South African Films Flashback

South African films focus is largely on telling stories, usually dramatic ones that reflect the individualistic experiences of the South African people. While being the most popular place in Africa to produce foreign films, South Africa does not produce that many of its own, which makes the ones that are made that much more important. Many of these films deal with the issues of colonisation and apartheid that are a large part of South Africa’s history, however, they do it in a way that allows their stories to be told which makes for powerful cinema.

Check out CulturalPulse’s shortlist of the best South African films over the past 70 years below.

60's

Dingaka (1964)

Genre: Drama, Action
IMDB Rating: 6.7
Director: Jamie Uys
Stars: Stanley Baker, Juliet Prowse, Ken Gampu, Alfred Jabulani
Synopsis: A film about an African tribesman seeking revenge against the people who murdered his daughter. His crusade leads him to commit murder himself, and to trial before a court. See full summary »

King Hendrik (1965)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Emil Nofal
Stars: Gert van den Bergh, Bob Courtney, Clive Parnell, Arthur Swemmer
Synopsis: A small town in desperate need of more tourists discovers it was never officially incorporated into the surrounding country, so it declares independence. All goes well until someone decides they need a king. Set in South Africa. See full summary »

Lost in the Desert (1969)

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 7
Director: Jamie Uys
Stars: Wynand Uys, Jamie Uys, Lady Frolic of Belvedale, Wilhelm Esterhuizen
Synopsis: After a plane crash a young boy and his dog wander through the Kalahari desert. See full summary »

70's

Beautiful People (1974)

Genre: Comedy, Documentary
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Jamie Uys
Stars: Paddy O’Byrne
Synopsis: Hilarious documentary on the wildlife of the Namib Desert. See full summary »

e’Lollipop (1975)

Genre: Drama, Family
IMDB Rating: 8
Director: Ashley Lazarus
Stars: José Ferrer, Karen Valentine, Bess Finney, Muntu Ndebele
Synopsis: When the chips are down and everything seems lost, it’s good to have a best friend. See full summary »

80's

Breaker Morant (1980)

Genre: Drama, History, War
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, John Waters, Bryan Brown
Synopsis: Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers. See full summary »

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Jamie Uys
Stars: N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Louw Verwey
Synopsis: A comic allegory about a traveling Bushman who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects, including a clumsy scientist and a band of revolutionaries. See full summary »

Kill and Kill Again (1981)

Genre: Action, Drama
IMDB Rating: 5.4
Director: Ivan Hall
Stars: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer, Marloe Scott Wilson
Synopsis: Dr. Horatio Kane has been kidnapped, and is being forced to create an army of martial artists who will help take over the world. His daughter, Kandy Kane, enlists the help of Steve Chase … See full summary »

Shaka Zulu (1986)

Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Edward Fox
Stars: Edward Fox, Robert Powell, Trevor Howard, Fiona Fullerton
Synopsis: A historical account on the life of the Zulu King Shaka. See full summary »

Cry Freedom (1987)

Genre: Biography, Drama, History
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: Richard Attenborough
Stars: Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline, Josette Simon, Wabei Siyolwe
Synopsis: South African journalist Donald Woods is forced to flee the country, after attempting to investigate the death in custody of his friend, the black activist Steve Biko … See full summary »

Fiela se Kind (1988)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.2
Director: Katinka Heyns
Stars: Shaleen Surtie-Richards, André Rossouw, Lida Botha, Dawid Minnaar
Synopsis: A coloured woman in South Africa finds a white baby on her doorstep and raises him as her own. Nine years later,he is discovered and taken away. See full summary »

Mapantsula (1988)

Genre: Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7
Director: Oliver Schmitz
Stars: Thomas Mogotlane, Marcel van Heerden, Thembi Mtshali, Dolly Rathebe
Synopsis: Mapantsula tells the story of Panic, a petty gangster who inevitably becomes caught up in the growing anti-apartheid struggle and has to choose between individual gain and a united stand … See full summary »

Windprints (1989)

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 6.2
Director: David Wicht
Stars: John Hurt, Sean Bean, Marius Weyers, Eric Nobbs
Synopsis: A South African video journalist is sent to neighboring Namibia to do a story on a man who has been going around and killing black laborers. The killer, Nhadiep, has an almost mythical … See full summary »

90's

Yankee Zulu (1993)

Genre: Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.5
Director: Gray Hofmeyr
Stars: Leon Schuster, John Matshikiza, Wilson Dunster, Terri Treas
Synopsis: As children, Rhino and Zulu were best friends, until an incident causes them to go their separate ways. They meet up again as adults when Zulu, who has spent years in the United States, has … See full summary »

