Netflix has heavily prioritized international growth lately—including in Africa. While Netflix’s African content isn’t as prodigious as its content for regions like East Asia and South Asia, there are still many African movies and shows on the streaming platform.
That said, what are the Best African Movies on Netflix?
To help answer that question, we at Cinema Escapist have compiled this list of top African films on Netflix. These films stretch across numerous genres, including horror, drama, romance, comedy, thriller, and more.
While the majority of African movies on Netflix are from Nigeria’s Nollywood, we’ve taken care to include non-Nollywood titles as well. After all, there are also great movies on Netflix from other African countries like Ghana, South Africa, Senegal, and beyond.
Furthermore, this list is up to date for 2020; we’ve double-checked to make sure these movies are available in at least most English-speaking countries. Let’s take a look at the 11 best African movies on Netflix, current as of 2020!
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Country: Ghana | Director: Kwabena Gyansah | Cast: Asana Alhassan, Akofa Edjeani Asiedu, Peter Ritchie, Adjetey Anang | Genre: Drama | Year: 2018 | Language: Akan, English
Though it wasn’t nominated, Azali was Ghana’s first-ever submission to the in the Best International Feature Film category at the 2018 Oscars. The film centers on a girl named Amina, who initially lives in a small village in northern Ghana. However, while trying to evade an arranged marriage, Amina gets thrust into the slums of Ghana’s capital city Accra, where she resorts to sex work for survival.
By Ghanian film standards, Azali doesn’t stray into ridiculous territory and maintains a pretty steady plot progression. The film has a surprise twist ending that we won’t spoil, but otherwise offers a straight-shooting stark take on life in Accra’s slums. Its production quality and cinematography are also pretty decent.
10. Road to Yesterday
Country: Nigeria | Director: Ishaya Bako | Cast: Genevieve Nnaji, Oris Erhuero | Genre: Romance, Drama | Year: 2015 | Language: English
Those more interested in romance movies might find Road to Yesterday a worthwhile African movie on Netflix. This Nollywood production follows an estranged couple who, on a long drive to a relative’s funeral, try to repair their relationship but end up unearthing more emotional baggage than they bargained for.
Road to Yesterday offers an understated and slow-paced take on romance that is anchored by the two lead actors’ chemistry. There is no trashy sensationalism or absurd plot twists to derail a simple and enjoyable love story.
9. Catching Feelings
Country: South Africa | Director: Kagiso Lediga | Cast: Kagiso Lediga, Pearl Thusi, Andrew Buckland, Akin Omotoso | Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama | Year: 2018 | Language: English
South African film Catching Feelings adds another dash of romance to our list while retaining a sense of sociopolitical consciousness. The movie focuses on a university lecturer named Max and his girlfriend Sam, who flit around Johannesburg’s cosmopolitan circles. When a famous white South African writer returns to Max’s university for a book tour, Max finds himself drawn to the writer’s social circles yet resenting the writer’s success—which puts strain on his relationship with Sam.
Narrative complexity isn’t Catching Feelings’ area of expertise. Rather, the film is quite character driven, and contains many light yet thought-provoking musings on racism, classism, and creativity within a post-apartheid South African context. Furthermore, it’s a great escape from Hollywood stereotypes and tropes about South Africa.
8. King of Boys
Country: Nigeria | Director: Kemi Adetiba | Cast: Sola Sobowale, Remilekun Reminisce Safaru, Adesua Etomi-Wellington | Genre: Thriller, Drama, Political | Year: 2018 | Language: English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa
In 2016, Nigerian director Kemi Adetiba made The Wedding Party, which to this date is the highest-grossing Nollywood movie of all time. While that movie is also on Netflix, we’re leaving it off this list in favor of Adetiba’s second movie: King of Boys.
While The Wedding Party was a socially conscious romantic comedy, King of Boys is a darker, politically-tinged thriller—which provides fodder for examining the world in addition to entertainment. King of Boys features actress Sola Sobowale in a powerful performance as Alhaja Eniola Salami, a powerful businesswoman who will stop at nothing to advance her own interests. While the film’s 2 hour 49 minute runtime might turn off some viewers, King of Boys should appeal to those who enjoy dark movies with meditations on power and violence.
7. The Figurine
Country: Nigeria | Director: Kunle Afolayan | Cast: Ramsey Nouah, Omoni Oboli, Kunle Afolayan, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi | Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror | Year: 2009 | Language: English, Yoruba
Supernatural thriller film The Figurine is one of the most intriguing Nollywood films from the past few decades. The movie follows two friends who find a mysterious figurine in the forest; apparently, those who find the figurine will gain seven years of luck. However, after those seven years elapse, the two friends’ lives start going downhill in chilling ways.
First released in 2009 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Figurine is one of the few Nollywood films that have received appreciable international, critical, and scholarly attention. Compared with Nollywood movies before it, The Figurine represented a noticeable step forward in terms of cinematography and storytelling quality.
The film arguably helped spark a mindset shift in Nollywood towards making films that would show in theaters, as opposed to simply home video. Furthermore, The Figurine also inspired an entire 455-page book called Autering Nollywood, which offered scholarly analysis on the film from academics and film luminaries in Nigeria and beyond.
6. October 1
Country: Nigeria | Director: Kunle Afolayan | Cast: Sadiq Daba, Kayode Aderupoko, Demola Adedoyin, Kehinde Bankole | Genre: Historical, Political, Drama, Thriller | Year: 2014 | Language: English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa
After The Figurine, director Kunle Afolayan went on to make October 1, our next selection in this list of best African movies on Netflix. Set in the waning days of colonial Nigeria, the film follows a police officer named Danladi Waziri who must solve a murder mystery before Nigeria’s independence day on October 1, 1960.
