Africa is the second largest continent with the most countries at 54.
The history of the continent is both tremendous and devastating.
Because of this, you’ll find tons of movies based on and in Africa.
From African civil wars to the rise of Nelson Mandela, here are some top movies about Africa.
Hollywood Movies Based On Africa
The Good Lie
After premiering at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, The Good Lie was released in theaters on October 3.
Filmed in Atlanta and South Africa, the film followed a group of Sudanese refugees who were sent to Kansas City, Missouri, in an attempt to better their lives.
As they attempt to settle and find jobs, they meet a career counselor who makes a big impact on them.
The film stars Reese Witherspoon alongside Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Corey Stoll, and Sarah Baker.
When the film was first released, they had a second screening almost two weeks later to help raise money for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
When it comes to animated movies, Madagascar is often a favorite.
One of the highest grossing films in 2005, the movie followed a group of zoo animals from Central Park Zoo who wash up on the African island of Madagascar.
Even with the four animals at the center of the movie, the voice actors associated with the film help propel it forward.
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith can all be heard in the movie as well as Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer.
While the movie received mixed reviews, there’s no denying that it was a box office success.
Since it’s 2005 release, there have been three other movies released in the franchise: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and Penguins of Madagascar.
Gorillas In The Mist
Gorillas in the Mist is the 1988 movie starring Sigourney Weaver.
While listed in this category because of it’s non-White cast, this film could also be listed with movies based on true events.
In the film, Sigourney Weaver stars as Dian Fossey, an occupational therapist.
The real life Fossey then became a primatologist and conservationist who went to Africa to study a group of mountain gorillas.
The film shows her conflicts in Africa that include her anti-poaching movement.
She then complains to the Rwandan government before eventually being dismissed.
Gorillas in the Mist continues to show Fossey taking action into her own hands by burning poachers’ villages.
Her story ends in December 1985 where she is murdered in her cabin, a crime that has yet to be solved today.
The movie received positive reviews and Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Fossey also received praise.
Starring Presley Chweneyagae, the 2005 film Tsotsi is about a small-time criminal living in Johannesburg, South Africa.
After experiencing a difficult life, his actions culminate in him stealing a car.
Little does he know there’s a baby in the back seat.
After realizing his actions, he brings the baby back to his house, and over the next few days attempts to decide what to do.
The film received rave reviews.
Not only was it nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, but it won the 2006 Academy Award in the same category.
The 2004 film Red Dust stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hilary Swank, and Jamie Bartlett.
Ejiofor stars as a member of South African Parliament who can’t remember the torture he experienced while he was a captive political activist due to apartheid.
After a police officer files for an amnesty application for him, a native South African attorney (Swank) returns to represent him.
In My Country
Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche starred in the 2004 South African film In My Country.
The story follows Anna Malan, a South African poet, and Langston Whitfield, an American journalist, who are sent to South Africa to report about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
These were post-apartheid measures that were meant to help reveal any corrupt workings of the South African government.
The film was based on Antjie Krog’s memoir, Country of My Skull.
Due to Nelson Mandela’s work to end apartheid, a private screening was held for the then South African president.
Movies Based On True Events In Africa
The Last King Of Scotland
Forest Whitaker is one of the few Black actors that have won Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
It was for his riveting role in the 2006 historical drama, The Last King of Scotland.
While the movie is a fictional story, it is based on the true events of Idi Amin, the Ugandan president who is known as the “Butcher of Uganda.”
The film follows Nicholas Garrison (James McAvoy) who is a doctor and is hired to be the personal physician of the president.
The film and its actors received critical acclaim with Whitaker taking home both Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Actor.
McAvoy was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
There are tons of movies that depict Nelson Mandela’s impact on South Africa and the world as a whole.
Invictus is another to add to the list.
A sports drama, the movie stars Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar.
Set in 1995 South Africa, the movie follows the Springboks, the country’s rugby team.
After the end of apartheid, the team was attempting to reform and return back to international competition, and that came in the form of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
With 52 qualifying nations, South Africa was able to take the championship home.
