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17 Greatest Movies Ever Filmed in Africa

Africa has great movies enduring for several reasons, with the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) being the largest and the epicenter of the continent’s movies. 

These movies are great not just because they present characters that we fall in love with but because they depict experiences that change us, thrill us with incredible filmmaking craft, and then offer plots that twist and turn.

It’s not unattainable to pinpoint, definitively, the most outstanding African movies of all time. 

After all, there are so many but below are the seventeen (17) greatest movies ever filmed in Africa.

1. The God’s Must Be Crazy 1980 – South Africa

The God’s Must Be Crazy is a comedy film filled with fun events involving friendship, community, race, etc., probably not the best of all movies ever filmed in Africa, but one of the greatest.

It’s a documentary on Bushmen that depicts and surveys the lives of people inhabiting the African desert.  

Set in Botswana and South Africa, the comedy film is produced, written, edited, and directed by ‘Jamie Uys, a famous South African film director.’

The 1980 comedy film series has been the most fiscally successful release in South Africa’s film industry.

Awards

The movie, a one-time Los Angeles Film Critic Association (LAFCA) Award Nominee, features Nǃxau ǂToma, Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers, etc.

Other accolades include;

2000: 7th best foreign film – ever nominated by Americans

1985: Award of Merit by the Academy of Family Films and Family Television

1985: Golden Scroll – the Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films

1984: Cèsar Award for Best Foreign Film Nominee as directed by Jamie Uys.

1984: Courage in Filmmaking Award by Southern California’s Psychotherapy Affiliation / Screening Guild

11984: Golden Halo Award of Special Merit by Southern California’s Motion Picture Council

1984: Film Advisory Board: Award of Excellence

1982: France’s Chamrousse Grand Prix

1981: Outstanding Film of the Year at London Film Festival

1981: Grand Prix award at Switzerland’s Festival International du Film de Comedie pour

1981: Norwegian Film Festival: Grand Prix: Voted the most popular movie by the jury press and the public.

Details of the movie

Language – Afrikaans, English, Jul’hoan

Running time – 109 minutes.

Genre – Comic

Countries – South Africa, Botswana

Release date – September 10, 1980

Production Company – C.A.T. Films

Narration – Paddy O’Byrne

Music – John Boshoff

Distribution – Ster-Kinekor

Summary of the movie

The movie centers on desert habitats that have lived happily for a long time until a bottle of Coco-cola dropped from a plane.

Dwellers of the desert thought the bottle was a gift from the gods, and Xi sets out to return the mysterious bottle.

2. Living in Bondage: Breaking Free – Nollywood

Being the pioneer in the African movie industry, Nollywood presented ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’ as one of the greatest films on the continent.

Also referred to as ‘Living in Bondage II,’ the 2019 Nigerian film is a Charles Okpaleke’s production and a supernatural thriller mentored by an enigmatic tycoon. 

The blockbuster movie is a sequel to 1992/1993 ‘Living in Bondage’ that stared Kenneth Okonkwo and Nnenna Nwabueze in their breakout roles.

Ramsey Nouah making his directorial debut with ‘Living in Bondage II,’ plays the role of a villain and stars Enyinna Nwigwe, Kenneth Okonkwo, etc. 

Since the announcement of the remaking, the long-awaited movie was released in November 2019, ranked 11th on the list of highest-grossing Nigerian films

The film first premiered on Netflix in May 2020 with positive reviews. 

Synopsis

After twenty-five years of the original film, the movie opens with Obinna Omego’s son murdering his daughter for ritual. 

Nnamdi, Andy’s secret son, was unable to get a stable career now seeks support from Omego, who gave him vast wealth that comes with a price. 

Details about the film

Language: Igbo, English, Nigerian Pidgin

Runtime: 149 minutes

Budget: 10 million

Release date: November 8, 2019

Music: George Kallis 

Location: Nigeria, Europe

Director: Ramsey Nouah

Writer: C.J Obasi, Nicole Asinugo

Starring: Enyinna Nwigwe, Kanayo. O Kanayo, Muna Abii, Jide Kene, etc.

3. Blood Diamond 2006 – South Africa and Mozambique

Blood Diamond is a 2006 American improbable movie filmed in Africa with a staged story full of actions directed by Edward Zwick.

