Happy Valentine’s Day from AFMI! Whether you have a valentine this year or not, today’s the day to celebrate love and romance. What better way to do that than to watch a movie? Plan a night with a loved one and watch one of these romantic Arab films.
Hedi (2016) dir. Mohamed Ben Attia
Tunisia / 88 min
Hedi, a young Tunisian man, is going through a bit of an existential crisis. His mother has decided on an arranged marriage for him, he’s unhappy with his job, and has shut himself down socially. Right before his wedding, he meets the free-spirited and independent Rim, falling for her. With vibrant performances, the film is a sweet tale of emotional liberation.
Gaza mon amour (2020) dir. Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Palestine / 87 min
Issa, a 60-year-old fisherman, has never had the courage to tell Siham he’s in love with her. When he finds a phallic sculpture of the Greek god Apollo in his fishing net (inspired by the real life incident in Gaza) he believes his luck may have turned around. The Nasser brothers set out to make a film depicting ordinary love in their native Gaza, ensuring us by the end that no matter how ridiculous it can get, life always goes on.
The River of Love (1960) dir. Ezzel Dine Zulficar
Egypt / 140 min
An adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina from Egypt’s Golden Age. Nawal is pressured to accept the Basha’s marriage proposal to save her brother. Years into her miserable marriage, she soon finds herself falling for Khalid, a military officer. Boosted by the pairing of Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama, then a real-life couple, it delivers on the classic love story we all know.
Barakah Meets Barakah (2016) dir. Mahmoud Sabbagh
Saudi Arabia / 88 min
Saudi Arabia’s first romantic comedy! Laid-back civil servant Barakah and wealthy social media influencer Bibi meet and strike up a romance, but finding any location to meet is a struggle due to Saudi Arabia’s strict social conventions. The two are determined to make their relationship work.
Marock (2005) dir. Laïla Marrakchi
Morocco / 100 min
Carefree and headstrong Muslim teen Rita and young Jewish boy Youri fall in love in 90s Casablanca. Their coupling has no one happy, least of all Rita’s conservative brother, but the youths can’t help but rebel. Controversial for its depiction of sexual and societal taboos, the ultimate message of the film is that love transcends tradition.
When Monaliza Smiled (2012) dir. Fadi Haddad
Jordan / 95 min
At her new job, Monaliza, a young Jordanian woman in Amman, falls in love with Hamdi, an Egyptian journalist. She is rendered helpless because of how the people in her life view her feelings for a foreigner. The film is modest, gentle, and filled with your favorite rom-com clichés.
Bitter Orange (2007) dir. Bouchra Ijork
Morocco / 120 min
In this made-for-TV movie, Souadia lives an unexciting life until she encounters Amin, a police officer, next to an orange tree. Despite her deepening love, the officer ends up marrying someone else. Considered a classic by many Moroccans, especially for its love of Moroccan culture and its story, the film is a tragic romance not for the faint of heart.
Rumor of Love (1960) dir. Fatin Abdel Wahab
Egypt / 90 min
Another 1960 Egyptian film with Omar Sharif, Hussein is a bumbling young man desperately trying to court Samiha, the girl he is in love with. But Samiha’s interests lie with another man. With the help of her father, Hussein comes up a plan to make her fall for him, but things don’t go as planned.
Breaking Fast (2020) dir. Mike Mosallam
USA / 92 min
Set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood, this romantic comedy follows Mo, a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak. When an All-American guy named Kal offers to join him in his nightly Iftars – the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan – meal after meal, the two start to discover they have more in common than meets the eye. Make sure you check out our interview with Mike Mosallam as well our recent conversation with the cast and crew of Breaking Fast on YouTube!
Check out our list of romantic Arab films on Letterboxd and add them to your watchlist.
So what are you in the mood for? A romcom or a drama? Choose one of the romantic Arab films above and fulfill your hunger for either. If there’s any more films you’d want to be on here, leave us a comment.