Venice is one of Italy’s most famous and historic cities. It’s known around the world for its grand canals and strapping gondoliers, numerous ornate bridges and incomparable palaces dating back to the renaissance. It was once the greatest port in Europe and the gateway to Asia, but its a surprisingly compact place. Now, it’s utterly overwhelmed with tourists and cruise ships and it’s apparently sinking at an alarming rate. Nevertheless, Venice’s eternal popularity and rich cultural heritage mean there are many top movies set in Venice, Italy.
The city scrubs up well on the big screen so watching a few of these Venice movies is the perfect way to inspire a trip and make you want to visit Venice. Or perhaps you’ve already booked a trip to Venice and fancy watching some movies in Venice to get you excited. Either way, here are some of the best movies set in Venice to watch whenever you need more of the City of Bridges in your life.
If you’re travelling to other parts of Italy as well as Venice, I’ve got you covered. I’ve written posts about the best movies set in Rome, Sicily and the rest of Italy (including films set in Tuscany) too!
The Best Movies set in Venice, Italy
1. Summertime (1955)
Director: David Lean Language: English Run time: 100m 94% Rotten Tomatoes
It’s interesting how many ‘women travel to Italy to escape their desperately lonely lives’ films there are. I can think of at least four off the bat. One of these films set in Venice is David Lean’s 1955 film Summertime starring the late, great Katherine Hepburn.
She appears as an unmarried secretary from Ohio who embarks on her dream trip to Venice. She visits various locations around Venice including the islands of Murano, Burano and, of course, drinks espresso at a café in Piazza San Marco. It’s a phenomenal film and definitely one of the best classic films about Venice from a tourist’s perspective.
2. Death in Venice (1971)
Director: Luchino Visconti Languages: English, French, Italian, Polish Run time: 130m 67% Rotten Tomatoes
Set in the 1800s around the time of the Cholera epidemic, a composer with a wanky name Gustav von Aschenbach travels to Venice to convalesce due to his serious health issues. He becomes infatuated with a Polish teenage boy staying at his hotel, the Grand Hôtel des Bains, who makes him feel enlivened.
Death in Venice is a little bit of an arty, European Venice film so it may not be for everyone. The subject matter also makes it not the most wanderlust-inspiring movie set in Venice (people dying, a grown-ass man smitten with a 14-year-old, etc.). But if you like stylised movies and want to edge a little out of your comfort zone but not tonnes, this film is a good pick.
3. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Director: Nicolas Roeg Language: English Run time: 110m 97% Rotten Tomatoes
I’ll be honest, Don’t Look Now is a horror film (at least, I think it is) so I’ve not seen it. But it’s notoriously one of the most influential classic films in Venice and is adapted from a Daphne du Maurier story. So it must be good!
An English couple (played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) travel to Venice sometime after the tragic death of their young daughter. However, despite the change of scenery, they’re not able to escape their grief and the tragedy continues to haunt them. If you can’t stand wistful travel romance films and love a good thriller, Don’t Look Now is probably one of the best films about Venice for you to watch before your trip!
4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Director: Steven Spielberg Language: English Run time: 128m 88% Rotten Tomatoes
Indiana Jones is undoubtedly one of the BEST travel-inspiring franchises EVER! And if you’re planning a trip to Venice, the third instalment Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the one you want to watch. Mainly set in 1938, Harrison Ford’s ophidiophobic archaeologist is on a quest to find his father who is a Holy Grail scholar and has been kidnapped by the Nazis.
The Last Crusade shot in locations all over the world as well as Venice, Italy including Andalucía in Spain, Petra in Jordan, Germany, England and the states of Utah, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. I’m exhausted just typing out that list. Indy heads to a library in Venice on the search for his father where we’re treated to a lovely shot of Venice’s Grand Canal.
5. The Comfort of Strangers (1990)
Director: Paul Schrader Language: English Run time: 107m 50% Rotten Tomatoes
Venice is a city for lovers so it’s not surprising that there are tonnes of romantic movies set in Venice. British film The Comfort of Strangers stars Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett as a couple on a return getaway to Venice. Not long after they arrive, they meet a British-Italian couple (played by Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren) who lure the young couple into their mysterious, unsettling lives.
It’s a thriller, but a gorgeous one. And not just because of Natasha Richardson’s dreamy, gravity-defying curls. The Comfort of Strangers wasn’t well-received by critics at the time but it features some fantastic actors and beautiful Venice locations including Hotel Gabrielli and Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore.
6. The Wings of the Dove (1997)
Director: Iain Softley Language: English Run time: 102m 84% Rotten Tomatoes
Many of the best movies set in Venice feature upper-class English people who are either holidaying in Venice or have escaped there to spend the rest of their days as drunk artists and disappointments to their well-to-do parents. Or something like that.
