10 Best Arabic Movies With English Subtitles
Since the 1920s, Egypt has produced the 10 best Arabic movies with English subtitles. Through the years, however, Arab cinema has expanded to other Arabic-speaking countries and those in the Diaspora have produced powerful films reflecting identity, societal ills and daily struggles.
"Cairo Central Station" Youssef Chahine is perhaps Egypt’s most prolific director, having directed more than 40 films on disturbing topics such as schizophrenia and sexual frustration. Released in 1958, "Cairo Central Station" is one of the best Arabic movies for its portrayal of a newspaper seller obsessed with a beautiful lemonade seller who rebuffs his love, driving him into madness.
"The Yacoubian Building" Based on Alaa Al Aswany’s controversial novel of the same title, "The Yacoubian Building" is one of the best Arabic movies in recent times for its scathing depiction of Egyptian society post-1952 coup that installed Gamal Abdel Nasser as Egyptian president. The film is a microcosm of Egypt’s poverty and a metaphor for its urbanization, where the wealthy reside in the building’s European inspired apartments while the rooftop’s storage rooms are converted into homes for the lower class.
"Chit Chat on the Nile" The adaptation of Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s novel is set during Nasser’s socialism, reflecting the decadence of Egyptian society as both rich and poor are disillusioned by government corruption and find refuge in smoking hashish on a houseboat on the Nile.
"Captain Abu Raed" Amin Matalka belongs to the new breed of directors belonging to the Diaspora. "Captain Abu Raed" won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and is one of the best Arabic movies in recent years for its simple but deeply moving story of a friendship between a boy and Abu Raed, a janitor at Amman’s International Airport.
"Amreeka" Palestinian-American film director Cherien Dabis' first feature film documents the lives of a Muslim Palestinian mother and son as they emigrate from the West Bank to a Chicago suburb shortly after the Iraq invasion in 2003. It also reflects the stereotype and paranoia encountered by Muslims post-9/11.
"Wedding in Galilee" Michel Khleif’s film was awarded the International Critics Prize at Cannes. The 1987 film is based on a simple premise-acquiring a wedding permit. A Palestinian father succumbs to pressure from the Israeli military governor for him and his officers to attend the wedding in exchange for waving curfew in the territory. The day is marred with comedic incidents, including a runaway horse, but tensions mount in the evening when opinions clash.
"A Prefect Day" The film is a dramatic exploration of Beirut after the Lebanese Civil War. Directors Joana Hadji Thomas and Khalil Joreige depict a significant day in the life of Claudia and her son, Malek, as they deal with their own loss. She mourns for her missing husband who was kidnapped during the war, while he mourns for his ex-girlfriend all in the background of Beirut's vibrant nightclubs, traffic and memories of war.
"Rana’s Wedding" Shot in parts of Palestine and its checkpoints, the film illustrates the tribulations of holding a simple wedding in an occupied territory. The film’s protagonist is a young woman who only has ten hours to marry and must hurdle the barriers of roadblocks, underpaid and overworked government workers, Israeli soldiers and Palestinian stone-throwers.
"Paradise Now" Hany Abu-Assad's Golden Globe-winning film is the first Palestinian movie to be nominated for an Academy Award. This is one of the best Arabic movies for its alternative portrayal of the complexities and choices in the final days in the lives of two suicide bombers, Said and Khaled.
"Wanderers of the Desert" This film is part one of a trilogy by Tunisian film director Nacer Khemir. The film is notable for its beautiful cinematography and the emergence of magic and realism in the lives of the children in a small village school in the African desert and hailed one of the best Arabic films ever produced.