Nigerian cinema is undoubtedly Africa’s largest movie industry in terms of value and number of movies produced per year. Its rapid growth from the 1990s and 2000s till now ensured it became the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of films produced annually. Just last year, data was released showing that Nollywood is a $3 billion industry, bigger than Hollywood by volume, and right behind India’s Bollywood.
Between the 90s and now, Nollywood has produced some great and unforgettable movies. While I agree it’s hard to choose the greatest Nigerian films of the 21st century, especially as the genres and styles of Nigerian cinema have evolved in a big way with their recent return to the big screens and international scenes, we cannot ignore the rich mix of culture, entertainment, and memorable moments and scenes that some Nigerian films have provided in the past years.
So, I am looking at top 10 Nigerian movies, not necessarily in terms of quality, story line or aesthetics, but mostly in terms of popularity, acceptance and of course memorable acting. I have chosen films that I watched and I know many people out there watched and most of us will readily remember the story line, the actors or a series of events from the films no matter how long ago we watched them.
So, here’s my list.
10. HALF OF A YELLOW SUN
“Half of a Yellow Sun” is a 2013 Nigerian historical fiction drama film directed by Biyi Bandele and based on the novel of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This film is a love story that follows two sisters who are caught up in the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war, and in a betrayal that threatens their family forever. The film starred actors from Hollywood and Nollywood; Chiwetel Ejiofor, Onyeka Onwenu, Thandi Newton, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose, and Genevieve Nnaji amongst others.
Though the movie is very new, it is making my number 10 because of the hype surrounding it. The impact the movie is making, and will make, will surely be enough to earn it a place as one of the most memorable Nigerian films even in years to come. Some friends have told me they knew little or nothing about the Nigerian civil war until they watched “Half of A Yellow Sun” but I really don’t think the movie says a lot about the civil war itself. Their experience is because we don’t get to learn enough about Nigerian history in our schools.
9. TI OLUWA NI ILE
“Ti Oluwa ni ile” which in Yoruba language translates to ‘The land belongs to God’ is a 1995 movie produced by Kareem Adepoju popularly known as “Baba Wande” and directed by Tunde Kelani of Mainframe Productions. The trilogy is about a clique of greedy land speculators who enlisted the help of a traditional chief to sell off ancestral land. This selfish act brought about great retribution upon those involved.
You might be wondering why this movie made my list but if you were a follower of Yoruba movies in the early 90’s, there’s no way you would have missed “Ti Oluwa Ni Ile”. I watched the movie, and I enjoyed it. Baba Wande was phenomenally funny and the acting was top notch.
“Domitilla” is a 1996 movie produced by Zeb Ejiro, and is basically a story of what young girls get into in the quest to survive especially in the big cities. The movie showcased greed and obsessive needs, revealing the life of average young girls and quest for survival. It was a combination of humour, empathy and emotion, with dire consequences for the girls’ actions. The movie starred Sandra Achums, Enebeli Enebuwa, Kate Henshaw, Basorge Tariah Jr, and Anne Njemanze who gave the performance of her life in the movie alongside others.
The buzz for this film was remarkable, and the word ‘Domitilla’ was on everyone’s lips even before the film was released into the market. After the movie, its influence was so strong that the word “Domitilla” became Nigerian slang for a prostitute or a whore.
No one will doubt this movie ranks amongst unforgettable Nigerian movies ever made.
7. AKI NA UKWA
“Aki na Ukwa” is a 2003 comedy film directed by Amayo Uzo Philips. This film launched the acting careers of Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze popularly called Aki and Paw Paw. The two-part film which starred Amaechi Muonagor, Chinedu Ikedieze, Osita Iheme and others chronicled the adventures of two young troublesome brothers causing disruption in their home, terrorising the people in their village and wreaking havoc at school.
This movie is surely deserving of this list as I don’t know so many people who followed Nigerian movies in early 2000’s and didn’t watch “Aki Na Ukwa”. It was hilarious, the whole family watched it, and it kick-started a whole new dimension in the comedy genre of Nigerian movies.
6. NNEKA THE PRETTY SERPENT
“Nneka the Pretty Serpent” is one of the most influential home videos to ever hit our screens in Nigeria. The 1992 movie which was produced by Okechukwu Ogunjiofor and directed by Zeb Ejiro remains a reference point for Nollywood in the 90’s. The movie gained a lot of attention in the other parts of the country especially in the South-West despite the fact that it was shot in Igbo Language and only subtitled in English. Actors like Ndidi Obi, Eucharia Anunobi, Ngozi Ezeonu and others became very popular through “Nneka The Pretty Serpent”
The movie tells the story of a mermaid disguised as human whose mission on earth was to go after any married man she fancied, using her supernatural powers to hypnotise them and eventually destroy them. It makes my list for obvious reasons – it was a good movie with pretty decent acting and unforgettable scenes.
To be continued…