The five most famous movies you never knew were shot in Kenya…

I love movie weekends especially when I’ve got no local friends to keep me socialized or nowhere to hang out for fun. Saturday night is my prime movie time and I’ve enjoyed watching lots of fabulous movies from across the globe but a couple of months ago, a Kenyan colleague asked if am aware of some Hollywood-themed movies shot in Kenya. Since I wasn’t aware of any, I really doubted him. Ever since then, he’s been bringing in dozens of fabulous movies shot in Kenya that merited worldwide recognition.

Given its unique location tagged by the impressive terrains and climate, Kenya has over the decades attracted notable Holywood actors and actresses whose movies have portrayed to the world how extraordinary Kenya is. These are the most famous movies shot in Kenya which you should check out:

1. The Constant Gardener

This 2005 drama, mystery, and romance film features Justin Quayle a British Diplomat who lost his wife Tessa an activist under mysterious circumstances. After being frustrated by the sloppiness of detectives, Justin decides to make his own probes to find out the truth behind his wife’s brutal death. Part of the movie was shot in Kibera slums near Nairobi and in the northern part of Kenya near Lake Turkana where Tessa was murdered but the conspiracies surrounding her death prompt Justin to risk his life traveling three continents in a definite search for the truth. The movie was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and many other international honors. 

2. Out of Africa


Based on the autobiographical book by Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa is a 1985 movie about a Danish aristocrat Karen Blixen who moves to Kenya with her husband Bor Blixen and the couple establish a large coffee plantation. After Bor becomes unfaithful through his constant business trips, Karen develops emotions for big game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton and the new pair enjoys incredible Kenyan wild safaris. Karen realizes that Denys prefers living a moderate life of the wild compared to her high-end lifestyle. Subsequently, Karen adapts to the African culture and lifestyles amidst the hardships of managing the coffee farm. Some scenes were shot near Ngong Hills in Nairobi and in Shaba National Reserve in northern Kenya. The movie won seven Academy Awards and three Golden Globes Awards.

3. Nowhere in Africa


Released in 2001, Nowhere in Africa is a biographical drama about a Jewish family from Germany who emigrates shortly before the Second World War in the 1930’s. They end up settling in Kenya and later set up a farm but some family members find their new life awkward and things in their native Germany are getting worse. This makes their return an impossibility and their only option is to adapt to their newfound life in Africa. Nowhere in Africa has won accolades from German Film Awards, Bavarian Film Awards, and Academy Awards. It’s setting makes every viewer conclude that “Sometimes home is where you least expect it”!

4. Born Free


Though a sixties movie, this is for those who love watching adventure dramas in the wild. The movie is set in Serengeti national park where English game warden George Adamson and his wife, Joy Adamson kill two lions after they threaten villagers but later adopt their three orphaned cubs. Later on, two mature lions are sent to a zoo in the Netherlands, but the youngest Elsa stays and is subsequently blamed for causing an elephant stampede in the next village. The couple gets into despair as the head warden John Kendall directs that Elsa should either be released into the wilds or sent to the zoo. The movie’s dramatic set up made one viewer to observe: “The film brings you the atmosphere of the great African wildlife on its last glorious days” and according to The Times Digital Archives, Born Free was among the most successful movies at the British box office in 1966. In addition, it won several accolades from Academy Awards, Golden Globe and Academy Awards.

5. The White Maasai


This is an interesting 2005 drama and romance film about Carola a Swiss on a holiday vacation in Kenya with her boyfriend Stefan. While on vacation, she abandons Stefan for a Masai warrior Lemalian. Difficulties set in as she must get used to Maasai culture and tradition including food and clothing. Another challenge was her new lover’s attitude towards women as is the norm in Maasai way of life. Anyway, Carola’s new life is facilitated by the generous Maasai who welcomes her into their tribe. She later sells her shop in Switzerland to fully settle in with Lemalian. The movie nicely blends European and African cultural perspectives. It won several accolades at the Bavarian Film Awards and at Bangkok International Film Festival.

Many other famous movies shot in Kenya like The White Mischief, Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, Gorillas in the Mist, Big Cat Diary, Tomb Raider II Series and King Solomon’s Mines, have also gained a considerable attention around the globe. Together these great films help viewers to appreciate and acknowledge Kenya’s astounding natural beauty plus the unique cultures.

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