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12 Extraordinary Movies Set In Africa That Will Inspire You To Visit!

12 Extraordinary Movies Set In Africa That Will Inspire You To Visit!

Africa has a lot to offer both national and international filmmakers with exquisite natural and urban landscapes, a rich cultural tapestry – and various state-organized film tax credits and incentives programs. So it will come as no surprise that there are so many unforgettable movies set in Africa...

The place where mankind came into existence is one of the most beautiful in the whole world. And while we may have seen it numerous times in photographs and documentaries, Africa still holds many secrets for those who dare to visit its wondrous lands. This is the oldest continent in the world and, as such, has many a story to tell: some good, some bad, but all of them profoundly human.

12 Extraordinary Movies Set In Africa That Will Inspire You To Visit!

These films will help you get aquatinted with this beautiful continent. You’ll be able to see some of the most incredible sights the country has to offer: both from its awe-inspiring landscapes, which will charm you with their ancient imposingness, to its jubilant people. Yet, at the same time, these films will make you aware of the many cultural and political conflicts that are a key part of African history. In the end, you’ll surely be in love with this stunning continent and the strength of its people.

Watching a good movie is the best way to get inspired and choose your next destination. It is the reason we have assembled various lists of the best films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Barcelona, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand, and New York City (among others). There are things that a photo alone can’t capture.

We are human, and we need movement: the waves crashing against a desolate beach, the sun setting against the expansive savannah, and people walking side by side through a vibrant urban jungle. These are things that are better experienced with movement. These are things that belong in movies. And these things can be found in Africa.

Cinema was introduced to the African continent in the 20th century as another form of colonization and evangelization. Over time, however, independent institutions arose in Africa focussed on creating local films and documentaries focusing on the African continent.

Movies set in Africa - Best African films

The decade of the 1960s is considered the date of the emergence of African cinema. By then, the continent is going through a crisis of social struggles and a process of decolonization. During this time cinema served as one of the most important tools to achieve or help political-social change. Films gave the people here the voice that they had lost during the time of oppression and colonialism.

The films in this list of movies set in Africa paint a picture of a complex region filled with gorgeous sights and diverse voices – yet a deep history and frequent conflict. With this, we hope to help audiences step into the often-contradictory world of Africa and experience the scenery, subcultures, and different dynamics that make Africa what it is today.

Be forewarned that not all of these films are happy – tragedies and misery are as unavoidable in cinema as they are in life – be we promise that each one provides panoramic vistas and thought-provoking narratives from this tantalizing country…

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

Movies set in Africa - Best African films
Movies set in Africa - Best African films
Movies set in Africa - Best African films

Queen of Katwe (2016)

Queen of Katwe is one of the best recent movies set in Africa and brings another inspiring real-life African story to the screen. In this case, it’s one focused on the fascinating world of competitive chess (surprisingly, it was produced before the success of Queen’s Gambit). The film tells the story of a poor Ugandan girl who learns to play chess against all odds, managing to become a Candidate Master at the young age of 10, one of the four highest titles in competitive chess. It’s a feel-good movie that will surely charm you with its passion for the sport.

Queen of Katwe is set in the titular Katwe, a slum in the city of Kampala, Uganda. In this slum lives Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl who lives for her family: she takes care of her baby brother and helps her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) sell corn at the market. While on a missionary program her mother sends her to (with hopes that she could get some education), she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), who teaches children to play soccer and chess.

Just in her first time seeing the game, Phiona becomes captivated and decides to learn. The movie sees Phiona becoming the best in the mission, in Uganda as a whole and finally taking part of the World Chess Olympiads.

The Lion King (2019)

With this 2019 remake, Jon Favreau brought the beauty of the original The Lion King to a whole new level. This computer-animated film was produced with the latest photorealistic technology developed by one of the top studios in the matter: Moving Picture Company.

The result was a thrilling ride through some of Africa’s most beautiful places, which added much more enjoyment to this already great story. If you haven’t seen the original either, you’d be surprised to learn that the story is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: the king of the lions, Mufasa, is murdered by his brother, Scar, who seizes the throne; the duty to banish him lies on Simba, Mufasa’s son, who must travel back from exile and confront his uncle.

The movie showcases some of Africa’s most gorgeous sites. There’s Mt. Kenya, for example, a lush forested mountain with stunning waterfalls where Simba goes into exile. Here we can get a looking the Karuru Falls, a set of interconnected waterfalls, seen most notably when Simba meets his childhood friend Nala again for the first time. But the most wonderful sight is, without a doubt, the Pride Lands themselves: the region with Mufasa goes as far as the eye can see and it’s inspired by the Masai Mara, with its acacia trees and calm oasis where all kinds of African fauna roam.

The Lion King will bring Africa right to your home.

The First Grader (2010)

The First Grader, by Justin Chadwick, is a biographical drama that is as emotional as it is uplifting. This film brings an inspiring true story to the screen for anyone in the world to see.

It’s not only a beautiful story, but it has a lot to say about current world problems regarding education: the divide between a good paid education and a bad free one is growing wider and wider in many countries. The First Grader helps us understand the power of free education.

