Giallo is a genre of Italian thriller that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. The name translates as “yellow” and refers to a series of pulp novels that were popular in Italy at the time, which featured yellow-covered jackets.

The term giallo has been broadened in English to describe any Italian thrillers that feature elements of murder, mystery, and suspense.

Many of these films were made during the height of the spaghetti western era and share some characteristics such as violence, gruesome deaths, and plot twists.

 

What Are Giallo Films?

What Are Giallo Films?

Giallo films are a type of Italian crime-horror film that was popular from the late 1960s to the 1980s.

The genre itself combines elements from crime drama with splatter horror, similar to the American slasher subgenre.

The genre combines elements of crime fiction and slasher films with surrealism and bizarre imagery to create unique thrillers.

These films also feature surrealist imagery, dream sequences, and frequent use of red herrings.

 

 

Best Giallo Films

Giallo films are often characterized by their use of bright colors, especially red and yellow. They often focus on women who encounter danger from a killer or psychopathic stalker.

Before we jump in, here’s our video guide to slasher films. Giallo films are an important part of slasher film history!

Deep Red (1975)

Deep Red (1975) is a classic giallo film that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Director Dario Argento masterfully weaves together a complex plot full of twists and turns, keeping the audience guessing until the very end.

The film follows musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) as he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after witnessing the brutal killing of a psychic medium. Along with journalist Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), Daly delves deeper into the mystery, uncovering a web of secrets and deception that threatens to consume them both.

   

The cinematography is stunning, with vibrant colors and inventive camera angles that add to the film’s eerie atmosphere.

The score, composed by Goblin, is equally impressive, with haunting melodies that perfectly complement the on-screen action.

Deep Red is not for the faint of heart, with graphic violence and disturbing imagery that may be too intense for some viewers.

However, for fans of the horror genre, this film is a must-see. It’s a tense and thrilling ride that leave you breathless until the very end.

Sale
Deep Red (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • David Hemmings, Gabriele Lavia, Daria Nicolodi (Actors)
  • Dario Argento (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Blood and Black Lace (1964) is a stylish and suspenseful giallo film that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Directed by Mario Bava, this eerie tale is set in a fashion house where a series of gruesome murders take place.

The film boasts a beautiful and vivid color palette, with Bava using lighting and camera angles to create a sense of unease and tension throughout.

The plot is intricate and unpredictable, and the killer’s identity is kept hidden until the very end, making for a satisfying and suspenseful viewing experience.

The cast, including Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell, deliver solid performances, each bringing their own unique energy to the film.

The score by Carlo Rustichelli perfectly complements the film’s atmosphere, adding to the tension and creating a haunting and memorable soundtrack.

Tenebrae (1982)

Tenebrae is a stylish and suspenseful giallo thriller from Italian horror master Dario Argento.

The film follows American author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) as he travels to Rome to promote his latest novel, only to become embroiled in a series of grisly murders inspired by his work.

Argento’s signature style is on full display here, with stunningly lit and beautifully composed shots that make even the most gruesome scenes visually striking.

The use of color is particularly effective, with the bright reds of blood and the stark white of the killer’s gloves standing out against the film’s otherwise muted palette.

   

The mystery at the heart of Tenebrae is well-crafted and keeps the audience guessing until the final act, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

The film also features some great performances, particularly from Franciosa as the beleaguered author and John Saxon as the gruff police detective assigned to the case.

Tenebrae (1982) ( Tenebre ) ( Under the Eyes of the Assassin (Unsane) ) [ Blu-Ray, Reg.A/B/C Import - Spain ]
  • Tenebrae (1982) ( Tenebre ) ( Under the Eyes of the Assassin (Unsane) )
  • Tenebrae (1982)
  • Tenebre
  • Under the Eyes of the Assassin (Unsane)
  • John Steiner, John Saxon, Giuliano Gemma (Actors)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage” is a stunning masterpiece of Italian giallo cinema that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Directed by the legendary Dario Argento, this film is a feast for the senses, packed with stunning visuals, a haunting score, and a gripping storyline that never lets up.

The plot centers around American writer Sam Dalmas, who becomes a witness to a brutal attack on a woman in an art gallery.

As he tries to unravel the mystery of the assailant’s identity, he finds himself drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse, where the stakes are life and death.

The performances in this film are top-notch, with Tony Musante giving a particularly standout performance as the lead.

The cinematography is breathtaking, with Argento using color and light to create a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere that perfectly matches the film’s dark tone.

