A selection of the greatest male comedy actors from the Italian screen. A mixture of young and old, classic and modern, wordplay and slapstick, the list includes a short biography, photos, and memorable scenes on video with English subtitles. When the Italians make their best comedies they make some of THE best comedies in the movie business. Here are 30 of its funniest practitioners:
1. Diego Abatantuono
Born in Milan in 1955, the first cinema work of Diego Abatantuono was with the comedy group 'I Gatti di Vicolo Miracoli' where he came to the attention of the director Romolo Guerrieri. A part in the film 'Liberi Armati Pericolosi' in 1976 was the result with further appearances in comedies such as "Saxofone" and 'Fantozzi Contro Tutti'.
In 1980 Renzo Arbore cast him as "Don Gabriele" in 'Il Pap'occhio' and his first starring role came the following year with 'Il Tango della Gelosia' playing the lover of Monica Vitti. He then began a series of movies in a popular recurrent role of the character Terrunciello.
However, in the mid-1980s he devoted himself to theatre work until returning to film in the 'Regalo di Natale' in 1986. Diego then founded his own production company called Colorado Film, releasing many movies such as 'I Cammelli' (1988) 'Marrakech Express' (1989), 'Turné' (1990), 'Puerto Escondido' (1992), 'Nirvana' (1996), Amnèsia (2002), 'Io Non Ho Paura (2003), 'Happy Family' (2010) and 'Volare' (2019).
But it was the award-winning Mediterraneo which brought him international fame when the Gabriele Salvatores film won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language movie in 1991. In a fine ensemble cast Diego stood out in a central performance as Sergeant Lo Russo keeping control of a group of Italian soldiers stranded and forgotten on a Greek island during WW2
Diego is also a popular figure of Italian television shows appearing regularly on the small-screen. He is also a life-long supporter of the AC Milan soccer team.
2. Antonio Albanese
Born in 1964 in Olginate in Lombardy to Sicilian parents, Antonio studied at the Civic Drama School in Milan and from there decided to pursue an acting career. His first early experience was as a stand-up comedian that started back in 1992, when he made his debut at the Zelig Theatre in Milan.
He then showcased his talent on the popular Maurizio Costanzo talk show and collaborated with fellow actor/comedian Paolo Rossi. His popularity increased after 1990 when he joined the Italia 1 show 'Mai Dire Gol', a soccer revue that took a humorous look at events in the game. Antonio was a host for 10 years. He then appeared on the show 'Che Tempo Che Fa' presented by Fabio Fazio, aired on Rai 3 and in the series 'I Topi' from 2018.
From the late 1990s, Albanese also pursued a movie career, working both as an actor and also as a director in his own right. Among his top films are 'Giorni e Nuvole' (2011), 'Qualunquemente' (2011) and 'Come un Gatto in Tangenziale' (2017). He also played a memorable role as an ageing lothario in the Woody Allen film 'To Rome with Love' in 2012.
3. Lino Banfi
Lino was born Pasquale Zagaria in 1936 in Andria in the Puglia region and, despite later moving to Milan in 1954, throughout his acting career his characterisations have been noted for his distinctive Bari accent. He began his career as a stand-up comedian in theatre then made his debut on TV in 1969 on Renzo Arbore's show 'Speciale Per Voi' on Rai 2-
He became one of the most well-known actors in Italian movies, especially the 'Sex Comedies' of the 1970s such as 'Peccato Veniale'(1974) and 'Infermiera Di Notte (1979). But it was in the 1980s that he reached the peak of his fame by appearing in films such as 'Vieni Avanti Cretino'(1982), 'Occhio, Malocchio, Prezzemolo e Finocchio'(1983), 'L'Allenatore Nel Pallone'(1984) and 'Il Commissario Lo Gatto'(1986).
He also portrayed a main character called Grandpa Libero in the popular TV series 'Un Medico in Famiglia' which aired for 10 seasons from 1998. During this time he also continued to have success at the cinema including the smash-hit 'Quo Vado?' in 2016 which starred Checco Zalone.
Lino and his wife Lucia have been married since 1962 and have two children, Walter and Rosanna, the latter who is also an actress and has appeared in several TV and film roles. In 2000 Lino became a Goodwill Ambassador on the Italian National Committee for UNICEF. He has appeared in over 100 movies throughout a long and prolific career.
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4. Roberto Benigni
Born in 1952 the multi-talented Roberto is a comedian, actor, screenwriter and director and made his acting debut in 1977 in 'Berlinguer Ti Voglio Bene' which he also wrote. The film was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci.
Roberto's own directorial debut was the 1983 anthology film 'Tu mi Turbi', which was also the acting debut of his wife, Nicoletta Braschi. In 1986 he made his first English-language film 'Down by Law', written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and made two more with the director appearing in 'Night on Earth' in 1991 then 'Coffee and Cigarettes' in 2003.
In 1988, Roberto was acclaimed for the film 'Il Piccolo Diavolo', which he directed, wrote and starred in alongside Walter Matthau and Nicoletta. Roberto continued to have success and acclaim as a director with 'Johnny Stecchino' (1991), 'Il Mostro' (1994) and also portrayed the son of Inspector Clouseau's in Blake Edwards 'Son of the Pink Panther' in 1993.