The film received positive reviews, and both Freeman and Damon earned Academy Award and Golden Globe award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
In 2013, Idris Elba starred in the biographical film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
While many films based on Mandela’s impact simply depict moments of his life, this film was based on the South African president’s entire autobiography.
The film follows Mandela’s life from childhood through his education and his 27 year imprisonment.
It culminates with his election as the first Black head of state in the country and his work to end apartheid.
The movie received positive reviews and Idris Elba earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.
The film was released in South Africa one week before Nelson Mandela’s death.
A United Kingdom
Starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, A United Kingdom retells the story of Seretse Kharma.
He was the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, what would eventually become the Republic of Botswana.
After World War II, he studies law in London and ends up meeting Ruth Williams.
The couple starts a relationship and eventually get married.
While this might not seem like something to blink at, Ruth Williams was a white Englishwoman.
Not only do they receive pushback from their families, but the British government is also concerned about their relationship with South Africa, which was currently still upholding apartheid.
The couple eventually became the president and first lady of Botswana and serve from 1966 to 1980.
Queen of Katwe
A Disney film, Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyongo’o, and Madina Nalwanga.
The film was adapted and based on the same titled Tim Crothers book.
It follows the life of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who lives in Katwe, a slum of Uganda’s capital city.
Mutesi learns to play chess and becomes a Woman Candidate Master after winning numerous times at the World Chess Olympiads.
The film was released in September 2016.
Black Hawk Down
Now, if you want a movie about Africa with very few Black actors in it, this is one.
Even so, few can refute the greatness of this film.
Black Hawk Down stars an ensemble of white male actors including Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, and more.
In the end, this largely white cast does make sense because it is based on the U.S. military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993.
The name “Black Hawk Down” is in reference to the two helicopters that were shot down during the battle.
The film received several nominations and awards including Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing at the Academy Awards.
The First Grader
The First Grader is a biographical drama that proves it is never too late to gain an education.
Based on the life of Kimani Maruge, it follows his story as he enrolls into the first grade at 84 years old.
Previously working as a farmer, Maruge decided to pursue his education when the Kenyan Government announced in 2003 that they are providing free primary education to anyone who can prove their citizenship.
While he initially received pushback, he was set on receiving an education he previously couldn’t afford.
Catch A Fire
Apartheid is a major flaw in South African history.
Because of all the atrocities that took place, there are many films that tell the stories of activists and those affected by it.
The film tells the story of Patrick Chamusso, a man who is accused of a terrorist attack.
After he and his family are tortured until he is willing to give a false confession, he is released.
Enraged by his treatment, he joins South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and begins planning attacks on South African buildings.
He is arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison, but is eventually released when apartheid is abolished.
He then takes in 80 orphaned children who lost their families during the anti-apartheid struggle.
The film stars Derek Luke as Patrick Chamusso.
Movies About African Kings
The Lion King
It’s time to throw it back to one of the best Disney movies of all time.
The Lion King was released in 1994 and tells the story of a young lion who is meant to lead his kingdom after the death of his father, Mufasa.
An iconic story, it would later become a Broadway play and would be adapted into a 2019 live action film.
The original film featured an impressive cast of voice actors including James Earl Jones as Mufasa.
The Lion King was nominated for numerous Golden Globe and Academy Awards and would go on to win Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.
In 2018, Black people everywhere finally got the superhero we were waiting on.
While Black Panther was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few movies prior, we finally got his movie.
The late Chadwick Boseman appeared as Black Panther in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War and he reprised his role alongside a group of actors including Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Furira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker.
The film followed Boseman’s character, T’Challa who became the king of Wakanda after his father’s death.
Against a $200 million budget, the film grossed over $1.3 billion making it one of the highest grossing films of all time.
Coming to America
While not yet a king, Coming to America stars Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem, the prince of a fictional African country called Zamunda.
The prince gets tired of his royal lifestyle and wants something a little more “down to earth.”
After his parents find him a suitable bride, he flees to New York City where he pretends to be a regular person.
Here, he falls in love with hopes that his parents and his kingdom will accept his new bride.
While Eddie Murphy stars as numerous characters throughout the film, he is also joined b Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, and John Amos.
Movies About African Civil War
Hotel Rwanda is the 2004 film starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonodo.
