It does not take a lot of effort to imagine something quintessentially Italian. What do you see when you try?

A warm, sunny day on the Italian Riviera? A bright red Vespa scooter in front of the Coliseum? A romantic moment on a gondola in a Venetian canal? A savory whiff of Neapolitan pizza?

We can recognize all kinds of Italian cultural references, but how did we learn of them?

As with many things, it is all thanks to Hollywood!

Italian-Americans have had an outsized impact on US cinema. We have all been exposed to Italian culture through the box office, demonstrating the influence of Italian-Americans in Hollywood.

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How US Cinema Became An Italian Course On Culture?

The movie industry we all know and love today first emerged in the early 20th Century. This development coincided with millions of Italian immigrants arriving in the US.

Many Italian immigrants were artists, designers, tailors, masons, and musicians. Since they were relatively cheaper to hire, the budding motion pictures industry happily recruited them.

Naturally, these Italian immigrants also brought their unique cultural sensibilities onto the silver screen.

A Hollywood Boulevard sign in Los Angeles
Hollywood has charted an Italian course throughout its history thanks to Italians' lasting and continuous impact in the US. (Source: Pixabay)

Many of the new immigrants settled in Los Angeles. Soon, the west coast city rapidly became a mecca for the US entertainment industry.

Eventually, Italian-Americans were rising through the ranks in Hollywood. Consequently, they began significantly reshaping how the US thought of Italian culture and taking Italian lessons online with Superprof.

By the 1950s, Italian-Americans had already made an outsized impact on Hollywood. Non-Italian producers and directors were now making movies heavily emphasizing Italian culture.

For instance, the movie Roman Holiday starring the iconic Audrey Hepburn, has become synonymous with depictions of Italian culture. The film had little direct involvement from Italian-Americans.

Yet, its romantic scenes showing two lovers on a Vespa scooter exploring Rome have become unforgettable. Clearly, by now, Hollywood took on a distinctly Italian course.

Italian 101: Famous Italians In Hollywood’s History

Not long after, Italian-Americans rose to prominence in tinsel town. They were increasingly pioneering directors, stunning starlets, dashing actors, and breathtaking singers.

So here is a quick Italian course on prominent Italian-Americans in Hollywood.

  1. Frank Capra

One of these promising upstarts was Frank Capra. He directed over 30 feature-length movies but is renowned for his work in the 1946 Christmas classic: It’s a Wonderful Life.

Although it did not do well at the box office when it was released, It’s a Wonderful Life was revisited favorably by critics. Since then, it has become a cult classic.

Nonetheless, much of Capra’s earlier work from the 1930s was quite well-regarded in its time. So much so that he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture all the time.

He ended up winning three Oscars.

He is the perfect embodiment of the rags-to-riches American Dream. Capra's Italian influence reshaped the industry from his humble immigrant roots to one of the most legendary directors in Hollywood history.

  1. Francis Ford Coppola

Capra gave American cinema audiences Italian 101 courses on Italy’s culture via his films.

In comparison, Francis Ford Coppola has dedicated his entire career to offering advanced Italian classes throughout his work.

Illuminating examples include The Great Gatsby, The Godfather trilogy, and Apocalypse Now. Without the work of Coppola, the present-day Hollywood we love would not exist.

Yet, as his filmography demonstrates, his most iconic work, the Oscar-winning Godfather series, is also deeply steeped in Italian culture. So, of course, the movie had a massive impact on cinema in the US.

Los Angeles skyline during sunset
Over the years, Los Angeles has become a hub for various Italian classes that have profoundly impacted the city’s famous motion picture industry. (Source: Unsplash)
  1. Martin Charles Scorsese

Perhaps no director has had as profound an Italian influence on US cinema in recent years as Martin C. Scorsese.

The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman, and Shutter Island were directed by him. This is on top of a classic like Casino, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas.

For decades, Scorsese has been stable in Hollywood, and his Italian-American heritage has redefined cinema.

His distinct camera work and directing style have had a lasting impact on how movies are made. Moreover, much of his work explores Italian-American culture, particularly the Mafia.

Through his art, he explores the complexity of his demographic.

Unsurprisingly, Scorsese has repeatedly been nominated for and won Academy Awards and Golden Globes. A lot of popular Italian quotes came from his movies.

