According to the Italic Institute of America (IIA), there have been a total of 1,233 Italian-related films produced since "talkies" were invented in 1928, up until 2002 when their study was released. Of those films, 374, or 31%, portray Italians in a positive light and 859, or a whopping 69%, portray us in an unfavorable light.
The IIA study also points out that mob characters represent 40% of all the movies produced from 1928 to 2002. Interestingly, 88% of those mob characters are fictional. Only 12% are based on real gangsters.
And things have gotten worse since the release of The Godfather in 1972. The IIA says since that movie's release, more than 300 movies have been made featuring Italians as criminals.
According to the IIA:
Positive or complex portrayals of Italians are often treated fleetingly – i.e., as supporting characters. It is indeed rare to have a film featuring a complex, non-stereotypical Italian character as a main protagonist from start to finish (e.g., Al Pacino in 1973's "Serpico" or Meryl Streep in 1996's "The Bridges of Madison County").
The 40-page study is available from the IIA for $10. For a summary of its findings, click here.