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The Bicycle Thief

Ladri di Biciclette, translated as Bicycle Thieves (also known as The Bicycle Thief in its U.S. release) is a 1948 Italian neorealist film, by Vittorio De Sica. more...

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The movie is based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini and translated to the screen by screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. Following neorealist principles, none of the cast were professional actors but were people from real life. The documentary style camera work helped convey the feeling that the film is truly about real people.

It stars Lamberto Maggiorani as the father and Enzo Staiola as the son, and won an honorary Academy Award for Foreign Language Film, and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from Any Source, in 1950. The film was heavily awarded by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, and is commonly considered a film classic.

Plot summary

The film tells the story of a man who gets a job posting fliers in the depressed post-World War II economy of Italy; to keep the job, he must have a bicycle. His wife sells her wedding sheets to get the money to get his bicycle from the pawn broker. Early in the film, the bike is stolen, and the man and his son spend the remainder of the film searching for it. At the end of the film the man, desperate to keep his job, attempts to steal a bicycle himself. He is caught and humiliated in front of his son; the owner of the bicycle declines to press charges, realizing that being humiliated in front of his son is punishment enough. The man and his family face a bleak future as the film ends.


Bicycle Thieves is the best known neorealist film, a movement begun by Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), which attempted to give a new degree of realism to cinema. Following the precepts of the movement, De Sica shot only on location in Rome, and instead of professional actors used ordinary people with no training in performance; for example, Lamberto Maggiorani, the leading actor, was a factory worker.


In 1990, Italian director Maurizio Nichetti produced a spoof of Italian neo-realist cinema, named The Icicle Thief.


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