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Top 10 Bernardo Bertolucci Movies, Ranked

From his early experimental efforts to his grand-scale epics, Bertolucci’s richly diverse range of films has continually pushed the boundaries of what cinema can be. He has not just entertained us, but also made us question, reflect and often, squirm in our seats. It’s his blend of the beautiful, the tragic, and the audacious that makes Bernardo Bertolucci films an absolute must-watch.

Whether you’re a seasoned Bertolucci fan or a newcomer curious about his work, this list of his top ten films is the perfect guide. It’s a wild ride that traverses through time and space, tackling love, politics, history, and a multitude of human emotions. Ready to join us? Let’s dive in!

  1. Luna (1979)

Let’s kick things off with the enigmatic Luna (1979). This film takes a deep dive into the complex relationship between a world-renowned opera singer Caterina Silveri, brilliantly portrayed by Jill Clayburgh, and her teenage son Joe (played by a young Matthew Barry). After the sudden death of her husband, Caterina discovers her son’s heroin addiction. As they navigate through these challenges, they venture into a twisted mother-son relationship.

Luna (1979)

What makes this movie stand out is its bold exploration of the Oedipus complex and drug addiction, intertwined with the artistry of opera and the romantic backdrop of Rome. It’s raw, it’s unfiltered, and it’s a daring delve into the human psyche. Bertolucci doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable, pushing boundaries and questioning societal norms.

  1. Besieged (1998)

Next up is the romantic drama Besieged (1998). The story unravels around Shandurai (Thandie Newton), a young African woman who, fleeing from her country’s political unrest, becomes a housekeeper for eccentric English pianist and composer, Mr. Kinsky, played by the talented David Thewlis. Mr. Kinsky falls in love with Shandurai and, in a bid to win her heart, promises to help free her imprisoned husband.

Besieged 1998

The compelling beauty of Besieged lies in its simplicity. This Bernardo Bertolucci movie uses minimal dialogue, focusing instead on the characters’ actions and their environment to tell their story. It’s a masterful study in silent communication and the intricate dance of unspoken love. If you’re a fan of soul-stirring music, this film has an exceptional soundtrack, combining classical piano with African beats, echoing the collision of the two distinct cultures portrayed on screen.

  1. The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981)

This story follows Primo Spaggiari, a failing cheese factory owner played by Ugo Tognazzi. Primo’s life takes a sharp turn when his son is kidnapped. However, the absurdity begins when Primo starts to suspect that his son may have orchestrated his own kidnapping.

the tragedy of a ridiculous man (1981)

This film is a delightful mix of drama and dark comedy, with Bertolucci brilliantly blending the ordinary with the absurd. It’s a unique critique of the social and political climate in Italy during the 1980s. The film’s raw depiction of a father’s desperation, tangled with threads of ridiculousness, makes it a must-watch.

  1. The Dreamers (2003)

Curtains up on The Dreamers (2003), a mesmerizing tale of self-discovery set against the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots. It centers around Matthew, an American exchange student played by Michael Pitt, who befriends eccentric twins Théo and Isabelle (Louis Garrel and Eva Green respectively). The three of them bond over their love for cinema, creating an intimate world inside their apartment while the city outside descends into chaos.

The Dreamers (2003)

A love letter to cinema itself, The Dreamers will especially resonate with cinephiles. Its unapologetic exploration of sexuality and political consciousness makes it a must-watch for anyone seeking an intelligent and provocative film.

  1. Before the Revolution (1964)

Now, let’s rewind to one of Bertolucci’s early works, Before the Revolution (1964). This film tells the story of Fabrizio, a young man from Parma who becomes torn between his bourgeois upbringing and his revolutionary ideologies. The struggle intensifies when he falls in love with his young and eccentric aunt, Gina.

Before the Revolution (1964)

Before the Revolution is a vivid exploration of personal and political conflict. Brimming with youthful passion, it captures the spirit of the 1960s like no other. It’s also a key entry point into Bertolucci’s filmography, showcasing the early inklings of his trademark style.

