1. 8½ (1963)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Storyline: 8½ is a significant movie representing the esoteric struggles within the artistic world. In the film, Marcello Mastroianni plays Federico Fellini’s alter ego- Guido Anselmi, a famed Italian movie director hampered by writer’s block and enmeshed in a turbulent web of romantic relationships. As Guido navigates his personal and professional life, his dreams and memories intertwine to shape a dizzying world of his reality, reflecting Fellini’s philosophical and emotional take on the film-making process.

Why it’s a Major Movie: The film showcases Fellini’s expertise in blending fantasy and reality into an insightful narrative. It has been celebrated as a masterpiece for its innovative filming techniques, bold storytelling, extraordinary visual effects, and Mastroianni’s impressive performance. The movie’s semi-autobiographical element adds a distinct personal touch to it, making it a symbolic representation of a film director’s intricate psyche on the silver screen. Furthermore, Fellini’s unique use of humor and fantasy elements adds substance to the story, making it a significant film in cinema history.

Why it’s a Major Movie: 8½ is not merely a movie; it’s a display of Fellini’s ingenious creativity at its peak. It marked a new direction for international cinema by exploring the complexities of human minds through thought-provoking imagery and profound dialogues. 8½ has influenced numerous directors and paved the path for a new era of psychological drama in the industry. In addition, the film has received universal acclaim and won several awards including two Academy Awards, adding merit to Fellini’s unrivaled craftsmanship in filmmaking.

2. La Dolce Vita (1960)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Storyline: La Dolce Vita explores Rome’s post-war decadence through the eyes of Marcello Rubini, a gossip journalist. The plot unfolds the seven picaresque episodes centered around the hedonistic lifestyle of the city, including Marcello’s encounters with an heiress, his long-suffering fiancée, a glamourous movie star, and other eclectic characters. The film intricately examines the corrupted morals and social despair in the vein of light-hearted yet intense satire.

Why it’s a Major Movie: La Dolce Vita is a landmark in film history for its explicit portrayal of societal decadence and human corruption. The movie, with its engaging characters and rich environments, stands apart for its ambitious narrative and social commentary. Fellini’s ingenious storytelling combined with Marcello Mastroianni’s captivating performance offers an intriguing lens to view the malaise of the modern world.

Why it’s a Major Movie: The film’s success rests on its exploration of the concept of the “Sweet Life” and the hollow satisfaction it brings. La Dolce Vita won several awards, including the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Its influence on popular culture is enormous as it introduced the term “paparazzi” to the world, adding a new dimension to the world of journalism and celebrity culture.

3. Nights of Cabiria (1957)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Storyline: Nights of Cabiria follows the life of a naive prostitute, Cabiria, who, while searching for true love in the streets and nightclubs of Rome, only finds betrayal and disappointment. Her encounters with different men force her to face life’s harsh realities but also reflect Cabiria’s resilience and optimism, despite of her gloomy surroundings.

Why it’s a Major Movie: This film excellently depicts Fellini’s perspective on human nature and resilience in the face of adversity. Giulietta Masina’s remarkable performance as Cabiria, combined with Fellini’s effective storytelling, contributed to the worldwide acclaim of this movie. It brilliantly portrays the struggles of a lower-class woman with unvanquished hope and poignancy, pushing the boundaries of conventional Italian cinema.

Why it’s a Major Movie: Nights of Cabiria is celebrated for providing a thoughtful narrative about human resilience and the indomitable spirit of survival. In recognition of Masina’s stunning performance and Fellini’s unmatched direction, the movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It also bagged the Best Actress award for Giulietta Masina at the Cannes Film Festival, making it a significant film in Fellini’s career.

4. Amarcord (1973)

IMDB Rating: 7.9/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Storyline: Amarcord radiates with Fellini’s nostalgia about his youth, charting a year in the lives of a group of people in a small Italian coastal town in the 1930s under Mussolini’s Fascist regime. The film captures the village’s eccentricities, annual rituals, childhood memories, teenage fantasies, and adult desires with warmth and humor.

