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A pseudo-autobiographical 1963 film by Federico Fellini dealing with a director, Guido Anselmi (portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni), trying to make a film, but suffering from “director’s block.” To make things worse, his personal life is also going under a lot of stress: his health is not ideal, he doesn’t know where he is standing right now and he has problems with both his wife Luisa (Anouk Aimee) and his lover Carla (Sandra Milo). In other words, everything is conspiring to make his film sink like the Titanic.

One of Fellini’s better-known works, it’s a favorite of film directors for showing the trials and tribulations of their career. The movie is generally straightforward, but full of flashbacks and daydream sequences, practically without any warning (sometimes you don’t realize you’re watching a fantasy until later). The title comes from the fact that before making the film, Fellini realized that he had made six features and three shorts (each short being "half"), which added up to seven-and-a-half films. So, obviously, the next movie would be film number .

Claudia Cardinale plays Claudia, Guido's "ideal woman" that he casts in the film. Nino Rota composed the soundtrack.

Later remade as the stage musical Nine (Musical), which itself was later adapted into a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Compare/contrast with All That Jazz, Wild Strawberries and Celebrity.

This movie provides examples of:

  • All Take and No Give: Guido's affairs with women trouble him, but at the same time he is too preoccupied with himself and his own past to properly invest in others.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Carla comes off this way a lot of the time, first evidenced in the way she jumps from topic to topic in conversation. When Guido is applying her makeup, she keeps looking up at an eye-catching lamp, causing him to mess it up.
  • Author Appeal: Deliberate. After all, it’s a movie based on Fellini trying to make a movie.
  • Author Avatar: Guido, a celebrated director who can't come up with a story for his next movie, was created by Federico Fellini, a celebrated director who created this script because he couldn't come up with a story for his next movie.
  • Bad Liar: Guido, according to his wife. In one scene Guido’s lover is seated nearby, and Luisa and her friend find astounding how Guido keeps lying about not knowing her when they both know she’s his lover.
  • Betty and Veronica: Guido with his voluptuous, slutty mistress, and his bitter, angry wife—the wife being angry of course because of his constant infidelity.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: La Saraghina, a chubby prostitute.
  • The Casanova: Guido, although in this case you could say it’s a deconstruction.
  • Coming of Age Story: Guido is 43, but it still counts, since he looks back on his life and decides he has to change.
  • Cool Shades: Guido wears them because he is a well-known director.
  • Creator Breakdown: invoked Guido, the director, has trouble making his movie because his own personal issues keep getting in the way. Eventually, he cancels his film altogether because it's stressing him out.
  • Daydream Surprise: Some of the Imagine Spots aren't clearly marked off as imagine spots for a while. The opening sequence looks like like Guido stuck in a traffic jam—until he floats up into the sky out of the car.
  • Diegetic Switch: "Ride of the Valkyries" kicks up when Guido is futzing around in his bathroom. It's ridiculous enough in that setting, but it gets more bizarre when the film cuts to the garden of an old folks' home and the music is revealed to be coming from a band there.
  • Driven to Suicide: Guido in the press conference. It's implied to be a daydream sequence since he appears again in the next scene.
  • Dunce Cap: Young Guido is punished by the teacher and forced to wear this in class.
  • Ear Worm: Once Guido hears the famous overture to Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville played by the orchestra, he just can't get it out of his head. It only lasts about a day though.
  • "Everyone Comes Back" Fantasy Party Ending: All the people from Guido's past come back near the end to join him in a dance number set on a circus stage, where he is the ringmaster.
  • Gainax Ending: Guido abruptly announces that the movie is cancelled. He and Luisa make a tentative recreation. Suddenly all the characters in the movie, including the dead ones like his parents, come out from behind a curtain. As a band of circus clowns play music everyone dances in a circle around the abandoned set. Then all the characters are gone, leaving only the band, which walks off stage. The end.
  • Gratuitous English: Gloria, Mario's hot young girlfriend who chatters in English from time to time for no obvious reason, is played by British actress Barbara Steele.
  • Harem Seeker: Guido, of course. Just watch his harem imagination.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Guido finally accepts to himself he cannot make the film.
  • "How I Wrote This Article" Article: As early as The '60s, Federico Fellini makes a film about making a film when you've run out of ideas.
  • Imagine Spot: Guido often thinks of his past, which causes flashbacks. But he also daydreams surreal things, like the moment when he imagines himself floating away in the air from the traffic.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The screenwriter, talking about Guido's film, basically describing Fellini's film.
    "You see, what stands out at a first reading is the lack of a central issue or a philosophical stance. That makes the film a chain of gratuitous episodes which may even be amusing in their ambivalent realism. You wonder, what is the director really trying to do? Make us think? Scare us? That ploy betrays a basic lack of poetic inspiration."
  • May–December Romance: Discussed with Mezzabotta and Gloria. Not only Guido confuses her with his daughter, but Mezzabotta also fears she is with him only for his money.
  • Meaningful Name: This is the 8½ movie made by Fellini (before, he made 6 movie, 2 shorts and one co-collaboration).
  • Meta Fiction: This is a surrealist movie about a director having trouble creating a coherent movie.
  • Mr. Imagination: Guido. He's often lost in an Imagine Spot, like when he has a vision of his dead parents, who chat with him.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: Claudia in one of his daydreams. Well, not exactly naughty - it's a regular nurse outfit and she's meant to symbolize ideal purity, but there's definitely a sexual overtone there. Like you needed Claudia Cardinale to be even hotter…
  • Pretty in Mink: Claudia is wrapped up in a stylish mink when she meets Guido again near the end of the film.
  • Revised Ending: The original ending scene featured Guido and his wife sitting together in the restaurant car of a train bound for Rome. Lost in thought, Guido looked up to see all the characters of his film smiling ambiguously at him as the train entered a tunnel. Fellini then shot an alternative ending set around the spaceship on the beach at dusk but with the intention of using the scenes as a trailer for promotional purposes only. He and his co-writers, however, decided that this alternate sequence served as a more harmonious and exuberant ending to the film.
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: Guido uses any excuse available to skip working on his new film. Of course, the reason is because he doesn’t have a clue of what to do.
  • Sexy Man, Instant Harem: That’s what Guido’s harem fantasy is all about. Played with when they all start calling him out, but then everything goes back to “normal”.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Carla periodically runs 100-plus-degree fevers with no explanation. She admits, while suffering a bout of such illness, that she and her husband have learned to live with them.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Playing "Ride of the Valkyries" to the sight of the resort for the elderly and frail? Check. The music is eventually revealed to be diegetic, but this rather makes the whole thing even more absurd.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: The film ends with all the people from the protagonist's past coming together to dance around him on a circus stage, while he is the ringmaster in the middle.
  • Title by Number: This was indeed Fellini's tenth movie in his catalogue, but three of them (two shorts and one co-authored) he only counted as halves, so here you are.
  • Undercrank: When the priests are chasing young Guido.
  • Whip of Dominance: During Guido's harem fantasy, he uses a whip against the girls to "keep them in line" when they start rebelling, although one of them is just Too Kinky to Torture.
  • Word Salad Title: Of course, it’s not even a word.
  • Writers Suck: Well, the writer is an insufferable intellectual who looks down on Guido’s work. Fellini must have tried to say something there, right?