The Wings of the Dove stars Helena Bonham Carter as a broke woman from a reputable family living with her aunt in Venice. She is unable to marry the love of her life without money so when a dying American heiress takes a liking to her lover, she hatches a plan… The film is based on a novel written in 1902 by Henry James and has been adapted several times as either TV shows or films. But I think the 1997 version is the far superior version.
7. Bread and Tulips (2000)
Director: Silvio Soldini Language: Italian Run time: 114m 71% Rotten Tomatoes
Is this seriously the first Italian language movie on my list of Venice films?! Jeez, my bad. Bread and Tulips is a little bit of a hidden gem and might be hard to find on streaming services, but it’s just such a raw and endearing love story. If you’ve ever dreamed about leaving everything and running away to begin a new life in Venice then this is the film for you.
Bread and Tulips follows an Italian housewife who impulsively decides to begin a new life in Venice (see, I wasn’t lying) when she’s accidentally left at a rest stop on her family holiday bus trip. What follows is a film about passion, adultery and abandoning your responsibilities. My kind of movie!
8. Italian for Beginners (2000)
Director: Lone Scherfig Languages: Danish, Italian, English Run Time: 118m 88% Rotten Tomatoes
Another romantic comedy, but Italian for Beginners has an extremely different aesthetic to Bread and Tulips. Directed in the Dogme 95 style, this is an exceptionally ‘realistic’ film which abides by strict filmmaking guidelines including the use of handheld cameras and only utilising natural light.
Italian for Beginners is primarily set in Denmark and brings together an unlikely group of people who all join an Italian language class for their own personal reasons. When one of the members receives a huge inheritance, she spends the money on a trip to Venice for her entire class. It’s a must-see travel inspiring film and quite a light-hearted, funny film, unlike most other Dogme 95 movies.
9. The Italian Job (2003)
Director: F. Gary Gray Language: English Run time: 110m 73% Rotten Tomatoes
A loose remake of The Italian Job (1969) starring Michael Caine, the 2003 version moves the action from Turin to Venice. It’s one of the only action films set in Venice on this list, too, if you’re getting a bit sick of romcoms. The production shut down many of the Venetian streets for filming, including the famous St Mark’s Square. And even though it doesn’t quite rival the original in quality, The Italian Job is still a decent watch.
The Italian Job is an updated version for the new Millenium. Mark Wahlberg stars as a safecracker who seeks his revenge on a former friend by stealing $35 million worth of gold bullion with the help of his expert team. The mini cooper cars, stunning Venice locales and entertaining heist plot are all still present and correct in The Italian Job.
10. The Merchant of Venice (2004)
Director: Michael Radford Language: English Run time: 131m 71% Rotten Tomatoes
There have been surprisingly few feature film adaptations of this William Shakespeare play. In fact, this movie is the first. The Verona-set play Romeo and Juliet usually takes centre stage when it comes to adaptations. Starring Al Pacino as the film’s villain Shylock, The Merchant of Venice is set in 16th century Venice about a merchant named Antonio (Jeremy Irons) who is unable to repay a loan which leaves him in dire straits.
It’s a generally well-regarded film even though nobody saw it and it tanked at the box office. But the film did shoot in Venice so if you’ve ever wondered what the city might have looked like 400 years ago… This may be your only chance! Just be glad you’ll never know what Venice smelled like back then.
11. Chasing Liberty (2004)
Director: Andy Cadiff Language: English Run time: 111m 18% Rotten Tomatoes
Chasing Liberty is a very difficult film to recommend. If you were a pre-teen girl back in the early noughties as I was, you might be able to suffer through on the dreamy wanderlust vibes and nostalgia feels. This is a film in the same sub-sub-genre of American teenage romcom travel films like The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003), What a Girl Wants (2004) and Mary-Kate and Ashley films like When in Rome (2002). You’ve been warned.
Mandy Moore stars as 18-year-old Anna Foster, who just so happens to be the President of the United States’ daughter. Whilst tagging along on an official visit to Prague, Anna manages to escape the clutches of the Secret Service and ventures on an epic trip around Europe including Berlin, London and Venice. Downton Abbey‘s Matthew Goode co-stars as her love interest and I would not mind cruising around Europe on the back of his Vespa a single bit.
12. Casanova (2005)
Director: Lasse Hallström Language: English Run time: 112m 44% Rotten Tomatoes
The legendary figure of Casanova is synonymous with 17th Century Venice so it makes total sense to discover more about this illustrious character before you visit. For, you know, historical reasons. Heath Ledger plays Casanova, a hedonistic womaniser who must marry ASAP. He becomes entangled with a headstrong feminist and must get his sh*t together before he is arrested for crimes against sexual morality.