He gained spectacular international recognition in 1997 for writing, directing and starring in the holocaust comedy-drama film 'Life Is Beautiful'. He received Oscars for Best Actor (the first for a male in a foreign language) and Best International Feature Film. However some later directorial efforts such as 'Pinocchio' (2002) and 'La Tigre e la Neve' (2005) received mixed reviews.
Roberto has continued to act on stage and film, touring Italy with his one-man show 'Tutto Dante', and starred in the films 'To Rome with Love' in 2012, directed by Woody Allen, and as Geppetto in Matteo Garrone's 2019 adaptation of 'Pinocchio'.
5. Massimo Boldi
Massimo was born in Luino on Lake Maggiore in 1945 and when he was still a child his family moved to Milan. In 1968 he started performing in cabarets as a drummer. and progressed to playing in Gino Paoli's orchestra as well as many other bands.
Massimo continued his drumming career at the Derby night club where he diversified into stand-up comedy with a routine that included creating funny characters that soon became popular with audiences. He took his talents to local television and joined up with fellow comedian Teo Teocoli as they performed as a double act.
Probably his most famous character was as Massima Cipollino, the incompetent and blundering presenter of a private news broadcast. But this was one of many star appearances on top Italian TV stations. He appeared in his first fictional television role, as Lorenzo Fumagalli, or 'Big Dad' in the series 'Un Ciclone in Famiglia' which ran from 2005 to 2008.
His first big success at the cinema was in Carlo Verdone's 1984 film 'I Due Carabinieri' and enjoyed further success with 'Yuppies' and 'Scuola di Ladri both released in 1986.
Another famous partnership was forged with Christian De Sica and they performed together on movie screens for around twenty years. Beginning a long run of popular Christmas films starting with 'Vacanze di Natale' in 1990 and other movies such as 'A Spasso Nel Tempo' (1996), 'Paparazzi' (1998) and 'Tifosi' (1999). In total he has appeared in over 60 movies throughout his career.
6. Claudio Bisio
Claudio was born in 1957 in the town of Novi Ligure, not far from Genoa, but was raised in Milan. There he attended the Cremona High School and subsequently moved on to graduate from the drama school of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
He actually started his career in drama, appearing in theatre performing in classical and modern productions. Then he began his movie career in 1983 with 'Come Dire', a comedy directed by Gianluca Fumagalli. Claudio's first major appearance on TV was in 1998 during the 'Zanzibarì' TV show and was the presenter of 'Zelig', a popular Italian sketch comedy, for 13 years.
He gained international exposure as the lovelorn and hapless Private Corrado Noventa in the multi-cast of Gabriele Salvatore's classic film 'Mediterraneo'. Released in 1991 it went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
In 2009, he played in 'Ex' and gained a David di Donatello nomination for best supporting actor. In 2010 he was the lead actor in the hugely successful film comedy 'Benvenuti al Sud', then 'Maschi Contro Femmine', both in 2010, plus the sequels 'Femmine Contro Maschi'.(2011) and 'Benvenuti al Nord'(2012).
In the dubbed Italian version of the 'Ice Age' movie series, Claudio is the voice of Sid (one of the protagonists of the film). He also provided the voice of Count Dracula in the Italian version of 'Hotel Transylvania'.
On TV in 2015 he took part in the jury for 'Italia's Got Talent' in its sixth series on Sky Uno and he continues to make movies.
7. Enrico Brignano
Born in Rome in 1966 Enrico graduated in 1990 at the 'Laboratorio di Esercitazioni Sceniche' founded by the famous Gigi Proietti, who later chose him for several of his plays between 1994 and 1997 and also as a sidekick in the TV-series 'Il Maresciallo Rocca'.
After appearing as a comedian in several variety shows, he had his acting breakthrough in with the role of Giacinto in 'Un Medico in Famiglia' where he appeared in the first two series.
Although mainly a stage performer, he has played a number of main roles in TV-series and films, such as 'Miracolo Italiano,' in 1994, 'In Barca a Vela Contromano' (1997), South Kensington (2001), 'Un Estate al Mare' (2008), 'La Vita è una Cosa Meravigliosa' (2010), 'Stai Lontana da Me' (2013) and 'Poveri ma Ricchi' (2016)
Spreading his wings further, in 2000 he directed, wrote and starred in the romantic comedy 'Si Fa Presto a Dire Amore'. In 2013 he provided the voice of Olaf the snowman for the Italian translation of Disney's 'Frozen' cartoon. He has even become a successful stand-up comedian including popular monologues on RAI TV.
8. Adriano Celentano
Born in Milan in 1938 he is another multi-faceted legend of Italian popular culture. Adriano is a successful singer-songwriter and musician as well as being a famous actor and film director. He has released a total of 29 music albums which have enjoyed prodigious success both commercially and critically and is even credited with introducing rock n' roll into Italy.