Why it’s a Major Movie: Amarcord is appreciated as a semi-autobiographical masterpiece, marked by Fellini’s signature style of injecting larger-than-life characters and shapeshifting reality into his narratives. It brilliantly captures the director’s idealized version of his hometown Rimini, creating a timeless portrayal of life’s simple joys and heartbreaks.

Why it’s a Major Movie: The film is celebrated for its unique storytelling and the evocative depiction of an era, transcending cultural boundaries and universally resonating with audiences’ memories of their adolescence. Amarcord holds a prestigious place in world cinema and received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film respectively, adding a feather to Fellini’s cap.

5. La Strada (1954)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Storyline: La Strada introduces Gelsomina, a naive young woman sold by her impoverished mother to Zampanò, a brutish circus strongman. With themes of human brutality and innocence, the film delves deep into Gelsomina’s harmonious world that gets violently shattered upon her encounter with Zampanò.

Why it’s a Major Movie: La Strada signifies Fellini’s distinctive storytelling marked by tragic symbolism and poetic realism. The film, with its compelling storyline and vividly realized characters, delves into the human struggle, exploring deeper philosophical questions around morality and existentialism.

Why it’s a Major Movie: La Strada is regarded as a cinematic masterpiece that influenced the neorealist genre and showcased Fellini’s versatility and subtle storytelling technique. The film’s poignant portrayal of a tortured relationship won it the inaugural Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, boosting Fellini’s reputation globally.

6. Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Storyline: Juliet of the Spirits is a dramatic fantasy chronicling the life of Juliet, a neglected housewife embarking on a spiritual and psychological journey to break free from her mundane existence and cheating husband to discover her inner self.

Why it’s a Major Movie: The film marks Fellini’s first foray into color filmmaking, brilliantly capturing Juliet’s psychic landscape with visually stunning sequences, whimsical sets, and flamboyant costumes. The narrative reflects Fellini’s insightful understanding of women’s emotional complexities and the societal pressures they endure.

Why it’s a Major Movie: Juliet of the Spirits typifies Fellini’s creativity at its height and symbolizes the auteur’s first successful feminist narrative. It stands as an essential landmark in feminist film history and is also celebrated for being the first Italian film to be shot in full Technicolor, carving a niche for Fellini in the industry.

7. I Vitelloni (1953)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Storyline: I Vitelloni provides a poignant look at the lives of five young men in a small Italian coastal town, who are struggling to escape their stagnant lives but are too scared to leave their comfort zone.

Why it’s a Major Movie: This film is a showcase of Fellini’s exceptional storytelling prowess and sharp social commentary. It artfully spins a tale of five aimless friends trapped in an existential crisis and beautifully represents the ennui of provincial life.

Why it’s a Major Movie: The charm of I Vitelloni lies in its simplistic storytelling and authentic portrayal of the predicaments of youth. The film serves as a critique of the social milieu of Italy and has left a lasting impact on international cinema, inspiring filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick.

8. Fellini’s Casanova (1976)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

Storyline: Fellini’s Casanova tells the story of Giacomo Casanova, the infamous 18th-century womanizer, illuminating the character’s public persona as well as exploring his loneliness and existential dread beneath these amorous conquests.

Why it’s a Major Movie: This elaborate biopic offers a critical manifesto of Fellini’s auteur style. Brimming with vibrant surrealistic visuals, extravagant costumes, and exceptionally designed sets, the movie presents a distinct take on the historical icon, shaping Casanova into a grotesque character rather than a charming lover.

Why it’s a Major Movie: Fellini’s Casanova stands out for its complex narrative and visually imaginative storytelling. It won the Oscar for “Best Costume Design” and received praise for its ambitious spectacle and Fellini’s deconstruction of the classic Casanova myth, making it a unique entry in the director’s filmography.