Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

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.

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

In this WW II tragicomedy, famed Italian funnyman Roberto Benigni (The Monster) portrays Guido, who moves during the '30s from the country to a Tuscan town, where he is entranced by schoolteacher Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni's real-life wife). Dora likes Guido, but she remains faithful to her pompous fianc, so Guido has an uphill struggle. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic attitudes lead to attacks against Guido's Jewish uncle (Giustino Durano). Leaping ahead to five years later, during WW II, Guido and Dora are married and have a son Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). After they are imprisoned in a concentration camp, Guido goes to elaborate lengths to keep his son from understanding the truth of their situation. He tells the boy that they are competing with others to win an armored tank -- so everything from food shortages to tattoos is explained as necessary for participation in the contest.more
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


Roberto Benigni
as Guido Orefice
Giustino Durano
as Uncle Eliseo
Marisa Paredes
as Dora's Mother
Horst Buchholz
as Dr. Lessing
Lidia Alfonsi
as Guicciardini
Pietro De Silva
as Bartolomeo
Francesco Guzzo
as Vittorino
Giuliana Lojodice
as Didactic Principal
Andrea Nardi
as Upholsterer
Sergio Bini Bustric
as Ferrucio Orefice
Franco Mescolini
as School Inspector
Giovanna Villa
as City Hall Secretary
Hannes Hellmann
as German Corporal
Richard Sammel
as German Lieutenant
Giancarlo Cosentino
as Ernesto the Waiter
Gina Rovere
as Dora's Governess
Francesca Messinese
as Woman at the Opera
Gil Baroni
as Prefect
Claudio Alfonsi
as Rodolfo's Friend
Massimo Salvianti
as Policeman in Booksto...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella)

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)


Buongiorno Principessa! A very powerful film that begins pre-war as a slap-stick comedy, introducing our characters with some memorable clever scenes, but then shows its real genius in the second-half when Guido uses his fast-talking talent to keep his young son's high spirits and childhood naivety intact during their internment in a concentration camp. Guido's character has an extremely and uniquely playful perspective on life that with great skill carries him, his son and indeed his wife, on through some of the most bleakest times anyone could ever experience.

Ross Collins

Super Reviewer


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

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) Quotes

Uncle: Nothing is more necessary than the unnecessary.
– Submitted by Manuela V (2 years ago)
Dr. Lessing: If you speak my name, I vanish. What am I?
Guido: Il Silencio! [silence]
– Submitted by Yenyen D (3 years ago)
Guido: I forgot to tell you.
Dora: Go ahead.
Guido: You can't imagine how much I feel like making love to you. But I'll never tell anyone, especially not you. They'd have to torture me to make me say it.
Dora: Say what?
Guido: That I want to make love to you - not just once, but over and over again! But I'll never tell you that. I'd have to be crazy to tell you. I'd even make love to you now... right here for the rest of my life.
– Submitted by Eduardo T (4 years ago)
Guido: Buon giorno, Principessa!
– Submitted by Chris P (5 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) on our Movie forum!