30 Movies About Africa to Watch Before Visiting the Continent

Post Summary: The Best Movies Set in Africa

Before going to Africa it’s important to learn a little about the continent. One of the best ways to do that before is watch some movies about Africa! From the lions in the Serengeti to the some of the worst civil wars on the continent, here are my favorite movies about Africa to watch before going.


Movies About Africa and Movies Set in Africa


The Lion King

Set in the Savannah (Likely Kenya or Tanzania)
best safari movies

I grew up in the 90s, and I can’t think of the animals in Africa without thinking of the Lion King. This is easily one of the best movies set in Africa. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to stop reading right this second and get on Amazon, hop on Netflix, or go about your usual way of accessing movies and watch this tonight.

I mean, cmon that opening scene? “NA SEE WANG YA” and Simba’s christening! I can’t even watch the first five minutes without a tear in my eye. This movie about Africa is forever loved and even though it’s animated, it shows the beauty of some of these countries.


Gorillas in the Mist

Set in Rwanda
best safari movies

One of my favorite movies about Africa that is still very relevant today. Seeing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda has been high on my list for years (UPDATE: We checked that off this year), but I never knew the full story behind these beautiful creatures.

Meet Dian Fossey, an American primatologist that dedicated her life to studying the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Gorillas in the Mist, starring the fabulous Sigourney Weaver is an 80’s movie that documents Dian’s struggles and achievements while in Africa.


Beasts of No Nation

No named setting
Movies About Africa

A Netflix original movie that garnered international recognition and scored many awards this past season. Beasts of No Nation takes place in an unnamed West African country and follows a young boy who loses his family to a brutal war.

He is soon adopted as a child soldier into a rising rebel group. Although the film remains ambiguous about location, it portrays the horrors the military use of children has on young boys lives in Africa. To this day this is not only one of the best movies about Africa on Netflix, but one of the best movies on the whole platform.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Set in Malawi
Movies About Africa

This is one of the best movies based on true events in Africa. I recently saw this pop up on my Netflix suggestions and seeing that is was directed by one of my favorite actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor I knew I had to watch it. Within the first few minutes, I was completely mesmerized as the scenes brought me back to our time in Malawi. 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is based on the book of the same by William Kamkwamba, who is also the main subject of the film. Kamkwamba lives in a rural Malawian village that experiences a great drought. Wanting to save his family and village from starvation and death he devises a plan to build a windmill and power a water pump.


Virunga

Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo
best safari movies

Another Netflix original, this documentary focuses on the conservation of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or at least that’s how the documentary starts until the filmmakers and park rangers find themselves embroiled in the middle of a civil war.

The film showcases heart-stopping footage as conservationist work to protect the park, which is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.


Hotel Rwanda

Set in Rwanda
Movies About Africa

Called the “African Schindler’s List” this film is an absolute must watch for just about anyone wanting to watch movies about Africa. It’s deeply saddening to remember that just 20 years ago there was a genocide happening in Rwanda, with the ethnic Tutsi being the victims of the Hutu militia, killing off 20% of the Rwandan population!

This is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved more than a 1,000 refugees by hiding them in a hotel that he managed.


Skin

Set in South Africa
Movies About Africa

Starring Sophie Okonedo, who was the female lead in Hotel Rwanda above is an amazing biographical movie about Sandra Laing. One of the best movies based on true events in Africa. Sandra is a South African woman born to white parents, she was then classified as “coloured” due to atavism during apartheid. The film follows Sandra and her family who are divided by the color of their skin. It’s an interesting story that shows a deeper look at apartheid South Africa.


The Color of Friendship

Set in the USA and South Africa
Movies About Africa

Another movie about apartheid in South Africa and the effects of it. I watched this movie as a young girl on the Disney Channel and it never left my mind. It paints a picture of apartheid in the 1970s, and how it affects two young girls in two separate countries.

Throughout the film, the two must overcome their differences. I love this movie as it’s suitable for children with important messaging. If you have Disney Plus you’ll be able to find this film on there!


The Constant Gardener

Set in Kenya
Movies About Africa

This was in my Netflix queue forever and is now one of my favorite thriller movies set in Africa. Although, I love Ralph Fiennes, I never ever brought myself to watch it. I just recently sat myself down to watch this political thriller and LOVED it.

Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes are an unlikely couple that live and work in Kenya. Tessa (Weisz) is a diehard Amnesty activist who is uncovering big secrets in the pharmaceutical industry. What drew me more in was that this movie was loosely based off a true story in Nigeria.


