10 most influential Hollywood movies that borrowed from African culture

Black Panther 2
  • Business Insider Africa presents the 10 most influential Hollywood movies that borrowed from African culture
  • Hollywood is slow to truly invest in the African movie industry
  • This list was based on cultural influence, cultural enlightenment, box office performance, engagement, and critical acclaim 

Now more than ever, there is an integration of culture between numerous societies, as the world inches ever closer to becoming a global village.

This is thanks in large part to the arts, particularly music and movies, which allow people to share their cultures in the universal language of entertainment.

With the level of cultural integration today, Hollywood producers are no longer as skeptical to invest in movies that touch on themes and tropes outside of America, as they were a decade ago.

Following the production and or distribution of successful projects like Narcos, Squid Game, Parasite, and more, all of which are performed in their indigenous languages, it's safe to say that Hollywood of late has no qualms with creating movies that stray far from its own conventions.

For Africa, Hollywood still remains skeptical, as the continent’s movie industry seems too young and inexperienced to handle big-budget movies that command funds of up to $100 million.

However, Africa is, in itself not too young to be emulated on the big screen. Hollywood has continuously borrowed from African cultures in both significant and subtle ways. The continent is rich in history and stories from here can compel any audience to be thoroughly engaged.

Despite this, Hollywood remains reluctant to shoot high-budget movies that are completely African, in their approach, production, and delivery.

Needless to say, there are some Hollywood blockbusters that were inspired by African culture and experience, and below are ten of the best, blueprints to what may evolve to Hollywood’s confidence in investing in big-budget African films.

This list was decided by cultural influence, cultural enlightenment, box office performance, engagement, and critical acclaim

Queen of Katwe 2016 (10.4 million): A very beautiful tale about a Kenyan girl who escapes poverty with her talent for chess. This movie is a critical darling, with an IMDB score of 7.4/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes sum of 94%. In January of this year, it was reported that the real queen of Katwe, Phiona Mutesi, won a chess championship for her school in the the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships. Read story here

The Woman King 2022 ($50 million): A movie about the West African tribe of Dahomey, and the Agojie, warriors (an all female fighting unit), this film depicts the Agojie fighting for the freedom of its people, albeit the source material is a bit controversial. Read story here. This movie is not only climbing up in its box office number, it is also a fairly high acclaimed movie with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%, and an IMDB rating of 6.3/10. The movie also did well to display the beauty of Africa’s tenacity, and is a favorite amongst fans.

Hotel Rwanda 2004 ($33.9 million): An uncomfortable journey to spectate, Paul Rusesabagina is a hotel manager, who saves the lives of many helpless refugees trapped in a brutal civil war. This movie is obviously a critical masterpiece as Rotten Tomatoes has it at 91%, while IMDB has it at 81./10, the highest ratings on this list.

The Mummy 1999 ($409 million): Not particularly the most critically acclaimed movie, and its reference to African culture is questionable at best, regardless this film manages to enthrall its audience as demonstrated by its box office success, and it does borrow from the age-old myth of resurrecting mummies. Its IMDB rating is 7.1/10, while its Rotten Tomatoes score is 61%.

Black Hawk Down 2001 ($173 million): Arguably the most intense film on the list, Black Hawk Down is a story about US army rangers of around 100 personnel led by Mike Steele, who are on a mission to assassinate the two lieutenants of a brutal Somalian warlord, in the capital city of Mogadishu. These soldiers are stuck in a terrain they are unfamiliar with and are met with heavy fire from every angle. This movie has a fair IMDB rating of 7.7/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77%.

Blood Diamond 2006 ($171.7 million): A deep dive into the damage the quest for Africa’s wealth has brought about. This film is an uncomfortable journey into the experiences of helpless Africans who get caught in-between its region’s wealth and greedy corporations. Set in 1999 Sierra Leone, a man is yanked from his family and forced to work in a mine where he discovers a very precious diamond, this discovery turns his life upside down, as he soon realizes the lengths people are willing to go to get their hands on the diamond. It almost goes without saying that such a powerful story would end up being highly critically acclaimed, however, its Rotten Tomatoes score is merely 63%, but its IMDB rating is 8/10.

Coming to America 1988 ($288 million): Most likely responsible for the narrative that all African royalties speak in heavy local English accents, this comedy classic will forever remain in the heart of comedy lovers in the 90s. The film follows Prince Akeem, the heir of the fictional kingdom of Zamunda, as he searches for love in Queens, New York. Its IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings are 7.1/10 and 73% respectively.

Captain Philips 2013 ($220 million): A nail-biting motion picture, this film does a great job of heightening one’s claustrophobia. When a ship captained by Richard Philips, and headed to Kenya is held hostage by Somalian pirates, the captain finds himself playing mediator so as he attempts to talk the pirates out of murdering the entire crew. The IMDB rating of this film sits at 7.8/10, while its Rotten Tomatoes score is 93%, the highest on this list.

Black Panther 2018 ($1.344 billion): Set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, a country blessed with the earth's only vibranium reserve, this film centers around a warrior prince, blessed with superpowers from the Egyptian Panther God Bast. It is not only one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but also a film who's major selling point is the African themed cultures displayed in the movie. The movie set a huge trend after its opening and had little Caucasian children wishing they were African. Rotten Tomatoes has this movie at 96% and IMDB has it at 7.3/10.

The Lion King 1994 ($1 billion): Arguably the biggest movie to draw inspiration from Africa, this all-time classic follows the journey of Simba, a lion who is deceived into thinking he is responsible for his father’s death. This is another movie on this list with one of the most commanding box office performances ever, with its franchise earning around $3 billion in total. The 2019 remake grossed $1.66 billion alone. Rotten Tomatoes puts this movie at 93% and IMDB scores it 8.5/10. Also, there is great satisfaction in knowing that such a beautiful story is set in the Savanna plains of Africa.

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