In 1960 he had a small part in Fellini's classic 'La Dolce Vita' appropriately playing a rock n' roll singer. But as an actor Adriano has appeared in mostly comedies, often low-budget but hugely popular, in the domestic market especially in the 1970s and 80s.
Some of the most successful were 'Le Cinque Giornate' in 1973, 'Bluff' (1976), 'Mani di Velluto' (1979), 'Il Bisbetico Domato' (1980), 'Asso' (1981), 'Innamorato Pazzo' (1981) and 'Bingo Bongo (1982). But in terms of accolades, out of his 39 movies, his role in 'Serafino' in 1968, directed by Pietro Germi, is still regarded as his best performance.
His daughter Rosalinda is an actress and gained worldwide fame for playing Satan in Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'. Plus fans of the band Ian Dury and the Blockheads may recognise Adriano's name as he was mentioned in their 1979 hit single, 'Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3'.
9. Eduardo De Filippo
Born in 1900 in Naples, also known simply as Eduardo, he was an Italian actor, director, playwright, and screenwriter, who was regarded as one of the most important and influential Italian artistes of the 20th century.
He made over 50 movies on both sides of the screen as actor and director and was best known for his Neapolitan works in the early 50s, 'Napoli Milionaria'(1950) 'Filumena Marturano' (1951) and 'Ragazze da Marito' (1952),
He was also was the author of many theatrical dramas staged and directed by himself. However in 1973, it was a Franco Zeffirelli production in London of one of his plays 'Saturday, Sunday, Monday' starring Sir Laurence Olivier that gained him international attention.
For his outstanding work in theatre and film and his important contribution to Italian culture, he was named 'Senatore a Vita' in 1981 by Sandro Pertini, the Italian President at the time. Eduardo passed away in 1984 but his son Luca continued the family tradition by also becoming a successful actor and director
10. Peppino De Filippo
Peppino was born in Naples 1903 and came from a family with an enormous pedigree in popular entertainment. Both his parents were in the business and his brother was the celebrated actor/director Eduardo De Filippo. His sister Titina De Filippo was also a successful actress and playwright.
Peppino made his stage debut at the age of six and embarked on a theatrical career in his youth. Eventually the family would found their own theatrical company the 'Compagnia Teatro Umoristico: i De Filippo'..
He played in several movies such as 'Rome-Paris-Rome'(1951), 'La Famiglia Passaguai'(1951), 'Un Giorno in Pretura'(1954), 'Ferdinando I Re di Napoli'(1959) and 'Boccaccio 70'(1962). He is however most remembered for his several onscreen comedy partnerships with the legendary Totò, on movies such as 'La Banda Degli Onesti' and 'Totò, Peppino e la Malafemmina'.
He died in Rome in January 1980 at the age 76 after an incredibly prolific career which saw him appear in almost 100 movies and over 40 theatre productions.
11. Christian de Sica
Born in Rome in 1951 Christian was the son of the celebrated Italian director Vittorio De Sica and Spanish actress María Mercader. In his youth he attended the Liceo classico in the Eternal City where he was a classmate of Carlo Verdone. A talented singer, he is a great admirer of Frank Sinatra and sang at the Sanremo Festival in 1973.
However, he decided to throw himself into acting and developed his own style of comedy on TV in the 1970s, with programmes such as 'Bambole, non c'è una lira' He then graduated into populist comedy movies with a string of successes with the 'Vacanze di Natale' series of films, also 'A Spasso nel Tempo' in 1996, 'Paparazzi' (1998) and Tifosi (1999)
In the 1990s Christian also turned his hand to direction, with a prolific output beginning with 'Faccione' in 1991, in which he also wrote the script. He continued in the same year with 'Count Max' then Ricky & Barabba (1992), 'Uomini Uomini Uomini'(1995), 'Tre' (1996), 'Simpatici & Antipatici' (1998) and The Clan (2005).
Two idiosyncratic family facts about Christian are that he named his first child Brando in honour of the legendary American actor and that his uncle was Ramón Mercader, the murderer of Leon Trotsky.
12. Aldo Fabrizi
Born in Rome in 1905 Aldo made his debut on stage in 1931. He soon got local success thanks to his comical sketches and caricatures and became a star of the Roman Revue. He enjoyed great success in music halls and variety theatre during his early years.
He broke into movies in 1942 and in a short time established himself as one of the most talented actors of the time switching between comedy and drama. After a number of successful comedies, he played the iconic Don Pietro Pellegrini alongside the great Italian actress Anna Magnani in the neo-realist drama 'Rome, Open City'. Directed by another Italian great, Roberto Rossellini, it was released in 1945 and the success of the movie led to leading roles for Aldo in other neorealist films.
Already active as a screenwriter, in 1948 he debuted as a director with the drama 'Emigrantes'. Then in the 1950s and 1960s he often appeared on-screen with the famous duo Totò and Peppino. In 1964 he enjoyed great success on the stage with the musical comedy 'Rugantino'.
He was held in great affection by the Italian public and was an extremely popular artist and personality. In his later years he devoted himself to writing about his passion for food by publishing books and poems on the subject. He died at the age of 85 years old in Rome in 1990.
