Matera and the Cinema

Matera is definitely photogenic. Indeed, telegenic, given how wonderful it looks on the TV and cinema screens. As soon as the movie directors ‘discovered’ Matera, they were immediately bewitched by its spectacular beauty. When Mel Gibson saw Matera he simply called it perfect. Yet, others before him had already noticed the city of the Sassi. In 1949 Matera appeared in the documentary called ‘Nel mezzogiorno qualcosa è cambiato‘ directed by Carlo Lizzani, which describes the situation in which southern Italy was after the Second World war. Thanks to its rough rock, the primitive and archaic landscape, the clinging houses and the golden light, the love between Matera and cinema finally breaks out in the 1950s. Watched on the screens, Matera perfectly reflects Southern Italy, it becomes its perfect visual synthesis. Sometimes, perhaps because of the way the rock reflects the sunlight – the sun that writer and director Pasolini called “a true sun, a fiercely ancient’ sun”, it even recalls the Middle East.  Matera is an open-air set that has stimulated the creativity of many filmmakers. Here are some of the most relevant films shot in the wonderful landscape of Matera.

Pasolini in Matera

007 - No Time To Die, 2021

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lèa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz.

The twenty-fifth film of the James Bond saga, the most famous secret agent in the world, was shot largely in Matera. It took 4 weeks of filming, between August and September 2019 and was a colossal production, which led to the closing of many streets in the old town. However, some of the tourists in the city have had the possibility of peeking at some of the scenes shot in them, which were mostly car-chasing scenes. Aston Martin darted through the few driveways of the Sassi and joined further shootings and many other exciting things.

No time to die

Maria Maddalena, 2018

Directed by Garth Davis

Cast: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahar Rahim, Shira Haas.

Rooney Mara masterfully plays Maria Maddalena. As a matter of fact, a revolutionary figure – the woman who chooses to follow Jesus – on which the director chose to focus the attention. In this movie, Matera is its magical and ancient background.

Mary Magdalene

Wonder Woman, 2017

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya.

Based on the DC Comics superhero, played by Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman was a highly successful film with critics and audiences, so much so that the American Film Institute included it among the ten best films of 2017. The film reveals the Sassi di Matera as an ideal set for science fiction stories and Super heroes.

Wonder woman

Ben Hur, 2016

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Cast: Jack Huston, Nazadin Boniadi, Morgan Freeman

The film is a modern film adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ), written by Lew Wallace, whose most famous transposition is the 1959 film, directed by William Wyler starring Charlton Heston, winner of 11 Academy Awards.


Italian Race, 2016

Directed by Matteo Rovere

Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Matilda De Angelis, Paolo Graziosi

Fast as the wind also known by the international title of Italian Race, is a 2016 film, starring Stefano Accorsi who plays an Italian rally driver, a figure freely inspired by the driver Carlo Capone.

Veloce come il vento Matera

The Passion of the Christ, 2003

Directed by Mel Gibson

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Rosalinda Celentano, Sergio Rubini

“The Passion of the Christ” it is certainly one of the most famous films in recent cinema history. A very controversial movie, criticized for its extremely realistic scenes of violence. Despite this it was a huge box office success. The original languages of the film are Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin. This movie has made Matera one of the most famous destinations in the world in film tourism.

The Passion of the Christ

The Star Maker, 1995

Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.

Cast: Sergio Castellitto, Tiziana Leodato, Leopoldo Trieste, Leo Gullotta

The movie received an Academy Award nominee for best foreign film – among the other ones. The movie tells the story of a man who sells dreams of becoming a star in the poor southern Italy ot the 1950s. Although the film is set in Sicily, many of the scenes were shot in the Sassi di Matera.

L'uomo delle stelle

King David, 1985

Directed by Bruce Beresford

Cast: Richard Gere, Edward Woodward, Alice Krige, Denis Quilley, Niall Buggy

”King David” is a 1985 American epic historical drama film about the life of the second King of the Kingdom of Israel, David. The film was directed by Bruce Beresford, produced by Martin Elfand and written by Andrew Birkin. The film stars Richard Gere in the title role. When the movie came out, it was not very well welcomed. However, it still confirms Matera to be an exceptional set for biblical-themed films.

King David

Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979

Directed by Francesco Rosi

Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Lea Massari, Alain Cuny, Irene Papas

Based on the 1945 homonym book by Carlo Levi, it tells the story of an anti-fascist intellectual sent to confinement in a small town near Matera. The film was successful and visually describes the peasant world that Carlo Levi stared at with great sensitivity. Some local people were also involved in minor roles. The protagonist, Gian Maria Volontè, was one of the greatest Italian actors ever existed.  

Christ Stopped at Eboli

El árbol de Guernica, 1975

Directed by Fernando Arrabal

Cast: Mariangela Melato, Ron Farber, Cosimo Cinieri, Franco Ressel

The film is set during the Spanish civil war. The title refers to the Tree of Guernica symbol of Basque liberties. The movie has a dreamlike and surreal style and is a reflection of some very significant issues such as rebellion and society institutions.

L'albero di Guernica

The Gospel According to St.Matthew, 1964

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Cast: Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, Susanna Pasolini, Marcello Morante

This Film is faithfully based on Matthew’s gospel, starting From the Annunciation of Mary until the resurrection of Jesus. For the shooting, Pasolini didn’t used professional actors. Instead, he decided to involve some of his intellectual friends and chose native people as background actors.

Il vangelo secondo Matteo locandina

Roaring Years, 1962

Directed by Luigi Zampa

Cast: Nino Manfredi, Gino Cervi, Gastone Moschin, Rosalia Maggio, Salvo Randone, Michèle Mercier

It is an italian comedy movie with great italian actors. It’s set in the 1930s, during the fascist period. The subject is inspired by the comedy named ''The Government Inspector'' by Nikolaj Gogol. It is a fierce and amusing criticism of the mean man.

Anni Ruggenti

The She-Wolf, 1953

Directed by Alberto Lattuada

Cast: Kerima, Ettore Manni, Mary Britt

“The She-Wolf” is an Italian drama based on the famous novel by Giovanni Verga. While the original novel is set in nineteenth-century Sicily, the film transposes the story to the Basilicata in the 1950s.
The she-wolf is a mature, beautiful woman who lures men thanks to her attractiveness. It is a story of passion, misery and jealousy that fits into the trend of the great Italian neorealism.

La Lupa - The She-Wolf

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