High Museum of Art: Films

Staff Picks: Italian Movies by hmablogmaster

It’s already the final weekend of our Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius exhibition. To honor it, Museum staff have selected their favorite Italian movies. What’s yours?

Curatorial Assistant, Decorative Arts and Design

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Sergio Leone

Not only does it have one of the best musical scores ever written, this is the best of the Dollars trilogy of spaghetti westerns and upped the ante on what a “Western Movie” could be.  Not to mention it stars one of the greatest villains ever with Lee Van Cleef  (Angel Eyes – The Bad) – can anyone top that guy’s face?  The graveyard scene is one of the most memorable and palpitating in cinema… the swirling, circular camera shots perfectly express the frenzy and drama of the moment as Eli Wallach (Tuco – The Ugly) reaches the breaking point in the race for gold, as Ennio Morricone’s epic The Ecstasy of Gold builds and swells with passion.

And of course, this new era of Western Cowboy is represented by one of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic characters (Blondie – The Good… yet, WAS he all that good?).  The extreme close ups, the innovative camera angles and sweeping cinematography, and the rugged blatant “UGLY” (physical and internal) depicted throughout the movie are all traits synonymous with Sergio Leone’s distinctive vision.  Ironically filmed in Spain with an Italian crew instead of the Wild American West, the iconic filmmaking and music have gone on to inspire other well-known creative forces from Quentin Tarantino to Metallica.  Now counted as one of the best movies ever made by countless critics, this film is worth the 3 hours.

Speakers Bureau Coordinator

The Godfather Collection

The Godfather & The Godfather:  Part II – Francis Ford Coppola

I really don’t know how I can pick an “Italian-themed” film other than The Godfather series.  I know it sounds obvious, but it really is one of the greatest films of all-time.  I love these films because I feel like I really get to be a part of the Corleone family.  Two distinct scenes that always stand out in my mind is when Michael Corleone does his first “hit job” in a restaurant.  He tried so hard to not follow in his father’s footsteps, but in that moment in the restaurant, you know that his life’s trajectory is about to seriously change.  The other scene is when Diane Keaton’s character tells Michael that she terminated her pregnancy.  The tension in Michael’s face is so palpable that you are literally holding onto your seat to see just how he is about to react.  I also love going back in time in The Godfather Part II to see the genisis of the Corleone family.

As a film lover and a film major at my university, The Godfather was one of the first films that really got me to think about how you can enter the world of fictional characters and be captivated by their dysfunctional lives.  If often makes you feel a lot better about your own.

Security Officer


Suspiria – Dario Argento

Longtime Italian horror movie director Dario Argento is helping remake one of his classic Italian horror movies Suspiria. The remake is supposed to be out later this year. The 1977 Suspiria has been re-released on Blu-Ray, and it has been called the most beautiful of the Italian “Giallo” horror films. I am tempted to buy the Blu-Ray version even though I already have a copy on regular DVD.

It may be hard to understand how a horror movie could be described as beautiful. If you can stand the extreme tension and shocking violence you can see the lush production values, the strong use of color, and the very unusual soundtrack. It’s garish, loud, intentionally grating at points, and deeply disturbing. The movie belongs with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the best of the horror genre.

Speakers Bureau Intern

La Famiglia

La Famiglia – Ettore Scola

My favorite Italian film is La Famiglia, a 1987 film by Ettore Scola featured at Cannes. The entire film takes place in the patriarch’s apartment, following the stories of one Italian family, from the Belle Époque to the 1980s. The greatest value of the film is that Scola places the compelling personal narratives of love, friendship, and betrayal within the historical and political framework of the two world wars and the other great events of the twentieth century.


Web Content Coordinator

Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk – Michael Lehmann

Okay, so this might be sad, but how much do I love Hudson Hawk? It’s probably one of the most panned movies of all time, and won “Worst Picture,” “Worst Screenplay” and “Worst Director” Razzies in 1992.   But I’ve never been one for critical acclaim. (Director Michael Lehmann has since moved onto directing “it”-TV shows like True Blood and Big Love. Maybe he was just ahead of his time.)

The story is about an ex-con who agrees to that one last gig, which happens to involve a whole lot of Leonardo da Vinci (and an extra vile Sandra Bernhard!). It’s made of complete falsehoods, and might be offensive if you care about history, but the characters you meet (Butterfinger? Almond Joy?), the scenery and the fun heist-movie feeling make it worth your while. Well, it makes it worth my while, anyway.

Plus, it’s practically a sing-along! To keep track of the time they have left before the cops storm the joint, Danny Aiello’s Tommy Five-Tone and Bruce Willis’s Eddie Hawkins (the Hudson Hawk), sing songs of a certain length. Would you like to swing on a star? Yep, I sure would.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Angel of Mine. The best. What a great film. The music, the color, the acting was unbelievable. The story just mind bending. Inituition or whatever took charge for the proper resolution to occur. Do individuals have a second or third sense when the timing is right?

Comment by Brock McConnell

Ever Angel of Mine is also one of my best movie in list…..

really a great movie worth to watch…

Comment by jeck

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