Netflix has done a fantastic job of supporting regional filmmakers around the world and bringing their work to the attention of international audiences. Arabic movies have proven no exception, and there is now an impressive collection of Arabic movies on Netflix.
Whether you are looking to watch something in your own language (or practice your budding Arabic), or you are intrigued by getting to know more about Arabic culture, these films are a great way to spend an afternoon in front of the screen.
With offerings from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and beyond, these films are both entertaining and eye-opening for a western audience.
Not sure where to start? Here is a list of what we think are the 15 best Arabic movies on Netflix.
Amar’s Hand (2011)
Set in contemporary Cairo, Egypt, a woman attempts to fulfill her dead husband’s dream of building a home for their family by sending her five children out to work.
Their exploits reveal the poverty in some corners of the city, and what it takes to lift yourself up and change your life in Cairo.
Are We Done Yet (2018)
Also called Khalawees, this Egyptian movie begins when a young man is arrested for a crime that he did not commit.
His taxi driver father then embarks on a quest to convince the courts, and the media, that his son is not a villain. To do this, he will need to find the person that is responsible.
Barakah Meets Barakah (2016)
In a world with strict rules around love and marriage, a middle-class man meets a wealthy woman, who also happens to be a video blogger.
As the two struggle to meet, they also learn from one another, and start to explore the idea that Saudi Arabia was actually more liberal during their grandparents’ generation.
Offering an insider-outsider view on contemporary Egyptian society, a young man who has lived abroad for 20 years finds himself back in Egypt.
When he loses his passport, money, and pretty much everything else, he is forced to fend for himself in a society that he no longer understands.
An Hour and a Half (2012)
Set during the 2002 El Ayyat train accident, the film starts 90 minutes before the explosion, telling the stories of the different people on the train.
We then see how the drama of the day pushes their problems to a head, as they both fight to stay alive, and learn what is really important in life.
From Japan to Egypt (2017)
Yet another Egyptian offering. We follow a man who wins custody of his children back off his Japanese wife. The children return to Egypt, unprepared for what they will encounter.
A movie with a lot of heart, it addresses the challenges of intercultural marriage, and of raising children in two very different worlds.
Lion’s Heart (2013)
One of the oldest movies on this list, this action-comedy is well-worth watching. A child is kidnapped and raised in the circus to become a lion tamer.
He unexpectedly gets caught up in an underworld murder mystery, which will reveal much about his inner strength, and his past.
The Other (1999)
This film offers a bleak portrait of the Egyptian business world and a critique of greed. The film focuses on the son of a rich businessman, returning from his studies in America, so unexpectedly meets an Egyptian journalist, falls in love, and gets married.
Now inside their world of wealth, the couple discovers that the young man’s family is at the center of much of the corruption that his new wife has been trying to expose. The question then becomes, what are his family willing to do to separate the couple and prevent her from exposing them.
Sand Storm (2016)
An Israeli film delivered in Arabic, it is set in a Bedouin village in the south of Israel. The film is focused on revealing the benefits of a society that oppresses women, but also the abuses in the way that women treat each other in such a situation.
While the themes and critiques might be familiar, the first time director delivers it with a flare that makes the insights feel fresh.
Savage Raghda (2018)
In an unexpected plot scenario, when a struggling father learns that a salon is looking for a new face for its salon commercials, he dresses up as a woman to try and win the role.
Mrs Doubtfire for a modern Arabic audience, hilarity ensues as he tries to protect his double identity and win the gig.
Sheikh Jackson (2017)
Michael Jackson is popular all over the world. A young Islamic cleric in Egypt who likes to dress up as Michael and give impersonation shows is shocked by the death of his idol, and must decide what to do next.
The film brings added interest for having been investigated for blasphemy shortly after its release. But, despite heavy criticism, it was cleared by the Egyptian censorship committee.
Six Windows in the Desert (2016-2019)
A collection of short films made by the Saudi Arabian studio Telfaz11, each is designed to be thought-provoking and shine a light on important social themes such as social taboos, extremism, and the human psyche.
The films range in genre from drama to science-fiction, but they are all of excellent quality and are a great introduction to Arabic filmmaking.
The Treasure (2017)
An ambitious film set across history from the Pharaonic era onwards, we see how clerical orders have pulled the strings of power across the centuries.
It is a critique of the interplay between religion and politics, with religious leaders betraying their faith in order to win wealth and power.
Used Goods (2019)
An action flick, it starts when an international pharmaceutical organization tries to kidnap Mustafa, an Egyptian cancer and AIDS medicine researcher.
He goes undercover as a struggling salesman to try and protect his groundbreaking work from the big business that would use it to enrich themselves at the expense of the people he is trying to help.
Very Big Shot (2015)
A Lebanese comedy, we meet two drug-dealing brothers who plan to go straight, after one of the pair serves a prison sentence. But their boss is none too keen to lose them.
He convinced them to do one last job, smuggling a huge amount of drugs into Syria. Smelling a trap, they decide to double-cross him.
To Sum Up
There is no better way to dive into other cultures than to watch their cinema. Netflix is making this easier than ever as they support regional filmmakers around the world, and make their work available to a sprawling international audience.