Skip to Content

13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!

13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Rome has a lot to offer for both national and international filmmakers. The city has millennia of history, myths, and legends and is well known for its sprawling metropolis of ancient and classical architecture. It is also known for its world-famous film industry, so it will come as no surprise that there are so many wonderful movies set in Rome. 

Rome has been an inspiration for writers and artists from all over the world from time immemorial. This is partly because so many of its historical landmarks remain intact after almost two millennia, but also because there is something special about this city, something that sparks the imagination.

Many great artists who have changed the history of their craft either were born in Rome or lived there for a long time. Their works still stand in the Eternal City’s museums and streets, making it a city that’s perfect for any artist or art-lover.

13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!

There have been many films set in Rome. The city has provided locations for everything from low-budget comedies to high-end period dramas and blockbuster action flicks. Some films are set there merely as a backdrop, while others use the city’s unique character to give their stories a sense of place that no other location could provide.

These Roman films have narratives that rely on their settings as much as their main protagonists, and as a result, spectators get a glimpse of this iconic city through different directors’ eyes. To honor the concept of cinematic travel, we have previously also assembled lists of our favorite films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Vermont, Venice, Greece, Italy, Ireland, San Francisco and Scotland. And now we add Rome to this list.

There’s something about the Eternal City that seems to inspire movie-makers. The ancient monuments, cobbled streets, and cool piazzas are perfect for an arthouse period drama or a thriller. The films in this list are sure to spark your wanderlust. After watching them, you’ll be booking your trip to Rome in no time!

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!
13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!
13 Extraordinary Movies Set In Rome That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Fellini’s Roma (1972)

What better way to start than with this love letter to the city of Rome? Fellini’s Roma is a deep and thoughtful exploration of Rome’s history, culture, and society. Told through vignettes set in both different times and locations throughout the city, the main character of the film is the city itself.

It’s one of those films with barely any plot that still manages to be captivating thanks to its incredible atmosphere and humor. 

As the title suggests, the film was directed by one of the greatest Italian directors: Federico Fellini. His works have been the subject of many discussions and lots of praise.

While Roma may not be his best-regarded film, it’s still held as one of his most sincere productions. That is because its very plot is based on the life of Fellini as a young boy and man living in Rome. 

The film follows a young Fellini (Peter Gonzales) as he recalls his time spent in Rome as a young boy, exploring the city’s nightlife and its most hidden secrets.

Like many of Fellini’s films, Roma uses documentary-style filming methods, but it also incorporates fantasy elements such as dream sequences that are reminiscent of his classic 8½ (1963). Cutting back and forth through time and space, Fellini’s Roma portrays the Eternal City like no other film ever did.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Also by Federico Fellini comes this classic of Italian cinema. While today La Dolce Vita is considered one of the best Italian films ever made, one shouldn’t forget that even upon its release it was recognized as an indisputably great film.

This led it to win a Palme d’Or at Cannes and several Academy Award nominations (winning Best Costumes), which was unheard of for an Italian movie. To put it simply: La Dolce Vita put Italian cinema on the map.

The movie follows a journalist played by Marcello Mastroianni who tries to find love somewhere amongst Rome’s fascinating and overwhelming nightlife. His decadent journey is told in seven nights and seven days.

While everything seems as expected during the first day, it’s on the second one that things take a turn. He goes to cover the arrival of a famous movie star, Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), in one of the city’s oldest airports, and he begins to fall in love with her.

La Dolce Vita features one of the most iconic moments in the history of cinema. On the very day they meet, Sylvia and Marcello end up wandering the streets of Rome at night when they bump into the Trevi Fountain, one of the most beautiful landmarks in the city. Then comes the famous scene where the two of them get into the fountain and share an intimate moment with each other.

The Eclipse [L’Eclisse] (1962)

Regarded as one of Michelangelo Antonioni’s best films, The Eclipse tells a love story that spans both the city of Rome and that of Verona (which you may know as the setting for Romeo and Juliet).

The film tells the story of Vittoria (Monica Vitti), a smart woman who, seemingly on a whim, decides to leave her boyfriend and live life on her own. However, she crosses paths with the dream-like Piero (Alain Delon), a stockbroker who Vittoria will fall madly in love with. Their romance is one of desire and longing.

This is one of those films that are hard to describe since they are very different from what we are accustomed to in this day and age. The Eclipse tells its story in an innovative way: as Martin Scorsese said famously, watching this film “felt less like a story and more like a poem”.

If you find yourself captivated by Antonioni’s work, particularly with the narrative of The Eclipse, you’ll be happy to hear that the director made two other films that are loosely connected to each other: L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961) are great examples of Antonioni at its best, although they are not set in Rome.