The film is based on the real-life story of Kimani Maruge (played by Oliver Litondo). Even in his eighties, Maruge had never forgotten his dream of attending school. He had never had the chance since schools in Kenya were mostly private and more expensive than what a farmer’s son could afford. As he himself became a farmer, Maruge still held to this dream. One day in 2003, he heard through the radio that the Kenyan government would start providing free primary school education universally.

Meaning that any Kenyan citizen would be eligible. And so, Maruge enlisted in elementary school at eighty-four years old. The First Grader is bound to put a tear in your eye.

Out of Africa (1985)

In this captivating romantic drama, Meryl Streep plays a Danish noblewoman who finds herself falling in love with an English hunter, Robert Redford, as they both spend time in Africa. Out of Africa, by Sydney Pollack, is both a love story and the story of a woman who finds who she wants to be in a land far away from her home.

This film, one of the best movies set in Africa ever, does a great job of captivating the wonderful effect that traveling can have on us. In fact, the story told in Out of Africa is actually real: the movie is an adaptation of the autobiographical book of the same name by Karen Blixen, the real Danish noblewoman, who went by the pen name of Isak Dinesen.

The film begins in 1913 when Karen Blixen moved to Africa and got engaged in a marriage of convenience with the Swedish Baron Bror Blixen. The two of them move to Nairobi, Kenya, which was then part of British Africa, and start a dairy ranch there. While the two of them became closer as months went by, Bror could never fully give himself to Karen.

She instead falls in love with Africa and its people. Karen actually became some sort of patron of the Kikuyu people who lived in the lands colonially owned by Blixen: she built schools and looked after them in every sense of the word. As she and Bror drift farther and farther apart, Karen found herself falling for the English hunter who worked for them: Denys.

Out of Africa allows us to take a look at some of East Africa’s most beautiful sights: from the Shaba Reserve where Karen and Denys go exploring, with its picture-like landscape, the lush Ngong Hills where the Kukuyu live. This film does a wonderful job of showing Africa at its most beautiful.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Hotel Rwanda, by Terry George, is perhaps the country’s most famous film ever to be produced: it was met with high praise by critics, which earned the filmmakers and the actors multiple awards; although they did not win any of the Academy Awards to which they were nominated for.

What makes this movie so great is the care and intelligence with which it treats its subject. The film is historically based on the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the attempt of two people to save the lives of hundreds of refugees. It’s a dark film, but thoroughly enthralling and very relevant to today’s discussions on violence and political corruption.

Hotel Rwanda focuses on real-life hotelier, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) and his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), who became heroes due to their actions during the Rwandan genocide. This incident took place in 1994, when the ethnic group known as the Hutu, who were in control of the government, decided to wage war against another group, the less populous Tutsi.

Even before the genocide, Paul and Tatiana felt the tension in the country: he was Hutu and she was Tutsi, so people from both sides frowned upon their marriage. As civil war erupts, the couple decided to turn the hotel they managed, the Hôtel des Mille Collines, into a safe house for refugees. With their efforts, they managed to save over a thousand refugees.

A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom brings to the screen a truly inspiring love story that actually happened: it chronicles the romance between an African royal heir and his English wife, who became political leaders and a beacon of hope for all.

The film was based on a 2006 non-fiction book exploring this topic: The Colour Bar, by Susan Williams. This is a great movie to watch if you’re looking for a feel-good film that leaves you certain that, even in the worst of times, things will get better.

The film takes place just after World War II, when the royal heir of Bechuanaland (who would later go on to become Botswana), Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), went to London to study law in order to become a better leader. There he met Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a young Englishwoman with whom he falls in love. Even though Seretse’s family is opposed to him marrying someone not of the Bamangwato people, even though the British government tries to deter Ruth from marrying someone from an African colony (which were very unstable at the time and about to gain their independence), the two of them get married and being a partnership that would last for decades.

A United Kingdom sees them going back to Bechuanaland, where they shall fight for their right to be married and gain the people’s support. The films ending shows that, when the country became an independent nation, Seretse actually got democratically elected to be their leader.

The Last King Of Scotland (2006)

The Last King of Scotland, by Kevin Macdonald, tells the story of a Ugandan dictatorship through the eyes of a Scottish doctor.

The film was based on a 1998 novel of the same name by Giles Foden: like the book, it’s based on real-life historical events, but the perspective of the doctor and his character are made up. While the film was praised due to many reasons, the performance by Forest Whitaker as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin stood out as one of the best of the year, winning him the Academy Award for Best actor, as well as several other honors.

The Last King of Scotland takes place in 1970: as General Idi Amin overthrows the democratic government, recently-graduated doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) had just arrived in Uganda in order to work at a missionary clinic. Yet, instead of being scared of the prospect of a military government, Garrigan is in favor of Amin’s rule.

One day, the doctor is called to help in a car accident and he ends up treating Amin: the two of them hit it off, and the film sees Garrigan becoming his personal physician. As he gets closer to the dictator, Garrigan will start to notice that nothing was as good as he thought.

Gorillas In The Mist (1988)

Gorillas in the Mist, by Michael Apted, chronicles the life and work of famous naturalist Diana Fossey (Sigourney Weaver), known for caring for Rwanda’s mountain gorillas in a time when they were endangered.

