The movement is characterized by realistic plots filmed in long takes on location, preferably using many non-actors for secondary and sometimes primary roles. Italian neorealism typically describes the difficult economical and moral conditions of Italy, the changes in the mentality of the people and in the everyday life after the war: the defeat, the poverty, the desperation (Open City is an exception: it is set during the war and deals with resistance efforts). Because Cinecittą (the main Italian studios) were occupied by the refugees, films were shot outdoor, on the devastated roads of a defeated country. This genre was soon instrumentally used for political purposes too, but the directorss were generally able to keep a distinguishing barrier between art and politics. As a contrasting scheme with previous tendencies, Italian Neorealism refuses therefore the false depiction of world that was common in the canons of Telefoni Bianchi, even if it isn't ideally directed toward picaresque.
The name comes from the literary genre of realism, especially after the works of some authors of the end of 19th century, in Italy best known by the verismo, notably for Giovanni Verga's works.
Most famous Italian neorealist films include Umberto D, The Bicycle Thief and Shoeshine by Vittorio De Sica (written with scenarist Cesare Zavattini) and Open City by Roberto Rossellini. Many other works indeed were produced by several other authors.
Some of Pier Paolo Pasolini's works in the 1970s were considered part of a new neorealist sub-genre, even if Pasolini's attention to picaresque was this time openly declared and evident. The neorealist content would then be in an accessory description, spectacular and perhaps documentary, of some elements of true common life in Italy during and after the so-called economic "boom" of the 1960s.
In recent times other movies have been produced that deeply recall the neorealist canons, including works by Gianni D'Amelio and others. Arguably, something of neorealism can be found in most Italian cinema and often also in TV fiction.