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21 Classic African Movies You Need To Watch

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Are you exploring Africa and are you curious about films made by African film directors?

Whether you are a fan of African cinema or a novice in the field, here is a selection of some classic African movies to watch.

 Trou aux biches, Mauritius island ( île Maurice), East Africa
Trou aux biches, Mauritius island ( île Maurice), East Africa

We will begin with a film By Ousmane Sembène, one of the most celebrated filmmakers, having made the first-ever sub-Saharan feature film( La Noire de..) and is considered the father of African cinema.

La Noire ( Black Girl) by Ousmane Sembène

Year released: 1966

Djouna ((Mbissine Thérèse Diop) young woman from Dakar, Senegal, moved to Antibes in France to work for a wealthy French couple as a maid. However, as soon she arrived, she regrets her decision. She is mistreated by the couple and tries everything to escape. The film takes you on a metaphorical journey while tackling the effects of racism, colonialism in postcolonial Africa, and its relationship with France.

Did you know that the Senegalese film director Ousmane Sembène started off as a novelist? Check out! Sembene! a documentary about his life that is well worth a watch for any film fanatic.

Year released: 1989

Yaaba means grandmother in the Mooré language of Burkina Faso. It is a name that shows respect to the elderly with full of wisdom.

The movie is centered on a young boy Bila and his cousin Nopoko who decided to befriend Sana, an older woman who has been ostracised by the community. It is a simple and beautiful movie with a message of tolerance.

Gito L'ingrat by Léonce Ngabo

Year released: 1993

It is the Story of Gito, a young man returning home after earning his law degree in Paris. He is presumptuous about his career in Burundi and finds himself in a love triangle with his French girlfriend Christine and his childhood friend Flora.

The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo

Year released: 1966

This 1966 film shot on Algiers' street is considered one of the greatest political films of all time. It earned 3 Oscars nominations and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1966. It is a classic film about the uprising in the 1950s that led to Algerian independence from the French.

Pousse Pousse by Daniel Kamwa

Year released: 1976

It is a movie about a scooter driver, Pousse-Pousse, who wants to marry Rose. But the dowry must be paid to Papa Bisséké, the father, who intends to derive excessive profit from this custom.

Teza by Haile Gerima

Year released: 2008

After spending many years in Germany in the 1970s, Anberber returns to his native land Ethiopia as a doctor to find his country in turmoil. He sees no safe haven from the violence that surrounds him. The movie chronicles his journey and his country's tribulations.

Lion of the Desert by Moustapha Akkad

Year released: 1981

It is a Libyan historical epic war film about Omar Mukhtar, the Bedouin leader. He fought a relentless guerrilla war against Libya's Italian invaders from 1911 until his capture in 1931 by Mussolini's forces.

Year released: 1987

Yeelen means Brightness or light in the Bambara language. It is a 1987 Malian film directed by Souleymane Cissé and inspired by African folk stories. It is a fantasy movie about good and evil. Click here to learn more.

Year released: 1990

Tilaï is an award-winning Burkinabé drama film ." Tilaï" means "the law" or "the code of honor" in the local Moorish language. Click here to learn more.

Year released: 1988

It is a movie about the 1947-48 pro-independence uprising against France'scolonial rule in Madagascar. In Malagasy, "tabataba" means "rumblings" or "rumors." This was also the code name for the uprising.

Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambéty

Year released: 1973

In Wolof, the title means the Journey of the Hyena. It is a Senegalese drama film.

Click here to learn more.

Tsotsi by Gavin Hood

Year released: 2005

It accounts for the life of a youth named Tsotsi, who, after a violent carjacking, has his life completely changed. The movie won a Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2006.

Year released: 1982

Learn more about this film here

Year released: 1992

Year released: 1976

Mortu Nega by Flora Gomes

Year released: 1988

The term "Mortu Nega" means those that death did not want, in Portuguese.

This movie revolves on a woman who searches through the country for her husband, a member of the resistance, while the war for independence is raging.

Year released: 1973

"Maldoror has said that she tried to do three things in the film: capture a specific movement in the history of the Angolan liberation struggle; make a film that would educate Westerners to what was happening in Angola; and tell the story of a revolution from a point of view usually neglected in such films – from the perspective of a woman caught up in a situation she does not understand. Sambizanga can be judged a success on all three counts."

Click here to learn more about this film

The Gods Must be Crazy by Jamie Uys

Year released: 1980 & 1989

The Silences of the Palace by Moufida Tlatli

Year released: 1994

The movie is set in Tunis on the eve of independence. Alia the heroine, is the illegitimate daughter of Khedija, a servant in the royal palace. Moufida Tlatli uses the female perspective of character's coming of age to echo her country's past story of oppressive violence, colonialism, and poverty set in the mid-fifties.

Year released: 2006

Mélé is a singer in a bar, and her husband, Chaka, without work, sinks into silence.

Despite a daughter who unites them, their relationship is gradually deteriorating. They live in a house they share with several families.

A moving film about the daily life of the inhabitants of a district of Bamako as the lawsuit against the IMF and the World Bank are being held in a court. We are halfway between fiction and documentary. The neighborhood residents seem not to be interested in the trial; they are idle and, like Chaka, think that it is more important to deal with it on your own than to wait for outside help.

Do you want to explore more movies? Don’t forget to check our post on the 20 Must-see movies set in Africa. And for more Africa related content, check it here

Have you heard or seen any of these classic movies? Share your favorite in the comments below.


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