The best films set in South Africa

invictus, film, screenshot, movie

It is undeniable that the United States and the United Kingdom dominate the silver screen. However, especially in recent years, South Africa has increasingly become a focal point for global films. From our tumultuous past to our rich culture of storytelling and breathtaking natural beauty, South Africa has served as the foundation of many great films.

Here are some of our favourite big-screen movies set in South Africa.

Bang Bang Club

IMBD – 7/10; Rotten Tomatoes – 48%

The Bang Bang Club tells the true story of a renowned group of documentary photographers of the same name.

Their collective coverage between 1990 to 1994, as Apartheid South Africa transitioned to a true democracy, is some of the most vivid depictions of the factional violence between political and racial groups in pre-1994 South Africa.

The film features a notable cast with Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions, Crash) as Greg Marinovich, Taylor Kitsch as Kevin Carter (John Carter), and South Africa’s very own Frank Rautenbach and Neels van Jaarsveld as Ken Oosterbroek and João Silva, respectively.

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

District 9

IMBD – 7,9/10; Rotten Tomatoes – 90%

District 9 is the highest-grossing film made by South Africans, pulling in a whopping US$210,819,611.

Released in 2009, it was directed by our very own Neill Blomkamp (Chappie, Elysium). The story centres around a group of aliens stranded in South Africa who have been segregated by the SA government.

It is strongly reminiscent of the racial division in both apartheid and modern South Africa. The film’s namesake is inspired by the events of District Six in the Apartheid era.

The movie received critical acclaim and was nominated for four Academy Award categories (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effect, Best Film Editing).

Streaming on: Netflix SA


IMBD – 7,3/10; Rotten Tomatoes – 76%

Invictus tells the inspiring story of South Africa’s international Springboks rugby team and their road to becoming the champions of the 1994 Rugby World Cup, the same year Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa in a fully representative democracy.

Expertly directed by film-industry veteran Clint Eastwood, it highlights one of the most significant and hopeful years in South African history.

The film features Hollywood legends such as Matt Damon as Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and notable South African actors Marguerite Wheatley, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, and Robin Smith.

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video


IMBD – 7,2/10, Rotten Tomatoes – 82%

Tsotsi is a book-to-film adaptation that follows the story of a young street gang leader from Johannesburg’s Alexandria township. On one fateful day, Tsotsi steals a car only to discover later that a baby has been lying in the back seat the whole time.

As a poor, black gang leader embroiled in a dangerous mix of power struggles and simply the fight to survive, this sets in motion a rollercoaster of events that speaks deeply to the imbalance of wealth in South Africa and the often horrific conditions many poor, black South Africans have to face, daily.

It is certainly not a movie for the faint of heart. However, it is undeniably one of the best pieces of cinema produced on South African soil.

Tsotsi is also the only South African-made film ever to have received an Oscar, which it received for the Best Foreign Film category.

Streaming On: Netflix SA

Read more: Streaming services in South Africa: What’s available? Prices compared

Wiehahn Diederichs


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