16 Best Movies About Rome

There are many interesting movies about Rome that you can watch for inspiration or – quite simply – for entertainment. Some of the best are actually movies about ancient Rome and they will captivate you with the incredible costumes, the historical settings and the heroic histories.

Other movies are set in contemporary time and they will give you an accurate though often romanticized idea of what Rome is like nowadays. The best ones are definitely those that were filmed in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Italian economy was booming and there was an aura of optimism about the country, of happiness and growth. 

Not all the best movies about Rome are actually Italian. Some are massive Hollywood blockbusters; others are independent movies by world acclaimed directors. What’s certain, though, is that these movies will make you want to travel to Italy and visit Rome as soon as possible. 

Check out my post 17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible.

In this post, I provide a summary of a few of the most interesting movies about Rome that you should see. Some are comedies, some are dramas and some are thriller – there really is something for all. 

For more movies that will inspire you to visit Italy, head over to my post 19 Best Movies About Italy You Need To Watch.

best movies about Rome

16 Movies About Rome You Really Need To Watch

Gladiator

Released in 2000 and featuring a Russel Crowe in incredible shape at the peak of his career, this is one of the best movies about ancient Rome. Crowe plays the role of Maximus, a Roman general who wishes to avenge the murder of his wife and son. Joaquin Phoenix is scarily good as the main bad-guy, Commodus, while Gladiator also features Oliver Reed in his final film role.

Some scenes are violent and incredibly gruesome, but it’s just as entertaining. And it will make you feel like you are in the Colosseum. 

The movie wasn’t actually filmed in Rome.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about ancient rome

Ben Hur

This is one of the most epic (literally) movies about ancient Rome. It was released in 1959 and won a whopping 11 Oscars. It’s the story of Ben Hur, a Jew aristocrat living in Judaea who attracts the rage of a Roman Tribune. Sold as slave, he ends up on a galley and, when he sees his family persecuted, swears revenge. 

It’s actually a remake of a silent film from 1925, itself an adaptation of a 1880 novel. It’s the story of a wealthy prince of Judea who ends up as a slave in the Roman empire and swears revenge. The movie is famed for its chariot scene, which still stands up as epic cinema today.

Ben Hur actually had the largest budget of any film at that time (over $15 million). It also boasted one of the largest sets ever built – specifically at Rome’s Cinecittà studios, where they built an 18-acre racetrack modeled on the Circus of Antioch.

The most famous scene is the chariot race – an incredible technological achievement for that time. 

Get this movie on Amazon here. Don’t bother with the 2016 remake!

best movies about Rome

Spartacus

This 1960 movies by Stanley Kubric is hardly historically accurate, but the plot is actually quite entertaining – just picture gladiator battles, political intrigue, rebellions and the like. The film is based on the 1951 novel of the same name and tells the story of Spartacus, the title character who ends up leading a slave rebellion in the Roman Empire.

Starring Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Olivier, the film took home four Academy Awards, and has earned a place in the history books for iconic films. The most memorable scene is the “I am Spartacus” – which has been parodied countless times. 

Kubric actually disowned the movie.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

best movies about ancient rome

Cleopatra

One of the most epic movies about Rome is this one, released in 1963, that romanticizes the story of Cleopatra, played by a marvelous Elizabeth Taylor, and her love triangle with Marc Anthony and Julius Cesar as a failed attempt to save the Egyptian empire. 

There is a cartoon version of the movie, Asterix and Cleopatra, which is not historically accurate but definitely fun to watch.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday was released in 1953 and definitely is one of the nicest movies about Rome. It truly is a classic, depicting a beautiful city when it was still in reconstruction after the war effort and there was a fantastic wave of optimism.

A real classic, it features Audrey Hepburn as a princess who is terribly bored with the royal tour she has to follow and happy to jump at the opportunity to get out when reporter Gregory Peck offers her an escape route. That’s how they up zipping around the beautiful streets of Rome on a Vespa, in a scene that has become memorable. 

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about Rome

Fellini Satyricon

Once again Italian director Federico Fellini gives as an incredible movie about Rome. Released in 1969, the story takes place in Nero’s Rome and sees a bunch of characters going about the city. The story is based on the the writings of Petronius, and the whole film features a surreal landscape of Rome and might not exactly be for everyone – it’s often nonsensical, with sex and violence throughout. Most of the surreal images for the movie took place at Cinecittà studios.

The film is split into nine separate sections, with the plot following Encolpius and his friend Ascyltus as they try to romance a young man named Giton.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

best movies about Italy

La Dolce Vita

Italian for “the sweet life” or more meaningfully, “the good life”, this 1960 comedy drama was directed by pre-eminent filmmaker Federico Fellini. The story follows a photojournalist and massive womanizer, Marcello Rubini (played by Marcello Mastroianni, one of the best Italian actors of all times), as he journeys through Rome to discover the “dolce vita” of the city.

The most iconic scene is that in which Anita Ekberg jumps in Trevi Fountain and calls after Marcello. The movie is all about powerful images – quite contemporary, if you think about it. It will take you through the streets of an ever so beautiful Rome.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about Italy

Eat Pray Love

I am not really a fan of this movie as I find it depicts Italy and Italians in a bit of a stereotypical way – what with the scene in which Julia Roberts complaints about the lack of hot water in her apartment. Sure enough, all Italian homes have running hot water – and they certainly did so in 2010, when the movie was released.