13. Vittorio Gassman
Vittorio was born in Genoa in 1922 and from a German family, hence the surname, and was not only an actor but also a director and screenwriter: However he is considered one of the greatest Italian actors as a performer of great comic skill, personality and charisma.
While he was still very young he moved to Rome, where he studied at the Silvio D'Amico National Academy of Dramatic Arts.
In the 1950s he met and fell in love with American actress Shelley Winters while she was touring Europe and he followed her back to Hollywood where they got married. A fluent English speaker he joined the Tinseltown elites and starred in movies such as 'The Glass Wall'(1953), 'Rhapsody' (1954) with Elizabeth Taylor and 'War and Peace (1956) before returning back to Italy. Unfortunately, after he had an affair, the marriage only lasted 2 years.
Back home he had a leading role in 1958 in the now classic comedy 'I Soliti Ignoti' alongside Marcello Mastroianni, a young Claudia Cardinale and the legendary Toto. Other memorable movies included: 'Il Sorpasso' and 'La Grande Guerra' both in (1962), 'I Mostri' (1963), 'L'Armata Brancaleone' (1966), 'Profumo di Donna' and and 'C'eravamo Tanto Amati' both in 1974.
He also made a return to Hollywood appearing with Burt Reynolds in 'Sharky's Machine' in 1981, 'Tempest (1982) and 'Sleepers' (1996)
In the 1990s he took part in the popular Rai TV show 'Tunnel'. He also provided dubbing in the Italian language versions of a couple of famous movies, being the narrator in Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' in 1968, substituting for Laurence Olivier. Then in 1994 as Mufasa (James Earl Jones) in 'The Lion King'.
In all, he appeared in over 120 movies and continued acting right up to his death in the year 2000 at the age of 77.
14. Mario Girotti (aka Terence Hill)
Although he became internationally known as Terence Hill in later life, he was born Mario Girotti in 1939 in Venice. He is an actor, screenwriter, film director and producer.
Mario started his career as a child actor in the early 1950s and went on to appear and star in many Italian movies during a busy decade for him. Many were youthful love stories or historical dramas such as 'Aannibale' (1959) and 'Cartagine in Fiamme' (1960). Then in 1963 he had a role in Visconti's 'The Leopard' which starred Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale
His anglicised stage name was at the request of film producers in 1967 to make his movies more attractive to an English-speaking audience. Subsequently he gained international fame for starring roles in action and comedy films, many with long-time film partner and friend Carlo Pedersoli who also changed his name, becoming Bud Spencer.
Their most memorable movies were the 'Westerns all'Italiana', colloquially called "Spaghetti Westerns". These began with 'God Forgives ....I Don't' in 1967 then 'Django, Prepare a Coffin' in 1968. Of the westerns, the most famous are 'They Call Me Trinity' from 1970 and 'Trinity is Still My Name (1971). Terence also starred on his own in 'My Name Is Nobody' (1973) alongside Henry Fonda.
The hits for Hill and Spencer continued with the stateside comedy 'Odds and Evens' in 1978 but less success followed for the duo with 'I'm for the Hippopotamus' (1979), 'Who Finds a Friend Finds a Treasure' (1981) and 'Go For It' (1983).
In his old age Mario went on to a successful television career in Italy. From the year 2000, he played the title role as a priest in the TV series 'Don Matteo', a Father Brown type character who helps the police solve crimes. A role he held for 20 years.
15. Ezio Greggio
Born in Cossato, a small town near Biella, Greggio began his TV career at age 18. In 1978 he was hired by RAI as a comedian and appeared in 'La Sberla e Tutto Compreso' alongside Giancarlo Nicotra and Giancarlo Magalli.
Gianfranco D'Angelo, another young comedian, convinced him to move to the nascent network Fininvest (which later became Mediaset), a local TV channel founded in Milan by local entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi. They were both in the cast of the flagship programme 'Drive In', a 2-hour weekly show which brought them great success.
Ezio wrote and acted in his first movie, 'Sbamm!' in 1980. He was noticed by Carlo Vanzina, and was included in the cast of 'Yuppies' (1986) and in the 1987 film 'Montecarlo Gran Casinò' with Paolo Rossi.
In 1994, he made his debut as a director with 'The Silence of the Hams', a parody of horror movies, filmed in the USA and inspired by 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'Psycho'. During this time, Greggio forged friendships with Mel Brooks and Dom DeLuise who both appeared in the movie. Brooks named one of Dom De Luise's killers in his Robin Hood: Men in Tights, "Dirty Ezio", and also cast him in the movie 'Dracula: Dead and Loving It'.
In 1997, Ezio went back behind the camera, directing 'The Good Bad Guy' and in 1999 'Screw Loose', with Mel Brooks appearing in an acting role. On TV, from 1988, he was the main presenter (along with D'Angelo and later Enzo Iacchetti) of 'Striscia la Notizia', a very popular satirical show.
16. Nino Manfredi
Manfredi was born in 1921 into a family of farmers in the village of Castro dei Volsci not far from Rome where, in the 1930s the family relocated. This was where Nino made his stage debut in 1947, appearing in plays directed by Luigi Squarzina and Vito Pandolfi. The same year, he entered the Maltagliati-Gassman stage company, mostly acting in dramatic roles.
