Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of postwar Italian cinema.

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Alternative titles

  • Ladri di biciclette Original Italian
  • Bicycle Thief Alternative


“A heartbreaking, endlessly affecting piece of humanist cinema, sharp in its social criticism, yet ultimately life-enhancing in its belief in the decency of ordinary people.”
Phillip French, The Observer, 2008

A landmark of humanist filmmaking, Bicycle Thieves was a key work in the 1940s film movement known as Italian neo-realism. Like the wartime trilogy that Roberto Rossellini began with Rome: Open City (1945), it heralded a new kind of cinematic naturalism, employing non-professionals as actors and taking the camera out onto the streets to faithfully record the social realities of a Europe struggling to get back on its feet after WWII.

Adapted from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, the quiet tragedy of a father’s desperate hunt for a stolen bicycle that he depends on for his work has a fable-like simplicity. For all its vivid documentation of a downtrodden Rome, it is as a universal tale of human striving that De Sica’s film has proved influential.

De Sica’s Shoeshine (1946) is another important neo-realist film, about the misadventures of two boys scraping a living shining shoes in the aftermath of WWII.

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