A movie that could also fall into the “based on true events” category, it follows the story of hotelier Paul Rusesabagina and his wife.
The film surrounds the Rwandan genocide which took place in the spring of 1994.
Rusesabagina went on to save the lives of thousands of refugees by providing shelter to them in the Hotel des Milles Collines, a hotel located in Kigali.
The film received universal accolades and Cheadle and Okonodo earned Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations, respectively, at the Academy Awards.
Half Of The Yellow Sun
In 2013, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, and John Boyega starred in the drama film Half of a Yellow Sun.
Based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the story follows two sisters through their experiences of the Nigerian Civil War.
The film takes place over a ten year period, beginning with the first Nigerian Independence Day in 1960 and ending at the end of the civil war ten years later.
The film Blood Diamond takes place during the Sierra Leone Civil War which began in 1991 and lasted until 2002.
The title references blood diamonds, which are diamonds that are mined in war zones and sold to help finance the political conflicts.
The film follows a local fisherman and a gunrunner.
They are caught up in attempting to recover a large diamond that the former hid during a raid.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou star in the film and both received many accolades for their performances including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
Sometimes In April
Another film about the Rwandan genocide that began in 1994, the story follows Augustin Muganza, a man who has witnessed hundreds of thousands of murders in just a few weeks.
Idris Elba starred as Augustin Muganza, a captain in the Rwandan Armed Forces.
The film follows his struggle to get his family to safety during the Rwandan genocides.
Muganza loses track of his family during the conflict and later learns, in 2004, what really happened to his wife and children.
The film also stars Oris Erhuero and Carole Karemera.
Tears Of The Sun
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Tears of the Sun is the 2003 movie starring Bruce Willis.
Yes, yet another white actor in a movie about an African civil war.
The film follows Willis as a U.S. Navy Seal lieutenant who sends his team in to rescue a U.S. citizen in the midst of the Nigerian Civil War.
The action thriller also stars Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, and Tom Skerritt.
Movies Around African Safaris
Out Of Africa
While I can’t pretend to have ever seen this film, Out of Africa has always been a hailed performance of Meryl Streep’s.
The film stars Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, a young woman who recalls her past in Africa.
After a bitter end to her relationship with her husband, she decides to move to Africa with her brother-in-law where she opens up a coffee plantation.
While she comes to love Kenya and its people, she also falls in love with a big-game hunter, played by Robert Redford.
The film received 11 Academy Awards nominations, seven of which it won.
Other Movies About Africa On Netflix
Beasts Of No Nation
A Netflix original, Beasts of No Nation follows the story of a child soldier in the midst of an African civil war.
Based on the 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala, the film shows war breaking out in a West African country.
The film follows Agu, a young boy who manages to escape execution.
Abraham Attah stars as Agu while Idris Elba and Ama K. Abebrese rounded out the cast.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Another Netflix original, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind first premiered during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival before premiering on Netflix in March of the same year.
Based on the memoir by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, it follows William’s life, who was born in Kasuna, Malawi.
As a young boy, he likes to work with his hands and fix small electrical items like radios.
When his village experiences a drought, he works to build a windmill to help power an electric water pump.
With the help of his village, he is able to create a working windmill.
His success leads him to earning a scholarship, which culminates in a degree from the prestigious Dartmouth University.
Virunga is the 2014 film that follows the Congo’s Virunga National Park park rangers who worked on the conservation during the M23 Rebellion in 2012.
The film also investigates Soco International, a British oil company, during the rebellion.
First premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, it would later appear on Netflix before earning an Academy Award nomination.
A drama thriller, 93 Days goes back to 2014 during the Ebola outbreak.
The first Ebola outbreak in a Western African country, the movie follows a group of healthcare workers who are able to contain the outbreak within a Lagos hospital.
While this film could also be listed with those based on a true story, you can find this movie on Netflix.
The film stars Bimbo Akintola and Danny Glover.
Top Movies About Africa, Conclusion
The history of Africa is vast.
While you could choose to learn about it in a book, many of these movies help portray the continent’s history.
And if you’re spending an afternoon binge-watching movies, feel free to keep the list going.