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12 Movies You Must Watch if You Love ‘Malèna’

March 25, 2018
9 min read

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, we face both extremes with Malèna, the central character who’s beauty is her curse, who suffers from the sick obsession and lust from the men and the vicious jealously of the women, while Renato, a 13-year-old discovers sexual awakening and coming-of-age fantasies that develop into tender and protective passive love.

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 from two individuals in an estranged marriage who find themselves in love, to a pedophile sex offender to a shamed former police officer. Depicting each character thoroughly it 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 which the movie passionately dedicates all its beauty to.

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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 who’s 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 which will endure new discoveries, changes and self-reflections.

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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 with 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 platonic interactions of Renato, this movie is a light, fresh and at times comedic well-shot picture onto a young teenager’s exhilarating hormones.

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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. Its story centres around a group of teenagers, with Ma Xiaojung as the central narrator, living and growing up in Beijing during a time where 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)

Back in the era of WWII, however this time much more in the north of the continent. 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 an alleviation of her alcoholic husband and they soon 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 portrays the attitude and lack of conscience the vivid and exuberant characters have in this setting. Emphasising 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 it’s 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 with. 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 who’s 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 tasks of a midwife won’t be needed no more.

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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 down side and young innocence meets male sexual awakening and uncontrollable lust. The similar theme to Malèna is clear. Directed by Salvatore Samperi, it recounts the events that happen in between 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 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 honoured 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 a 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 arts of movie-making. A movie to fall in love with.

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