The American action war film refers to diamonds mined in war to finance conflicts and profit warlords.

The film describes the atrocities of war and the struggle between rebel forces and government loyalists.

Awards

Blood Diamonds has five Oscars awards, more than eight wins, and numerous nominations worldwide.

About the movie

Content: strong violence

Language: English

Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes

Genre: Drama, adventure

Sound mix: D.T.S., Dolby S.R.D., SDDS

Director: Edward Zwick

Distributor: Warner Bros

Release date: December 8, 2006

Budget: $ 100 million

Country: United States

Screenplay: Marshall Herskovitz, C. Gaby Mitchell, Charles Leavitt, Edward Zwick

4. Hotel Rwanda 2004 – Rwanda and South Africa  

Hotel Rwanda is one of the great African movies that tell the story of the worst genocide in Africa that occurred as far back as 1994.

The film portrays the Rwandan genocide following the misunderstanding between the Tutsis and the Hutus.

The heartfelt story is a 2hrs 1min film shoot in 2004 in countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Kigali, and Johannesburg.

Seeing this movie rated 91 on Rotten Tomatoes will leave you with varied emotions and sadness. 

Details of the movie

Genre – Drama

Content warning – abuse, blood, and rape

Rating – Parental Guidance 13

Language – English

Director – Terry George

Distributor – United Artists

Producer – Terry George, A. Kitman Ho

The release date for theaters – December 22, 2004

Runtime – two hours one minute

The release date for streaming – April 12, 2005

Box office – (Gross USA): $23.5M

Writer – Terry George, Keir Pearson

Sound Mix- Surround

Short brief about the movie 

Hotel Rwanda is a film that explores the life of Paul Rusesabagina, who plays the role of a Hutu hero and manages Hotel des Mille Collines.

Paul, the hero, was duty-bound to shelter refugees during a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tutsi by Hutu military forces.

5. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Malawi

The movie ‘Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ is a popular African film that depicts a good plot that explores bargains, growth, expectations, and suffering.

The movie is a British drama written, starred, and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor with a first screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.  

It’s a 2019 Netflix film written from the account of a genius Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba.

The storyline of the Netflix movie is from the foundation of the 2009 novel written by Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer with the same title.

The 113 minutes movie was released on Netflix on March 1, 2019, and shot in Malawi, Africa.

At the 92nd Academy Awards, its selection as the Best International Feature Film happened.

Details of the film

Language – English and Chichewa

Location – Malawi and United Kingdom

Distribution – Netflix

Directed and screenplay by Chiwetel Ejiofor

Producer – Gali Egan, Andrea Calderwood

Editor- Valerio Bonelli

Cinematography – Dick Pope

Production companies – B.B.C. Films, Participant Media, Potboiler Productions, 

British Film Institute

Running time – (113) one hundred and thirteen minutes.  

Starring – Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Release date – January 25, 2019

Synopsis

The movie revolves around a 13-year-old poor boy from Malawi whose family works all day for ends to meet.

From the boy’s everyday struggle, he discovered how to make windmills that improved his family’s life and the entire village.

6. Osuofia in London – Nollywood 

Osuofia in London is a 2003 Nollywood comedy starring a famous and comic Nollywood actor, Nkem Owoh, directed and produced by Kingsley Ogoro.

Throughout history, it’s one of the best-selling Nollywood movies that effortlessly interlace the story of two different people.

The bi-cultural comic film has won many awards and has been a turning point for Nollywood movies.   

Storyline

Nkem Owoh stared as Osuofia is a spectacular unsuccessful village hunter who lives in the south-eastern part of Nigeria.

On hearing the death of his elder brother Donatus, Osuofia moved to London to inherit his brother’s wealth met Samantha.

Samantha, Donatus’s British fiancée, experiences a cultural misunderstanding with Osuofia.

Details 

Language: Igbo, English

Runtime: 105 minutes

Starring: Nkem Owoh, Mara Derwent

Location: Nigeria

Screenplay: Emeka Obiakonwa, Kola, Munis, Ogoro Kingsley

Release date: 2003

Director: Ogoro Kingsley

Genre: Nollywood, comedies, African movies, dramas

7. Timbuktu – Mauritania 

Timbuktu is a Mauritanian-French drama movie co-written and directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. 