  1. Robert De Niro

Since the 1960s, Robert De Niro has repeatedly demonstrated his command of the camera. His acting is considered standard-setting across the world.

He has repeatedly received accolades for his brilliant performances. Moreover, he has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, including such memorable movies as Taxi Driver, Joker, The Intern, and Stone.

Other Italian-American Personalities In Hollywood

Besides prominent directors, Italians have also occupied other important roles in the film industry.

  1. Liza Minelli – An icon in US entertainment, she combined her extraordinary singing skills with acting. She is one of the few who has the EGOT status.

In other words, she has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscars, and Tony awards – all major accolades.

  1. Sylvester Stallone – Stallone is an icon of 1980s cinema, redefining the action movie genre. He is remembered for his unforgettable lead role in the Rambo series.
  2. Lady Gaga – Besides setting new benchmarks in fashion and pop music, she has also flexed her acting prowess in recent years.

Her performance in A Star is Born, and the House of Gucci is brilliant. She was nominated for Best Actress by the Academy Awards for her work in the former movie.

  1. Marisa Tomei – Known for her role in My Cousin Vinny, Tomei has repeatedly received critical acclaim for her acting skills. This is despite primarily occupying minor roles on the silver screen.
  2. James Gondolfini – Perhaps no one encapsulates the essence of Italian-Americana as well as James Gondolfini. His work in HBO’s The Sopranos and Zero Dark Thirty has made him internationally famous.

These are just a few of the countless Italians that have defined Hollywood. Without their presence, our domestic entertainment industry would not be what it is today.

Moreover, because of these, several Italian quotes have become quite common now too.

Check out this brief list of US movies that are excellent examples of Italian influence in US cinema.

Movie NameYear of Release
The American2010
Roman Holiday1953
The Godfather Trilogy1972/1974/1990
Casanova2006
The Tourist2010
Pompeii2014
Angels & Demons2009
Mamma Mia! Series2008/2018
An Italian town on the Adriatic coast
Film buffs love visiting Italy to witness all the locations and experience the culture they see in movies. Italian classes online help them to this end. (Source: Pixabay)
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Discrimination Of Italian Classes In Hollywood

Nevertheless, despite the significance of Italian-Americans in building our modern motion pictures industry, they have endured decades of discrimination.

Several academics have pointed out the pervasive stereotypical and degrading portrayals of Italians in US cinema.

Fortunately, people’s perceptions are now changing. An increasing number of movies offer a complex and multifaceted look at Italian-American culture.

Want To Take Italian Lessons Online For Improving Cinema Experience?

Thanks to Italians’ impact on US cinema from the motion industry’s founding years, many people are now trying to learn basic Italian from Superprof tutors.

Cinema fans are so profoundly affected by Italian culture in Hollywood that many of them now want to travel to Italy to experience it firsthand.

Indeed, tourists want to visit the beautiful Italian cities they see on their screens, such as Venice, Rome, Naples, and Florence.

They want to try out the delicious Mediterranean cuisine – like authentic pizza, pasta, and red wines. If nothing else, they just want to drive along the Italian coast's winding roads.

However, to have a genuine experience of Italian culture, you must know the language. As a result, thousands of film buffs worldwide are learning the language from private Italian tutors on Superprof.

When they learn basic Italian, they can travel to Italy and visit all their favorite locations on the big screen.

A delicious diner tucked away in a narrow alley. Secret Roman ruins on the road less traveled. They can interact with the locals and uncover lesser-known features of Italy.

Traveling to Italy after taking an Italian course, you will be able to immerse yourself in the culture.

Knowing the language will also allow you to see your favorite US movies in a new light. You will be able to better identify and understand certain facets of the Italian culture on the big screen.

In fact, learning Italian can even allow you to watch actual movies from Italy. Italian cinema offers a fascinating experience for potential audiences, too.

The success of Hollywood also altered cinema in Europe. Besides romantic and comedic movies, Italy is also known to make Westerns. Called “Spaghetti Westerns,” this genre also illustrates it is not only the US which was influenced by Italian culture.

Want To Develop A Better Understanding Of Italian With Superprof?

Superprof has an army of private Italian tutors ready to help you learn basic Italian. Thanks to their Italian 101 class, you can enhance your film viewing experience.

After all, knowing the language will help you better understand certain aspects of Italian culture. So join Italian classes and increase your knowledge about Italy’s beautiful culture.

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Ian