Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) (The Bicycle Thief)

Critics Consensus

An Italian neorealism exemplar, Bicycle Thieves thrives on its non-flashy performances and searing emotion.



Total Count: 60


Audience Score

User Ratings: 34,104
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Movie Info

This landmark Italian neorealist drama became one of the best-known and most widely acclaimed European movies, including a special Academy Award as "most outstanding foreign film" seven years before that Oscar category existed. Written primarily by neorealist pioneer Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio DeSica, also one of the movement's main forces, the movie featured all the hallmarks of the neorealist style: a simple story about the lives of ordinary people, outdoor shooting and lighting, non-actors mixed together with actors, and a focus on social problems in the aftermath of World War II. Lamberto Maggiorani plays Antonio, an unemployed man who finds a coveted job that requires a bicycle. When it is stolen on his first day of work, Antonio and his young son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) begin a frantic search, learning valuable lessons along the way. The movie focuses on both the relationship between the father and the son and the larger framework of poverty and unemployment in postwar Italy. As in such other classic films as Shoeshine (1946), Umberto D. (1952), and his late masterpiece The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971), DeSica focuses on the ordinary details of ordinary lives as a way to dramatize wider social issues. As a result, The Bicycle Thief works as a sentimental study of a father and son, a historical document, a social statement, and a record of one of the century's most influential film movements.


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Critic Reviews for Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) (The Bicycle Thief)

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (59) | Rotten (1)

  • This gem tells the story of a frantic search bv a man and his son for a stolen bike which provided for the family's existence. It is told with the usual Italian realism, but with unusual excitement.

    Mar 29, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Decades later, you can see the influence of Bicycle Thieves everywhere, in a variety of genres and languages.

    Feb 26, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves is tender and immediate, a simple tale of a man whose bike is stolenwhen his job and life depends upon it.

    Aug 13, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The work of screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, director Vittorio De Sica, the nonprofessional actors, and many others is so charged with a common purpose that there's no point in even trying to separate their achievements.

    Jan 14, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Undeniably the most important neorealist film after Rossellini's Open City.

    Jan 14, 2013 | Full Review…
  • De Sica carefully balances a generally tragic sensibility with a quiet undercurrent of hope, all the while sucking us into the story with the sheer urgency of the search for a stolen bicycle.

    Nov 18, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Hank Sartin

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) (The Bicycle Thief)

  • Oct 17, 2012
    Humorous, poignant and heartbreaking, this wonderful gem of Italian neorealism deserves every bit of its long-lasting reputation as a classic and unforgettable social statement, and it is always beautiful to see how it eschews any sentimentality and remains always honest in its emotions.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 04, 2012
    "The Bicycle Thief" has a message so universal, a story so engrossing and performances so likable that even those with fears of subtitles and black-and-white film making will find themselves enjoying it. To me, it isn't a masterpiece, but rather an interesting achievement. It's so constantly inventive and absorbing, giving us characters that we actually care about. The outcome is decidedly bleak, but it's honest as well, and in the end, that's really what makes "The Bicycle Thief" so special.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2012
    An individual story about the general disparity of post World War II Europe. Haunting, beautiful, and sad--but telling.
    Jeff L Super Reviewer
  • Jun 29, 2012
    Bicycle Thieves is a great neo-realistic Italian film. It's sad and you can't help but pity our protagonist. The performances were well played. And the acting of Bruno was some of the best I've seen from a kid.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer

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