October 1 stands above many Nollywood movies in terms of production quality and plot. The film avoids melodrama and sensationalism, offering a detailed and entertaining look at a period of history that’s not often depicted in cinema. October 1 includes ample commentary on pertinent sociopolitical topics like imperialism, tribalism, and nation-building. Those who might not know much about Nigerian history can use it as an easy entry point for learning more.
Country: Nigeria | Director: Genevieve Nnaji | Cast: Genevieve Nnaji, Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Kanayo O. Kanayo | Genre: Drama, Comedy | Year: 2018 | Language: English, Igbo
Lionheart made waves as Netflix’s first-ever Nigerian original film production. In practical terms, this means you don’t have to worry about the movie getting taken off Netflix due to some licensing disagreements.
In this drama-comedy, a young woman named Adaeze Obiagu aspires to prove herself as a business leader at her father’s company, Lionheart. When health issues incapacitate her father, she gets a chance to showcase her skills. Facing sexism and mountains of corporate debt, Adaeze must work together with an eccentric uncle to save Lionheart from failure.
If you’re looking for a female-centric Nollywood film with a heartfelt and engaging story, Lionheart is a good pick. The film has a dynamic pace with many humorous moments, and is a great sign of things to come for Netflix original productions from Nigeria and other parts of the African continent.
4. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Country: Malawi, UK | Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor | Cast: Maxwell Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor | Genre: Drama | Year: 2018 | Language: English, Chichewa
Another Netflix original movie worth featuring is The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. Though this movie had British producers, it also had Malawian co-producers and was filmed in Malawi with 80%+ of dialog in Chichewa—so we feel it’s “African” enough to qualify.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind dramatizes the fascinating real life story of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian inventor who achieved fame by building wind turbines out of scrap parts to generate electricity for his rural family. British-born and Oscar nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor directs and stars in the movie, but the real star is Maxwell Simba—who plays a young version of Kamkwamba. Those looking for an inspiring and heartwarming movie from an African context should definitely check out The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.
Country: South Africa | Director: Akin Omotoso | Cast: Phuthi Nakene, Warren Masemola, Azwile Chamane-Madiba | Genre: Drama | Year: 2016 | Language: Zulu, English
Before making Vaya, director Akin Omotoso spent years in story workshops with homeless residents of South Africa’s economic capital, Johannesburg. The stories he heard influenced Vaya, which powerfully interweaves three stories of South Africans who come from rural communities to fulfill personal dreams or aspirations in Johannesburg. There’s a man eagerly anticipating a job in the big city, another young man trying to reclaim his father’s corpse, and a young woman who wants to escape the drudgery of rural life.
Each of these stories soon encounters a twist, launching Vaya into a gripping and poignant exploration into the dark underbelly of urban life in South Africa’s beating economic heart. The movie feels like a South African version of Mexican masterpiece Amores Perros—which similarly weaved together three narratives into a powerful and dynamic feature.
Country: Senegal | Director: Mati Diop | Cast: Mame Bineta Sane, Ibrahima Traoré | Genre: Drama, Art House | Year: 2019 | Language: Wolof, French
Sengalese director Mati Diop’s film Atlantics generated significant buzz when it won the Grand Prix at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival. The award was a long time coming for African cinema, though unfortunately discourse around the win often seemed more centered around Diop’s illustrious heritage (she’s the daughter of famed musician Wasis Diop and niece of cinematic luminary Djibril Diop Mambéty) than the film itself.
Atlantics tells the story of a young woman named Ada. She’s about to enter an arranged marriage with a rich man named Omar, but actually loves another man named Souleiman. One day, Souleiman sets off by sea to Europe—and Ada hears nothing from him thereafter. As Ada’s wedding date approaches and she longs for Souleiman, a series of mysterious events begin occurring.
Besides intriguing characters, Atlantics has superb cinematography and sound design. The film’s colors are achingly cool, and a droning soundscape further builds an appropriately haunting and mystical ambience. Even without Diop’s legendary family background, Atlantics more than deserved its Cannes award.
Learn more about Atlantics in our full length review.
1. The Burial of Kojo
Country: Ghana | Director: Blitz Bazawule | Cast: Cynthia Dankwa, Ama K. Abebrese, Joseph Otsiman | Genre: Drama, Art House | Year: 2018 | Language: Twi, English
Our top choice out of all African films on Netflix today is The Burial of Kojo. Similar to Atlantics, this is another mysticism-tinged movie that raises—and arguably redefines—artistic standards in African cinema.
The film opens with a girl named Esi reflecting upon her father Kojo. Mystical elements—sacred birds, dreams, symbolisms in telenovelas—seep into Esi’s life as the story solidifies into a journey where Esi must rescue her father from an abandoned mineshaft.
The Burial of Kojo is written and directed by Ghanian musician Blitz Bazawule, also known by his stage name Blitz the Ambassador. Apparently Bazawule’s artistic prodigy extends to film as well. Though The Burial of Kojo is his directorial debut, it has a distinctive cinematic voice that seems both well-informed by preceding filmmaking legends (ex. Djibril Diop Mambéty) and willing to push boundaries. Unsurprisingly given Bazawule’s background, the film’s fantastic score contains flairs of Afrobeat, and exceptional editing and color choices supercharge sweeping shots achieved through thoughtful camera movements (and drone flying, in some cases).
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Interested in African films? Check out our list of the Best African Movies From All 54 African Countries. If you want more Netflix content, consider our lists of the Best Korean Dramas on Netflix or Best Indian Movies on Netflix.