Looking for something new to watch on TV? We are having a love affair with the Rome thanks to film and television. Here’s our list of our favourite 12 films set in Rome Italy available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. There are also 3 Italian TV series on Netflix if you wanted a longer escape. These Italian shows on Netflix and Amazon will help you discover (or relive) the thrill of a trip to Rome. See if you can notice a difference between American-made films set in Rome and Italian-made films set in Rome!
12 Films Set in Rome
There’s a line in the movie, Nine, that the world sees Rome the way the films portrayed it.
If that’s true, then the world sees Rome as the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain… and the Castello d’Angelo. I expected Colosseum and the Vatican to be in establishing shots of Rome but surprised that Castello d’Angelo is mentioned in several movies.
All the Italians are good looking and well-dressed. Julia Roberts seems to do a lot of films set in Rome!
You can find some Italian movies on Amazon Prime for free, but certain of these Italian movies are only available to watch after a nominal charge on Amazon. The Italian films on Netflix are free for subscribers.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Roman Holiday is simply delightful and not just because of Audrey Hepburn. Watching this movie you realise how much the world has changed.
Plot: European princess Anne is just exhausted with her tour of European capitols. In Rome, she sneaks out of the palace to have a fun-filled adventure in Rome aided and abetted by a journalist played by Gregory Peck.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: As portrayed in the movie, princesses in the 1950’s were sheltered. We know now though that Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, was doing her ‘wild child’ thing during this era. The press were just so much more circumspect at the time.
Sadly, you can no longer sit and eat gelato on the Spanish Steps either and there are definitely no more children playing in Rome’s fountains.
No one disappears in a public place for the day either. Too many cell phone cameras and paparazzi around. Instead of helping her, the helpful Italian barber would have sold photos to the tabloids of Princess Anne’s haircut for a small fortune.
Scenery: All of Rome in its 1950’s black and white charm. You’ll see the Roman street life, the Vespas, the Spanish Steps before it became full of Italian designer shops, and a party near the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Available: on Amazon for a charge
La Dolce Vita (1961)
Another oldie but goody, La Dolce Vita is a Fellini masterpiece about a journalist and his hedonistic life in Rome (see also The Great Beauty below, which is a modern take on this theme).
La Dolce Vita was probably Fellini’s most commercially successful movie. Here’s that famous scene in the Trevi Fountain:
Oceans 12 (2004)
Oceans 12 is an American heist film with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and their famous friends.
Plot: Clooney and his buddies plan an elaborate heist to pay back the Vegas casino owner they robbed in Oceans 11. There’s also a priceless Faberge Egg which requires an acrobatic dance through laser fields to steal. Standard Hollywood stuff.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes. Pretty much that’s it.
Scenery: Large parts of the action happen in Rome but you don’t see as much of the city as I’d like. It’s all about the good looking actors. And, you get to see George Clooney’s villa at Lake Como.
Angels & Demons (2009)
Angels & Demons is another fast-paced American thriller with Tom Hanks playing Robert Langdon, Harvard professor and symbolist.
Plot: There’s evil afoot when the Illuminati want to blow up Vatican City with a stolen tube of anti-matter while a conclave of Cardinals are meeting to pick a new Pope. Langdon and an Italian nuclear scientist must save the day rushing around Rome to decode symbols and find out where the tube is hidden before it explodes.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Action-packed thriller which keeps you engaged and deflects attention from the weak plot.
Scenery: Great shots of Central Rome and the Vatican – basically just like you had spent 3 days in Rome yourself!
Available: on Netflix
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Plot: Liz leaves her unhappy marriage and travels the world for a year. She starts off in Italy – first stop Rome. In the Eternal City, she discovers the joy of good food, spirituality in India and love in Indonesia. Think How Stella Got Her Groove Back made for a white suburban woman.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Charming primarily because of Julia Roberts.
I honestly don’t understand how Liz can be from New York and not experienced amazing food, especially New York pizza. Or, she could have been the sort of person who obsessed over her size in which case Italy helped her be less neurotic.
I once went to a birthday party in New York where one slice of chocolate cake got passed around a group of 12 people with nobody taking the piece because … carbs!!!
One scene describes the word for Rome as sex. Having seen quite a few Italian movies in my life, I can tell you that’s probably the word for all of Italy.
Apparently the Italian press did not like this movie and how it portrayed their country. I can see why – the film puts a romantic soft-focus lens on where the Roman homeless live. This is a dreamy Rome, like the self-involved main character.
