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The Classic Arabic Movies Everyone Should Watch At Least Once

Netflix movies and boxsets are all good and well, but if your mind is getting a little weary from binge-watching absolutely everything on the streaming platform and you’re missing that cultural je ne sais quoi, you may find some entertainment in movies much closer to home.

Why not take a walk down memory lane, grab some snacks and entertain yourself with these classic Arabic movies which hail from the Arab region, including Nadine Labaki‘s first feature film and Salah Abouseif’s stirring adaptation of a Nobel Prize winning author’s novel.

Have a go at it:

Cairo Station (1958)

Directed by Youssef Chahine, Bab El Hadid is the tale of Qinawi, a young man who makes a living selling newspapers at Cairo train station as he falls in love with Hannuma, an attractive lemonade seller at the same station. However, since the path of true love never runs smooth, this film is far removed from your average romance.
 

The Beginning and the End (1960)

Bidaya wa Nihaya is a 1960’s film adapted from a novel written by Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. Starring renowned actor Omar Sharif, Amina Rizk, Sanaa Gamil, and Farid Shawqi, the tale is centered on the lives of an Egyptian family, a mother of four children, who must find ways to make ends meet after her husband passes away. “The Beginning and the End” is known to Arabs as having one of the most memorable endings in Egyptian cinema. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival in 1961.
 

The Last Night (1964)

Egyptian director, Kamal el-Sheikh’s The Last Night is a vintage psychological thriller starring Faten Hamama who wakes up 15 years older and married to her brother in law. The movie was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival for tackling with the complexities of trauma, grief, and loss.
 

The Sin (1965)

The Sin is yet another Egyptian drama based on Azizah, a poor woman from a village who is attacked by a guard when she goes into the field to collect vegetables for her ailing husband’s dinner. Azizah tragically dies after the attack, which highlights the struggles and faced by countrymen as the rural workers mourn her loss. Based on the novel by Yusuf Idris, The Sin received a nomination for the Prix International award at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival.
 

West Beirut (1998)

West Beirut is an internationally acclaimed film set in Beirut in the throes of a civil war, which follows Tarek, a teenage boy who finds himself in questionable places as he crosses the hostile Muslim and Christian divides in search for film for his camera. Noted as a “coming of age” movie, West Beirut has won a few awards, including the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Best First Film at the Carthage Film Festival in 1998.
 

Bab’Aziz – The Prince That Contemplated His Soul (2005)

Nacer Khemir’s Tunisian drama is the third in his trilogy of films entitled, “Desert”. This particular film follows the journey of a blind dervish, Bab’Aziz and his granddaughter, Ishtar who travel through the arid desert in search of a spiritual Sufi meeting that occurs just once every 30 years. Throughout this heartwarming family film, the pair meet with a number of obstacles and other characters with their own unique stories.
 

Caramel (2007)

Nadine Labaki’s first feature film, Caramel focuses on the interconnecting lives of 5 women in a beauty salon in Beirut, who each discuss the problems in their lives – bringing the women closer together. Nadine Labaki has not only directed the film, but stars in the film as well and has received critical acclaim for Caramel for perfectly depicting issues every day women face in a humorous way.
 

Wadjda (2012)

Haifa Al Mansour made her film debut in 2012 with her award winning movie, Wadjda, whilst making history as the first female Saudi filmmaker. Wadjda was also the first ever feature length film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. The critically acclaimed film focusses on a young Saudi girl who wants the freedom to ride a bicycle in the kingdom, but isn’t allowed. Wadjda is not only about a child who wants to ride a bike, but it also explores the role of Saudi women in society through the eyes and reasoning of an 11 year old girl who only wants to raise some money for a bike.
 

Until the Birds Return (2017)

Karim Moussaoui’s 2017 film tells three separate but connected stories set in urban and rural areas in modern Algeria. The three stories revolve around a middle aged property developer, a neurologist plagued by past wartime wrongdoings and a reluctant bride-to-be.

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