The 15 Best Marcello Mastroianni Films You Need To Watch

8. The Organizer (Mario Monicelli, 1963)

The Organizer

Stepping away from comedy, Mario Monicelli aptly directs this gritty film about a factory worker strike. Marcello Mastroianni plays Professor Sinigaglia, a unionist who moves to Turin on the run from authorities. He meets up with the unhappy workers who are forced to work fourteen hours a day and convinces them to strike.

He has to continue to reassure the workers that all will work out in the end, as complications arise such as hunger and replacement workers. The peaceful strike soon turns violent as both the factory and the workers get more desperate, leading to deadly conflict.

The Organizer is one of the only films on this list to feature Mastroianni in a role other than a womanizer. His departure from his typical character goes off splendidly, enhancing the focus on the socialist values that the film pushes.

Also starring Renato Salvatori as one of the upset workers, this late political period film takes inspiration from the neo-realist films of the 1940s and 50s, reflecting the life of the working people in an unflinching manner. Strengthened by Mastroianni’s powerful performance, The Organizer is a gripping and often overlooked Italian drama.


7. Marriage, Italian Style (Vittorio De Sica, 1964)

Marriage, Italian Style

Legendary Italian director Vittorio De Sica helms this delightful comedy starring Marcello Mastroianni and his frequent co-star Sophia Loren. Mastroianni plays Domenico, a businessman who starts a loose relationship with Loren’s Filomena, a prostitute.

After living together for a while, Domenico becomes interested in a younger girl who he plans to marry. Not wanting to lose her man, Filomena fakes illness and, on her “deathbed”, makes Domenico consent to marry him which he accepts because he believes she is dying. After he accepts, however, she has a “miraculous revcovery” and the two must remain married.

This smart comedy shares many themes with other Italian Style films on this list, most notably the similar unhappy marriages and the societal restrictions against divorce. The comedy is also interlaced with serious emotional tensions, with Loren playing a devoted and tortured soul who’s love is not returned by Domenico.

Mastroianni does an equally convincing job as the conflicted and morally ambiguous playboy who finally resigns to settling down. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards, Marriage, Italian Style is a fun, witty film from one of Italy’s greatest directors.


6. Le Notti Bianche (Luchino Visconti, 1957)

Le Notti Bianche (1957)

An adaptation of the short story “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Le Notti Bianche is one of director Luchino Visconti’s most restrained, but also most powerful films. Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell star as two lonely wanderers, Mario and Natalia, who meet in a city and begin a friendship.

Mario is desperate to find someone to love and latches on to Natalia, while Natalia still holds out for her former love who promised to meet her in the city but has not showed up. Emotions builds as Mario becomes more and more enamored of her, but she sinks into the situation indifferently as she begins to give up on love and romance.

Le Notti Bianche is Visconti’s simplest film in terms of story and production, but reaches a higher level of passion than many of his more heavily produced films.

The minimal story and plot give Mastroianni and Schell the spotlight, and they do a fantastic job as the desperate and young romantics. Their performances bring out the heartache and growing obsession of the characters, conveying Visconti’s message about the sometimes devastating consequence of love. Wrenching and contemplative, without being aggressively depressing, Le Notti Bianche is an exquisite gem in Mastroianni’s and Visconti’s career.


5. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Vittorio De Sica, 1963)

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Yesterday, Today and Tommorw is a comedy about relationships split into three separate short stories, with Marcello Mastoianni and Sophia Loren playing the central couple in each of them. The first story puts the couple in the slums of Naples where they are married with seven children in poverty.

When they are late on their payments, she has to go to prison. This can be avoided if she becomes pregnant, but Mastroianni’s character is too exhausted to succeed in this task. The second story has Loren play Anna, a wife of a rich man, who is riding in her Rolls Royce with her boyfriend, played by Mastroianni. Both reevaluate their relationship when he swerves to avoid hitting a child, crashing the car, and they place different levels of importance on life and material goods.

The third story has Loren playing a high class prostitute with Mastroianni playing one of her rich customers. Their sessions are continuously interrupted, however, by her neighbors and her conflicts with religion, which gets Mastroianni more and more frustrated.

While De Sica does a phenomenal job telling each of the stories, contrasting their themes and differences, the greatest part of this film is the actors. Mastroianni and Loren inhibit such diverse and varied roles, all different from the others in terms of personality and intentions.

The fact that they are able to make us believe each of their character’s is unique is astonishing, especially for Mastroianni who does not get make up or hair changes in each story. This wonderful, lively, comedy addresses love and social class unlike any approach taken before, creating a touching and unique portrait of relationships throughout Italy.


4. La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961)

La Notte

The middle film in Antonioni’s “modernity” trilogy that also includes L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, La Notte is similarly focused on internal relations of humans. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau star as the main couple Giovanni and Lidia. Giovanni is a successful writer and Lidia is a rich heiress and their marriage has fallen apart due to Giovanni’s self-proclaimed crisis.