The English Patient

Set in North Africa
Movies About Africa

This romantic drama was nominated for 12 Academy Awards in 1996 and features young Ralph Fiennes at his prime. Did I mention I love Ralph Fiennes? Set during WWII, The English Patient tells the story of a widowed nurse caring for a severely burned patient.

This injured man is known only as “The English Patient” for his distinct English Accent and has an interesting life story. It’s one of the best Hollywood movies based in Africa.


A United Kingdom

Set in Botswana
movies about africa

This is a great trip to Africa movie. A United Kingdom is a film based on the true life story of Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and his romance with Ruth Williams Khama, a white English women post WWII. The film follows their courtship and eventual marriage and the hardships they endured because of their racial differences in Bechuanaland and Southern Africa in general.

Seretse Khama went on to become the first president of Botswana and to this day is a well loved figure in Botswana. During his presidency, the country underwent positive social and economic changes. Their son, Ian Khama was even recently the President of Botswana and was also beloved by the country.


Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom

Set in South Africa
Movies About Africa

This movie about Africa is based on Mandela’s own autobiography. Long Walk to Freedom lends viewers a deeper understanding of the politics of South Africa.

The movie does a great job at showcasing historical events, but still mixes in a bit of Hollywood to keep viewers engrossed in the story. During our three months in South Africa, we saw images of the anti-apartheid revolutionary everywhere. From statues and important buildings to street names and street art, you can truly see the impact of Mandela.


The Good Lie

Set in Sudan
Movies About Africa

A feel good movie about a group of Sudanese siblings who escape the brutal Second Sudanese Civil War. These brothers win a lottery to relocated in the United States, and the film follows their integration into American culture and takes audiences on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.


Tsotsi

Set in South Africa
Movies About Africa

Set in the Johannesburg slums this film follows Tsotsi. A young street criminal steals a car and finds a baby in the backseat, and must navigate the night with the newborn. This film received widespread critical acclaim and even won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film! It was the first South African film to ever win this award!


I Dreamed of Africa

Set in Kenya
best safari movies

This film certainly didn’t deserve any academy awards, but it did manage to get me excited about going to Africa. The film tells the true story of Kuki Gallman, an Italian woman who relocates to Africa to run a farm. It’s like Under the Tuscan Sun, but set in Africa.

The film is adapted from Kuki’s autobiography, I Dreamed of Africa, and is heartbreaking at times and uplifting in others.


Half of a Yellow Sun

Set in Nigeria
Movies About Africa

Another one of my favorite movies set in Africa. Half of the Yellow Sun is a Nigerian film that opens viewers eyes to some of the terrifying atrocities of the Nigerian Civil War. Interweaving two love stories, family betrayal, and an undiscovered mystery this film is based off the 2006 novel by African feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


Casablanca

Set in Morocco
Movies About Africa

This is one of the many movies we watched in film school and it would be hard for me not to mention it on this “movies about Africa” list. Ranked as one of the greatest American films of all time, this 1942 romance takes place in Casablanca, one of the largest cities in Morocco. Rick and Ilsa are star-crossed lovers during the second world war.


The First Grader

Set in Kenya
Movies About Africa

If you’re looking for a tear jeacker movie that takes place in Africa I recommend this one. I can’t count the number of times I cried from sadness and joy in The First Grader. Telling the true story of Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan farmer that enrolled in elementary school in 2003, after the Kenyan government granted citizens free universal primary education. Today, Maruge still holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest pupil in primary school.


Madagascar

Set in Madagascar
best safari movies

If you’re looking for African movies on Netflix, one of the Madagascar films is always bound to be there. With so many serious films on this list, I had to throw this one in! Madagascar 1, 2, and 3 are some of the funniest animated films I have seen and feature some brilliant song and dance scenes ( I Like to Move it Move it).

Madagascar tells the story of four zoo animals who escape Central Park and get stranded on the island of…Madagascar! With an all-star comedic cast, you will be laughing your way through this 90-minute film.


Sembene!

Set in Senegal
Movies About Africa

This is a great documentary movie about Africa from a celebrated African filmmaker. Ousmane Sembene is considered the “father of African cinema” having made many fantastic movies like Ceddo, Camp de Thiaroye, and Guelwaar. This documentary is about the story of his life and is heartwarming and intriguing.


