Introduction to the Best Caribbean Movies
Why should you watch the best Caribbean movies? The Caribbean, with its sun-kissed beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture, has long been a source of fascination for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. But beyond its breathtaking landscapes and lively rhythms, the Caribbean is also a treasure trove of cinematic gems that offer a window into the region's rich tapestry of stories, history, and culture.
One of the most famous movies in recent years about the Caribbean is Pirates of the Caribbean. The Pirates of the Caribbean series has been well-received for its entertaining blend of action, humor, and fantasy elements. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow has become iconic. The films have also featured a talented ensemble cast, including Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and others.
However, there are many more Caribbean movies that emphasize Caribbean culture that must be included on any list about the best Caribbean movies.
In this blog post, we will share the best Caribbean movies that people of the Caribbean have chosen! I am a Caribbean history enthusiast and reached out to my IG community (@westindianhistory) for their favorite Caribbean movies. Keep reading to find out their choices.
Caribbean Cinema: A Brief History
To truly appreciate Caribbean cinema, it's essential to understand its roots and evolution. Caribbean filmmakers have a long history of telling stories that reflect their unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs.
The Caribbean is a region encompassing numerous countries and territories, many situated in or around the Caribbean Sea. It comprises the Greater Antilles, including Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Puerto Rico (an unincorporated territory of the United States), as well as the Lesser Antilles, divided into Windward Islands (Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis), Leeward Islands (Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat), and others (Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica). The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands (British Overseas Territory), Cayman Islands (British Overseas Territory), Belize, Guyana, and Suriname, along with French Guiana (an overseas department of France), are also part of the broader Caribbean region, with cultural and historical ties to the Caribbean.
The history of the Caribbean is a complex tapestry of indigenous cultures, European exploration and colonization, African slavery, Indian indentured servitude, and the struggle for independence. Here's a brief overview of the key historical events and phases that have shaped the Caribbean:
- Indigenous Peoples: Pre-Columbian Era
- The Caribbean was originally inhabited by various indigenous peoples, including the Taíno, Arawak, and Carib tribes.
- These indigenous societies had their own unique cultures, languages, and social structures and relied on agriculture, fishing, and trade.
- European Exploration and Colonization: Late 15th Century - 17th Century
- Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492 during his first voyage to the Americas, leading to the European colonization of the region.
- Spain, followed by other European powers like France, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal, established colonies in the Caribbean.
- The indigenous populations suffered greatly due to diseases brought by Europeans, forced labor, and violent conflicts.
- African Slavery: 16th Century - 19th Century
- As European colonies in the Caribbean expanded, there was a growing demand for labor to cultivate crops such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton.
- The European colonies and governments brought more than 4 million enslaved Africans to the Caribbean.
- The transatlantic slave trade, along with harsh working conditions and diseases, resulted in significant loss of life and the creation of diverse Afro-Caribbean cultures.
- Piracy and Privateering: 17th Century
- The Caribbean Sea became a haven for pirates and privateers during the 17th century, with famous figures like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd operating in the region.
- European powers used privateers to attack rival nations' ships and colonies.
- Colonial Empires and Sugar Trade: 17th Century - 19th Century
- Sugar became a dominant crop in the Caribbean, particularly in the French, British, and Spanish colonies.
- The plantation system, reliant on enslaved labor, shaped the economic and social structure of the Caribbean.
- Enslaved Revolts and Emancipation: 18th Century - 19th Century
- Enslaved people in the Caribbean staged numerous revolts and uprisings, including the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), which led to the world's first successful revolt and the establishment of the independent nation of Haiti in 1804.
- Slavery was gradually abolished throughout the Caribbean during the 19th century, with different countries implementing emancipation at various times.
- Post-Emancipation Era and Indian Indentured Servitude: 19th Century - 20th Century
- After emancipation, former enslaved Africans often faced poverty and discrimination.
- The British imported over 500,000 Indians as indentured laborers to replace the enslaved Africans on the plantations.
