In this article, we will be highlighting 15 of the best African movies with captivating storylines. As you know, the beauty of evolution is incomplete if the human race is unable to recount and document the times and lives of the seasons that led up to advancement. This is true of the advancements made in African cinema.
The current trail of African movies exists in the backdrop of classic movies with reference to years of development. Some phenomenal African stories that truly depicted the social, cultural, religious, and political status quo of not-too-distant times are herein revived:
1. Cairo Station (1958)
To kickoff this journey of the best African movies ever made, Youssef Chahine’s tragedy-comedy masterpiece titled Cairo Station has a lovely, sardonic, darkly humorous touch. The drama at Cairo Station centres on Qinawi, a dull newspaper vendor played by Chahine, and his unfulfilled longing for Hanuma, the Bardot-like lemonade vendor. The mood darkens as Qinawi’s love grows more obsessional. At its core, Cairo Station is a tragedy that adheres to the traditional unities of time and place. Qinawi is certain that harsh action is necessary. For his intended assassination, he visits an outdoor knife shop.
2. The Nightingale’s Prayer (1959)
Henry Barakat crafts a grand revenge melodrama based on a Taha Hussein story. Amna, a young woman, sees her sister killed by her uncle, who allegedly had no option because she had disgraced the family. Amna tracks down the man who misled her sister to work as a maid in his home and hatches a murderous scheme. However, he falls in love with her, and perhaps she does as well.
3. La Noire de fille or Black girl (1966)
The well-known Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène made this film his first.
It is a story about imperial cultural standards and sexual politics. Diouana, a young woman from Dakar, travels to the south of France to work as a nanny, only to discover that it is not at all what she had imagined it would be: a haven of leisure. She is subjected to constraints on her status as a servant and is sexually harassed by both her employers and their visitors. She alternates between her current misery and her prior life in Senegal, which is scarcely joyful. With unsettling themes and a potent, intimate narrative approach, Sembène’s Black Girl effectively captured the dynamics of empire and servitude. It is without a doubt one of the best African movies ever made.
4. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
A legendary film by Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers, brilliantly recreates the Algerian insurrection against French imperialism in the 1950s. Colonel Mathieu of the French army is tasked by the government with putting an end to the revolt as the bombing campaign in Algiers gets underway. He launches a brutally targeted campaign of alienating terrorist cells and tormenting them for the names of people higher up the pyramid chain, until the important figures at the top are eliminated. Ironically, Mathieu’s experience in Vietnam and the French resistance seem to portend his eventual failure, which goes against his assumptions and approach.
5. Touki Bouki (1973)
Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambéty is one of the best African movies ever made. It is the story of two glitzy Senegalese biker rebels. Young people Mory and Anta are bitterly unhappy with their Senegalese hometown and long to travel to Europe. They require cash quickly, and the only way to obtain it is through crime, such as theft, fraud, prostitution, or burglary. When it counts, it seems that only Anta has the zeal needed to leave Senegal; Mory is strangely restrained by ties of dedication to the place, as if only Senegal will allow his hegemonic masculinity to thrive, even though his motorbike comes to grief symbolically.
6. Sambizanga (1973)
Sambizanga, a political movie, was directed by Sarah Maldoror. Given that she collaborated with Gillo Pontecorvo on The Battle of Algiers, this issue is understandable. Sambizanga is a shamefully underappreciated pioneering movie that was shot in the Congo but has a majority of unprofessional performers and is set in Angola.
The book “A vida verdadeira de Domingos Xavier” by Angolan author José Luandino Vieira is the inspiration for the movie. It centres on a lady who tracks her politically dissident husband as he is moved from prison to prison while going through horrible conditions.
7. Letter from My Village (1976)
Set in southern Senegal, where filmmaker Safi Faye grew up, the film has Faye acting as the narrator by reading aloud what appears to be a letter recounting what happened in her home village.
The most widely grown crops—groundnut and millet—fail due to a devastating drought. Young Ngor is unable to marry the woman he loves due to financial constraints. He must travel to the capital, Dakar, where he is severely exploited and returns with a narrative of woe, all to get money.