Cry, the Beloved Country (1993)

Genre: Drama, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 6.9
Director: Darrell Roodt
Stars: Richard Harris, James Earl Jones, Vusi Kunene, Charles S. Dutton
Synopsis: A South African preacher goes to search for his wayward son, who has committed a crime in the big city. See full summary »

00's

Stander (2003)

Genre: Action, Biography, Crime
IMDB Rating: 7.2
Director: Bronwen Hughes
Stars: Thomas Jane, David O’Hara, Dexter Fletcher, Deborah Kara Unger
Synopsis: The life and career of Andre Stander, a South African police officer turned bank robber. See full summary »

Forgiveness (2004)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Ian Gabriel
Stars: Arnold Vosloo, Zane Meas, Denise Newman, Quanita Adams
Synopsis: A disgraced ex-cops arrival in a small town triggers a cathartic journey of Forgiveness and revenge for himself and the family of the activist he killed. See full summary »

Tsotsi (2005)

Genre: Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Matseke-Zulu, Terry Pheto
Synopsis: Six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader. See full summary »

Faith Like Potatoes (2006)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.9
Director: Regardt van den Bergh
Stars: Frank Rautenbach, Jeanne Neilson, Hamilton Dlamini, Candice D’Arcy
Synopsis: Frank Rautenbach leads a strong cast as Angus Buchan, a African farmer on steroids of Scottish heritage, who leaves his farm to his loyal subjects in the midst of political unrest and … See full summary »

Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema (2008)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Ralph Ziman
Stars: Rapulana Seiphemo, Jeffrey Zekele, Ronnie Nyakale, Shelley Meskin
Synopsis: A young hoodlum’s rise from a small-time criminal to a powerful crime entrepreneur during the turbulent years before and after the fall of apartheid. See full summary »

Skin (2008)

Genre: Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.9
Director: Anthony Fabian
Stars: Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige, Tony Kgoroge
Synopsis: Based on the true story of a black girl who was born to two white Afrikaner parents in South Africa during the apartheid era. See full summary »

Disgrace (2008)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.6
Director: Steve Jacobs
Stars: John Malkovich, Natalie Becker, Jessica Haines, Eriq Ebouaney
Synopsis: After having an affair with a student, a Cape Town professor moves to the Eastern Cape, where he gets caught up in a mess of post-apartheid politics. See full summary »

District 9 (2009)

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt
Synopsis: An extraterrestrial race, forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. See full summary »

10's

Life, Above All (2010)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Director: Oliver Schmitz
Stars: Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Lenabe, Lerato Mvelase
Synopsis: A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa. See full summary »

Material (2012)

Genre: Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Craig Freimond
Stars: Riaad Moosa, Vincent Ebrahim, Joey Rasdien, Denise Newman
Synopsis: Cassim is a young Muslim man who works in his father’s fabric shop in Johannesburg. However, Cassim wants to be a stand-up comedian, which his father disproves of. When he gets a gig at a local bar, he has to find a way of keeping it a secret. See full summary »

Stilte (2012)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 5.6
Director: Darrell Roodt
Stars: Angelique Pretorius, Andre Frauenstein, Chrissie Adiems, Deon Coetzee
Synopsis: A talented singer is on the verge of realizing her dream when a terrible tragedy strikes. She survives the ordeal and relocates to a farm in Oudtshoorn where she undergoes a journey of regaining her faith and purpose in life. See full summary »

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Genre: Biography, Drama, History
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Director: Justin Chadwick
Stars: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Robert Hobbs
Synopsis: A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. See full summary »

Little One (2013)

Genre: Drama, Family
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Darrell Roodt
Stars: Lindiwe Ndlovu, Vuyelwa Msimang, Mutodi Neshehe, Nompumelelo Nyiyane
Synopsis: Sometimes healing comes from the most unexpected places. See full summary »

Zulu (2013)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 6.7
Director: Jérôme Salle
Stars: Orlando Bloom, Forest Whitaker, Conrad Kemp, Inge Beckmann
Synopsis: Policemen Ali Sokhela and Brian Epkeen investigate the brutal murder of a young white woman, apparently provoked by the availability of a new illegal drug and somehow connected to the disappearance of black street children. See full summary »

Shepherds and Butchers (2013)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Oliver Schmitz
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Inge Beckmann, Robert Hobbs
Synopsis: A lawyer takes on a case of a prison guard in South Africa who is traumatized by the executions he’s witnessed. See full summary »