The plot revolves around a director, Guido Anselmi - played by Marcello Mastroianni, who amidst marital difficulties attempts to find inspiration for a new science fiction film. The film often delves into Guido's memories and fantasies. It displays several elements of autobiography. The film's working title was La Bella Confusione (The Beautiful Confusion).
The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Fellini was nominated for Best Director. 8 1/2 is a fixture on the prestigious Sight & Sound critics and directors poll of the top ten films ever made.