Full of socially sensitive topics and characters on the verge of criminal activities, Jamaican movies have always tried to give the audience a realistic picture of what was going on in their country. Realistic, often difficult and atmospheric, with excellent character portrayals, these movies bring us closer to this interesting country in the Caribbean.
Even though its cinematography is not very rich, it gives us an excellent insight into Jamaican culture and tradition, since its movies are often closely related to the situation in the country This is the list of the 12 best Jamaican movies of all time.
The Harder They Come (1972)
This crime drama follows the story of a young Jamaican man who dreams of becoming a successful Reggae star. It is one of the most influential and famous Jamaican movies and one of the most important for the Caribbean.
Ivanhoe “Ivan” leaves his rural village to find prospects and a better future in Kingston. While waiting for his big musical breakthrough, he discovers corruption and bribe among record producers and drug dealers they are connected to. Ivan finds himself in a series of unwanted and challenging situations that he will have to find a way to deal with.
Third World Cup (1999)
Another influential Jamaican movie, this thriller takes us to Kingston and introduces us to Capone, a policeman who comes back to his home town and joins a group of officers who are fighting against organised crime in the city.
He immediately becomes involved in a gun smuggling operation that might be connected to one of the most notorious gang leaders, Oney. Capone finds out that it is not only Kingston’s criminal milieu that’s dangerous but also that his old crew is involved in this operation. Capone will have to choose and decide which side to take, his new colleagues’ or his old friends’.
Dancehall Queen (1997)
Street vendor Marcia tries to get by in Kingston’s ghetto, surrounded by all kinds of dangers and situations she needs to find a way out. Her daughter is being chased by a sugar daddy who has been supporting her family and her brother’s life is endangered by the threats from a local criminal.
When things spiral out of control, their patron decides to back out and her brothers break down under pressure, so everything falls on Marcia’s back. She will try and find refugee in a dancehall near the place she spends every day vending different types of merchandise.
This comedy drama shows us a realistic picture of Jamaican life in the 1970s with its authentic characters and culture. The main character in this movie is the real life rocker Horsemouth who is portrayed as living with his actual wife and kids in their own home.
Horsemouth decides to start a business selling records, but things change their course after a group of gangsters steal his bike. He soon gathers a group of friends and makes a plan that includes getting his bike back, but only as the beginning of his idea to end the gangsters’ reign of terror and bring back peace and justice to the people of Kingston.
One Love (2003)
Kassa, an open minded Rastafarian meets and falls in love with a serious gospel singer Serena when they both apply for a music contest. Serena’s upbringing is traditional and strict and her pastor father forbids her to see him and marry one of his church members.
Kassa has more problems than the ones with Serena, since the record boss who is organising the concert, wants Kassa’s band to sign to his label on his own terms. Kassa’s band will have to make all their efforts and fight back to try and soften the manager’s heavy tactics.
This interesting drama centres on a young American married couple whose plane unexpectedly lands in Jamaica. They are rescued by a fisherman who takes them to the authorities who immediately make up a plan about the plane crash.
They involve the CIA in the matter, accusing them of drug and arms smuggling, only to make their upcoming elections more interesting and controversial and gain popularity. This movie has a cult status in Jamaica and it is known for its fast pace and especially an excellent soundtrack following Bob Marley’s songs.
Smile Orange (1976)
This satire might seem politically incorrect today, but at the time it was filmed and aired it gained a lot of success and received a cult status. It explores the tourism industry in the Caribbean and tries to show the dark part of this lucrative business.
It is based on a stage play directed by Trevor Rhone and told through the point of view of Ringo Smith, a hotel waiter, hustler and con man, who is trying to exploit the manipulators he gets in touch with every day.
Better Mus’ Come (2011)
This drama shows us the days around the political factions in 1970s Jamaica who decide to support criminal gangs in order to enforce their policies and advance their political agendas. It was based on true events, the story of the Green Bay Massacre where the government finally
caught these gangs and wiped them out.
Street gangs, violence and guns, this movie depicts these times pretty well and gives us an insight into the time when Jamaica took on a violent turn and uncovered all these secret bands that caused problems in their cities.
Kingston Paradise (2013)
Rocksy is a small time hustler whose life problems force him to choose a crime life, despite his girlfriend’s pleas for a calm and peaceful life. But their dreams for a better life are too strong and this will lead them to commit a crime that will change their lives forever.
This is a universal story of poverty and despair, showing us situations people find themselves in when they don’t have anything else to fight for.
It was shot in the streets of Kingston and it showed a somewhat darker and more pessimistic side of this city, along with desperate situations that people must endure or they might succumb to a life of crime and reckless acts, only to get what they deserve.
This sports drama tells the story of Akeem Sharp who might become Jamaica’s next big track-and-field sensation. He hopes to make it big and get the opportunity to move to the United States and find his mother who moved there to support her family by working illegally for over a decade.
But problems at home will completely change his plans and he will have to overcome all those struggles because if he doesn’t, it might be the end of his career. His own family is weighing him down, his volatile father and good for nothing brother who wanted to be part of his running career only to enhance his possible scam.
Black Mother (2018)
This important documentary brings the story of Jamaica in general, its beauty and people and introduces us to everything we need to know about this interesting and beautiful country, from its red districts to its wonderful landscape. This is a loving ode to Jamaica, but it doesn’t hide its darkest parts, too.
The story is about the country’s current state, the possibilities for people who were born and raised there and it talks about everything related to it, such as health problems, physical violence, Rastafarianism, relationships etc. It is shot in their dialect and it might be a bit difficult to follow it at the beginning, due to its specific pronunciation and tone.
This is the story of two friends who grow up together on the notorious and dangerous streets of Kingston. With great dreams about moving to the United States, Wayne and BIggs are more than acquainted with Kingston’s criminal scene.
After finally moving to Miami, they begin a merciless climb to the top of a criminal enterprise, by extorting, beating and killing everyone in their way. But everything can’t go as planned and they get deported a couple of times and upon returning back, it is obvious that their path will be covered in blood.