for you.

A very different film than some of the mafia and crime genres on this list, Luca is a feel-good breath of fresh air.

I highly recommend that you watch it on Amazon Prime today.

Best American Italian TV Shows

If you’re in the mood for some great entertainment, but want something a bit longer than a film, these are some of the best American Italian shows available to watch on several streaming services including Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime.

The Sopranos

The Sopranos show which ran for 6 seasons from 1999 through 2007 won numerous awards including 21 Emmy Awards.  

Considered one of the best TV shows ever made, James Gandolfini who played mob boss “Tony Soprano” along with his TV wife “Carmela” played by Edie Falco led these complicated characters into the hearts of both American and international audiences for eight years.  

You can watch The Sopranos on HBO Max or on Amazon Prime.


It’s hard to believe that the original The Talented Mr. Ripley film premiered over 25 years ago.  

This limited Netflix series based on the 1955 crime novel The Talented Mr. Ripley is set in 1950s Italy and feels both classic and surprisingly modern.  

Starring Dakota Fanning, Andrew Scott, and Jonny Flynn this is the most recently released production on this list as it debuted on the Netflix platform on April 4th, 2024.  

I personally just finished watching it and I loved it.   This show is one of the best I’ve seen in years – Italy looks surprisingly amazing filmed in classic black and white.  

Steven Zaillian’s brilliantly written show will have you on the edge of your seat for each episode.  

I dare you to try to watch this show without binging it all in one weekend – click here to watch on Netflix now.

The White Lotus – Season 2: Sicily  

Shows like The White Lotus by Mike White come around once in a generation – if you’re lucky.  

The characters, the writing, the locations, the social commentary, the dark humor, and the actors all come together to make pure magic in this show.  

I fell in love with the first season of The White Lotus which was set in Maui.  

As an American who lives in Italy, when I discovered that the 2nd season was going to be set on the Island of Sicily in Southern Italy, I was so excited.  

Not only did Mike White raise the bar with the 2nd season, but he somehow managed to maintain the same suspenseful, raw believability that he created in the first season.  

If you haven’t had a chance to watch this incredible show, do it now!  

One word of warning, this is not a show for children or those with prudish tendencies – if you enjoy very dark humor mixed with character-driven plots this is the show for you.  

You can stream the show on HBO Max or buy the seasons on Amazon Prime.

From Scratch

Need a good cry?  

This true story about an American girl who falls in love with an Italian boy is the perfect indulgent Italian romance for you.  

Based on the best-selling memoir by the same name, this is a tale of true love, loss, and learning how to begin again.  

When I first started watching this show I honestly thought it wasn’t going to be for me, I felt it was a little too much like a Hallmark movie.  

But as the show continued, I felt like it was a much more authentic story than I had previously thought.  

Available to stream on Netflix.

My Favorite Films Set In Italy

These are some of my personal favorite Italian American films set in Italy.   If you haven’t watched these yet, you should treat yourself to some of the best films about Italian life and culture.


Growing up in California, this was the first Italian film I ever watched.  

It was also the first film I ever watched in a language other than English.  

This is one of my all-time favorite films ever made.   Following the life of a young boy in Sicily, who becomes a teenager in Musulini’s Italy during World War II, this film will steal your heart.    

The boy develops a crush on Malena, a great beauty in town played by the gorgeous Monica Belucci, and he takes on the role of her secret protector as her husband goes away to war and she is left to fend for herself.  

As painful as the story in this film becomes, it has a beautiful ending that restores ones faith in humanity, which is nearly lost during the middle part of the story.  

Even if you are not a fan of foreign language films, in my opinion, this is the best foreign language film and if you have a love for all things Italian, as I do, I believe this will become a favorite film of yours as well.  

You can rent or buy Malena on Amazon Prime.

La Vita E Bella  (Life Is Beautiful)

Roberto Benigni is an Italian actor and director who both starred and played the lead in this heartbreaking tale of a Jewish Italian father and his son who were ripped from their beautiful life owning a bookshop in Italy  and spending two years in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during WWII.  

Both critics and audiences alike loved this film and it won 3 Academy Awards in 1998 including Best Actor for Roberto Benigni (the first time a non-English speaking actor) and Best Foreign Language Film.  

La Vita E Bella won numerous other awards in Italy and Europe.  

This is one of the best Italian films of all time.

This classic Italian film is available on Amazon Prime.


​We’ve already discussed Gladiator earlier in this article, but it is one of my all-time favorite films, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching it, or if it has been years since you’ve seen it, I highly recommend that you watch it on Amazon Prime today.

Best Classic American Italian Films 

If you’re in the mood for a classic film set in Italy, these are some of the best classic Italian movies from American and Italian cinema. 

These films tell the tales of perfect strangers and those of a best friend in the nuovo cinema paradiso, from the mean streets of Napoli to Rome and Venice.

Italian Films Americans Love

For the best Italian movies of all time, this list of true Italian classics will treat you to films with some of the Italian greats such as Sergio Leone, Lino Ventura, Marcello Mastroianni, Federico Fellini, Ennio Morricone, and Pierfrancesco Favino.  

English subtitles make these wonderful Italian films accessible to all English-speaking audiences.

Want to read more about articles about the best of all things Italian?


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Author Info:

Picture of Nathan Heinrich

Nathan Heinrich

Nathan is a writer, designer & horticulturist. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of "All Roads Lead to Italy" Magazine & host of the Top-10 Travel Podcast, "I'm Moving To Italy!". Nathan was born and raised in a 6th generation farming family in Northern California, he is currently, a dual Italian citizen, living in the Prosecco Valley of Northern Italy, near Venice.

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