Film Review: Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Also known as: Ladri di biciclette (Italy), The Bicycle Thief (US)
Release Date: November 24th, 1948 (Italy)
Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Written by: Luigi Bartolini, Vittorio De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Gerardo Guerrieri, Oreste Biancoli, Adolfo Franci
Music by: Alessandro Cicognini
Cast: Enzo Staiola, Lamberto Maggiorani

Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche, Joseph Burstyn & Arthur Mayer, 93 Minutes 


“Why should I kill myself worrying when I’ll end up just as dead?” – Antonio Ricci

Bicycle Thieves, also commonly called The Bicycle Thief, is considered to be one of the greatest films of all-time. Many consider it to be the greatest. While I don’t consider it to be the best motion picture in existence it is definitely the best of the best out of foreign language films, alongside the works of Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

This is also one of the saddest movies I have ever seen, through its ability to truly convey absolute desperation.

The story of the Bicycle Thieves is pretty straightforward. Taking place in post-World War II Rome, Ricci is a man struggling to find work. He is a husband and a father that needs to help his family survive in a desolate and seemingly hopeless existence. He gets a job but he needs a bicycle. He recently pawned his bike so that the family could eat but he lies to get the job. His wife then goes as far as to sell the family’s bed sheets to get enough money to buy the bicycle back. Once Ricci gets his bike, he immediately starts the job. Then one day, while working, a teen boy steals the bike right in front of him. The rest of the film is Ricci’s pursuit of the bicycle and with every twist and turn, he gets more and more desperate.

Every aspect of Bicycle Thieves is effective, which is why it is a masterpiece.

The acting is superb and it is a movie mostly told through the eyes and facial expressions of its characters. You understand their situation through their dialogue but it is their ability to wear that sentiment like a mask that truly creates the emotional weight of the picture. Ricci’s son Bruno is exceptionally talented, as he almost exists as the audience’s eyes and ears, as he is along for the ride on this tragic journey.

The only negative review I saw of this movie referenced the score not working. I thought it was perfectly fine and it enhanced the film aesthetically, as it should. But you can’t please everyone, I guess.

I had to watch the Bicycle Thieves because I couldn’t believe that something with so much historical hype could truly be as good as what I’ve heard for years. Again, I don’t see it as the best movie ever made, but it certainly deserves to be pretty close to the top.

Rating: 10/10