Commedia all'italiana


Commedia all'italiana (i.e. "Comedy in the Italian way"; pronounced [komˈmɛːdja allitaˈljaːna]) or Italian-style comedy is an Italian film genre. It is widely considered to have started with Mario Monicelli's I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street) in 1958 and derives its name from the title of Pietro Germi's Divorzio all'italiana (Divorce Italian Style, 1961).

Rather than a specific genre, the term indicates a period (approx. from the late fifties to the early seventies) in which the Italian film industry was producing many successful comedies, with some common traits like satire of manners, farcical and grotesque overtones, a strong focus on "spicy" social issues of the period (like sexual matters, divorce, contraception, marriage of the clergy, the economic rise of the country and its various consequences, the traditional religious influence of the Catholic Church) and a prevailing middle-class setting, often characterized by a substantial background of sadness and social criticism that diluted the comic contents.

What is Commedia all'Italiana

Mario Monicelli, one of the most famous film directors of Italian comedy

As he said in an interview with the director Mario Monicelli, the Italian comedy (Commedia all'italiana) is something very simple, which is closely tied to popular culture of Italy. It is a tangle of stories of the poor and unfortunate in a highly unfortunate and negative setting, i.e. the period of poverty that followed in Europe and especially in Italy after the end of World War II. In any plot of the films of this genre, there is a group of thieves and bandits who would like to make ends meet by ramshacklely preparing a big hit. However each has its problems and its difficulties, attributable to ignorance, incompetence, inadequate means, unrequited love and many other mishaps. The whole plot of the story revolves around these seemingly unnecessary misunderstandings, allowing the viewer to have a clear and precise vision of the deficiencies of the Italians of that period and of both the gloom and joy of the whole of Italy. The group of cheaters, apparently achieving their aim with deceit and cunning, at the end of the story almost always find themselves duped and crushed economically and psychologically worse off than before. Whoever comes out best the story is always the most powerful, either in the political arena or in some other social context. What makes the viewer laugh are the jokes about the repeated blunders of the actors that would make them famous during the preparation of their shots.

The element of sadness is very much present in all the stories on the theme of Italian comedy, not just the mockery of the poor people who seek to improve their situation, but also to the bitter end show a bitter smile and a dim hope of the protagonists into the future. Just think of the situation or the tragic end of the film Il sorpasso (Dino Risi) or the melancholy end of the film I soliti ignoti in which thieves have fail in their coup, losing everything they had. Another important feature of this type of comedy is the feeling, although the social condition of the people who populate the stories is extremely low, the protagonists have shown great will to live, to love, to dream, to become almost a taste of the film sentimental. What breaks this feeling is a typical Italian clumsiness or a fall, which immediately pulls the viewer a big laugh. The protagonist is at once sentimentally duped. In the sixties and seventies such plots merged with the satire. Even in these stories, such as in Signore e signori buonanotte (1976), as it denotes skill in manifesting Italian taste satirical scenes is exaggerated and extremely scratchy. The characters are targeted by powerful people or satire inept people, extremely rude, bad, almost animalistic, almost personalities related to the masks of the Commedia dell'arte.

The Italian comedy ceased to exist in the eighties, by which time the principal actors had become old, replaced by a comic genre focused more on the vulgar and abusive side of the characters, which followed very American models. With the Americanized transformation of this comic genre in Italy, the kind of Commedia all'italiana finally died. The last film that famous still strongly reflects the characters of the Italian comedy is Il marchese del Grillo, directed by Mario Monicelli (1981). Alberto Sordi plays the role of a spoiled rich Marquis of Rome who is bored by the day. For this he designs jokes on the poor and the helpless for no particular end, as if they were toys from the living room. His joker cynicism is not stopped even by the power of Pope Pius VII. This film still strongly reflects the character of the average prankster kid of the sixties, who only caring about himself and what he has, not caring of others and to those most in need. Cynicism is the main theme of this film, based on a true story.


Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Alberto Sordi and Nino Manfredi were the five top stars of Italian Comedy in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by newcomers such as Stefania Sandrelli, Monica Vitti, Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Catherine Spaak; or dramatic stars in comic roles such as Enrico Maria Salerno, Claudia Cardinale.


In 1961, Dino Risi directed Il sorpasso, now a cult movie, then Una vita difficile (A Difficult Life), I mostri (The Monsters, also known as 15 from Rome), In nome del Popolo Italiano (In the Name of the Italian People) and Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman).

Monicelli's works include La grande guerra (The Great War), I compagni (Comrades, also known as The Organizer), L'armata Brancaleone, Vogliamo i colonnelli (We Want the Colonels), Romanzo popolare (Come Home and Meet My Wife) and Amici miei.

Other notable film makers of the genre were Pasquale Festa Campanile, Ettore Scola, Luigi Comencini, Steno, Antonio Pietrangeli, Nanni Loy and Lina Wertmüller, and the script writers Age & Scarpelli, Leo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Rodolfo Sonego, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, and Sergio Amidei.

