The Bicycle Thief quickly solidified its position as one of the greatest films ever made when it was originally released. In his December 13th, 1949 review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called it “brilliant and devastating — a film that will tear your heart, but which should fill you with warmth and compassion.” The film later won a special honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Foreign Language Film.
The Golden Globes also awarded it Best Foreign Film and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) called it the Best Film from any Source. The National Board of Review gave it awards for Best Director (Vittorio De Sica) and Best Film (Any Language), and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards also named it Best Foreign Language Film. In subsequent years The Bicycle Thief appeared in many Top Ten lists such as the Sight & Sound International Critics Poll, where it was top of the list in 1952. Throughout the decades other critics added their voices, including such well-respected luminaries as Andre Bazin, Pauline Kael and playwright Arthur Miller.
In 2002 Sight & Sound Magazine published a Directors’ Top Ten Poll and, though more than fifty years had passed, The Bicycle Thief had lost little of its impact. It was ranked as the sixth greatest film of all-time.
Various film directors have all named The Bicycle Thief in their Top Ten lists of greatest films. They include Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Little Women), Robert Bresson (Diary of a Country Priest, Pickpocket), Luis Bunuel (The Exterminating Angel, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep with Anger), Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being), Ken Loach (Kes, Land and Freedom), Joel Schumacher (Falling Down, Phone Booth) and Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot). Now, sixty years later, as the world faces what many consider the biggest economic crisis since The Great Depression, the story of The Bicycle Thief seems to resonate more strongly than ever. As A.O. Scott aptly states in his 2008 review, “this film seems more relevant, more powerful, maybe more real than ever before.”
The Los Angeles Times
By Kevin Thomas, April 26, 1972
“Not only is there nothing crude about ‘The Bicycle Thief’ in regard to the techniques of its presentation of “realism” but it is in fact a work of astonishing elegance and a grace that is truly spiritual, an effect heightened by its sublime, almost operatic score.”
The New York Times
By Bosley Crowther, December 13, 1949
“… full and electric and compelling…”
The New Yorker
By Pauline Kael
“One of the greatest movies of all time.”
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
- 1949 Academy Award: OUTSTANDING FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- National Board of Review: BEST FILM
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards: BEST FOREIGN FILM