Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)


Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)

Critics 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.



Total Count: 87


Audience Score

User Ratings: 249,235
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Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella) 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 fiancé, 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.

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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
Franco Mescolini
as School Inspector
Sergio Bini Bustric
as Ferrucio Orefice
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 Bookstore
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Critic Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (70) | Rotten (17)

  • How appealing you find it will probably depend on your response to Benigni's screen-hogging routines -- the line between endearing and irksome is a fine one.

    Jun 10, 2002 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Tom Dawson
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Its sentiment is inescapable, but genuine poignancy and pathos are also present, and an overarching sincerity is visible too.

    Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Art-house sentimentalists will likely go for Beautiful in a big way, but even those who aggressively resist manipulation can find a lot to admire.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • Sentimentality is a kind of fascism too, robbing us of judgment and moral acuity, and it needs to be resisted. Life Is Beautiful is a good place to start.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 1/5
  • The picture doesn't work, at least not to the extent it was intended to.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)

  • Mar 14, 2016
    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 C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 19, 2013
    Despite allegations that this somehow makes light of the Holocaust, I believe that this film has quite the opposite result. Despite the attempts at comedy by Benigni for the sake of his son, the audience can see the true horror unfolding behind him. A truly beautiful film.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2012
    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 Super Reviewer
  • Aug 10, 2012
    You could argue that "Life is Beautiful" exploits overly sensitive material, but I'd disagree. I don't think that a film this sweet could ever knowingly have bad intentions. It's got to be one of the most inspirational, most magical films out there, and you'd literally have to have a heart of stone and a soul as black as coal not to be carried away by its whimsical charm. Roberto Benigni turns in an incredibly uplifting, completely honest performance that's as sincere as it gets. You can complain about a film being too or too profane, but don't ever complain about a film being too nice, which, I'm afraid, is what some have said about "Life is Beautiful."
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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