   
Sale
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi (Actors)
  • Dario Argento (Director)
  • Spanish (Publication Language)

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970)

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a gripping Italian thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.

The film is a perfect blend of suspense, eroticism and mystery that will leave you guessing until the very end.

The story revolves around Minou, a wealthy housewife who is being blackmailed by a man who claims to have evidence of her past as a drug addict and a prostitute.

The tension builds as Minou tries to uncover the identity of the blackmailer and clear her name, all while dealing with the complications of her marriage and her own inner demons.

Director Luciano Ercoli creates a visually stunning film that captures the beauty of Rome and the sensuality of the characters.

The performances from the cast are excellent, especially Dagmar Lassander who perfectly embodies the conflicted and complex Minou.

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a must-watch for fans of the giallo genre and anyone who loves a good mystery.

With its clever twists and turns, this film will keep you guessing until the very end. Highly.

Sale
The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion
  • Dagmar Lassander, Pier Paolo Capponi, Susan Scott (Actors)
  • Luciano Ercoli (Director)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood is a violent and gory slasher film that is sure to satisfy fans of the genre.

The plot revolves around a wealthy family fighting for control over a beautiful bay, which leads to a series of brutal murders and a web of deceit.

The film is directed by Mario Bava, who is known for his imaginative camera work and use of color.

He does not disappoint in A Bay of Blood, with plenty of creative shots that add to the unsettling atmosphere.

The cinematography is also impressive, with stunning shots of the bay and its surroundings.

The acting is solid, with standout performances from Claudine Auger and Luigi Pistilli as the scheming couple at the heart of the story.

The kills are gruesome and inventive, with plenty of blood and gore to satisfy horror fans.

However, the film is not without its flaws. The plot can be convoluted at times, with too many characters and subplots to keep track of.

The pacing can also be slow at times, with stretches of dialogue that drag on a bit too long.

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

A Lizard in a’s Skin is a psychedelic and twisted thriller that will leave you questioning reality until the very end.

The film, directed by Lucio Fulci, follows the story of a young woman accused of murder, who begins to have vivid and disturbing hallucinations that blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

Fulci’s signature style is on full display here, with surreal dream sequences and graphic violence that will make even the most hardened horror fan wince.

The cinematography is stunning, with vibrant colors and creative camera angles that add to the film’s surreal atmosphere.

The performances are also top-notch, with Florinda Bolkan delivering a standout performance as the troubled protagonist.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with strong performances from Stanley Baker and Jean Sorel.

A Lizard In A Woman's Skin
  • Stanley Baker, Florinda Bolkan, Jean Sorel (Actors)
  • Lucio Fulci (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

The Case of The Scorpion’s Tail (1971)

“The Case of The Scorpion’s Tail” is a classic giallo film that takes you on a wild ride from start to finish.

This 1971 masterpiece from director Sergio Martino is a must-watch for fans of the genre.

The plot revolves around a series of murders that occur after an heiress is killed in a plane crash, leaving behind a fortune that everyone seems to be after.

The film is full of twists and turns, and you’ll never know who the killer is until the very end. The score is haunting and adds to the overall atmosphere of the film.

The cinematography is also worth mentioning, as the use of color and lighting creates a mesmerizing visual experience.

The performances are solid, with standout performances from George Hilton and Anita Strindberg.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • George Hilton, Anita Strindberg, Alberto De Mendoza (Actors)
  • Sergio Martino (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971)

Short Night of the Glass Dolls is a giallo thriller that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The film tells the story of an American journalist named Greg Moore who wakes up in a morgue after being presumed dead.

Unable to move or speak, he must rely on his memories and observations to solve the mystery of his own murder.

Director Aldo Lado masterfully builds tension and suspense throughout the film, with haunting visuals and a chilling score that will leave you feeling uneasy.

The cast, led by Jean Sorel as Greg Moore, delivers strong performances that add to the film’s overall atmosphere of paranoia and confusion.

What sets Short Night of the Glass Dolls apart from other giallo films is its unique premise and approach to storytelling.

As Greg Moore slowly pieces together the events leading up to his death, the audience is taken on a journey that is both thrilling and thought-provoking.

Short Night of Glass Dolls
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ingrid Thulin, Jean Sorel, Mario Adorf (Actors)
  • Aldo Lado (Director) - Aldo Lado (Writer) - Enzo Doria (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)

The Black Belly of the Tarantula is a gripping and suspenseful giallo film that truly delivers. Directed by Paolo Cavara, this film is a masterpiece of Italian horror cinema that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

The film follows Inspector Tellini, played by Giancarlo Giannini, as he investigates a string of murders that seem to be connected to a group of wealthy and influential men.