- The Caribbean islands remained under colonial rule, with many gaining independence in the mid-20th century.
- Independence and Modern Era: Mid-20th Century to Present
- Many Caribbean nations achieved independence from European colonial powers in the 20th century, with Jamaica (1962) and Trinidad and Tobago (1962) among the early achievers.
- The region has faced challenges related to economic development, political stability, and environmental concerns.
- Tourism has become a major industry, bringing both economic benefits and challenges to the region.
- Oil, especially in Guyana, is emerging as a booming industry in the region.
The history of the Caribbean is marked by a legacy of diverse cultures and the enduring impact of colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and Indian indentured servitude. Despite the challenges, the Caribbean has forged its own unique identity, blending indigenous, African, India, and Asian influences into a vibrant and culturally rich region.
The Best Caribbean Movies
Here is a list of the best Caribbean movies that have been chosen by people of Caribbean descent.
1. Cool Runnings
"Cool Runnings" is a popular sports comedy film released in 1993.
The movie is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaican national bobsled team's journey to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
The film was directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The story revolves around a Jamaican sprinter named Derice Bannock, played by Leon Robinson, who fails to qualify for the Summer Olympics but refuses to give up on his Olympic dreams. Inspired by a picture of his father's failed attempt at the Winter Olympics years ago, Derice decides to form a bobsled team and compete in the Winter Olympics. Derice recruits various individuals, including his best friend Sanka Coffie (played by Doug E. Doug) and two other sprinters, Junior Bevil (played by Rawle D. Lewis) and Yul Brenner (played by Malik Yoba), to join him in this unlikely endeavor. They hire a disgraced former bobsled coach from the United States, Irv Blitzer (played by John Candy), to help them prepare for the Winter Games.
As the team faces numerous challenges and confronts skepticism and prejudice, their determination and camaraderie lead them on a heartwarming and inspiring journey. While the film is a comedy, it also carries themes of perseverance, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams.
"Cool Runnings" has become a beloved classic, known for its humor, memorable characters, and feel-good storyline. It is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team's first appearance at the Winter Olympics, although the film takes creative liberties for comedic and dramatic effect. The movie has remained popular over the years and is often enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
"Bazodee" is a romantic comedy drama film that was released in 2016.
The movie is a Trinidad and Tobago production and features elements of Caribbean culture, music, and romance. Directed by Todd Kessler, "Bazodee" explores themes of love, music, and tradition. The story follows the life of Anita Panchouri, the main character, played by actress Natalie Perera, a young woman of Indo-Trinidadian descent who is engaged to be married to a wealthy suitor chosen by her father.
However, Anita's life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Lee de Leon, portrayed by actor Machel Montano, a charismatic soca music singer. Lee is visiting Trinidad for Carnival, and his music and free-spirited personality captivate Anita. As Anita becomes drawn to Lee and his world of music and celebration, she faces a choice between following her heart and embracing the passion and excitement of Carnival, or adhering to her family's wishes and fulfilling her pre-arranged marriage.
The film combines elements of romance, drama, and musical performances, with a strong focus on Caribbean and soca music. "Bazodee" is known for its vibrant portrayal of Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival, which is one of the largest and most famous carnival celebrations in the world. The movie showcases the colorful costumes, music, and dance that are integral to this cultural event.
While "Bazodee" received mixed reviews from critics, it has found an audience among those interested in Caribbean culture, music, and romance. Machel Montano, a renowned soca music artist, plays a significant role in the film, and his music adds a lively and authentic dimension to the story.
3. Sugar Cane Alley
"Sugar Cane Alley" (original title: "La Rue Cases-Nègres") is a 1983 film directed by Euzhan Palcy. This poignant and critically acclaimed film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Joseph Zobel, a writer from Martinique.
"Sugar Cane Alley" explores themes of race, class, and colonialism in the context of the French Caribbean. The film is set in Martinique during the 1930s and follows the life of a young boy named José, played by Garry Cadenat. José is a bright and ambitious child living in a rural, impoverished community near a sugar cane plantation.
