For decades, Egypt has been the pinnacle of cinema in the region—and it’s shown no signs of slowing down. Yes, film scenes are burgeoning from Tunisia to the UAE, but the nation’s film industry is undeniably the most prosperous to date, with productions starting as early as the 1930s.
We’re all familiar with Egypt’s golden era: a timeless repertoire brought to life by a generation of prized actors from Omar Sharif to Faten Hamama and marked by legendary directors like Salah Abu Seif, the godfather of Neorealist cinema, and Youssef Chahine’s 58-year-long career.
But if you’re not a fan of the classics, need not to worry. The North African country never ceased from birthing new talents who are behind some of the most-acclaimed films of the decade, snagging international nominations and prizes at Egypt’s renowned Cairo Film Festival.
Here we’ve rounded up the best to watch.
The Guest (2018)
Starring the respectable Egyptian actor Khaled El Sawy and promising talent Ahmed Malek, the film follows an Islamo-Christian family that welcomes a young man for dinner only to see tensions arise and the events develop in a direction that no one expects.
The Treasure (2017)
Starring the sensational Mohamed Ramadan and Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, The Treasure is a must-watch period piece. The historic drama sheds light on Egypt’s three major epochs: the time of the pharaohs, the Ottoman Empire, and its modern-day era.
The Egyptian film takes place in late autumn 2013 during the curfew in Egypt, starring Elham Shahin and Amina Khalil. Curfew tells the story of Faten, who gets released from prison after 20 years to find her only daughter, Leila, unable to overcome her past.
Savage Raghda (2018)
If you’re into Ramez Galal’s comedies, you will not want to miss Savage Raghda. The film sees the actor, starring alongside Riham Haggag, play a single father, desperate to support his son.
The coming-of-age teen drama tells the story of two social media obsessed, carefree sisters, Rabab and Souad, as they experiment with makeup, seduction and intimacy while growing up in a conservative society. Ayten Amin’s Cannes 2020 selected film was shot in a small Egyptian town and features an entire cast of nonprofessional actors.
The Blue Elephant 2 (2019)
If you loved the first part of the twisted thriller, the second instalment of The Blue Elephant will have you even more hooked. Karim Abdel Aziz returns in the role of Dr. Yehia, whose life is turned upside down when a new inmate in the psychiatric hospital prophesies that the death of his entire family is only three days away.
I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face (2020)
Sameh Alaa’s film I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face made history last year becoming the first Egyptian film to win a Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. The 15-minute short follows a young man named Adam as he tries to reconcile with his girlfriend after 82 days of separation.
Sheikh Jackson (2017)
If you haven’t yet watched Amr Salama’s award-winning film, Sheikh Jackson, you’re missing out. The film tells the story of an Islamic cleric, whose faith is put to question after the death of his idol, Michael Jackson.
The Island 2 (2014)
Ahmed El Sakka and Hend Sabry return in the second part of Egyptian director Sherif Arafa’s action-packed thriller The Island. The film sees El Sakka’s character Mansour El Hefny return to El Gezira after 10 years of imprisonment to find that things have changed and he must fight to get back what was his.
Starring Nelly Karim and young actor Ahmed Malek, the film follows a number of pro-and anti-Muslim brotherhood demonstrators who are brought together in a police truck during the turmoil that followed the ousting of former president Morsi from power.