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.
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.
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.
Blood Diamonds has five Oscars awards, more than eight wins, and numerous nominations worldwide.
About the movie
Content: strong violence
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
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.
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.
Language: Igbo, English
Runtime: 105 minutes
Starring: Nkem Owoh, Mara Derwent
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Runtime: 129 minutes
Theater release date: September 23, 1988
Location: United States, Rwanda, Uganda
Rating: P.G. 13
Sound mix: Stereo, Surround
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.
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
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
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
Location: United Kingdom, Kenya, Ethiopia
Production Company: Shepperton studios
Director: James Hill
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.