The drama partly swayed by the 2012 stoning of an unmarried couple centers on the succinct job activity of Timbuktu.  

The movie shot in Oualata, Mauritania, is ranked the 12th best film of the 21st century by The New York Times.  

Nominations and Award

Timbuktu has won many awards and nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 2014 Cannes Film Festival, BAFTA Award, etc.

Film details 

Languages: Arabic, English, French, Bambara, Tamashek, Songhay

Location: Mauritania, France

Release date: December 10, 2014

Production Companies: Dune Vision, Les Films du Worso, Arches Films

Runtime: 96 minutes

Writer: Kessen Tall, Abderrahmane Sissako

Director: Abderrahmane Sissako

8. Rattle Snake: The Ahanna Story – Nollywood

Rattle Snake, The Ahanna Story, also called The Armadas, is a Nigerian action movie directed by Ramsey Nouah.

The film emerged from the 1995 action movie directed by Amaka Igwe and produced by Austin Awulonu using the same title. 

Following legal rights, Play Network Africa remake the Rattle Snake in 2020 with light contrast to the original plot and themes. 

The 2020 stylish remake stares Stan Nze, Bucci Franklin, Osas Ighodaro and, more.

Synopsis 

The classic movie shows how a young man (Ahanna) fends for himself after his father’s death. 

On discovering that his mother has started a new life with his uncle, Ahanna birthed the Armadas, a robbery gang with conflicting interests.  

Awards and nominations

Shortly after the ‘Rattle Snake’ release, its accolades include the 2021 Best of Nollywood (BON) Awards, among many others. 

Details of Rattle Snake

Language: English

Music: Larry Gaaga

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

Production companies: Ramsey Films, Play Network Studios

Runtime: 145 minutes

Director: Ramsey Nouah

Distributor: Filmone Distributions

Producer: Charles Okpaleke, Chris Odeh

Release date: November 13, 2020  

9. Mandabi – Senegal

Mandabi, also called Le Mandat in French, is a movie written and directed by Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese filmmaker. 

The 1968 film, Ousamane’s first movie in Wolof language, is adapted from Sembene’s novel The Money-Order.

The idea behind the film in Wolof language is to help the Senegalese population with zero understanding of French enjoy the movie.

Summary of the plot

Mandabi, set in Dakar, revolves around a Senegalese man who received a money order from his relative in Paris.

The money order threw the man’s life out of order by dealing with corruption, problematic family members, greed, etc. 

It explored the theme of religion, neocolonialism, relationships in Senegalese society, and corruption.

Recognition

Mandabi’s new version was shown in cinemas of the United Kingdom after years of inaccessibility to cinemas.  

Information on the movie

Runtime: 91 minutes

Language: French, Wolof

Release date: 1968, new version 2021

Location: Senegal, France

Director/ producer/ writer: Ousmane Sembene

Starring: Maxhouredia Gueye, Ynousse N’Diaye, Isseu Niang 

10. Soleil O – Mauritania

Soleil O, pronounced as Oh Sun, is a 1970 French-Mauritanian movie directed and written by Med Hondo as one of the greatest African films. 

The movie, which tells the story of black immigrants, stares Yane Barry, Robert Liensol, Gabriel Glissand, Theo Legitimus, etc. 

About the Movie

Soleil O depicts the story of a black immigrant that went to Paris in search of a job and intellectual engagement.

Racial inequality observed in Paris led to a furious cry of struggle against racism and further awakened black consciousness. 

Facts about the film

Location: France, Mauritania 

Music: George Anderson 

Language: French, Hassaniya Arabic

Production Company: Shango Films, Grey Film

Runtime: 98 minutes

Distributors: USA; New Yorker Films

Director/ writer: Med Hondo

Release dates: May 1970

11. Nneka the Pretty Serpent – Nollywood

Directed by Tosin Igho, Nneka the Pretty Serpent is a 2020 recreate of the 1994 horror film of the same name.

The movie, co-produced by Ramsey Nouh, stars Idia Aisien, Zack Orji, Bovi Ugboma, Shaffy Bello, Bimbo Ademoye, and Beverly Osu. 

Summary

The principal character in this great African movie is Nneka, who’s traumatized after so many years of the mysterious murder of her parents.