Granted, it’s not one of the best films set in Venice but it’s a fun time and Heath Ledger is a hugely missed gem. Plus it was shot entirely in Venice. I think the Northern Italian city must be one of the most straightforward places to shoot period films – I doubt the city has changed much in 400 years!
13. Casino Royale (2006)
Director: Martin Campbell Language: English Run time: 144m 95% Rotten Tomatoes
The 21st entry in the James Bond series, Casino Royale might just be my favourite of the franchise. I know, Sean Connery is supposedly the best Bond, etc. etc. but Daniel Craig is MY Bond and he kills it in this film. Pun not intended. Casino Royale reboots the series a little by taking place at the beginning of the MI7 agent’s career before he earns his license to kill. He is sent to infiltrate a high stakes poker game in Montenegro before convalescing in Venice after the ordeal.
Like most Bond films, lots of stunning settings around the world are used but Venice is the main location for the film’s ending. Casino Royale doesn’t country-hop as much as some of the other films in the Bond series. So you can watch the film knowing you’ll see a lot of Venice to make it worth your while. Plus, it’s an amazing film anyway!
14. Brideshead Revisited (2008)
Director: Julian Jarrold Language: English, Arabic, French, Italian, Latin Run time: 133m 62% Rotten Tomatoes
Brideshead Revisited would make a great double feature with The Wings of the Dove. They’re both novel adaptations and great movies set in Venice around a similar time period about upper-middle-class English folk gallivanting in Venice. Absolutely perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.
Only a snippet of the film is set in Venice, but this snippet is worth watching the film for. Matthew Goode stars Charles, a man who befriends the wealthy Lord Sebastian Flyte (played by Ben Whishaw) and becomes wrapped up in his life and family, including his estate at Brideshead. They both make a trip to Venice early in the film and stay in a gorgeous Italian villa and wander the narrow streets at night.
15. The Tourist (2009)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Language: English Run time: 103m 20% Rotten Tomatoes
I did consider burying this horrific excuse of a movie deep within the ‘other films set in Venice’ section at the end of this post. But I realised The Tourist has one key element that makes it worthy of a place on this list: the cinematography is gorgeous and showcases some hella dreamy vistas of the canal-laden city. This is The Tourist‘s one saving grace.
Starring Hollywood elite actors Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, The Tourist centres around two apparent strangers: Frank, a lonely maths teacher from Wisconsin on vacation and Elise Clifton-Ward (what a wanky name), an undercover Scotland Yard agent. This film’s plot is just such a mess, but its mise-en-scène is unrivalled if you just want to stare at Venice. Honestly, mute the film and have it playing in the background. You might enjoy it more this way.
16. One Chance (2013)
Director: David Frankel Languages: English Run time: 103m 63% Rotten Tomatoes
We Brits do love an underdog tale. Some of us also like watching the TV talent show Britain’s Got Talent too, for reasons that personally escape me. Paul Potts, a shy amateur opera singer living in Port Talbot, won the show in 2007. One Chance is the name of his debut album and also this biographical film documenting his rise from shop assistant to musical sensation.
As much as James Corden mildly irks me with his existence, it’s a pleasant enough film. And anyone who watches One Chance is sure to get exactly what they expect: a feelgood comedy-drama about chasing your dreams despite the odds. Much of the film is set and shot in Port Talbot in Wales with a little jaunt to Venice, too!
17. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Director: Jon Watts Language: English Run time: 129m 90% Rotten Tomatoes
The final entry on my list of best movies set in Venice is one I’ve already rewatched several times since it was released: Spider-Man: Far from Home. Or, Peter Parker’s European Vacation. It’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a fantastic followup to Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).
In Far From Home, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is still suffering the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame (2019). He jumps at the chance to escape his problems with a class trip to Europe and ends up visiting Venice, Austria, Prague, Berlin, the Netherlands and London. However, when Nick Fury needs your help, you do not let it go to voicemail… Basically, it’s a superhero and wanderlust-inspiring film all in one. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching that?! Lots of gorgeous shots of Venice early in the film, too.
Read next: Spider-Man Far From Home Locations in Europe
Other movies set in Venice: From Russia with Love (1963), Fellini’s Casanova (1976), Moonraker (1979), Everyone Says I Love You (2003), Dangerous Beauty (2008), Unforgiveable (2011)
And those are my favourite movies set in Venice, Italy to watch before your trip! Are you planning a trip to Venice? Or have you watched anything on my list of Venice films? Let me know in the comments below!