Having said that, this is an overall entertaining movie and it will literally show you all the food you should be gorging on in Italy. By the end of it, you will be hungry. 

Julia Roberts plays the author of 2006 memoir (also called Eat Pray Love) by Elizabeth Gilbert. The film follows Gilbert, whose life appears full on the outside – she had a career, home, and successful husband. However, she found herself searching for something that was missing and following a divorce, she embarks on a journey across the world to “find herself”.

Her travels take her to Bali, India, and, of course, Italy, where Roberts (as Gilbert) explores a cliche Rome full of pizza and spaghetti.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

Hungry? Check out my recipes for carbonara or cacio e pepe!

best movies on Italy

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Released in 1999, this movie will take you on a fabulous journey around Italy, including Rome. It features Matt Damon playing the talented Mr Ripley, who travels to Italy in search of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to convince him to go back home to the US, only to find himself immediately captivated by Dickie’s glamorous lifestyle. Ripley ends up killing Greenleaf and taking his place when he moves into his house in Rome. 

This is one of the best movies about Rome in terms of setting and even the acting of Damon is superb. 

best movies about Italy

The Great Beauty

A very well received movie that was released in 2013, directed by Italian Paolo Sorrentino. It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate (I am more of the second opinion, to be honest) to the point that some have renamed it “The Great Bore.”

Having said so, I wouldn’t do it justice not including it in a list of movies about Rome, because that’s exactly what the movie is about: a celebration of the incredible beauty, history and culture in Rome, and a strong critique of the cultural void and the low morals of contemporary society.

The movie opens with a quote from Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s 1932 book Journey to the End of the Night: “Traveling is very useful – it makes your imagination work. Everything else is just disappointment and trouble. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”

Directed by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, The Great Beauty did walk away with a lot of different awards, scooping Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

best movies on Italy

Angels And Demons

Based on a novel by Dan Brown, this movie released in 2009 sees actor Tom Hanks in the role of Harvard professor Robert Langdon, fly across the Atlantic to go to Rome and the Vatican, where he strives to warn the Pope about the resurgence of the Illuminati. This Hollywood mystery thriller – directed by Ron Howard – is the sequel to the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code (also by Dan Brown).

The plot will keep your attention levels high, and quite importantly the movie is a fantastic lesson in art history for Rome and the Vatican. You will love the views of the city in the movie.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

best movies about italy

To Rome With Love

One of the most recent movies about Rome was released by Woody Allen in 2012. It is film is divided in various episodes. One sees a couple on their honeymoon; another sees an architect travel back to the neighborhood where he used to live as a student.

Yet the most entertaining episode sees Italian actor Roberto Benigni (whom you may know from the award winning movie Life Is Beautiful) suddenly becoming a celebrity, for no real reason, and being regularly followed by paparazzi until eventually, just as suddenly, he’s not famous anymore. 

The whole point of the episode that features Benigni is that nowadays people who have no talent whatsoever manage to become famous somehow. More than anything else, however, the movie is a celebration of the incredible beauty of Rome.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

While it does show off the beauty of Rome, the critics didn’t like the movie that much. If that helps, it’s one of my favorite movies about Rome.

best movies about Rome

Only You

This movie isn’t completely set in Rome, but since there are some scenes filmed there I thought I’d include it in this list. It’s a romantic comedy, released in 1994, which sees soon-to-wed Marisa Tomei travel all the way to Italy with her best friend in search of the man she’s been dreaming of marrying since childhood (though she has never met him, but only imagined his name).

Once there, she actually meets a certain Peter Wright (Robert Downey Jr). It’s a fun movie that makes you travel through Italy, including some of the most iconic spots in Rome such as the Mouth of Truth. 

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about Rome

When In Rome

In this 2012 movie the main character, Beth, is a woman disillusioned with love. After she plucks a coin from one of Rome fountains, she founds herself surrounded by the oddest suitors. One of them is more persistent than others, so she wonders if this is true love. 

This movie is a remake of Three Coins In A Fountain of 1954.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about Rome

Ocean’s Twelve

Second in the Ocean’s series, this movie was released in 2004. Andy Garcia is the owner of three casinos in Las Vegas that get robbed. He demands the money back from the members of Ocean’s team, giving them a deadline of two weeks to pay him back. They thus decide to travel to Europe to hit the main casinos to pay the debt.

The movie is filmed in various locations in Italy, including Rome. You will get to spot Trevi Fountain, Via Condotti, Villa Borghese and the Spanish Steps.

Get this movie on Amazon here.

movies about Rome

Nine

Released in 2009, the movie features actresses Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman. It is a musical that tells the story of director Guido Contini, who’s just about to start filming his latest movie – Italia – in Rome’s Cinecittà studios. His professional struggle is only made worse when he calls on the women who have shaped his life – among them his wife, his mistress and his mother – to help him get back his inspiration. 

The movie is a remake of a 1982 movie by the same name, which in turn is an adaptation of Fellini’s movie 8 e 1/2. 

Get this movie on Amazon here.

Maybe give this one a miss if you don’t like musicals – the critics didn’t think much of it either.

Further Readings

Have I inspired you to visit Rome? Make sure to read my posts to plan your trip!

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Discover the best movies to watch about Rome - via @clautavani

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