The murders are gruesome and shocking, and the tension builds as Tellini tries to uncover the killer’s identity.

The performances in The Black Belly of the Tarantula are top-notch, particularly Giannini’s portrayal of the determined and intelligent Inspector Tellini.

The score by Ennio Morricone is haunting and perfectly complements the dark and atmospheric visuals.

Cavara’s direction is masterful, with intense close-ups and striking visuals that will stay with you long after the film has ended.

The film’s climax is particularly memorable, with a shocking twist that will leave you reeling.

The Black Belly of the Tarantula
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet (Actors)
  • Paolo Cavara (Director) - Marcello Danon (Writer) - Marcello Danon (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Don’t Torture a Duckling is a haunting and gripping giallo film from Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci. Set in a remote Italian village, the film follows the investigation of a series of child murders that have left the small community in fear and suspicion.

With a cast of eccentric characters, including a young journalist and a local woman accused of witchcraft, the film explores themes of superstition, religion, and the dark side of human nature.

Fulci’s direction is masterful, creating a palpable sense of dread and tension throughout the film.

The cinematography by Sergio D’Offizi captures the eerie beauty of the Italian countryside, while the score by Riz Ortolani adds to the film’s unsettling atmosphere.

The performances are top-notch, with standout performances by Florinda Bolkan as the accused witch and Tomas Milian as the journalist.

The film’s themes and commentary on societal issues still resonate today, making it a timeless classic of the giallo genre.

Don't Torture a Duckling
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian (Actors)
  • Lucio Fulci (Director) - Lucio Fulci (Writer) - Renato Iaboni (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is a dark and seductive Italian giallo film that will leave you breathless with its twisted storyline and stunning visuals.

Directed by Sergio Martino, this film is a perfect example of what the genre is all about.

The film follows Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli), a troubled writer who lives in a decaying villa with his wife Irina (Anita Strindberg).

He is an abusive and manipulative husband, who spends his days drinking and tormenting his wife.

When a series of murders start happening in their small town, Oliviero becomes the prime suspect.

As the film progresses, we are taken on a journey of suspense and eroticism that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The performances in this film are outstanding, with Pistilli giving a standout performance as the tortured and complex Oliviero.

Strindberg is also fantastic as Irina, a woman who is trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage.

The chemistry between the two actors is electric, and their interactions are both disturbing and captivating.

The cinematography in Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is also noteworthy, with stunning shots of the villa and the surrounding countryside.

The use of color and lighting adds to the film’s eerie and mysterious atmosphere.

No products found.

Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972)

“Seven Blood-Stained Orchids” is a giallo masterpiece that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

The plot revolves around a series of murders that are connected to a group of people who were involved in a car accident years ago.

The killer’s identity remains a mystery until the very end, and the twists and turns will leave you guessing until the final reveal.

The cinematography is stunning, with vibrant colors and elaborate set pieces that transport you to 1970s Italy.

The score is haunting and perfectly complements the suspenseful tone of the film.

The performances are exceptional, particularly from actor Antonio Sabato who plays the lead investigator, and the supporting cast who all bring depth and intrigue to their respective roles.

Seven Blood Stained Orchids
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Antonio Sabato, Uschi Glas, Pier Paolo Capponi (Actors)
  • Sinister Cinema (Director) - Umberto Lenzi (Writer) - Lamberto Palmieri (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974)

The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a haunting and atmospheric giallo that will leave you feeling both entranced and disturbed.

The film follows the story of a young woman named Silvia, played brilliantly by Mimsy Farmer, who begins to experience bizarre and terrifying hallucinations after receiving a mysterious perfume in the mail.

Director Francesco Barilli expertly weaves together elements of horror, mystery, and psychological drama to create a film that is both unsettling and visually stunning.

The use of striking colors and surreal imagery creates an otherworldly atmosphere that draws you in and keeps you captivated until the very end.

The film does rely heavily on symbolism and metaphor, which may not be to everyone’s taste.

However, for those who enjoy a more cerebral viewing experience, The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a must-see.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mimsy Farmer, Maurizio Bonuglia, Mario Scaccia (Actors)
  • Francesco Barilli (Director) - Francesco Barilli (Writer) - Giovanni Bertolucci (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The House With Laughing Windows (1976)

“The House With Laughing Windows” is a haunting and atmospheric Italian horror film from 1976 that will leave you feeling disturbed and unsettled.