Scenery: Lots of beautiful Roman vistas and Italian stereotypes. E.g., she goes to Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. But OMG the food porn is heavy. It will leave you craving Italian food.
Available: on Netflix
To Rome With Love (2012)
To Rome With Love is a Woody Allen film paying tribute to the city’s reputation for romance.
Plot: There are four unconnected stories set in Rome with a splash of magic realism to them.
One story has Woody Allen’s usual neurotic character and his wife going to Rome to meet their daughter, her Roman fiancee and his family. The soon to be father-in-law is an amazing opera singer but only in the shower.
Woody Allen’s frustrated opera director character will not let up until he convinces the dad to go on stage and sing. One caveat: he has stage fright and can only sing in the shower.
Another story has a newlywed Italian couple come to Rome, accidentally spend the day apart, have sex with other people and then return to their small town.
A little adultery thrown into the beginning of every marriage … why not? Apparently this story line is a miniature version of a Fellini movie which suddenly makes sense.
Another story has Alec Baldwin’s American architect go back and relive a romantic folly he had when he lived in Rome as an idealised youth.
The last story is about a middle-class man who wakes up and suddenly is a celebrity. Think Freaky Friday without the charm.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: In the end, everyone goes back to the status quo. Woody Allen is still a failed director, his father-in-law doesn’t want to be an opera star, the newlyweds return home etc. There’s a whole lot of failed dreams in these stories.
Scenery: Lots of central Rome and other parts you may not recognise. Alec Baldwin’s story is set in the charming Trastevere section.
Available: Amazon for a charge
Love Wedding Repeat (2020)
Plot: British man fumbles his way towards the American woman of his dreams while trying to ensure his sister’s wedding runs smoothly.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: An innocuous riff on the material Four Weddings and A Funeral did so well. Perfectly pleasant.
Scenery: Some views of Rome but most of the action takes place at the (admittedly gorgeous) villa.
My Country (2018)
My Country is an Italian movie with two brothers road tripping with the ashes of their dead father to his hometown in Molise, Italy.
Plot: Before dying, a dad tells his Italian-American son that he actually has an older brother that the dad had left behind after World War 2 in Italy.
Son tracks down his older half-brother via Facebook and shows up on his doorstep in Rome. The two brothers road trip to Molise to scatter their father’s ashes.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Not a glossy Hollywood production but, nonetheless, with a quiet charm. I love the road trip in a 1970’s red Fiat Cinquecento.
Obviously the older brother has to teach the younger brother how to drive stick because most Americans can only drive automatic.
Scenery: After some scene-setting in Chicago, the action takes place mostly in Italy. First in the city of Rome and then, the mountainside area of Molise which lies about 3 hours away from Rome. They arrive in time for the Gnocchi Feast with lots of food which just made me hungry.
The region of Molise made news in 2019 when they announced that they would pay people to move to one of the 100+ of the smaller towns.
My two cents: The region looked absolutely beautiful but even in the movie they had difficulty getting a WiFi signal.
Available: Amazon Prime
Nine is an American musical remake of 8 1/2, a classic Italian film by Fellini.
Plot: Daniel Day Lewis plays Guido, a famous director/charming man child who has writer’s block when he’s expected to make his next film.
The nine woman who have influenced him shows up in the magic realism of this movie, including his mother, wife, mistress, muse etc. Frankly, most men would have a nightmare too in this instance.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Just like To Rome With Love, a middle-aged man spends a lot of time navel-gazing. Enjoyable nonetheless because Daniel Day Lewis is a long tall glass of Pelligrino.
It’s all very meta being a movie about the making of a movie. In the end Guido is inspired to make the movie Nine. And, the story is really about the women who made Guido who he is.
Daniel Day Lewis goes all method and smokes like a fiend which does add authenticity.
The musical number “Be Italian” seems to indicate that being Italian is all about sex.
Scenery: Guido zigzags between Rome, the seaside south of Rome and the lake north of Rome.
The scenes of Rome are as delightful as ever, with daytime shots of Guido in his convertible car zipping by the Colosseum and the Forum and night-time shots of quiet Roman streets and fountains.
Available: Amazon for a charge
The Great Beauty
The Great Beauty, Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film in 2014, is an art house film which harks back to Fellini.
Plot: A writer/journalist examines his hedonistic lifestyle after his 65th birthday surrounded by pretentious friends who also lives empty lives filled with frivolity. This movie about self-discovery is a mix of ludicrous topics and sublime cinematography. E.g.,
- a naked woman headbutts a brick wall in the name of “performance art” (imagine a naked Harry Potter if he had not managed to make it through Platform 9 3/4)
- Adults gathering to watch a child throwing a tantrum (and paint on a canvas). And the punchline? People pay millions for the kid’s art.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: There’s probably a point to this movie. I’m just too unintellectual to get it.