 On a revenge mission, Nneka meets the Queen of the Coast, who gives her supernatural powers and reveals the identities of the murderers.

In-depth information on the movie

Language: Igbo, English 

Runtime: 140 minutes 

Production Company: Play Network Studios 

Screenplay: Baruch Apata

Director: Tosin Igho

Producers: Chris Odeh, Ramsey Nouah, Chinenye Esuene

Location: Nigeria

Genre: Mysteries, Nollywood, African movies, drama

Subtitles: Arabic, English

Release date: December 2020  

12. Beast of no Nation – Ghana

Beast of no Nation, a Ghallywood production, is one of the best movies filmed in Africa that indirectly tells a story about the continent and its countries.

The movie and its tight plot describe not just the loss but the pain associated with politics, war, tribalism, and corruption.

Beast of no Nation is a story from the 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala, a Nigerian American author.

The 2015 movie filmed in Ghana has renowned people like Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, and Ama K. Abebrese.

Insight about the drama

Beast of no Nation, directed by Joji Cary Fukunaga, portrays a young boy forced to join a group of soldiers in an undisclosed West African country.

 The boy experienced a terrible civil war as his father was shot to death, though he later accepted his fate of killing, looting, and starvation.

Information on the movie

Language – English, Twi, Krio

Content warning – violence, blood

Genre – Drama, war

Director – Cary Joji Fukunaga

Distributor – Bleecker Street Media

Running time – two hours sixteen minutes (2hrs 16mins)

Theatre release date – October 16, 2015

Producer – Amy Kaufman, Daniel Crown, Riva Marker, Cary Fukunaga, etc

Streaming release date – February 6, 2017

Writer – Cary Joji Fukunaga

13. Virunga – Congo

Virunga is a documentary film rated 100% on rotten tomatoes, and that’s the highest a movie can get on the platform.

The actuality movie shows the continued existence of gorillas and menace created against them like hunting and killing.  

It’s an unbelievable true story of heroes and bold people risking their lives in a bid to look after mountain gorillas.

The 2014 British documentary movie directed by Orlando von Einsiedel centers on the protection work of park wardens within Congo’s Virunga National Park.

Its first premiere was on April 17, 2014, at the Tribeca Film Festival; after its Netflix airing, it gained an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Synopsis 

The documentary focuses on four characters struggling to protect Virunga National Park from poaching, war, and oil exploration.

While the movie shows the protection of the National Park, it also gives a view on armed conflict, beauty, biodiversity of Virunga, economic and political issues.

Awards and nominations of Virunga

Virunga film has won 42 awards and 28 nominations that include Oscar, BAFTA, Primetime Emmy Awards, Black Reel Awards, and more.

Interesting details of the movie

Language: English, Swahili, French

Filming locations: Democratic Republic of Congo, United Kingdom

Production companies: Violet Films, Grain Media

Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes

Genre: War and documentary

The release date for streaming: April 4, 2017

Director and writer: Orlando von Einsiedel

Producer: Joanna Natasegara, Orlando von Einsiedel

Premiere date at Tribeca: April 17, 2014

Distributor: Netflix

Editors: Peta Ridley, Katie Bryer, Miikka Leskinen, and Masahiro Hirakubo

Cinematography: Franklin Dow

14. Mandela: Long Walk of Freedom – South Africa

Long Walk to Freedom is a film adapted from an autobiographical book written by Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid revolutionary.

The 2013 biographical movie was scripted by Nicholson William, produced by David M. Thompson, and directed by Justin Chadwick.

The British-South African movie stare’s Naomie Harris, Idris Elba, Riaad Moosa, Tony Kgoroge, Lindiwe Matshikiza, etc.

Release of the film

The movie held its world debut and first showing on September 7, 2013, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It was released in South Africa a week before Mandela’s death on November 28, 2013, and was also released one month after his death in the United Kingdom on January 3, 2014.

Summary 

The biographical movie tries to squeeze in the autobiography of Nelson Mandela in less than one hundred and 20 minutes.

The film, starring Idris Elba and Harris Naomie, delivered well, from his humble beginning to his apartheid movement and presidency.

This film tends to represent the life story of Nelson Mandela, his persecution, and his contribution to South Africa’s independence.