8. Lion of the Desert (1981)
Lion of the Desert, a film about a Libyan resistance soldier named Omar Mukhtar, was directed by Moustapha Akkad and funded by the then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Lion of the Desert may be the most ambitious African film ever made, notwithstanding the possibility that it falls short of a good standard for being categorized as a film.
9. Yeelen (1987)
Yeelen is a story about a mystical quest from Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé. Yeelen was a popular movie that won the Jury prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. It depicts the tale of an altercation between a father and son and is set in an unspecified distant past. A young man by the name of Niankoro leaves the house on a quest for spiritual awakening and the fortitude he will need in the impending confrontation with the father who abandoned him and his mother. The opening scene of the film features a shot of a sunrise on the horizon in the distance. The film is about the mystical “yeelen,” or “brightness,” that creates a new world each morning.
10. Tabataba (1988)
Tabataba, which was chosen as a part of the official selection for the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, portrays the tale of a small Malagasy town resisting French colonialists during an ultimately futile 1947 independence revolt. The characters of the movie wait for news from the outside but only hear rumours because they are living in a metaphorical bubble that is “under siege.”
A few students and a director were sent to France to study film when Madagascar gained independence in 1960. Rajaonarivelo, who is also the director of the movie, is well aware of the opposition between colonizers and colonized and makes it quite apparent who Tabataba’s adversaries are: the peasants only speak Malagasy, while the colonialists only speak French. This film is adamantly nationalist and sympathetic to the rebels in Madagascar.
11. Divine Carcass (1988)
Dominique Loreau’s work of nonfiction is titled Divine Carcass. In Cotonou, Benin, it tells the tale of a 1955 Peugeot and all the people that come to acquire it. It is initially owned by a foreign development worker, then by his chef, Joseph, who stealthily utilizes it for his unlicensed taxi business. When it finally breaks down, it is abandoned by the side of the road where a sculptor transforms it into the image of a Voodoo god who rules over the inhabitants of a nearby village. Divine Carcass casts an enigmatic meditation on colonialism. Truly, this is one of best African movies.
12. Mortu Nega (1988)
One of Africa’s best filmmakers, Flora Gomes, made one of the best African movies ever with her feature film debut with Mortu Nega. The main character of the film, Diminga, travels through the country’s war-torn landscape in search of her husband, Sako, who gets caught up in the conflict during Guinea-war Bissau’s independence.
In addition to depicting a love tale against the backdrop of a civil conflict, Gomes also incorporates mythology and everyday life into the movie. Mortu Nega focuses more on the way Sako and Diminga reconstruct their lives after it.
13. Yaaba (1989)
In the following story by Idrissa Ouédraogo, two little children in Burkina Faso are playing outside their village when they come across Sana, an elderly woman who has been expelled, ostensibly for witchcraft. They are wary of her at first, but as she treats them with care that they are not accustomed to, a bond forms between her and the kids. They nicknamed her ‘Yaaba‘ in a kind manner (Grandma). All of that is put to the test when one of the kids becomes ill, and Sana is held responsible.
14. Gito, l’ingrat (1993)
Leonce Ngabo’s debut Gito l’ingrat (“Gito the ungrateful”) is Burundi’s first feature film and no doubt one of the best African movies ever made. This light-hearted comedy-drama centers on a young man who returns home after earning a diploma in France, only to be met with unemployment and get caught up in a love triangle while he manages to make some satirical commentary about the upper class.
15. Saworoide (1999)
Tunde Kelani produced and directed Saworoide, a grassroots political drama film from Nigeria.
Saworoide depicts the setting of an ancient Yoruba custom in the town of Jogbo, where one must participate in a ritual that includes playing a saworoide before being crowned king. When this ritual is skipped, the king breaks some customs. Greed, depravity, and other unlawful pursuits of power are encouraged. The lawbreakers perish, and the land reclaims its victory as nature advances its cause.
These are the 15 best African movies with reputable storyline you should see.