The story follows Stefano, a young artist hired to restore a mural in a small town’s church. As he delves deeper into the town’s dark history, he uncovers a web of secrets and horrors that threaten to consume him.

Director Pupi Avati masterfully creates a sense of dread and unease throughout the film, using haunting imagery and eerie sound design to keep the audience on edge.

The setting itself, a decaying and isolated town, adds to the overall feeling of isolation and helplessness that permeates the story.

Lead actor Lino Capolicchio delivers a memorable performance as Stefano, capturing the character’s fear and confusion as he becomes increasingly entangled in the town’s dark past.

The supporting cast also shines, particularly Gianni Cavina as Stefano’s eccentric friend and Francesca Marciano as a mysterious woman with ties to the town’s secrets.

Rush Hour
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson (Actors)
  • Brett Ratner (Director) - Ross Lamanna (Writer) - Roger Birnbaum (Producer)
  • Spanish, Portuguese, English (Playback Languages)
  • Spanish, Portuguese, English (Subtitles)

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

The Bloodstained Shadow is a suspenseful and atmospheric giallo that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Directed by Antonio Bido, the film follows a young man named Stefano who returns to his hometown on a remote island to teach at the local school.

But as he settles in, he begins to uncover a series of grisly murders that seem to be linked to a tragic event from his past.

The film is beautifully shot, with stunning cinematography that captures the eerie beauty of the island and the dark, moody atmosphere of the story.

The suspense builds slowly but steadily, as the audience is drawn deeper into the mystery of the murders and the secrets that the island’s inhabitants are hiding.

The performances are strong, particularly from Lino Capolicchio as Stefano, who brings a sense of vulnerability and determination to his role.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with standout performances from Craig Hill as a local priest and Stefania Casini as a mysterious woman with a dark past.

Bloodstained Shadow [Blu-ray]
  • Horror 1978 by Antonio Bido with Lino Capolicchio and Stefania Casini.
  • Stefania Cassini (Actor)
  • Antonio Bido (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

What Have You Done To Solange? (1972)

What Have You Done To Solange?

is a gripping and disturbing giallo film that will keep you guessing until the very end.

The film centers around a series of murders at an all-girls school in London, and the investigation that follows.

The cinematography is stunning, with beautiful shots of the Thames and the city skyline. The score is haunting and perfectly sets the tone for the film.

The performances are also top-notch, particularly from Fabio Testi and Cristina Galbó.

Director Massimo Dallamano expertly weaves together themes of sexuality, violence, and corruption to create a truly chilling thriller.

The ending is shocking and will leave you reeling.

A Quiet Place In The Country (1968)

“A Quiet Place In The Country” is a hauntingly beautiful film that combines elements of horror, surrealism, and psychological drama to create a truly unique cinematic experience.

Director Elio Petri masterfully weaves together a story of an artist, played brilliantly by Franco Nero, who becomes increasingly unhinged as he retreats to a remote villa in the Italian countryside to find inspiration for his work.

The film’s visuals are stunning, with Petri’s use of color and imagery adding to the eerie and unsettling atmosphere of the film.

The sound design is also exceptional, with the sparse use of sound adding to the tension and sense of isolation.

Nero’s performance is captivating, as he seamlessly transitions between moments of intense emotion and quiet introspection.

The supporting cast also delivers strong performances, particularly Vanessa Redgrave as the enigmatic and seductive woman who enters Nero’s life.

While “A Quiet Place In The Country” may not be for everyone, those willing to embrace its unconventional storytelling and surreal imagery will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and haunting film that lingers long after the credits roll.

A Quiet Place in the Country [Blu-ray]
  • Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero (Actors)
  • Elio Petri (Director) - Alberto Grimaldi (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

How To Identify A Giallo Film

The Giallo subgenre has a slew of impressive features, including bold colors and striking imagery, but it’s sometimes difficult to identifysince there are no specific characteristics that every Giallo movie has.

Details such as the plot or cast don’t necessarily matter, but colors and imagery do play an important role in helping you tell if you’re watching a Giallo film.

The term “Giallo” comes from the Italian word for yellow, which references the color of crime-scene tape.

Essentially, Giallo films are mystery thrillers that have a noir style to them.

Many people who are new to the genre often mistake it for an action or suspense film due to its violent nature.

For instance, many scenes usually include some sort of torture or murder, but the central focus is on solving the mystery at hand.

The first Giallo films were released in 1964 and were influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-thriller Psycho, which was released two years prior. Many of these early films were written by famed author Giorgio Scer.