In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Federico Fellini

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Catalogues
  • Archival Resources
  • Critical Monographs
  • Collections of Essays
  • Biographies and Autobiography
  • Fellini’s Collaborators
  • Treatments of Fellini’s Work on His Sets
  • Interviews
  • Selected Criticism of Individual Films
  • Influences

Cinema and Media Studies Federico Fellini
Peter Bondanella
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0099


Federico Fellini (20 January 1920–31 October 1993) was not only the most famous Italian director of the 20th century, but also an accomplished scriptwriter, humorist, and cartoonist. After moving from the provincial town of Rimini to Rome, Fellini began to make regular contributions to Italy’s most important humor magazine—Marc’Aurelio—writing gags and humorous essays and contributing cartoons and sketches. Through his work on this magazine, Fellini met a number of scriptwriters, and he proceeded to make major contributions to films associated with postwar Italian neo-realism. His contribution to the script of Roberto Rossellini’s Open City (1945) won for him what would be the first of twenty-three eventual Academy Award nominations during his career. Fellini helped to move the direction of Italian cinema beyond a fixation on postwar realism with his early works, particularly La Strada (1954) and The Nights of Cabiria (1957), both of which launched his international renown and for which he received Oscars for best foreign film. This “road beyond neo-realism” phase of his career moved into a high modernist phase during which Fellini’s name became synonymous with the concept of the European art film and the director as auteur notably with the record-breaking box-office hit La Dolce Vita (1960)—awarded the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival—and , a masterpiece for which he garnered his third Oscar for best foreign film. After his last commercial hit, Amarcord (1973), received a fourth Oscar for best foreign film, a third and commercially unsuccessful period ensued. Nevertheless, this phase of his career included some postmodernist works of great distinction, especially Interview (1987), and some outstanding television commercials, including one made for Barilla, another for Campari, and three for the Banco di Roma (the last films he shot). Shortly before his death, Fellini received a fifth Oscar in tribute to his entire career. Besides this continuous recognition in the United States, Fellini’s work received dozens of major film festival awards in France, Japan, Britain, and Germany (not to mention special awards at the Venice Film Festival and elsewhere in Italy). Not only did the director frequently receive such honors, but also his close collaborators (scriptwriters, directors of photography, set designers, make-up artists, musicians, and costume designers) shared his ability to garner such awards for the outstanding level of their contributions to his cinema. The general direction of critical work on Fellini has followed the trajectory of his career: an early focus upon his move beyond neo-realism; a second emphasis on Fellini as modernist auteur; a more recent consideration of postmodernist elements in Fellini’s last films; and finally, new attention to archival discoveries from the treasure trove of unpublished materials Fellini left behind that have yet to be assimilated into a new analytical synthesis of his contributions to the art of the cinema and to the history of Italian culture. To date, little evidence exists that his critical or popular reputation has been eroded by the passage of time or by the recent lack of interest in auteur studies in general among film critics and historians. He has been a major influence on directors such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, François Truffaut, Peter Greenaway, Bob Fosse, Francis Ford Coppola, Giuseppe Tornatore, Lina Wertmüller, and Spike Jonze. In many film cultures, Fellini’s name remains a synonym for the fantasy of the moving pictures in the contemporary world.


No bibliography as extensive as Bertozzi, et al. 2002–2004 exists in English, although Bondanella and Degli-Esposti 1993 provides a framework for understanding the main lines of how Fellini criticism developed in France, Italy, Britain, and the United States during his long career, while Stubbs 1978 treats critical assessments of Fellini during the first three decades of his career. Maroni and Ricci 2008 provides a bibliography of Fellini’s own reading, particularly in art, Jungian psychology, and the occult, that is important for assessing his intellectual formation.

  • Bertozzi, Marco, Giuseppe Ricci, and Simone Casavecchia, eds. BiblioFellini. 3 vols. Rimini, Italy: Fondazione Federico Fellini, 2002–2004.

    Now the definitive available bibliography of the almost endless material that has appeared in print on Fellini, his life, and his works.

  • Bondanella, Peter, and Cristina Degli-Esposti. “Federico Fellini: An Overview of the Critical Literature.” In Perspectives on Federico Fellini. Edited by Peter Bondanella and Cristina Degli-Esposti, 3–19. New York: G. K. Hall, 1993.

    The only English-language discussion of the history of Fellini criticism.

  • Maroni, Oriana, and Giuseppe Ricci, eds. I libri di casa mia: La biblioteca di Federico Fellini. Rimini, Italy: Fondazione Federico Fellini, 2008.

    An important catalogue of all the books in Fellini’s library at Rimini’s Fellini Foundation, especially useful for Fellini’s knowledge of Carl Jung’s psychological theories and for his interest in a wide variety of painters and artists, many of whom influenced his cinema.

  • Stubbs, John Caldwell. Federico Fellini: A Guide to References and Resources. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978.

    Especially good for early work on Fellini but now supplanted by Bertozzi, et al. 2002–2004 in terms of chronological coverage as well as international scope.

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