It has been said time and time again that if it wasn’t for Fossey, the Rwandan gorillas would have gone extinct. This is the best movie set in Africa to get to know her work and, most notably, to get to know some of the most impressive animals in the world. The movie captures the majesty of these gorillas as none other has done.

Gorillas in the Mist sees Fossey trying to find a place in Africa where she could devote her life to studying primates. Her first choice is Congo, but she soon finds the country in severe disarray: just after it gained independence from Belgium, the country found itself in the midst of a civil war between the many sides that wanted to take power. At first, she thinks that maybe it would be best to return to America, but her colleagues convince her to stay.

She then moves to Rwanda where she will fight for decades against the illegal poaching of gorillas. If you are not familiar with the story of Fossey, the film’s touching ending will surely surprise you.

Half Of A Yellow Sun (2013)

This dramatic historical film shocked audiences around the world with its touching and authentic story about the not so known Nigerian Civil War. Directed by Biyi Bandele, Half of a Yellow Sun is actually based on a novel of the same name by one of Niger’s most beloved authors: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Like the book, the film focuses on several characters and their lives as they go through the beginning and the end of this war. The best thing about this film is that it manages to show some beautiful moments that shine through the darkness of the war. It’s a truly moving film that anyone interested in this country should watch.

Half of a Yellow Sun sees two twin Nigerian sisters who, despite being born into wealth, end up taking very different paths in life. While Olanna (Thandiwe Newton) leaves behind the chance of marrying the finance minister in order to live with her revolutionary teacher, Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) stays home and inherits the family business assets, becoming a businesswoman on her own.

When the war reaches Niger and ethnic tensions become too much, the two sisters will have to face one another and fight together for their country.

Beasts Of No Nation (2015)

As its name states, Beast of No Nation, by Cary Joji Fukunaga, is set in an unnamed nation in Africa. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Nigerian writer Uzodinma Iweala, the film follows the tragic experience of a young boy who is forced to become a child soldier.

It went to great lengths in trying to provide an accurate depiction of this horrid problem that plagued many parts of Africa. This, together with its outstanding acting and directing, won the film many awards.

Somewhere in West Africa lives Agu (Abraham Attah), a young boy living in a village with his family. Their only contact with the world outside their village is the government troops which enforce their peace in the town. One day, the troops inform them that the government has fallen and that rebel forces are headed for the village. Beasts of No Nation sees Agu fleeing the village amidst a shootout, losing track of his family and finding himself under the command of a rising rebel faction.

The Commandant (Idris Elba), the leader of this faction, takes an interest in Agu and takes him under his wing. This sad story shows just how terrible it is when children are taken away from their childhood and forced to become soldiers. Luckily, the film’s last scenes bring this tragic story to a hopeful end: we see Agu being taken to a missionary school and slowly, but steadily, getting closer to the other boys.

As it should be, in the end, Agu gets to enjoy his childhood once again, despite everything that happened.

Abouna [‘Abūna] (2002)

This humble film was a huge success for the country of Chad: directed by its first full-length film director, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, it became the best-regarded Chadian movie ever made.

With a low budget and inexperienced actors (for some of them it was their first time on any kind of production), it’s truly inspiring to see such a beautiful and compelling movie be produced. Abouna, which means “Our Father” in Arabic, is a tender story about what we love and what we do when we lose it. But beyond that, it’s a powerful story about family.

Abouna begins with a lonely man walking through a Chadian desert. After he walks for a while, he looks at the camera and the shot cuts. We then see our protagonists. Two brothers: Tahir, who is a 15-years old teenager, and Amine, who is half his brother’s age. They begin their day in their family home, only to find that their father is no longer there. The film sees these brothers trying to find their father and, in their obsessiveness, getting on their mother’s bad side.

She becomes so distraught by their behavior; she sends them to a Koranic school. It’s there where the strength of their relationship really gets tested: both young actors give such heartfelt performances that you’ll feel like crying with them too. 

Black Panther (2018)

This record-breaking film brought African superheroes to the big screen. Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther, by Ryan Coogler, is highly regarded as one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Not only was the movie greatly praised due to its design (winning two Academy Awards for it) and its music (which it also won an Academy Award for), but the performances by its main cast were also very celebrated: most notably, the late Chadwick Boseman, whose portrayal of T’Challa is regarded as one of the most inspiring characters to ever be featured in a superhero film.

For those unfamiliar with Black Panther’s story, it is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda: a multicultural region that is closed off from the rest of the world in order to protect its natural resources, which allowed them to develop very advanced technology. The titular Black Panther is the king of Wakanda, a mantle passed down through generations and is also entitled to the superpowers that come from eating a magical leaf hidden by shamans. The film sees T’Challa, the present Black Panther after the death of his father in a prior MCU film, having to face Killmonger, a mysterious man who would turn out to be his cousin, meaning that he also has a claim to the throne.

Perhaps what’s best about this film is that it touches on very relevant social topics and sees the hero changing his outlook in life after talking with the villain: at the end, T’Challa decides to open Wakanda to the world and help African descendants with their technology.