Roman Holiday (1953)

The great American actress Audrey Hepburn stars alongside Gregory Peck in this massively famous and influential romantic comedy.

Directed by William Wyler (who you may know for being a three-time winner of Best Director at the Academy Awards), Roman Holiday tells the story of a young princess who meets and spends a day with an American reporter while visiting the city of Rome. 

For those unaware, this was the film that propelled Audrey Hepburn into fame: not only did she star in one of the most successful films of its time, but she also received several awards for her performance. In fact, she was the first woman to ever win an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for a single performance.

If there were only one film you could watch before visiting Rome, it should be this one. It portrays some of the best spots that the city has to offer while delivering an engaging and comedic story.

Among the sites you should look forward to seeing in this film are the imposing Roman Forum, where the two of them meet, the old Spanish Steps where the two of them have a gelato, and the always-beautiful Trevi Fountain.

Rome, Open City [Roma città aperta] (1945)

There are three great Italian directors that one should always go back to. This list has already featured both Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, meaning that there’s one missing. And that one is Roberto Rossellini who, with Rome, Open City, founded the neorealist cinema movement that would go on to define how the best regarded Italian movies were made.

It won the 1946 Palme d’Or at Cannes and was famously snubbed from its Oscar nomination. This film wasn’t only a success for Rossellini, but also for Fellini, who wrote the film, and for its main actors and actresses.

Rome, Open City is a movie about the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1944. While it follows several different characters and their way of dealing with the Nazi occupation, it mainly focuses on Giorgio Manfredi (Aldo Fabrizi), a leader of the Resistance against both Nazis and Fascists who are hiding in the city and wants to go away.

He will ally himself with Pina (Anna Magnani), the pregnant wife of another member of the Resistance, who will help Giorgio in escaping the city. One more character should be mentioned: Don Pietro (Marcello Pagliero), the priest who is allied with the Resistance, a key figure in Giorgio’s attempt to escape the city.

While the plot of the film is fictional, it stands as an impressive document of Rome during World War II. The city was occupied by the Nazis from 1943 to 1944, meaning that the Rome, Open City began its filming only half a year after the Nazis had left.

As you may imagine, with only six months in between, the city looked just as it did during the occupation. This offered Rossellini the unique opportunity to tell a fictional story in a recent real setting that was almost unchanged. While that’s not the only thing that makes this film great, it does make it a must-watch for any history buff interested in the city’s recent history.

Accattone (1961)

Directed by the renowned Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, Accattone is a drama that manages to capture Rome’s street life, both its good and its bad. The film offers a grim yet captivating outlook on the city’s vagabonds (the title literally translates to “beggar”).

It’s a frank film that’s made all the more honest thanks to its cast: most of the actors and actresses were regular people who lived in the places where the film took place. 

Accatone follows Vittorio (Franco Citti), a low-life criminal working as a pimp who suddenly finds himself without the means to work. Meaning that the woman he was using, “his prostitute”, has been taken away. Against the prospect of working for himself, Vittorio tries to make a living by finding another woman to work for him. 

There’s no doubt that Accatone is a dark film, but it does a great job at portraying a darker side of the famous city. One that it’s not usually shown in the film. As a tragic drama, it won’t make you feel good, but it will offer the chance to understand a kind of life very different from your own.

The Bicycle Thieves [Ladri di biciclette] (1948)

One of the most popular movies set in the city of Rome, The Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio De Sica, is also a neorealist drama. The film does a great job of portraying the struggles that Italians had to go through after World War II subsided and the occupied cities were liberated.

While this was definitely good for the people, the liberators didn’t give them much help beyond that, leaving them to fend for themselves in crumbling economies and truly harsh situations. That feeling of despair is perfectly captured in this film, which manages to show just a little bit of hope and compassion at the end.

The Bicycle Thieves follows Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), an Italian man who is struggling to make ends meet. He can’t find a job but he has to take care of his family: his wife, son, and baby.

When the family learns of a job posting that requires a bicycle, they pawn off their bedsheets in exchange for a bike. But everything turns sour when a young man steals Antonio’s bike. Desperate, he walks the streets of Rome with his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola), trying to find the thief. 

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)

In case you aren’t familiar with Lizzie McGuire, here’s a little refresher: she was the main character in a 2001 Disney Channel series of the same name which starred the talented Hilary Duff.

The series was thoroughly loved by young girls and boys at the time, running for several years and winning many awards (among which were two Emmys). At the height of its original run, the creators of the series decided to make a movie set after Lizzie’s graduation.

The film follows Lizzie as she goes on a school trip to Rome. She’s joined by her closest and most trusted friend David “Gordo” Gordon (Adam Lamberg). However, not everything is as good as it seems, since also traveling with them is Kate Sanders (Ashlie Brillault), Lizzie’s former best friend and now her enemy.