In 1958 he got his first film role as a leading actor, then from the latter half of the 1960s became a box office success in Italy, starring in some of the most popular and critically acclaimed films in the 'Commedia all'Italiana' genre.
Following his last film as director 'Nudo di Donna' in 1981 he appeared in two commercial hit films when he starred alongside Renato Pozzetto in 'Testa o Croce' (1982) and 'Questo e Quello' (1983). In the 1980s Manfredi significantly slowed his cinema activities and after a long struggle with illness he died in 2004, aged eighty-three years old.
And just to confirm his stellar qualities in 2007 an asteroid, '73453 Ninomanfredi', which had been discovered by Italian astronomers Franco Mallia and Gianluca Masi was named after the great actor.
17. Enrico Montesano
Born in 1945 in Rome, Enrico came from a theatrical family and he made his debut on stage in 1966 alongside Vittorio Metz, in a comic play named 'Humor Nero'. He then developed his art in burlesque comedy theatre with the Rome Bagaglino company in the late 1960s.
Later he became a very popular actor both on theatre and on television thanks to his unique comic style. He subsequently transferred his talents to cinema during the 1970s appearing in many Italian comedies.
He is probably best known for the role of Armando "Er Pomata" Pellicci in the cult movie 'Febbre da Cavallo' released in 1976. Other notable roles were that of Caleb, the good thief from 'Il Ladrone (1980), as Oscar in 'Sotto ...Sotto (1984) and 'A Me Mi Piace' (1985), For the latter Enrico was also behind the camera and won a David di Donatello award as the best new director. He has been involved in over 60 movies in his career.
Enrico has many strings to his bow being a writer and singer too, recording many songs over the years. From 1992 till 1994 he was even involved in local council politics in Rome when he was elected as a 'Consigliere Comunale' and in 2020 got involved in protests over Italy's handling of the Covid crisis.
18. Rocco Papaleo
Born in the town of Lauria in the south of Italy in 1958 Rocco moved to Rome to study Mathematics at university but dropped out in favour of attending theatre school. He made his theatrical debut in 1985 acting in 'Sussurri Rapidi' by Salvatore di Mattia.
In 1989, he made his first movie in 'Senza Pelle', directed by Alessandro D'Alatri and from 1989-1991 appeared in the TV series 'Classe di Ferro', a comedy on the Italian military. He then embarked on a successful movie career as a marvellous character actor noted for his comic flair.
He is known for his long collaboration with director Leonardo Pieraccioni in the latter's movies such as 'Il Paradiso all'Improvviso' (2003) and 'Finalmente La Felicita'(2011). He also starred in films like 'Amalfi: Rewards of the Goddess' (2009) a Japanese production directed by Hiroshi Nishitani, the Checco Zalone film 'Che Bella Giornata' (2010), the hit comedy 'Viva l'Italia (2012) and a rare title role starring in 'Un Boss in Salotto'(2014).
He made his debut as a film director in 'Basilicata: Coast to Coast' in 2010 for which he won both a Nastro d'Argento and a David di Donatello award for Best New Director.
19. Carlo Pedersoli (aka Bud Spencer)
Carlo Pedersoli was born in Naples in 1929 and as a youngster entered the world of sport becoming a professional swimmer and water polo player. In fact, at the London Olympic Games in 1948 he was part of the Italian team that won a gold medal.
His movie career initially ran parallel to his sporting feats beginning with small roles in “Quel Fantasma di Mio Marito” in 1949 and in the MGM historical epic “Quo Vadis” in 1951. Carlo retired from water sports in 1957 and a couple of years later appeared in 'Aannibale' which also included Mario Girotti, the future Terence Hill, although they never actually met on the movie set.
A versatile man, during the 1960s he wrote Neapolitan folk and pop songs before starting a production company making TV commercials and documentaries.
He also changed his name in 1967 for the Hollywood market, being reborn as Bud Spencer named after his favourite Budweiser beer and actor Spencer Tracy. Together he and Terence Hill became known for action comedies and Spaghetti Western roles, beginning with 'God Forgives ....I Don't' in 1967 but especially with the movies 'They Call Me Trinity' in 1970 and 'Trinity is Still My Name (1971) They were a hugely popular double-act and had an audience of millions at the cinema in over 20 films they made together as actors, writer, directors and producers.
In the 1980s and 90s he concentrated more on TV work but also continued to diversify with singing, becoming a pilot and founding a freight airline company, writing books and he even tried his hand at politics. He passed away in Rome in 2016 at the age of 86.
20. Leonardo Pierraccioni
Born in Florence in 1965 Leonardo is an actor, comedian, screenwriter and film director. He has made a string of good-natured romantic-comedies that have been immensely popular in Italy.
He made his directorial debut with 'I Laureati' in 1995 but his breakthrough came the following year with 'Il Ciclone' which was a huge commercial success and also received 7 nominations at the Italian Academy awards, winning 3 of them.
