Lebanon has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which is reflected in its cinema. Lebanese cinema has been flourishing since the 1950s, with filmmakers creating works that reflect the country’s complex history, society, and culture.
In recent years, Lebanese films have gained international acclaim and recognition at major film festivals.
Some of the best Lebanese movies have explored a wide range of themes, including war, politics, family dynamics, romance, and identity.
Best Lebanese Movies
These films offer unique insights into the lives and experiences of the Lebanese people and showcase the country’s artistic talent and cultural diversity.
Some of the most notable Lebanese filmmakers include Ziad Doueiri, Nadine Labaki, and Philippe Aractingi, who have all made significant contributions to Lebanese cinema.
Whether you are a film enthusiast or simply curious about Lebanese culture, these films are definitely worth watching.
1. Capernaum (2018)
Capernaum is a Lebanese drama film directed by Nadine Labaki. The film tells the story of Zain, a 12-year-old boy who lives in the slums of Beirut with his family.
Zain, who is already serving a five-year sentence in juvenile detention, is suing his parents for giving birth to him and not being able to take care of him.
The film explores themes of poverty, family, and survival, and highlights the harsh realities faced by children in poverty-stricken areas.
It also sheds light on the plight of refugees in Lebanon, as Zain’s family is made up of undocumented immigrants.
Capernaum premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, where it won the Jury Prize, and went on to receive critical acclaim and several award nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
The film’s title is a reference to the biblical city of Capernaum, which was also known as “the city of Jesus” and is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
2. Heaven Without People (2017)
“Heaven Without People” is a Lebanese drama film directed by Lucien Bourjeily, released in 2017. The film follows a Lebanese Christian family who gather at their ancestral home in the mountains to celebrate Easter.
As the family members start to arrive and tensions rise, secrets are revealed, leading to a series of explosive confrontations.
The film explores themes of family dynamics, religion, and identity in contemporary Lebanon.
It received critical acclaim for its insightful portrayal of the complexities of familial relationships and the challenges of maintaining a sense of community and belonging in a country torn by political and religious divisions.
The film was screened at several international film festivals and won several awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Beirut International Film Festival.
3. West Beirut (1998)
West Beirut is a 1998 Lebanese drama film written and directed by Ziad Doueiri.
The film is set in 1975, during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War, and tells the story of two teenagers, Tarek and Omar, who live in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of West Beirut.
Tarek, Omar, and their friend May are all excited about the start of summer vacation and plan to make the most of their time off.
However, their plans are disrupted when the war breaks out and they find themselves caught in the middle of the conflict.
The film depicts the chaos and confusion of the early days of the war, as well as the resilience and spirit of the people of Beirut. It also explores the themes of friendship, adolescence, and identity in a time of crisis.
West Beirut received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the François Chalais Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. The film is considered a landmark in Lebanese cinema and is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made about the Lebanese Civil War.
4. The Insult (2017)
“The Insult” is a Lebanese drama film directed by Ziad Doueiri. It tells the story of a personal dispute between a Lebanese Christian named Tony and a Palestinian refugee named Yasser that escalates into a national legal case that divides the nation.
The film begins with an argument between Tony and Yasser, who are working on a construction site in Beirut.
When Yasser insults Tony, the latter reacts violently, leading to a physical altercation.
The incident sets off a chain of events that results in Tony being taken to court for assault, where the case becomes a national sensation due to the underlying tension between Lebanese Christians and Palestinian refugees.
As the trial progresses, the personal animosity between Tony and Yasser intensifies, and the case becomes a symbol of the deep-seated divisions in Lebanese society. The film explores themes of identity, nationalism, and the legacy of the Lebanese Civil War.
“The Insult” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2017 and went on to receive critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
5. Caramel (2007)
“Caramel” is a 2007 Lebanese-French drama film directed by Nadine Labaki. The film follows the lives of five Lebanese women as they navigate their personal and professional relationships. The title of the film comes from a sugaring paste used in Middle Eastern hair removal.
The film was critically acclaimed and received numerous awards, including the Audience Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the Best Narrative Feature award at the Aspen Filmfest.
It was also Lebanon’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
In addition to directing the film, Nadine Labaki also starred in the lead role as Layale, a beauty salon owner who struggles with her attraction to a married man.
The film’s ensemble cast includes Yasmine Al Massri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisèle Aouad, Adel Karam, and Sihame Haddad.
6. Under the Bombs (2007)
“Under the Bombs” is a 2007 Lebanese drama film directed by Philippe Aractingi. The film takes place in 2006, during the 34-day Israeli bombardment of Lebanon.
The story follows Zeina (Nada Abou Farhat), a Shiite Muslim woman from Beirut, who returns to her hometown in the south of Lebanon to search for her son and sister, whom she lost contact with during the war.
The film was shot on location during the actual conflict, giving it a realistic and authentic feel. It explores the devastating effects of war on ordinary people and their struggle to survive in a country torn apart by violence.
Zeina’s journey through the war-torn landscape is a powerful portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
“Under the Bombs” received critical acclaim and was selected as the Lebanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Academy Awards. It is a poignant and moving film that provides a unique perspective on the human toll of war.
