Four of the films he directed won Academy Awards: Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves (honorary), while Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Indeed, the great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Award. These two films are considered part of the canon of classic cinema. Bicycle Thieves was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.
De Sica was also nominated for the 1957 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing Major Rinaldi in American director Charles Vidor's 1957 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, a movie that was panned by critics and proved a box office flop. De Sica's acting was considered the highlight of the film.