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The Best Classic Egyptian Films to Watch

Celebrating the first Arab silver screen icons

From its earliest days, Arab cinema quickly cemented itself as a foundational cultural element in the region. But no analysis of Arab cinema is accurate with a recognition of Egypt’s contributions. 

For decades, the North African country dominated the film industry, starting as early as the 1930s. The industry has flourished, and even moved beyond Egypt’s borders, but one thing remains, and that is the glory of Egypt’s golden age. 

Whether you’re into Faten Hamama films or Omar Sharif movies – these are the best classic Egyptian films to watch.

The Nightingale’s Prayer (1934)

Directed by Henry Barakat ‘The Nightingale’s Prayer is an absolute classic. The film is based on a novel by Taha Hussein, and follows the story of a woman played by the iconic Faten Hamama, and her revenge plot (after having watched a family member murder her sister in what is described as an “honour killing”).

Cairo Station (1958)

‘Bab El Hadid’
 is considered Youssef Chahine’s crowning achievement. The film is set in Cairo’s central train station where Kinawi, a newspaper vendor, does nothing but fantasize about Hannouma, a beautiful young woman illegally selling drinks at the same station. Chahine also introduces a third character, Abu Serib (the man Hannouma is in love with). The movie, which was released in 1958, centres around Kinawi and Hannouma, her love for attention, and his obsession with women.

The Land (1969)

This film is yet another one of Youssef Chahine’s masterpieces. Starring Mahmoud El Maligy and Nagwa Ibrahim, the film is based on a novel by Abdel Rahman Al Sharqawi. The film, which tells a tale of classicism through conflicts between poor people and their landlords in rural Egypt, even made it to the 1970 Cannes Film Festival. 

The Beginning and The End (1960)

No list regarding the Egyptian Golden Age is complete without a film with Omar Sharif in it. ‘The Beginning and The End’ is one of his finest. The film gave viewers a deep look into the lives of Egyptian families. Sharif plays the youngest brother in a family of four, who aspires to become a police officer after his father dies. 

The Sin (1965)

Directed by legendary Egyptian director, Henry Barakat, the film stars Faten Hamama. She plays a poor peasant who loses her son and family after being raped by a guard. She goes on to become a symbol of oppression after her death. Thanks to her incredible performance and the story it told, the film was hailed by critics, it went on to be nominated for the Palme D’Or at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.

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