7. Very Big Shot (2015)
“Very Big Shot” is a Lebanese crime-comedy film directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, released in 2015. The film follows the story of three brothers, Ziad, Joe and Jad, who run a small drug-dealing business in Beirut.
When they get caught by the police, they decide to use the money they have saved to produce a movie as a cover-up for their illegal activities.
The film is a satirical take on the Lebanese film industry and the country’s political and social issues. It explores themes of corruption, crime, and the struggle for survival in a society plagued by instability and economic hardship.
“Very Big Shot” received critical acclaim for its clever writing, sharp humor, and well-developed characters.
The film was screened at several international film festivals and won several awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Beirut International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Festival du Film Francophone d’Angoulême.
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9. The Kite (2003)
The Kite is a 2003 Afghan drama film directed by Haji Gulistan Mirzaei and produced by Siddiq Barmak. The film tells the story of an Afghan boy named Amir who dreams of winning a kite-fighting tournament with his best friend Hassan.
Set in Kabul in the 1970s, the film explores the themes of friendship, betrayal, and redemption in the face of adversity.
Amir comes from a wealthy Pashtun family, while Hassan is a Hazara, a minority group in Afghanistan that faces discrimination and persecution. Despite their differences, the two boys share a deep bond, with Amir seeing Hassan as a brother.
One day, while flying kites in a tournament, Hassan is brutally attacked and sexually assaulted by a group of bullies.
Amir witnesses the incident but does not intervene, leading to feelings of guilt and shame. As the political situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly unstable, Amir and his family flee to the United States.
Years later, Amir is given the opportunity to return to Afghanistan and confront his past, including his betrayal of Hassan. The film explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the power of friendship and forgiveness.
The Kite was Afghanistan’s first entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won several awards at international film festivals. It is considered a powerful and moving depiction of life in Afghanistan and the human impact of war and political instability.
10. Parisienne (2015)
“Parisienne” is a French drama film directed by Danielle Arbid. The film follows the story of Lina, a young Lebanese woman who moves to Paris in the 1990s to study literature and escape the conflict in Lebanon.
Lina struggles to adjust to life in a new country, but finds solace in the city’s vibrant nightlife scene. She meets a diverse group of people, including a successful playwright named Jean and his circle of artistic friends, who introduce her to the city’s bohemian culture.
As Lina begins to find her place in Paris, she also becomes involved in a tumultuous romantic relationship with a nightclub owner named Nassim, who is struggling with his own personal demons.
The film explores themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and the challenges of navigating love and desire in a new place.
“Parisienne” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and received positive reviews from critics for its nuanced portrayal of the immigrant experience.
The film was also praised for its performances, particularly that of actress Manal Issa, who plays the lead role of Lina.
3 Characteristics of Lebanese Movies
Lebanese cinema has a rich history that spans several decades, and it has produced a diverse range of films that reflect the country’s culture, society, and history. Here are three characteristics that are often associated with Lebanese movies:
Realism: Lebanese cinema is known for its realistic portrayal of life in the country, which often includes a focus on social and political issues.
Many Lebanese filmmakers aim to provide an authentic representation of the country’s culture and society, while also exploring themes related to identity, memory, and conflict.
Multilingualism: Lebanon is a multilingual country, and this linguistic diversity is often reflected in Lebanese cinema. Many films incorporate Arabic, French, and English dialogue, and some films also feature other languages spoken in Lebanon, such as Armenian.
Diasporic themes: Due to Lebanon’s history of emigration and displacement, many Lebanese films explore themes related to the diaspora experience.
These films often explore the tension between identity and belonging, and they may also touch on themes related to memory, nostalgia, and the search for a sense of home.
3 Reasons To Watch Lebanese Movies
Cultural Exploration: Lebanese movies offer a unique opportunity to explore the culture, society, and history of Lebanon.
They provide a window into the country’s rich and diverse heritage, as well as its complex political and social issues. Watching Lebanese movies can help you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the country’s people, traditions, and way of life.
Artistic Talent: Lebanese cinema is known for its artistic and creative talent. Many Lebanese filmmakers have gained international recognition for their innovative and thought-provoking works.
Watching Lebanese movies can expose you to a different style of filmmaking and storytelling, and introduce you to some of the most talented filmmakers in the region.
Insightful Perspectives: Lebanese movies often tackle sensitive and challenging issues, such as war, religion, and identity.
They offer unique and insightful perspectives on these topics, and can help you broaden your understanding of the world. Lebanese movies can also be deeply moving and thought-provoking, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer.
Best Lebanese Movies – Wrap Up
Lebanon has a vibrant and diverse film industry, producing movies that touch upon various themes, ranging from war and conflict to family and social issues. Here are some of the best Lebanese movies of all time:
West Beirut (1998) directed by Ziad Doueiri
Caramel (2007) directed by Nadine Labaki
The Insult (2017) directed by Ziad Doueiri
Capernaum (2018) directed by Nadine Labaki
Where Do We Go Now? (2011) directed by Nadine Labaki
Ktir Salbe: The Movie (2012) directed by Shady Hanna
The Kite (2003) directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag
Bosta (2005) directed by Philippe Aractingi
Very Big Shot (2015) directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
Ghadi (2013) directed by Amin Dora
These movies have been critically acclaimed and have also won various awards at international film festivals, making them great representations of Lebanese cinema.