The plot is loose, following them in a series of events showing their disintegrating relationship. Giovanni is constantly running off to find a beautiful woman to fool around with, while Lidia wanders contemplatively, finding interest only in the activities of the lower class. Their lack of memorable interaction for most of the film shows their disinterest in each other.

This bleak emotional study uses realist techniques and a minimal story line to highlight the divide between the husband and wife. Many scenes, such as the celebration for Giovanni’s new book, also explore critically the modern upper class and their artificial environment.

Mastroianni and Moreau are central to the development of these ideas, capturing, in their awkward conversations and interactions, the loss of love and respect in a relationship. Antonioni’s masterful mood piece is one of the most pure and unclouded look at marriage and faded emotions.


3. Divorce, Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961)

Divorce Italian Style

In this hilarious Italian comedy, which gave name to the Italian style comedy film movement, Marcello Mastroianni stars as Ferdinando who is in an unhappy marriage to his unattractive wife Rosalia. Ferdinando is smitten with his younger and much more beautiful cousin Angela, and when he finds out his feelings are reciprocated, he begins to scheme.

In order to get motive to kill his wife (divorce was not an option), Ferdinando searches out a man who she will have an affair with so that he would have a sympathetic cause, although Rosalia’s seemingly undying love for him makes this harder than he hoped.

Skillfully written and directed by Pietro Germi, Divorce, Italian Style is filled with funny and dark humor. The colorful characters and unpredictable plot, along with great performances make it one of the most original and witty Italian comedies.

Mastroianni, in his first Academy Award nominated role, is the funniest actor in the film, portraying the obsession and desperation of his character with a cartoonish level of enthusiasm. This performance showed that Mastroianni did not just portray subdued, contemplative playboy, but that he could play a funny one too.

A hit both commercially and critically, Divorce, Italian Style is a hysterical, morally questionable, comedy about adultery and old fashioned values, recommended to anyone looking for a good laugh.


2. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)


La Dolce Vita, one of Fellini’s most revered masterpieces stars Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, a gossip journalist who reports on the famous citizens of Rome.

The film itself has a rather loose storyline, simply following Marcello through a week of his exploits and adventures throughout Rome while he looks for happiness, without knowing what he wants. He interacts with several colorful characters along the way like the beautiful Sylvia and the intrusive reporter Paparrazzo (who inspired the now common term), but he does not maintain solid relationships with anyone, remaining lonely.

In English, La Dolce Vita means “the good life” which is referring to Marcello and his fellow upper society members. Fellini is commenting on this supposedly great lifestyle by juxtaposing the glamour with Marcello’s exciting, but ultimately empty existence.

Mastroianni does an excellent job in the role conveying this character, who is desperately searching for the next thing to fulfill his life. His constant distractions, mostly by women, ends in him finding nothing of substance to make his life meaningful. The film is divided up into episodes in Marcello’s week, each with different style and characters, but all contribute to the irony of his social class and his unhappiness.

Lavishly produced and shot, the film succeeds both in terms of compelling content and artistic execution. Fellini and Mastroianni explore both societal and personal themes seamlessly through the unconventional narrative structure without being tied down to resolving a plot. One of the most famous and acclaimed European films of the 1960s, La Dolce Vita is an engrossing, witty and emotional commentary on class and the search for purpose in life.


1. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)


Considered by many to be Fellini’s greatest film, 8 ½ is a movei about film making and directors. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian director who is struggling to make his next film, which is some sort of science fiction tale.

Guido’s troubles stem from his lack of inspiration and focus, constantly flashing back to formative events in his past and fantasizing about the present. He keeps stringing along his producers and actors without knowing where he wants to take the film. This identity crisis, along with increasing marital problems, form the plot and conflict in this existential and powerful masterpiece.

The title refers to the 8 films and one collaboration that Fellini had completed before making 8 ½, with the character of Guido being representative of Fellini himself and his troubles with film making.

It is semi-autobiographical in that many of the stories and flashbacks shown are similar to Fellini’s own experiences. Because of his deep connection, 8 ½ is also one of Fellini’s most personal films and most focused in terms of purpose and symbolism. It also is the most imaginative of his early works, featuring many bizarre and fantastical dream and memory sequences.

Mastroianni does a terrific job in his portrayal of the disinterested director, who’s indifference towards his surroundings is both moving and infuriating. Guido is a man who lives through his imagination and memories, and although his friends and family want him to succeed, he has no drive to follow their wishes.

This award winning film about freedom and creativity, as well as the personal struggles of an artist, is one of the greatest films about film making and should be seen by every fan of cinema.

Honarable Mentions: Bell’ Antonio, Sunflower, The 10th Victim, Love a la Carte.

Author Bio: Matthew Benbenek is an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He has a passion for film, music and literature and, when not watching movies, is an amateur director and violin player.