In an unusual move in 1998 he starred in a darker comedy called 'Il Mio West' with Harvey Keitel and David Bowie. A cowboy movie, spoken in Italian but set in the American West, it was directed by Giovanni Veronesi.
Other highlights of his career include the films 'Fuochi d'Artificio' (1997), 'Il Pesce Innamorato' (1999), 'Ti Amo in Tutte le Lingue del Mondo' (2005), 'Finalmente la Felicità' (2011) and 'Un Fantastico Via Vai' (2013). Always centred around relationships and romance he could be called the 'Woody Allen' of Italian cinema but without the angst or pessimism.
Leonardo also writes short stories in books such as 'Trent'Anni, Alta, Mora', 'Tre Mucche in Cucina' and A un Passo dal Cielo'.
21. Renato Pozzetto
Born in Milan in 1940 Renato's showbiz career started as a comedian in the 1960s and in 1964 he became part of a RAI TV double-act 'Cochi & Renato' with his childhood friend Cochi Ponzoni.
They also recorded irreverent songs of a satirical and nonsensical style, many written in collaboration with Enzo Jannacci and with some success, notably "La Canzone Intelligente", 'La Gallina' and "E la vita, la vita".
In 1974 Renato really entered the movie industry in earnest with his leading debut in 1974 in Flavio Mogherini's film 'Per Amare Ofelia' and went on to enjoy a prolific career in cinema, some of which he wrote, produced and directed. He was famous for his Milanese accent and diffident manner of speaking and his best remembered films are 'Oh! Serafina'(1976), "Sono Fotogenico'(1980) and 'Da Grande' from 1987 and which may have inspired the Tom Hanks blockbuster 'Big', released the following year.
In the 1990s he joined forces with another Italian giant of comedy, Paolo Villaggioto to make the trilogy of 'Le Comiche' movies all under the helm of director Neri Parenti. Then in the mid 2000s, following almost 20 years apart, he teamed up again with his old friend Cochi for theatre and television appearances.
In 1993 he even provided the dubbing for the dog called Rocks in the Italian translation of the Hollywood movie 'Look Who's Talking Now!' Besides working in entertainment he was also an amateur racing driver, taking part in the 'Giro d'Italia' as well as the Paris-Dakar Rally.
22. Gigi Proietti
Born in Rome in 1940, Gigi was interested in music from a young age and during his formative showbiz years he was a singer and a multi-talented instrumentalist playing guitar, piano, accordion and double bass around the nightclubs of Rome. At university he began to get involved in amateur dramatics and then progressed to the theatre.
In 1966 he transferred to both small and big-screen debuts with 'I Grandi Camaleonti' on TV and ' Le Piacevoli Notti' at the cinema. Into the 1970s he entered a hugely successful collaboration with writer Roberto Lerici on stage plays and particularly Gigi's famous one-man shows. An especially memorable occasion was a performance at the Rome Olympic Stadium in the year 2000.
On celluloid he also appeared in international movies including 'The Appointment' in 1969 directed by Sidney Lumet and in 1978 in both Robert Altman's 'A Wedding' and 'Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?'.
Gigi was also prolific in dubbing Hollywood cartoons and movies into Italian. Starting with Sylvester the Cat from Looney Tunes during the 1960s to voicing many greats such as Brando, de Niro, Stallone, Burton, Hoffman, Newman and Heston. He even took on the challenge of substituting for Robin Williams as the Genie in the 'Aladdin' cartoon and also as Gandalf in 'The Hobbit' movie series.
Alongside his acting career he also continued singing and released many popular albums and singles. After a short illness Gigi died in hospital of a heart attack on his actual birthday, 2nd November 2020, at the age of 80.
23. Alberto Sordi
Born in Rome in 1920, Alberto would become a superstar of Italian cinema and his gifted vocal talents would become his trademark. Ironically, as a teenager, after enrolling in The Academy of Dramatic Arts in Milan, he was thrown out because of his thick Roman accent. In the meantime, as he was also musically talented, he studied to be an opera singer.
In a career that spanned over 60 years, Alberto established himself as a charismatic movie giant in Italy beginning in the late 1930s with small roles and progressing in the 1950s to a couple of parts in the Fellini movies 'Lo Sceicco Bianco' in 1952 and 'I Vitelloni' a year later.
In 1958 came one of his most famous movies 'La Vedova Elettrica' and in the following year he appeared in 'La Grande Guerra' with Vittorio Gassman, considered as one of the best Italian comedy films. In 1961 he starred with David Niven in the World War II comedy 'The Best of Enemies'. In 1963 he was awarded a Golden Globe for 'Il Diavolo' beating other nominees that included Frank Sinatra, Albert Finney and Jack Lemmon. Towards the end of the decade he appeared in the popular 'Un Italiano in America' in 1967,
Into the 1970s came another popular comedy 'Finché c'è Guerra c'è Speranza' in 1974 plus a serious and much praised role in 'Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo' in 1977. On to the following decade, in 1984, he directed and co-wrote 'Tutti Dentro' as well as playing a judge investigating corruption. Alberto kept making movies into old age with 'Incontri Proibiti' in 1998 being his last of over 150 movies he was involved in during his highly prolific career.
