Tea with Mussolini (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Tea with Mussolini1999

Tea with Mussolini (1999)



Critic Consensus: Tea with Mussolini contains few surprises, but this amiably ambling drama is too likable -- and well-cast -- to completely resist.

Tea with Mussolini Photos

Movie Info

Taken from a chapter in the autobiography of acclaimed filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, TEA WITH MUSSOLINI is written by British novelist and playwright John Mortimer and Zeffirelli, drawing on the latter's published memoirs. The film tells of Luca Innocenti (born out of wedlock and not officially recognized by his father) and his struggle to assert his independence and find his way into a life of art. The coming-of-age tale is also a haunting evocation of a vanished world: that of the quiet city of Florence on the brink of World War II. Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith portray the eccentric, colorful and strong-willed ladies - called the "Scorpioni" for their biting wit - who, along with a free-spirited American art collector (Cher) and archeologist (Lily Tomlin), raise the youth and fashion him, though Italian, into "a perfect British gentleman."


as Elsa
Judi Dench
as Arabella
Lily Tomlin
as Georgie
Baird Wallace
as Luca (as a teenager)
Charlie Lucas
as Luca (as a child)
Paolo Seganti
as Vittorio
Claudio Spadaro
as Mussolini
Paul Chequer
as Wilfred
Giselle Mathews
as Elderly Lady
Gianna Giachetti
as Signora Badaloni
Chris Larkin
as Major Gibson
Pino Colizzi
as Dino Grandi
Jackie Basehart
as Count Bernardini
Giacomo Gonnella
as First Carabiniere
Clemente Abete
as Second Carabiniere
Allan Caister Pearce
as American Dealer
Herman Weiskopf
as German Officer
Benedetta Magini
as Giulia Meyer
Ferdinando Ferrini
as Professor Cassuto
Massimo Salvianti
as Leading Fascist
View All

Critic Reviews for Tea with Mussolini

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (8)

The movie is heavier with events than with plot. Things are always happening, but it's hard to see the connections, and the material involving Elsa's love affair, Lady Hester's draft-dodging grandson and Arabella's dog all coexists uneasily.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

...in all honesty, the movie is drab. They're literally draped in drab...

January 5, 2022 | Full Review…

The Zeffirelli approach to history combines the time-marches-on urgency of an old Movietone newsreel with the sun-dappled sheen of an Italian Tourist Authority brochure.

July 27, 2021 | Full Review…

Uplifting WWII drama has some violence but positive themes.

March 26, 2021 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

It's a lazy, thoroughly old- fashioned entertainment... Yet it's also unexpectedly watchable and unpretentious -- campy, too, if you're into that kind of thing -- and it communicates a sense that everyone involved had a super time making it.

November 27, 2017 | Full Review…

A collection of isolated, anecdotal events that are as warmly amusing as they are lacking in narrative drive.

November 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Tea with Mussolini


Three Grande Dames of the British stage and film (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Joan Plowright) come together, along with Americans Cher and Lily Tomlin to power this tale of a group of British ex-pats and their brash American friends trying to preserve their way of life in Italy just before the Second World War. The acting is superb, and the story, based on actual events as remembered by the director, Franco Zeffirelli, is spellbinding. Maggie Smith can do imperious. And she does it brilliantly here. Yet she does have a tender side when the chips are down. Joan Plowright proves to be the heart and soul of the film however and more than holds her own beside the other two. The story bears a slight similarity to that of Paradise Road, but without the despair and brutality of that other story, from the Japanese theater of the war. This viewer really enjoyed this.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

What the Hell is Cher doing in this good movie?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith

Super Reviewer


True story about a group of women bonded together by their situation during World War II. Excellent cast. Beautiful scenery.

Candy Rose
Candy Rose

Super Reviewer

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