Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) (1997)



Critic Consensus: Benigni's earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.

Movie Info

In his WW II tragicomedy, Guido marries Dora and together they have a son. Five years later they are imprisoned in a concentration camp. Guido does not want his son to know why they are there, so he says that it's a game in which the winner receives a tank.

Rating: PG-13 (for holocaust-related thematic elements)
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Cerami
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 9, 1999
Miramax - Official Site


as Guido Orefice

as Uncle Eliseo

as Dora's Mother

as Dr. Lessing

as Guicciardini

as Bartolomeo

as Vittorino

as Didactic Principal

as Upholsterer

as Ferrucio Orefice

as School Inspector

as City Hall Secretary

as German Corporal

as German Lieutenant

as Ernesto the Waiter

as Dora's Governess

as Woman at the Opera

as Prefect

as Rodolfo's Friend

as Policeman in Booksto...
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella)

All Critics (100) | Top Critics (20)

Yes, there are heaps of charm and poignancy in this trifle, but it's a trifle nonetheless -- light-and-bright, for sure, but also slight-and-trite.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Its sentiment is inescapable, but genuine poignancy and pathos are also present, and an overarching sincerity is visible too.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Benigni certainly knew the risk he was taking with his idea, but the circumstances overwhelm him.

January 1, 2000
The New Republic
Top Critic

In the real death camps there would be no role for Guido. But Life Is Beautiful is not about Nazis and Fascists, but about the human spirit.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

It's a high-wire act without a net, and Benigni pulls it off with astounding grace and sensitivity.

January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Roberto Benigni's finest hour arrived in 1997 when the triple-threat writer/director/actor delved deep into Charlie Chaplin territory - see "The Great Dictator" (1940).

Full Review… | March 8, 2013

Audience Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella)


I think you have to give this film credit just for having the guts to address a heavy subject like the Holocaust in the manner done here, which is predominately with a lighthearted tone. That's a big risk, but it mostly pays off here.

Basically the movie is about a man who tries to shelter his son from the ugliness of the world. Guido has a Jewish background, and when he and his son are sent to a concentration camp, he does his best (really going to elaborate lengths at times) to keep his son from finding out the brutal truth of their situation. He mostly does this by telling him they are playing a game.

This really could have gone badly, but it doesn't. Benigni (as actor and director) uses just the right touch to pull this delicate balancing act off. The film is admittedly rather uneven (especially when it really starts to get heavy and dark near the end), but I think the approach here is an interesting one to take when trying to educate kids about such a dark era.

Benigni does give an excellent performance in the lead, and it's almost as memorable as his acceptance speech for when he got the Oscar for his work here. The other performances are also really good, but this is definitely Benigni's show. The film has great technical stuff, is pretty funny at times, and also very heartwarming/wrenching when necessary.

Definitely a challenging film, and not without its flaws, but it is thought provoking, and something I highly recommend.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


The film's highlight is one man's battle to keep the ugliness of the world from his innocent son, no matter how ugly the world might be, and in this case that means the death camps of the Nazis. Leaning heavily on the silent film comedies of the 20's, physical comedian Benigni is achingly sincere, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the bad, nonetheless one is left with an important consideration: who's version of events are most important? He contends, like few before, that if we make our own reality, then isn't it better to be smiling?

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Saying perfect really sets a bar for a film. For Life is Beautiful, there truly is a perfect blend of happiness and sadness in the span of 2 hours. The story is delicate and gentle, never burdening the audience with the tragedies of WWII. A masterpiece and incredibly powerful.

paul o.
paul oh

Super Reviewer

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) Quotes

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