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The Essentials: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

The Essentials: Sight and Sound's Greatest Films of All Time
In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen, endangering his efforts to find work. He and his son set out to find it.
Original title: Ladri di biciclette
(NR, 89 min.)


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The Essentials: Sight and Sound's Greatest Films of All Time

Since 1952, the British Film Institute's publication, Sight and Sound, has been curating an iconic list of the greatest films of all time. Judges include film critics, programmers, curators, archivists, academics, directors, and filmmakers. Since the list's inception, this once-a-decade poll has crowned only four films #1. This Essentials collection is Free for Members.

Synopsis: Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, the Academy Award–winning Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio De Sica, defined an era in cinema. In poverty-stricken postwar Rome, a man is on his first day of a new job that offers hope of salvation for his desperate family when his bicycle, which he needs for work, is stolen. With his young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and profoundly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodies the greatest strengths of the Italian neorealist movement: emotional clarity, social rectitude, and brutal honesty. [Criterion] Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Language: Italian
Genre: Drama

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"Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves is tender and immediate."

— Kate Muir, Times (UK)

"Undeniably the most important neorealist film after Rossellini's Open City."

— Don Druker, Chicago Reader

"The picture is a pure exercise in directorial virtuosity."

— Variety Staff, Variety

"Easily one of the greatest and most important movies in cinematic history."

— Radheyan Simonpillai,

"Decades later, you can see the influence of Bicycle Thieves everywhere, in a variety of genres and languages."

— Christy Lemire,

"One of the great films that truly deserves to be called a timeless classic, The Bicycle Thief is a thing of simple beauty."

— Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle

"This film manages to appeal to the better angels of our nature in a way that only deepens as we grow older along with the film."

— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"Again the Italians have sent us a brilliant and devastating film in Vittorio De Sica's rueful drama of modern city life, The Bicycle Thief."

— Bosley Crowther, New York Times

"One of the great, perfect crystalisations of a specific point in time into a particular film, this is one of the greatest cinematic experiences ever."

— David Parkinson, Empire Magazine

"A defining landmark of Italian neorealism and a haunting fable of want and desperation… an ideal marriage of form and meaning. Even the title is indispensable."

— Steven D. Greydanus, Decent Films

"Bicycle Thieves is a wholly satisfying film in that de Sica has so simplified and mastered the mechanics of the job that nothing stands between you and his intention."

— Richard Winnington, Sight & Sound

"De Sica carefully balances a generally tragic sensibility with a quiet undercurrent of hope, all the while sucking us into the story with the sheer urgency of the search for a stolen bicycle."

— Hank Sartin, Time Out

"The Bicycle Thief is so well-entrenched as an official masterpiece that it is a little startling to visit it again after many years and realize that it is still alive and has strength and freshness."

— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times