Even though the film was aimed at children, it’s surprisingly engaging to watch. It’s a charming story, filled with many funny scenes and sequences, but it also manages to tell a touching story of romance during adolescence.

Like Roman Holiday, watching this film it’s also a great way to become familiar with some of the most attractive tourist spots in the city of Rome. You can be sure that Lizzie visits the Trevi Fountain, as well as several other landmarks that are always worth seeing again.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Based on the classic series of novels by Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley tells the story of a young musician who suddenly finds himself pretending to be someone he’s not in order to win ten hundred dollars and a free trip through Europe.

With some of the best Hollywood stars amongst its cast and the talented Anthony Minghella directing, the film is a captivating thriller whose characters are bound to bewitch you just as they do with the poor Mr. Ripley.

While the film received several Academy Award nominations, it didn’t win a single award. However, it still stands as one of the most interesting thrillers to take place in the city of Rome.

Set in the 1950s, the film sees a young man known as Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), who works as a hired pianist, being mistaken for a Princeton graduate by a very wealthy man. This man asks Mr. Ripley to travel to Rome and talk with his son, Dickie (Jude Law), who “also” went to Princeton.

It turns out that Dickie has settled in Rome with no plans to return, much to the dismay of his father. As Mr. Ripley embarks on this strange journey, he will meet the captivating Dickie and the beautiful Meredith (Gwyneth Paltrow), both of whom will show him life hadn’t dreamt of before.

Gladiator (2000)

If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the epic tale told in Gladiator, you should do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as you can. With one of the best casts Hollywood has to offer and a magnificent story, this film is sure to make you feel for its characters.

The masterful display of filmmaking shown in Gladiator will not surprise you if you happen to know who directed it. It was, in fact, made by Ridley Scott. You may know him from influential sci-fi films such as Alien and Blade Runner, as well as the classic crime movie Thelma & Louise. When you see his name on the screen, you’ll know that you’re in for a great story.

Set in 180 AD Rome, the film follows Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general played by Russel Crowe who gets everything taken away from him. Upon the betrayal of Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the son of the emperor who killed his father and seized the throne, Maximus’ family is killed and he’s stripped of his rank.

Destiny will have it that he’d end up being a slave and becoming a gladiator in the Coliseum of Rome. Maximus will take advantage of this situation, training the other gladiators in order to survive, become famous and gain a chance to face the emperor himself.

It’s an excellent film, so it’s no surprise that it was so well received by critics. Gladiator received lots of critical acclaim, winning five Academy Awards, most notably Best Picture for Scott and Best Actor for Crowe.

Angels & Demons (2009)

While perhaps not the most laudable piece of literature, there’s no denying that the Robert Langdon series has had a very big influence on the publishing world. The first novel in the series, The Da Vinci Code, stands as one of the best-selling books to ever be published.

So, it was no surprise when in 2006 the book was adapted to the big screen by renowned producer and director Ron Howard. The film was also a success, which led Howard to also adapt the sequel, Angels & Demons.

The story of Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) continues as he sets out to uncover the plan of a mysterious group who is terrorizing the people of Rome. The members of this organization claim to be part of the Illuminati and plan to kill the four candidates for popehood before blowing up the whole city of Rome.

With the help of Dr. Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), Langdon will delve deep into the secrets of the city, discovering the real identity of the people behind this group. Angels & Demons is a thrilling mystery that will take you for a ride through both the present and the past of the Eternal City.

Perfect Strangers [Perfetti sconosciuti] (2016)

This list wouldn’t be complete without a comedy film. Italians, particularly those living in Rome, love to laugh and have a very particular sense of humor. Movies like Perfect Strangers are a great tool to become familiar with their comedy style, as well as having a good and funny time.

Directed by Paolo Genovese, the film starts from an intriguing premise: a group of seven friends, some of them single and some of them married, have a dinner party. When the subject of privacy and phones comes up, one of them argues that a relationship would not last if each other could see their messages.

Willing to give it a try, the seven of them decide to share their text messages for the whole night. This proves to be a disastrous decision, as the secrets revealed on this night could shatter both friendships and marriages.

The Great Beauty [La grande bellezza] (2013)

The Great Beauty, written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, tells the story of an aging writer played by Toni Servillo who has given up on his career because he feels he’s incapable of creating anything new.

The death of a former lover will set off a chain of events that will lead him to find inspiration again. Yet his path won’t be without trouble or hurt.

This beautiful film is sure to tug on your heartstrings. Its moving story managed to touch even the harshest of critics.

The Great Beauty won several big awards. Most notably, beyond the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (which had not been awarded to an Italian film in quite some time.