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The Bicycle Thief (1949)

Lamberto Maggiorani , Enzo Staiola , Vittorio De Sica  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda, Vittorio Antonucci
  • Directors: Vittorio De Sica
  • Writers: Vittorio De Sica, Adolfo Franci, Cesare Zavattini, Gerardo Guerrieri, Luigi Bartolini
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 24, 1998
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305081034
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,528 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Bicycle Thief" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Vittorio De Sica's remarkable 1947 drama of desperation and survival in Italy's devastating post-war depression earned a special Oscar for its affecting power. Shot in the streets and alleys of Rome, De Sica uses the real-life environment of contemporary life to frame his moving drama of a desperate father whose new job delivering cinema posters is threatened when a street thief steals his bicycle. Too poor to buy another, he and his son take to the streets in an impossible search for his bike. Cast with nonactors and filled with the real street life of Rome, this landmark film helped define the Italian neorealist approach with its mix of real life details, poetic imagery, and warm sentimentality. De Sica uses the wandering pair to witness the lives of everyday folks, but ultimately he paints a quiet, poignant portrait of father and son, played by nonprofessionals Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola, whose understated performances carry the heart of the film. De Sica and scenarist Cesare Zavattini also collaborated on Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, and Umberto D, all classics in the neorealist vein, but none of which approach the simple poetry and quiet power achieved in The Bicycle Thief. --Sean Axmaker

Product Description

A beautiful, simple story of a man in post-war Rome who needs his bicycle in order to work at his job. No sooner does he retrieve it from pawn, then it is stolen. The heartwrenching search teaches the man and his son much about the meaning of life and just how far we will go when pushed to the edge. Winner of a special Academy Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
184 of 190 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A milestone that still holds up 50 years later May 30, 2000
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I first saw this movie as a student decades ago, and now seeing it all these years later on DVD, I'm amazed how well it holds up. It's a lesson in what can be done on the screen with so little; there's no budget here, largely amateur actors and a very simple plot. It's about an unemployed man, who gets a job offer that requires a bike, the sacrifice his family must make to get his bike out of hock, and what happens when the bike is stolen on the job. It's successful because I think the writers and director focus on some universal truths--about human nature, love, pride, survival and--yes--family values. It's disheartening to read some reviews that say: "I was bored," "It wasn't entertaining enough," or "Enough with the black & white." It's also disheartening to see reviews from people with no concept of this film's historical context. The poverty of post-WWII Europe produced a revolution in cinema, and this movie was one that redefined the medium's possibilities. I can't imagine someone not being moved by the dilemma faced by the lead character in this film. I do regret that this movie has not gotten a full "Criterion Collection" restoration, and I would have liked more "extras" on the DVD--like background information on the time the director and the Italian neo-realist movement. BTW, the more accurate translation of the Italian title is "Bicycle Thieves," which (after you see the movie) you must agree is more appropriate.
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74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's a cure for everything ... except death February 14, 2007
(This review is for the Criterion Collection release of this dvd -- not for the Image Entertainment release that many other reviews here refer to.)

"Bicycle Thieves" (as it is wisely retranslated from the Italian for this new Criterion release) is one of the few "perfect films" -- by which I mean a film that is in its own way just as it should be, lacking nothing, the kind of film where even apparent missteps tend to contribute indelibly to the overall impression of a film in which nothing could have been changed without damaging the film. Take, for example, the scenario that instead of an unknown day laborer in the role of Antonio, de Sica had gone with David Selznick's suggestion of Cary Grant (which was a condition for the film getting funded through American studios). I have no doubt that this would have remained an interesting film, and that Grant would have done an admirable job -- but it would have been a totally different film and would have lost the fragility and vulnerability and delicacy (combined with hardness and objectivity) that make this film so precious. We can all be grateful that De Sica chose to wait for an Italian investor who allowed him to make the film the way he and Zappatini had planned.

Without giving away anything of the plot, I will say that the conclusion of the film is one of the most powerful I have seen -- and carries an emotional weight that is earned rather than manipulated, and that can be compared only to a very few films: Chaplin's City Lights and Kiarostami's Close-up are the only films that come to mind.
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105 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thief of hearts June 1, 2000
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A classic of world cinema, "The Bicycle Thief" deals with postwar Italian circumstances with searing impact. Some of the elements may remind you of "It's A Wonderful Life," but let's just say: Frank Capra it ain't! This work is uncompromising, and, as famed playwright Arthur Miller put it, "remorseless." It's a wake-up call, effectively arguing that good, sound minded people can be morally destroyed by obsession and despondency; that what is of no consequence to many is vital to some. Don't jump into buying this movie on the opinions of those who love it; it's not for everyone's taste. Rent it first. If you're looking for "entertainment," look elsewhere. But if you value artistically fine movies that address harsh realities, you will be bowled over by this poignant, involving look into one man's snowballing desperation. This film is a friend for life if you appreciate it!
This DVD version of an important film is terrible. Image Entertainment usually makes good digital transfers, and this disc is no exception. But the cause of my gripe isn't the transfer, it's the print used. The copy that Image offers on this DVD is in DESPERATE need of restoration. There are all manner of imperfections in this print -- blotches, streaks, jumps (sometimes for several frames!), scratches, etc. This makes for a visual and audio shadow of a great movie. As if this weren't bad enough, the subtitles are poor. Too many words are left out in the translation, and the subtitles sometimes come late in relation to the dialogue. On the other side of the ledger, the English dub is excellently done (except for a brief section late in the film, seemingly due to the print).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Greek tragedy in commoner's guise
You start out watching this miraculous work of art wishing to see what De Sica and Italian neorealism are all about; you end up searching for the names of Sophocles or Euripedes... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Carter West
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
One of the most touching movies I've seen in a long time, really well made. This film is a great piece of Italian neorealist art.
Published 20 days ago by Amar Alam
5.0 out of 5 stars Bart P.
I ordered this movie because I remember going to a movie theater with my grandmother in Little Italy in New York as a boy of about 7 and watching this movie and my... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bart G. Piacente
5.0 out of 5 stars The best movie ever.
The performances, the broken, war-torn landscapes, the masses of indifferent, poverty-struck citizens--no film will ever match the tender and heartbreaking human qualities of this... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jim F. Baughman
3.0 out of 5 stars What did I miss?
Well, after reading this was on so many Top 10 Lists, I forced my family to watch this movie for our weekly "movie night. Read more
Published 1 month ago by T. Petrie
5.0 out of 5 stars Simplicity at its Finest
Vittorio De Sica’ s 1948 film Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thieves) has generated enough acclaim in its life that it’s hard to justify writing another review of it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by The Separator
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Lauded
Possibly the MOST highly lauded film I have encountered. This tops many of the lists for great films, more consistently than any other title I have seen. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Anyong
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic known to most fans of the cinema!
A true classic of postwar Italian cinema. Not intended for the action-adventure fan, but a haunting study of the strain of poverty and the ethical compromises it sometimes forces... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Alphonse Greybeard
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic item
The delivery was way earlier than stated on the purchase receipt. The item exceeded my expectations: not only did I get the film, but it also came with the most useful booklet on... Read more
Published 4 months ago by sikhumbuzo richard mngadi
4.0 out of 5 stars A lesson from italy
This took a little getting used to at first as I don't mind subtitles but would have been better dubbed in English but was quiet entertaining
Published 6 months ago by Mike
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