Federico Fellini

Italian film director Federico Fellini was one of the most celebrated and distinctive filmmakers of the period after World War II.


Federico Fellini was born January 20, 1920, in Rimini, Italy. In 1944 he met director Roberto Rossellini and joined a team of writers who created Roma, città aperta, often cited as the seminal film of the Italian Neorealist movement. As a director, one of Fellini's major works is La dolce vita (1960), which starred Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée and Anita Ekberg. Fellini won best foreign-language Oscars for La strada (1954), Le notti di Cabiria (1957), 8 1/2 (1963) and Amarcord (1973). He also took home a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1993.

Early Life

Federico Fellini was born in Rimini, Italy, on January 20, 1920. He started to show signs of creativity early on, and while in high school he served as a caricaturist for a local theater, drawing portraits of movie stars. In 1939, Fellini moved to Rome, ostensibly to attend law school but in fact working for satirical magazine Marc’Aurelio. He began writing professionally around this time, working on radio shows. On one such show, he met actress Giulietta Masina, and the couple were married in 1943. They soon had a son, but he died just a month after birth. Masina would later appear in several of her husband's most important films.

Fellini was soon making a name for himself as a screenwriter and formed lasting relationships with the likes of director Roberto Rossellini and playwright Tullio Pinelli. Fellini signed on to join the writing team for Rossellini’s Roma, città aperta (1945), and the screenplay earned Fellini his first Oscar nomination. The partnership with Rossellini would be a fruitful one and would end up sending some of the most important films in Italian history to the screen, such as Paisà (1946), Il miracolo (1948) and Europa ’51 (1952).

The Films

Fellini’s screenwriting, which was in high demand in Italy, led to directing work, and after a few nonstarters, Fellini directed I vitelloni (1953), which won the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. He followed it with La strada (1954), which won the Academy Award for best foreign film. La strada, now considered a classic, was the first in a trilogy of films in which Fellini explored how an unforgiving world greets innocence. The second two films in the trilogy were Il bidone (1955) and Le notti di Cabiria (1957), that latter landing Fellini his second Oscar.

What followed that trilogy were some of Fellini’s most well-known and often experimental films, such as La dolce vita (1960, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), 8½ (which took the 1963 Oscar for best foreign film), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Fellini Roma (1972) and Amarcord (1973, which took another Oscar). In all, Fellini won five Oscars and was nominated for several others. He was awarded his final Oscar, for career achievement, in 1993, just a few months before his death.


In 1992, in a Sight & Sound magazine poll of international filmmakers, Fellini was named the most significant film director of all time, and La strada and 8½ were named two of the Top 10 most influential films of all time. He also was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1984 and the Praemium Imperiale in 1990, which is granted by the Japan Art Association. The award is considered to be on the same footing as the Nobel Prize.

On October 31, 1993, a day after his 50th wedding anniversary, Fellini died of a heart attack in Rome at the age of 73.

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