  1. The Sheltering Sky (1990)

Moving on, we enter the sprawling landscapes of North Africa with The Sheltering Sky (1990). Based on Paul Bowles’s novel, the story follows American couple Port and Kit Moresby (John Malkovich and Debra Winger), who embark on a journey through Africa, hoping to rekindle their love and find meaning in their empty lives.

The Sheltering Sky (1990)

This film is a deep, existential exploration of love, loneliness, and alienation. Bertolucci’s direction and Vittorio Storaro’s breathtaking cinematography create an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere that echoes the protagonists’ existential angst. A challenging but rewarding watch!

  1. 1900 (1976)

Up next is Bertolucci’s epic masterpiece, 1900 (1976). Set in the Emilia region of Italy, it’s a sweeping saga tracing the lives of two friends, Alfredo (Robert De Niro), the son of a landowner, and Olmo (Gerard Depardieu), a peasant, from their shared childhood until adulthood. It’s a grand-scale depiction of the class struggles and political upheavals in Italy during the first half of the 20th century.

1900 (1976)

Running over five hours long in its uncut version, 1900 is an immersive experience not to be missed. Despite its length, the film never loses its grip, thanks to Bertolucci’s masterful storytelling and the powerhouse performances of its cast.

  1. The Conformist (1970)

At number three, we have The Conformist (1970), a visually stunning political drama that many consider Bertolucci’s magnum opus. It’s the story of Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a weak-willed man who becomes a fascist agent and is assigned to kill his former professor, now an anti-fascist intellectual.

The Conformist (1970)

Bertolucci’s critique of fascism and exploration of conformity are as relevant today as ever. And of course, let’s not forget Vittorio Storaro’s iconic cinematography, painting each scene like a work of art.

  1. Last Tango in Paris (1972)

In second place is the controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972). The film explores an anonymous sexual relationship between a widowed American, Paul (Marlon Brando), and a young Parisian woman, Jeanne (Maria Schneider). It’s a raw and intense examination of grief, isolation, and human connection.

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

The film’s controversy doesn’t overshadow its artistic value. Brando’s powerful performance is arguably one of his best, and Bertolucci’s fearless storytelling has left a lasting impact on cinema history.

  1. The Last Emperor (1987)

And finally, we’ve arrived at our number one pick: The Last Emperor (1987). This epic biographical drama tells the story of Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China. From his short-lived reign in the Forbidden City, the invasion of Manchuria by Japan, and finally his ordinary life as a gardener in the People’s Republic of China.

The Last Emperor (1987)

This film is a visual masterpiece. It won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bertolucci. It’s a moving portrait of an individual swept up in the tide of history, marked by lavish production and a deeply human story.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this cinematic odyssey through the mesmerizing films directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. A master of his craft, Bertolucci has given us films that don’t just tell stories but are an exploration of life itself, full of profound insights and unforgettable moments.

But remember, our journey into Bernardo Bertolucci’s best movies doesn’t have to end here. Each film holds the potential for countless viewings, each time revealing something new. And, while we’ve covered the top 10, there are more of his wonderful works waiting to be discovered.

Also, let’s not forget the inspiration behind this blog: our very own production, Before the Revolution. Keep an eye out on our blog for all things related to our production, from behind-the-scenes glimpses to in-depth articles exploring its synopsis and characters.

And for those of you eager to dig deeper into the realm of Bertolucci, stay tuned for our upcoming pieces, where we’ll be peeling back the layers of his creative process, his influences, and the lasting impact he’s made on the world of cinema.

And… cut!

Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci was an Italian film director and screenwriter. He was born on March 16, 1941, in Parma, Italy, and passed away on November 26, 2018. Bertolucci was known for his innovative and visually striking filmmaking style. He gained international recognition for directing films such as "The Conformist," "Last Tango in Paris," "1900," "The Last Emperor," and "The Dreamers." "The Last Emperor" won nine Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, solidifying Bertolucci's status as a prominent figure in world cinema. Bertolucci was celebrated for his exploration of complex themes, psychological depth, and his ability to push cinematic boundaries. His films often tackled political, social, and existential issues, and his storytelling was marked by intricate character development and rich visual aesthetics. Throughout his career, Bernardo Bertolucci left an indelible mark on cinema with his unique artistic vision and contributions to the art of filmmaking.

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