Alberto was also the voice of Oliver Hardy in over forty of the Italian overdubs of the Laurel and Hardy films alongside Mauro Zambuto, as Stan Laurel. He also dubbed for the likes of Anthony Quinn and Robert Mitchum before quitting this line of work in 1956.
When he died in 2003 over a quarter of a million fans gathered to pay tribute at his funeral held at the historic Lateran Basilica in Rome.
Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno Porfirogenito Gagliardi de Curtis di Bisanzio was born in Naples in 1898 and thankfully better known by his stage name Totò. He was a hugely popular and affectionately remembered actor and comedian as well as a writer, poet and singer. He was crowned "The Prince of Laughter", noted for his funny and cynical character in theatre and in movies.
As the vast majority of his movies were showcases for his talents, many have his name "Totò" in the title. The most popular being 'Totò al Giro d'Italia', 'Totò Sceicco', 'Guardie e Ladri', 'Totò e le Donne', 'Totò a Colori'. The last from 1952 and one of the first Italian movies in colour.
He played a memorable supporting role in the classic comedy 'I Soliti Ignoti' in 1958 which starred Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassmann and Claudia Cardinale. Totò's prolific work rate continued into the 1960s when he was appearing in an average of 4 or 5 movies per year until his death in 1967 in Rome at the age of 69 after a series of heart attacks.
Funeral services were held in both Rome and his home city of Naples where masses of adoring fans paid tribute to a much-loved personality who remains an enduring icon of popular culture of 20th Century Italy.
25. Teo Teocoli
Although born in Taranto in 1945, Teo's family settled in Milan when he was 5 years old. He began his career in entertainment as a singer releasing several 45" singles having been signed up by Adriano Celentano's record label. This set him up to enter show business in 1969 in the Italian version of the musical 'Hair' where he performed as a Rock n' Roll singer
In the following decade he made his debut as a stand-up comedian and then in movies beginning with with 'Paolo e Francesca' in 1971, He made his breakthrough on television in 1973 in the programme 'Il Poeta e il Peasant' broadcast by RAI 2.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s he was a prolific presence on the big screen of cinema. Among his top movies are 'Il Padrone e l'Operaio' from 1975 and 'Abbronzatissimi'(1991), In his later years he has been more prevalent on the small screen.
More success on TV came in his partnership with Massimo Boldi in the programme 'Non lo Sapessi Ma Lo So' in 1982 and starred in the successful TV movie 'L'Odissea' in 1991. Teo is also a talented impersonator of both Italian and international celebrities in movies, music and sports
His long and varied career on top shows continues on the mainstream channels including appearing in the sit-com 'Vicini di Casa' on Italia Uno and in popular entertainment hosting Mediaset's 'Striscia la Notizia', the comedy show 'Zelig' and RAI's coverage of the prestigious annual San Remo Music Festival.
26. Ugo Tognazzi
Ugo was born in 1922 in Cremona, not far from Milan, in northern Italy. His passion for theatre and acting dated from his early years, and during WW2 he organized shows for his fellow soldiers. In 1945, he moved to Milan, where he was enrolled in the theatrical company led by Wanda Osiris.
In 1950, Ugo made his cinematic debut in 'I Cadetti di Guascogna' directed by Mario Mattoli. The following year, he met Raimondo Vianello, with whom he formed a successful comedy duo for the new-born RAI TV (1954–1960). Their shows, sometimes containing satirical material, were among the first to be censored on Italian television.
After the successful role in 'Il Federale' (1961), directed by Luciano Salce, Ugo became one of the most renowned characters of the so-called Commedia all'Italiana. He was a well-known actor in Italy, and starred in several important international films. Roger Vadim cast him as Mark Hand, the Catchman, in 'Barbarella' in 1968.
In 1981, he won the Best Male Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for 'La Tragedia di un Uomo Ridicolo', directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
While he worked primarily in Italian cinema, he is perhaps best remembered for a French movie in 1978. His role as Renato Baldi, the gay owner of a St. Tropez nightclub, in the smash-hit comedy 'La Cage aux Folles' which became the highest grossing foreign film ever released in the U.S.
In 1990 Ugo died of a brain haemorrhage in Rome at the age of 68.
27. Massimo Troisi
Another multi-talented artist who was an actor, screenwriter, film director and cabaret performer. He was born in 1953 in the town of San Giorgio a Cremano, near Naples.
His movie career began with his first film 'Ricomincio da Tre' in 1981 in which he acted, wrote and directed. He performed the same triumvirate of roles two years later in 'Scusate il Ritardo' appearing alongside Giuliana De Sio. In 1984 he starred opposite another great Italian cultural polymath, Roberto Benigni, in 'Non ci Resta che Piangere', the biggest selling movie in Italy that year.
After some supporting roles, Massimo returned to directing in 1987 with 'Le Vie del Signore Sono Finite', set during the Fascist era. Further appearances followed in 'Splendor' with Marcello Mastroianni and 'Che Ora è?', both in 1989 then 'Il Viaggio di Capitan Fracassa' in 1990.