Notable films

Title Year Director Notable actors
Big Deal on Madonna Street 1958 Mario Monicelli Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Totò
The Great War 1959 Mario Monicelli Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi, Silvana Mangano
Il vedovo 1959 Dino Risi Alberto Sordi, Franca Valeri
Love and Larceny 1959 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman
Everybody Go Home 1960 Luigi Comencini Alberto Sordi
Adua e le compagne 1960 Antonio Pietrangeli Simone Signoret, Marcello Mastroianni, Sandra Milo
A Difficult Life 1961 Dino Risi Alberto Sordi
Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti 1961 Nanni Loy Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Nino Manfredi
The Fascist 1961 Luciano Salce Ugo Tognazzi, Stefania Sandrelli
Divorce, Italian Style 1962 Pietro Germi Marcello Mastroianni, Stefania Sandrelli
Boccaccio '70 1962 Mario Monicelli,
Federico Fellini,
Luchino Visconti,
Vittorio De Sica
The Easy Life 1962 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Catherine Spaak
The Last Judgement 1962 Vittorio De Sica Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi
Mafioso 1962 Alberto Lattuada Alberto Sordi
March on Rome 1962 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi
The Conjugal Bed 1963 Marco Ferreri Ugo Tognazzi, Marina Vlady
I mostri 1963 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi
Alta Infedeltà 1965 Mario Monicelli, Franco Rossi, Elio Petri, Luciano Salce Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi
Il diavolo 1963 Gian Luigi Polidoro Alberto Sordi
Il Boom 1963 Vittorio De Sica Alberto Sordi
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 1963 Vittorio De Sica Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren
The Reunion 1963 Damiano Damiani
Seduced and Abandoned 1964 Pietro Germi Stefania Sandrelli
Se permettete parliamo di donne 1965 Ettore Scola Vittorio Gassman
Il successo 1965 Mauro Morassi, Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Anouk Aimée
Le bambole 1965 Mauro Bolognini,
Luigi Comencini,
Dino Risi,
Franco Rossi
Nino Manfredi
Casanova 70 1965 Mario Monicelli Marcello Mastroianni, Virna Lisi, Enrico Maria Salerno
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians 1965 Pietro Germi Virna Lisi
I complessi 1965 Dino Risi,
Luigi Filippo D'Amico,
Franco Rossi
Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi, Alberto Sordi
Il Gaucho 1965 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Silvana Pampanini, Nino Manfredi
Io la conoscevo bene 1965 Antonio Pietrangeli Stefania Sandrelli, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, Enrico Maria Salerno
The Man, the Woman and the Money 1965 Eduardo De Filippo,
Marco Ferreri,
Luciano Salce
Marcello Mastroianni
Me, Me, Me... and the Others 1966 Alessandro Blasetti
L'Armata Brancaleone 1966 Mario Monicelli Vittorio Gassman, Enrico Maria Salerno, Gian Maria Volonté
L'ombrellone 1966 Dino Risi Sandra Milo, Enrico Maria Salerno, Jean Sorel
A Question of Honour 1966 Luigi Zampa Ugo Tognazzi
The Tiger and the Pussycat 1967 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman
The Witches 1967 Luchino Visconti,
Pier Paolo Pasolini,
Vittorio De Sica,
Franco Rossi,
Mauro Bolognini
Silvana Mangano
La ragazza con la pistola 1968 Mario Monicelli Monica Vitti
Il medico della mutua 1968 Luigi Zampa Alberto Sordi
The Libertine 1968 Pasquale Festa Campanile Catherine Spaak
Il Commissario Pepe 1969 Ettore Scola Ugo Tognazzi
Vedo nudo 1969 Dino Risi Nino Manfredi, Sylva Koscina
Brancaleone alle Crociate 1970 Mario Monicelli Vittorio Gassman
Between Miracles 1971 Nino Manfredi Nino Manfredi, Mariangela Melato
In nome del popolo italiano 1971 Dino Risi Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi
Secret Fantasy 1971 Pasquale Festa Campanile Laura Antonelli
Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia sposerebbe compaesana illibata 1971 Luigi Zampa Alberto Sordi, Claudia Cardinale
The Seduction of Mimi 1972 Lina Wertmüller Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Lo scopone scientifico 1972 Luigi Comencini Alberto Sordi, Silvana Mangano
Vogliamo i colonnelli 1973 Mario Monicelli Ugo Tognazzi
Pane e cioccolata 1973 Franco Brusati Nino Manfredi
C'eravamo tanto amati 1974 Ettore Scola Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi, Stefania Sandrelli
Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August 1974 Lina Wertmüller Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Profumo di donna 1974 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman
Romanzo popolare 1974 Mario Monicelli Ugo Tognazzi, Ornella Muti
Amici miei 1975 Mario Monicelli Ugo Tognazzi, Adolfo Celi
Brutti, sporchi e cattivi 1976 Ettore Scola Nino Manfredi
The Career of a Chambermaid 1976 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi
La stanza del vescovo 1977 Dino Risi Ugo Tognazzi
Un borghese piccolo piccolo 1977 Mario Monicelli Alberto Sordi
Traffic Jam 1977 Luigi Comencini Alberto Sordi, Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Stefania Sandrelli
Signore e signori, buonanotte 1976 Luigi Comencini , Nanni Loy, Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola, Luigi Magni Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, Marcello Mastroianni
Caro papà 1979 Dino Risi Vittorio Gassman
Amici miei Atto II 1982 Mario Monicelli Ugo Tognazzi, Adolfo Celi
Café Express 1980 Nanni Loy Nino Manfredi
Camera d'albergo 1981 Mario Monicelli Vittorio Gassman, Monica Vitti


  • Lanzoni, Rémi Fournier (2009). Comedy Italian Style: The Golden Age of Italian Film Comedies. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1822-7.
  • Bini, Andrea (2015). Male Anxiety and Psychopathology in Film: Comedy Italian Style. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1137516886.

External links

  • (In French) La Comédie à l'italienne sur le site Comedie Italienne
  • (In French) La Comédie à l'italienne sur le site du ciné-club de Caen
  • (In Italian) La Commedia all'italiana sur le site de la RAI
  • (In Italian) Centro Studi Commedia all'italiana