Bicycle Thieves (1948)

bicycle thieves poster 1948 movie italian
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Classic cinema


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Bicycle Thieves

Studio:   Produzioni De Sica

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   November 24, 1948 (Italy)/December 12, 1949 (US)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

bicycle thieves antonio bruno lamberto maggiorani enzo staiola

Yup…nothing but smooth sailing from here on out!

Rome is still recovering from the war, and jobs are hard to come by.  When Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) gets a job hanging posters, he only needs a bike to keep it.  Unfortunately, his bike is stolen the first day of the job…leading him on a desperate search for the thieves and the bike.  Travelling Rome with his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) and only the weekend to change his luck,       hopes he can save this family’s future…but he might have to become what he hates to do it.

Directed by Vittorio De Sica (who also helped co-write the screenplay), Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette or also The Bicycle Thief) is a crime-drama film.  The movie was released to positive reviews and is often touted as one of the greatest films of all time.  It won an honorary Academy Award for outstanding foreign language film of 1949 and was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #374).

Bicycle Thieves is one of those movies that is always on the “Best Of” lists, is frequently shown in clip segments, and has often been credited as an influential film by directors…but I honestly had never sat down and watched it.  Watching Bicycle Thieves, it is a powerful movie about family, desperation, and ultimately forgiveness.

bicycle thieves mozzarella sandwich bruno enzo staiola

Now I want a mozzarella sandwich

The story kind of is meandering and could be tough for some in that aspect.  A lot of the story is building tone and the situation.  The characters are desperate and as the weekend ticks away, they get more and more desperate to find the bike because it means more than just a meal.  The final act of trying to steal another bike is both shameful and poorly planned as a result.  While Antonio could have easily gone to jail, the bike owner saw a deeper problem and let him go…leaving Antonio with his shame.

The movie is primarily actor driven.  Lamberto Maggiorani is the anguished father who finally thinks he’s gotten a break only to have it dashed.  Maggiorani wears his emotions on his sleeve and you can see both his joy when he is employed and the shame and despair when he decides to become a bicycle thief himself.  He’s actually equally balanced out by the young Enzo Staiola who manages to keep up with him.  You see Staiola’s character really getting a real taste of the world and starting to understand his father’s situation…and knowing that he might do something wrong.

bicycle thieves antonio steals bike ending lamberto maggiorani

Suddenly, Antonio becomes Jean Valjean…

Visually the movie is also great looking.  Rome is generally painted as a beautiful city with landmarks and art.  Here, we get to see where real Romans live and the lives they live.  While they are surrounded by art, Bicycle Thieves captures the basic day-to-day life of the characters living in what many consider a travel destination in a time where all of Europe was still turned on its end by the war.

Bicycle Thieves is a must if you are a fan of film.  I feel guilty having waited so long to watch it and wish I had watched it sooner.  You can see its influence in shows and movies and the context of the film in cinematic history is worth watching alone.  Bicycle Thieves will leave you sad but also will remind you that criminals often have a reason behind their actions and everything isn’t just black-and-white regardless if the picture is.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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