His final film as a director, screenwriter and actor was 'Pensavo Fosse Amore, Invece era un Calesse' in 1991 co-starring Francesca Neri.
However he will perhaps be best remembered for the films 'Ricomincio da Tre' in 1981 and especially the title role in the classic 'Il Postino' made in 1994 where he starred along with French actor Philippe Noiret. Massimo's marvellous performance earned him a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Tragically he had died of a heart attack only twelve hours after filming on 'Il Postino' had finished. It was reported that he had postponed surgery to complete the film.
Nicknamed 'The Comedian of Feelings', although his career was sadly brief he is nevertheless considered as one of the most important actors in the history of modern Italian theatre and cinema.
28. Carlo Verdone
Another Roman native best known as a comedy actor, sometimes playing multiple characters, as well as a writer and director. Born in 1950 he studied at the same school as Christian De Sica who was his deskmate. He then graduated from Sapienza University earning a degree in Modern Literature and also a degree in Film Direction at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.
His career in show business started in television in the 1970s in the 'Carosello' show and in 1978 in the popular comedy series 'Non Stop'. This set him up for instant success in movies with the 1980s hits 'Un Sacco Bello' (1980), 'Bianco, Rosso e Verdone' (1981) and 'Borotalco' (1982).
But from the 1990s onwards he developed into more serious subjects in films such as 'Maledetto il Giorno Che t'ho Incontrata' (1992) and 'Il Mio Miglior Nemico' (2006) and 'Io, loro e Lara' (2010). But he continued to make comedies such as the Italian blockbuster romantic comedy named 'Manuale d'Amore' in 2005 which spawned two sequels. He also appeared in Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar-winning 'The Great Beauty' ('La Grande Bellezza') in 2013.
And he kept on acting and directing in the comedies for which he is famous, continuing with films such as 'Sotto Una Buona Stella' in 2014, 'L'Abbiamo Fatta Grossa' (2016) and 'Benedetta Follia' (2018). He also returned to TV in 2021 with 'Vita da Carlo' playing himself and portraying the difficulties of his private life in his relationship with his mother.
29. Paolo Villaggio
Born in Genoa in 1932, Paolo was an actor, comedian, writer and director. He started in TV with the programme 'Quelli della Domenica' where he launched his 'Fantozzi' character.
After his television work, Paolo started writing short stories for the magazines 'L'Espresso' and 'L'Europeo', featuring the character of the meek accountant Ugo Fantozzi and his many misadventures. These stories were collected into a book published in 1971 which sold over a million copies. Further follow-ups were written with eight books in total up to 2012.
The character migrated from paper to celluloid in 1975 with the film 'Fantozzi' and a sequel 'Il Secondo Tragico Fantozzi' the following year. Such was the popularity of his creation that a total of ten movies were made in the series up to the last 'Fantozzi 2000 – La Clonazione' in 1999.
Paolo played in many other notable comedies including a Fellini in 1990 called 'La Voce della Luna' starring with Roberto Benigni, 'Io Speriamo che me la Cavo (1992), 'Il Segreto del Bosco Vecchio (1993), 'Cari Fottutissimi Amici' (1994), and 'Denti' in 2000. He appeared in some dramatic roles and also continued writing stories and song lyrics during his movie career.
His acting roles included work in theatre and on TV. He was a regular in 'Carabinieri' playing a tramp who helped the police to solve crimes and in 1996, as himself, he hosted the popular satirical show 'Striscia la Notizia' alongside Massimo Boldi. Paolo died in Rome in 2017 at the age of 84 from complications brought on by diabetes
30. Checco Zalone
Born Luca Pasquale Medici in Capurso, near Bari in 1977 Checco is an actor, musician, singer-songwriter, imitator, comedian and screenwriter. His stage name Checco Zalone is based on the Apulian insult "Che cozzalone!" which translates in English as "What a boor!"
In his youth he enrolled at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, where he graduated in law. He then embarked onto the stage as a stand-up comedian in local clubs in Bari. His national breakthrough came as a regular in the TV variety show 'Zelig' and he also became famous in 2006 with the World Cup football song "Siamo una Squadra Fortissimi" for the Italian national team.
In 2009 his film career began, in his first of several partnerships with writer/director Gennaro Nunziante, he co-wrote and starred in 'Cado dalle Nubi followed in 2011 with 'Che bella Giornata, 'Sole a Catinelle'(2013) and 'Quo Vado?' (2016). Then in 2020 he branched out on his own with his debut as a director in 'Tolo Tolo' in which he also appeared on-screen as well as co-writing the script and even providing music for the soundtrack.
A hugely popular artiste in Italy, remarkably 3 of his films are in the Top 5 highest-grossing movies among Italian audiences alongside 'Avatar' and 'Titanic'.
And that concludes our cavalcade of fun from the leading chuckle-masters of the welly-boot peninsula, who have had them roaring in the aisles of Italy and beyond. Even tickling the ribs of Hollywood on occasion and bursting through into well-deserved Oscar success. The Italians have a proverb that says "A fool's spark glows in all men" and these great actors certainly have the magic to set it alight.