My favourite lines in the movie:
Man: And what job do you do?
Woman: Me? I’m rich.
Man: Great job.
It’s probably the teens from Baby (television series, see below) who grew up and populate this movie.
Scenery: The main character has the most AMAZING duplex with a roof terrace overlooking the Colosseum. Clearly the one novel he wrote sold well.
There’s also beautiful images of Rome at night, assorted fountains such as the Piazza Navona etc.
Available: Amazon for a charge
Welcome Mr President! (2013)
Welcome Mr President! is an Italian comedy where an honest librarian/fisherman accidentally becomes Italian President.
Plot: Similar to Dave (1993) where an ordinary man stumbles into the presidency of his country. The accidental president injects some much needed integrity into the political system and gets the girl.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: We are back in television world where the old man gets a gorgeous, intelligent girl the same age as his son. The movie is dubbed over in English from the original Italian.
Scenery: Lots of central Rome scenes as well as a small Italian mountain village. The scenes set at the Quirinal Palace where the Italian President lives are magnificent.
The scenes of Rome in this James Bond move are short but amazing. James Bond finds himself fairly early in the movie in Rome doing some recon work. Bond really only has enough time for a quick romantic escapade and a thrilling car chase through the night streets of Rome.
3 Italian TV Shows on Netflix Set in Rome
Thanks to these Italian TV shows on Netflix, we can also get a glimpse of Rome from the Italian point of view. These Italian TV series on Netflix cover a range of drama genres – from teen to gangster and crime. Yet, they all deal in some way with the Roman underworld.
These Italian TV shows on Netflix have a few things in common:
First off, all of these Italian shows on Netflix feature beautiful people – even the gangsters.
Even the Italian gangster who is practically psycho in Suburro takes a mud bath to keep his skin soft.
Second, these Italian shows on Netflix all address the issue of racism in the country.
Italy is less ethnically homogenous society than traditionally. For example, a gangster in Suburro worries more that his girlfriend is black than that she is a prostitute.
In Carlo & Malik, the ethnic question is baked into the series plot.
Third, many of the Italian characters smoke like chimneys in these Italian shows on Netflix.
It’s especially noticeable compared to American-made tv shows and films set in Rome.
Plot: If Gossip Girl had a Roman setting and the teens rode around on Vespas. The sugar daddy slant makes it grittier, too.
Based on a true scandal in Rome in 2014 where two teenage girls from a wealthy neighbourhood were caught in a prostitution scandal with an older, powerful clientele. Prositution is legal in Italy but not sex with minors.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: The ennui is real. What do rich kids who have everything do for kicks? Illegal stuff obviously.
Scenery: The private school, homes, people – all super attractive and stylish. And beautiful cinematography.
Suburra: Blood on Rome (2017-2019)
Plot: Mobsters, gang members, and real estate developers vie in a deal to develop beachfront property owned by the Vatican into an Italian Las Vegas front for the Italian Mafia.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: When it starts off with a Vatican official in the middle of an orgy, you know there will be some pearl-clutching moments.
I loved its messy, gritty, realistic portrayal of a modern city. It’s not the Rome of the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum.
Scenery: Rome that the tourists don’t see. The Vatican rooms are beautiful.
I had never heard of the Romany subgroup Sinti who are also an organised gang in Rome.
Fans of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding will not be disappointed with the Sinti wedding!
Too bad the groom is gay and is being forced into marriage to cement family relations before a big gang war. Run girl run!
Carlo & Malik (2018)
Plot: Take a standard veteran cop training a rookie cop and throw in crimes set in Rome and systemic racism into the mix.
Malik, the rookie cop, came to Italy at the age of 5 as a refugee from the Ivory Coast. Lucky for him, he graduated at the top of his class at the Police Academy and his brilliant work prevails at the end of the day.
My Unsolicited Thoughts: Interesting to see how Italian acknowledge the issues of racism and immigration in their society.
Although Malik insists he is Italian, many Italians refuse to acknowledge he is one of them.
Scenery: More Rome that you haven’t seen before mixed in with central Rome.
The Rome of the everyday Romans and Tourist Rome seem to exist in parallel lives. For example, episode two, the cops are investigating a body found at Ponte Sant’Angelo and you hear a tourist boat giving the narration of the bridge and Castel Sant’Angelo passing by.
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