Classic Nollywood Movies
Nollywood, Nigeria's dynamic film industry, has captivated audiences worldwide with its rich blend of culture, traditions, and storytelling and educated the global community on our culture. As the industry has undoubtedly evolved and improved over the years, it's essential to take a moment to revisit the legendary movies that laid its foundation; Classic Nollywood Movies.
These naija classics made our childhoods exciting and shaped a lot of the culture of their time. So, grab some popcorn because we're about to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with 10 must-watch classic Nollywood movies.
1. Living in Bondage
Released in 1992, this groundbreaking Igbo film directed by Chris Obi Rapu and starring Kenneth Okonkwo, Nnenna Nwabueze, Kanayo O. Kanayo, and other veteran actors, is a cornerstone for Nollywood. The movie follows the story of an ambitious young man, played by Kenneth Okonkwo, who joins a cult in a quest for wealth and power. He sacrifices his wife, Nnenna Nwabueze, only to find himself haunted by her ghost, living a life that embodies the film's title. The story was revisited in 2019 with a sequel, "Living in Bondage: Breaking Free," directed by Ramsey Nouah.
"Saworoide" (1999) is a political drama that delves into the intricacies of Yoruba kingship. The film portrays a king who loses his crown due to his insatiable greed and the ensuing chaos that unfolds. Directed by the prolific Tunde Kelani, who has produced an impressive 14 films between the late '90s and early '20s, this movie is just one gem in a treasure trove of works.
Among Kelani's other notable films include "Ti Oluwa Nile" (1994), exploring the spirituality of deities in Yoruba culture. His "Oleku" (1977), captured a fresh perspective on love within the Yoruba community, while "Koseegbe" (1995), based on a novel by Adebayo Faleti, focused on an intelligent customs officer who takes a stand against corruption, leading him into direct conflict with formidable adversaries.
Kelani's films are not just entertainment; they are cultural artifacts that offer deep insights into Yoruba culture and the broader Nigerian society. His storytelling prowess makes him a timeless treasure in Nollywood's legacy
3. "Nneka the Pretty Serpent" (1992)
Directed by Zeb Ejiro and produced by Okechukwu Ogunjiofor, this Igbo-language film had veteran Nollywood actors like Ndidi Obi as Nneka and Eucharia Anunobi as the mysterious woman. The movie was a commercial hit and a career-launcher for its cast. It explored African folklore, following a woman who sought a child from a river deity. The story then shifts to Nneka, a seductive young woman who ruins marriages for her own gain. The film blends traditional African folklore with modern drama, making it a significant cultural piece of that time, in the Nigerian movie industry. A sequel was released in 2020 “Nneka the pretty serpent” , keeping one of the most interesting Nollywood movies' legacy alive
4. "Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story" (1995)
Directed by Amaka Igwe and starring veteran Nollywood actors like Nkem Owoh, Francis Duru, and Anne Njemanze, this naija film follows Ahanna Okolo, a young man who turns to crime after family tragedies. As he rises in the underworld, he faces betrayal and legal troubles. The film tackles pressing social issues, such as poverty and the allure of criminal activities as a means to escape it, offering a nuanced look at the complexities of life's choices.
5. Aki na Ukwa
"Aki na Ukwa" is a 2002 Nollywood comedy film that became a cultural phenomenon in Nigeria and beyond. Directed by Amayo Uzo Philips, the movie stars Osita Iheme (Pawpaw) and Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki) as mischievous brothers who wreak havoc in their community and their school. The film is a laugh riot from start to finish but also subtly touches on the challenges of parenting and education in Nigeria.
It was one of the movies that catapulted the duo of Aki and Pawpaw to stardom, making them household names in both the Nigerian movie industry and the African film industry at large. Known for their unique chemistry, comedic timing, and pint-sized stature, they have featured in numerous films that often portray them as mischievous or clever individuals dealing with various life challenges. Some of their other interesting Nollywood movies include "Okwu na uka" "Baby Police," and "Tom and Jerry, Back From America, Reggae Boys, 2 Rats, " and many more.
6. Osuofia in London
"Osuofia in London," directed by Kingsley Ogoro in 2003, is a comedy-drama that follows the adventures of Osuofia, a hapless hunter from a Nigerian village. When he learns he's inherited property from his late brother in London, he travels abroad to claim his fortune.
The film masterfully blends humor and drama, offering a glimpse into the cultural contrasts between rural Nigeria and cosmopolitan London. It was one of the early Naija films that took the Nigerian movie industry global.
"Jenifa," a comedy-drama directed by Muhydeen S. Ayinde, became an instant classic upon its release in 2008. This naija film stars Funke Akindele as Suliat, a local hairdresser who rebrands herself as "Jenifa" when she moves to Lagos for higher education. Eager to fit into the glamorous lifestyle of her new environment, Jenifa goes to great lengths to be accepted by the "cool kids," often with hilarious and sometimes disastrous results. Funke Akindele's portrayal of Jenifa was so compelling that it led to a successful spin-off TV series, "Jenifa's Diary," which has garnered a massive following.
8. October 1st
"October 1st," directed by the acclaimed Kunle Afolayan and released in 2014, is a psychological thriller that takes us back to Nigeria just before its independence from British rule in 1960. Set in a small town in Western Nigeria, the film follows Danladi Waziri, a local police detective played by Sadiq Daba, who is assigned to solve a series of female murders plaguing the community. The catch? He must solve the case before Nigeria's Independence Day on October 1st. This naija film is more than just a thriller; it's a thought-provoking nollywood movie that challenges the audience to consider the lingering effects of colonialism and the complexities of independence.
9. King Of Boys
"King of Boys," directed by Kemi Adetiba, this naija film is a riveting political thriller that explores the complexities of power and corruption in Nigeria. Centred around businesswoman Alhaja Eniola Salami, portrayed by Sola Sobowale, the film breaks down her ambitious political aspirations and shady past. With a star-studded cast including Adesua Etomi and Reminisce, the movie offers a multi-layered narrative filled with twists, making it a very interesting Nollywood movie that captivates from start to finish.
10 Phone Swap
"Phone Swap," a 2012 comedy-drama by Kunle Afolayan, blends Igbo and Yoruba cultures in a tale of mistaken identity. Businessman Akin and fashion designer Mary accidentally switch phones at the airport, leading them to swap lives. Akin ends up in a humble home in Owerri, while Mary enjoys luxury in Abuja. Forced to navigate each other's worlds, they eventually find love amidst the chaos
These movies have left unforgettable marks on the world of cinema. They have entertained, educated, sparked important conversatios and also contributed to the growth of the Nigerian film Industry. Nollywood has everything in store, whether you're a fan of drama, comedy, historical, traditional or Romantic movies. These classics offer a diverse range of storytelling that continues to echo with viewers, making them timeless treasures in Nollywood's legacy.