Divorce Italian Style (1961) – Best Classic Italian Movies

Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all’italiana) is one of the best classic comedy movies from Italy.

The movie gave name to the important Italian comedy film genre of the 60’s called “Comedy Italian Style”. 

Divorce Italian Style was a huge global hit. It received awards at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and the Oscars. Actor Marcello Mastroianni, one of the greatest Italian movie stars of all time, was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar award for his brilliant performance in this film.

Divorce Italian Style - Divorzio all'Italiana - Graffiti

Classic Comedy Movies – Plot Teaser

In Sicily, a middle-aged Italian nobleman, Ferdinando, is trapped in a love-less marriage. He finds himself hopelessly attracted to his 16-year old cousin.  

Since the divorce in Italy does not exist, his only option is the “crime of honour” – to kill his wife for her adulterous ways. The problem is, however, that his wife is quite devoted to him.

Classic Italian Movies – Divorce and Comedy

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100% by critics

90% by viewers


After WWII and the fascist regime, Italy was going through rough times. Italian films of that time were about harsh realities of life. These classic Italian movies had a tremendous effect on movie-making, influencing all major filmmakers of our time.

Things in Italy began to improve in the 50’s. People’s spirits were rising and so was their desire for a lighter movie fare. 

Italian comedy film genre took the stage and produced some of the world’s funniest movie masterpieces. Italians were laughing at themselves and doing it with class. These classic comedy movies mocked Italian legal system and traditions. 

One of the major themes in these films was divorce, or lack of thereof in Italy. 

Divorce was non-existent in Italy until it was legalized in 1970. In Europe, only Spain (1981), Ireland (1996) and Malta (2010) took longer. 

There were two main events that propelled the issue of the divorce in Italy to the foreground:

  1. Phenomenal popularity of Divorce Italian Style
  2. Sofia Loren’s relationship with Carlo Ponti:

Carlo Ponti was a renowned Italian movie producer responsible for bringing to the screen many classic Italian movies. A married man with two children, he met Sofia Loren when she was 15 and a beginning actress. He turned her into one of the biggest Italian movie stars. 

Although they were lovers since 1953, they weren't able to marry until 1966, in France. In Italy, where his divorce from his first wife was not legal, the couple couldn't stay in the same hotel and couldn't be seen in public together for the fear of being excommunicated from Catholic Church. 

Divorce Italian Style - Divorzio all'Italiana - Marcello Mastroianni

The matter of divorce in Sicily, where the events of this classic Italian comedy movie take place, was even more complicated than in Northern Italy. 

With this movie, Pietro Germi, one of the greatest Italian movie directors, wanted to bring attention to Sicilian traditions, such as crime of honour, that he considered to be less than flattering to the Italian nation: “Sicily is a part of Italy and its shameful blackspots are blackspots for all Italians; it is our duty to speak out against them”… by laughing at them.

Italian Classic Comedy Movies - Recommendation

Divorce Italian Style is not a Hollywood style comedy. Divorzio all’italiana is what one might call a “comedy of life” or a tragicomedy. 

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