Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malèna” (2000) is a beautiful masterpiece worth watching if you haven’t witnessed the movie’s cinematic strength and its simplistic complexity. For the ones who have, you’re certainly aware of the various themes embedded in this story that are the roots for its innocence and heartless cruelty at the same time. In the director’s typical decor of 1940’s rural Sicily, the central character whose beauty is her curse suffers due to the sick obsession and lust of the men and the vicious jealously of the women. On the other hand, a 13-year-old named Renato discovers sexual awakening and coming-of-age fantasies that develop into tender and protective love for Malena.
If you’ve loved the emotional depth and strong impact this movie transmits, take a look at the list of movies similar to Malèna that are our recommendations. You can watch some of these movies like Malena on Netflix or Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
12. Little Children (2006)
A film that is set in the present time, in opposition to many on this list, it stars an amazing cast that includes Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, and Jennifer Connelly, who definitely take a big part in its success and excellence. It recounts the intersection of various characters – two individuals in a strained marriage who find themselves in love, a pedophile, and a disgraced former police officer. Depicting each character thoroughly, the film offers an intelligent and deep examination of the human being’s ambiguity in all its forms, without portraying one as good or bad. A simply very good film that looks over various subjects with respect and dignity.
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11. The Reader (2008)
Perhaps one of the best films exploring a relationship between two individuals with a big age difference, with one of them being underage. In “Malèna,” the sexual desires of Renato stay a fantasy, and no real interaction is ever made between the two. However, in “The Reader,” the sexual tension is very reciprocal, organic, and physical. The sexual awakening of Michael, a 15-year-old teenager, is conducted and explored by Hanna, a 36-year-old woman to whom he reads books before they sleep together under her roof. However, things become much more complicated, dragging historical events into the romantic and tragic story to which the movie passionately dedicates all its beauty.
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10. Y Tu Mama También (2001)
From director Alfonso Cuarón, this film greatly depicts the sexual desires and discoveries of teenage youth through a film that offers more than what it shows at first glance. Julio and Tenoch are two friends living in Mexico whose girlfriends are leaving for a holiday overseas. After meeting the wife of a cousin of Tenoch, they convince her to join them on a road trip through the country after she discovers her husband’s infidelity. On this voyage, sex and friendship will be key elements that will endure new discoveries, changes, and self-reflection.
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9. What Every Frenchwoman Wants (1986)
Also known as “Exploits of A Young Don Juan,” this movie is a French-Italian coproduction that relates the sexual awakening of a 16-year-old teenager and his various adventures within it. After being unsuccessful in this category, Roger finds plenty of women with whom to find pleasure after World War I breaks out and men are suddenly nowhere in sight. However, his erotic experiences have consequences when not only the maid but other women he has slept with become pregnant from these exploits. Opposite to the tragedies of “Malèna” and the platonic interactions between the titular character and Renato, this movie is light, fresh, and at times comedic.
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8. In The Heat Of The Sun (1994)
Relocating to a completely different part of the world in comparison to the Italian masterpiece, this film directed by Jiang Wen is set in China during its Cultural Revolution. The storyline centers around a group of teenagers, with Ma Xiaojung as the central narrator, living and growing up in Beijing during a time when their lives consisted of total freedom day and night. Throughout the events of a hot summer, he develops a serious crush on an older girl, who, to his disappointment, ends up falling for a friend of his. You’ll find a similar mood in this spectacular movie with the exploration, once more, of teenage sexual awakening amongst other feelings, emotions, and themes.
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7. All Things Fair (1995)
The movie is set in the era of WWII but in the northern part of Europe. It is the last film by Bo Widerberg and is set in the south of Sweden, where a story of controversial love and sexual desires takes place. Stig is a 15-year-old student exploring his sexuality when he deeply falls under the charm of his teacher’s attractive maturity. She, more than twice her age, enjoys his youth as a way to cope with her husband’s alcoholism. Soon, they start a sexual relationship. However, things aren’t easy for this unusual relationship, and one way or another, it will find its end.
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6. Amarcord (1973)
Make space for a Federico Fellini film that is considered one of his bests, not to mention its various successful awards, which include an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In a semi-autobiographical perspective, it recounts the story of adolescent Titta and the extravagant characters that surround him in a provincial 1930’s fascist Italy. Under the control of Mussolini and the Catholic Church, the movie’s carnivalesque mood and pace greatly portray the attitude and lack of conscience the vivid and exuberant characters have in this setting. Emphasizing this irrationality with strange and exaggerated visual techniques, the master of Italian cinema strikes again with his natural talent of bringing life to the screen.
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5. The Star Maker (1995)
How best to find the similar mood and feel of a film than to go back to its direction and let the guiding vision of its creator carry you on another experience? Giuseppe Tornatore is one of those directors who has established a certain style where similar themes, settings, or emotions can be felt throughout his entire filmography. Here, we are back in Sicily’s warm decor and given the opportunity to follow the story of a man, Joe Morelli, who travels the country offering screen tests to its inhabitants, claiming he is doing so for big film studios. However, that is a lie, and within his fraudulent acts, he meets Beata, with whom he falls in love. A wonder of cinematic creation that will stay with you for longer than its rolling time.
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4. Jessica (1962)
Although it doesn’t include the cold brutality and cruelty of the human being and the emotional depth and sadness that Malèna showcases, this film is similar in its premise and central figure. It figures around a young beautiful blonde woman named Jessica whose husband dies on their stay in Sicily (once again this iconic location), leading her to the decision of staying on the island and pursuing the job of a midwife in a small village. However, the same happens as we’ve seen it before: men admire her beauty while the women dislike her presence, which leads them to renounce any sexual relations with their husbands, hoping Jessica will this way eventually leave the village as her task of a midwife won’t be needed any longer.
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3. Baarìa (2009)
Once more, Giuseppe Tornatore offers a splendid visual experience in storytelling that will leave its viewer in pure admiration and breathtaking awe. Here we get the opportunity to explore once more, like in Malèna, the different characters of a Sicilian town that will fill the story to a complete and realistically-shaped world and bring the story forward into its emotional, historical and visual depth. Set in the birthplace of Tornatore, this movie follows the road of three generations within a family, from Cicco to Peppino to Pietro, and looks over their dreams and aspirations to the cruel overcoming of obstacles and distress.
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2. Malizia (1973)
Where beauty’s downside and young innocence meet male sexual awakening and uncontrollable lust. A similar theme as the film Malèna. Directed by Salvatore Samperi, it recounts the events that happen in within the walls of a family following the death of the mother. A now-widowed father of 3 hires a beautiful young housekeeper who quickly becomes a victim of voyeurism and sexual desires from the man and his sons. However, as naive as she might be, only one manages to dominate her, and his approach surely leaves aside any sense of morality. Although containing disturbing elements at times, these only reinforce the story that is being narrated and in that case, it is certainly well told.
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1. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
From the same director as “Malèna,” this Italian classic is a beautiful story that sets us back into the rural surroundings of a Sicilian post-war village where the magic of cinema couldn’t have been praised and honored in a better way than through the story of Salvatore, a young boy who discovers his love for films in a small movie house named Cinema Paradiso. It’s his older self who recounts the story of his childhood and close bond with the cinema’s projectionist Alfredo who awakens his passion and to-be career. This wonderful masterpiece grabs hold of its audience into an emotional path to the sound of Ennio Morricone’s music, and even only for its ending, can be considered perfection in the art of movie-making. A movie to fall in love with.
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