Last King of Scotland

Set in Uganda
Movies About Africa

One of the more critically acclaimed films on this list, The Last King of Scotland is an intense thriller set in 1970’s Uganda. Forrest Whitaker gives a stellar performance as Idi Amin, the third Ugandan president, who was heavily criticized for human rights abuse. The film shows Amin’s harsh ruling from the eyes of his personal physician.


Blood Diamond

Set in Sierra Leone
Movies About Africa

Sierra Leone went through an atrocious civil war less than 20 years ago. This film, featuring my boy Leo, follows one local fisherman’s gut-wrenching hardship during the conflict. It’s a good African war movie with a compelling storyline. Blood Diamond mostly focuses on just that, a “blood diamond.”

Blood diamonds are the harvesting and mining of diamonds in war zones, sold by warlords to intermediaries to finance their wars. The diamonds are then worked into the legal circulation of diamonds through a number of middlemen.


District 9

Set in South Africa
Movies About Africa

Movies about Africa don’t get much more entertaining than District 9. An Alien species makes contact in Johannesburg and must remain there until they can fix their craft. The aliens, “prawns,” are then subjected to living in terrible conditions, ghettos, and face daily discrimination. The film may just seem like your typical Alien film, but District 9 actually holds a much deeper meaning than a bunch of invasive “Prawns.”

The South African director draws on much of South Africa’s apartheid history including the infamous clearing of District Six in Cape Town. The narrative extends to current issues facing South Africa today. It manages to do all of this while making a hugely entertaining alien picture.


Born Free

Set in Kenya
Movies About Africa

Born Free is quite possibly one of the best African movies of all time. This is the true story of real live Joy and George Adamson, who raised Elsa the Lionness after she was orphaned as a cub. They raised her to adulthood and released her into the wild. The 1966 movie set in Africa is based on Joy Adamson’s 1960 book under the same name, Born Free. If you want a feel-good inspiring story this is the movie for you!


Out of Africa

Set in Kenya
best safari movies

Oh, Merryl Streep and Robert Redford, you both produced one great African safari movie together when you were young. Out of Africa is a film set in colonial Africa and garnered seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film follows the life of Karen Blixen, who establishes a coffee plantation in Africa.

This a one of the movies on this list that portrays parts of an African safari and is based off of an autobiographical book of the same name shows Karen’s complicated life in Kenya, with a side twist of a young love affair with Robbie Red.


The Burial of Kojo

Set in Ghana
Movies About Africa

Wow! The Burial of Kojo is an amazing African movie shot entirely in Ghana on a super small budget. Even some of the actors are first-timers! (But you would never be able to tell.

The film follows Kojo, who is left to die in an abandoned gold mine, while his family must find him. It received nine nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, winning two! The African film is available to watch on Netflix and is one of the only Ghanian films on the streaming service.


Queen of Katwe

Set in Uganda
Movies About Africa

Chess is the escape from poverty for a young Ugandan woman living in Kampala. This movie is based on true events in Africa and tells of a girl defying the odds and her story of becoming a top chess champion. This is a must watch movie about Africa before heading to Uganda!


Into the Okavango

Set in Botswana and Angola
Movies About Africa

This is a visually beautiful Nat Geo documentary that uncovers the truth about the Okavango Delta water shortage. This is one of the planet’s last wetlands and diverse wildlife areas.

The expedition takes them 1500 miles across three African nations over four months. Besides fantastic truthful storytelling, you’ll also get stunning visuals of Angola, Botswana, and Namibia.


The Gods Must be Crazy

Set in South Africa
Movies About Africa

The Gods Must be Crazy is the top South African film of all time. Although the story is set in Botswana, this movie tells the tale of a rural village with little knowledge of the outside world. One day a glass bottle of coke falls from the sky, and the villagers take it as a sign from god. Only a comedy can ensue from there!


7 Days in Entebbe

Set in Uganda
Movies About Africa

I had no idea about this event in history until watching this movie about Africa. 7 Days in Entebbe is about the true story of Operation Entebbe. In 1976 terrorist hijacked Air France Flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris and held the passengers and crew hostage in Entebbe while demanding a ransom end release of 53 Palestinian prisoners. The government steps in, and well, unless you know the story I can’t share anymore!


Movies About Africa on IMDB

To learn more awesome stuff about these movies about Africa check them out on IMDB. It’s probably our favorite site unrelated to travel. Pretty much the bread and butter of any die-hard movie fan.

What are the best movies about Africa can you recommend to us?

About Natasha

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Fodor’s, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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