Long Walk to Freedom, an educational movie, gives in-depth knowledge about the efforts of African people.

Awards and nomination

Long Walk to Freedom has countless nominations and awards like 86th Academy Awards, 71st Golden Globe Awards, ABFF Hollywood Awards, 19th Critic Choice Awards, etc.  

Details 

Language: Xhosa, English, Afrikaans

Locations: South Africa, United Kingdom

Runtime: 146 minutes (2 hours 26 minutes)

Production companies: Origin pictures, Pathe, Distant Horizon, Videovision Entertainment

Content warning: Violence, racism, disturbing images, sexual content

Distributor: Weinstein Co

Genre: History, Drama, Biography

Release dates: September 7, 2013 (TIFF), November 28, 2013 (South Africa), January 3, 2014 (United Kingdom)

Screenplay: William Nicholson

Director: Justin Chadwick

15. Gorillas in the Mist – Rwanda

Gorillas in the Mist is another incredible movie filmed in Africa that explores friendship, love, and loyalty for animals, especially gorillas.  

The film is a true-life story of naturalist Dian Fossey, who studied mountain gorillas and lived among them.

The 1988 American drama, directed by Michael Apted, is prepared by Anna Hamilton Phelan and starred Weaver Sigourney as Dian Fossey.

Awards and honors 

Gorilla’s in the Mist movie has five nominations from the Academy Awards at the 61st Academy Awards in 1988.

It won awards at the 46th Golden Globe Awards in 1989, Genesis Award for Best Feature Film, and more.

The storyline of the movie 

The movie with its cast stars Dian Fossey as Sigourney Weaver and is inspired to stop the decimation of the jeopardized apes.

It (the film) shows how she entered a different world to save unique creatures from the cruelty of men.

Movie information

Runtime: 129 minutes

Theater release date: September 23, 1988

Language: English

Location: United States, Rwanda, Uganda

Rating: P.G. 13

Sound mix: Stereo, Surround

Genre: Drama

Director: Michael Apted

Writer: Anna Hamilton Phelan

Producer: Terence A. Clegg, Arne Glimcher

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Editor: Stuart Baird

16. The United Kingdom – South Africa

The United Kingdom is a biographical romantic drama written by Guy Hibbert and directed by Amma Asante in 2016.

The movie, a true love story between Seretse and Ruth, was screened at Toronto International Film Festival in 2016.

The well-acted and solidly crafted romantic film served as the opening film at the 60th London Film Festival.  

Summary

The movie reveals the story of a king who studied in London and fell in love with a British woman leading to conflict.

After a series of struggles between Bechuanaland and the British government over Seretse’s controversial marriage, Seretse finds a way to gain his people’s support.  

Information on the movie 

Genre: Drama, romance, biography, history

Distributor: Fox Searchlight, Pathe Distribution  

Director: Amma Asante

Writer: Guy Hibbert

Language: English, Tswana

Runtime: 111 minutes

Release date: September 9, 2016 (TIFF), November 25, 2016, United Kingdom

Music: Patrick Doyle

Rating: PG-13

17. Born Free – Kenya

Born Free is another British drama Film shot in Kenya, Africa, exploring friendship and love with animals.

The 1966 film directed by James Hill stares Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, the real-life couples as joy and George Adamson.

The film, adapted from Joy Adamson non -fiction book, is produced by Open Road Film Ltd and written by Lester Cole.

Accolades of the movie

American Film Institute identified the film and has won many awards and nominations like Grammy Award.

Information on Born Free

Music: John Barry

Editor: Don Deacon

Producer: Paul Radin, Sam Jaffe

Genre: drama

Runtime: one hour thirty-five minutes

Theater release date: June 22, 1966

Distributor: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Television, Columbia TriStar Home Video

The release date for streaming: March 4, 2003

Language: English

Location: United Kingdom, Kenya, Ethiopia

Production Company: Shepperton studios

Director: James Hill

Conclusion

From classic African movies standing the test of time to contemporary ones that changed the game, we have listed Africa’s greatest and most dazzling films. 

These films offer pulse-pounding suspense, educative experience, and heartwarming comfort.

Most instigate big laughs with dramatically exciting depictions, becoming firm audience favorites and garnering critical acclaim.

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