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.

Yaaba by Idrissa Ouedraogo

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.

Yeelen by Souleymane Cissé

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.

Tilaï by Idrissa Ouedraogo

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.

Tabatha by Raymond Rajaonarivelo

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