Despite the obstacles and limited opportunities in his environment, José dreams of escaping the cycle of poverty and obtaining an education. "Sugar Cane Alley" delves into the challenges and aspirations of José and his grandmother, Ma Tine, played by Darling Légitimus, who raises him.
Ma Tine is a wise and loving figure who recognizes her grandson's potential and encourages his pursuit of education. The film also addresses issues related to racism, as José's desire for a better life clashes with the limitations imposed by a society deeply rooted in colonialism.
The film received critical acclaim for its portrayal of the characters and their struggles, as well as its exploration of the socio-economic and racial dynamics in Martinique during the era of sugar cane plantations. "Sugar Cane Alley" has been celebrated for its authenticity and its ability to shed light on the complex history and legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean. This powerful and thought-provoking film remains an important work in Caribbean cinema and is often studied for its cultural and historical significance. It offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by individuals striving for a better life in a post-slavery, colonial society.
"Shottas" is a Jamaican crime drama film that was released in 2002.
The film was directed by Cess Silvera and produced by Wyclef Jean. It is set in Jamaica and follows the lives of two childhood friends, Biggs and Wayne, who become involved in a life of crime and violence as they rise through the ranks of the Jamaican criminal underworld.
The movie explores themes of crime, friendship, loyalty, and the consequences of a life of crime. It gained a cult following for its gritty portrayal of Jamaican gang culture and has been notable for its depiction of the characters' journey from poverty to criminal power. The film features a predominantly Jamaican cast and is known for its use of Jamaican Patois.
"Shottas" has become a significant part of the Jamaican gangster film genre and is often referenced in discussions about Caribbean cinema. While it didn't receive widespread critical acclaim, it has gained popularity as a cult classic within certain circles.
"Rockers" is a classic Jamaican reggae film released in 1978, directed by Ted Bafaloukos.
Set against the backdrop of Kingston's vibrant music scene, the movie tells the story of Horsemouth, a humble drummer and reggae musician, who gets caught up in a series of adventures after his motorcycle is stolen. With a captivating reggae soundtrack featuring iconic artists like Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, and Bunny Wailer, "Rockers" is celebrated for its authentic portrayal of Jamaican culture, its musicality, and its social commentary on the struggles and aspirations of the Rastafarian and working-class communities in Jamaica. The film remains a beloved classic, not only for its cinematic value but also for its significant contribution to reggae music and culture.
6. One Love
"One Love" is a Jamaican film released in 2003, directed by Rick Elgood and Don Letts. The movie combines elements of romance and drama with the backdrop of Jamaica's vibrant music scene.
It tells the story of two aspiring young musicians, Kassa and Serena, who come from different social backgrounds but share a passion for music and reggae. As they pursue their dreams of becoming successful artists, they also navigate the challenges of their personal lives and budding romance.
"One Love" is known for its focus on reggae music and its exploration of Jamaican culture, and it features a soundtrack filled with reggae and dancehall songs. The film showcases the power of music to transcend social barriers and bring people together.
7. Dancehall Queen
"Dancehall Queen" is a Jamaican film released in 1997, directed by Rick Elgood and Don Letts.
The movie is a drama with elements of musical and crime genres and is set against the backdrop of Kingston's dancehall culture. It tells the story of a struggling single mother, Marcia, who works as a street vendor by day and transforms into a fierce and confident dancehall queen by night.
Marcia enters a dancehall competition in hopes of winning the grand prize money, but her involvement also leads her into a world of crime and danger. "Dancehall Queen" is notable for its authentic portrayal of Jamaican dancehall culture and showcases the vibrant music, fashion, and dance of the genre. The film is celebrated for its social commentary on issues like poverty and resilience and is considered a cult classic within the context of Caribbean cinema.
8. How Stella Got Her Groove Back
"How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is a 1998 American romantic drama film directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan.
The film is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Terry McMillan. It stars Angela Bassett as Stella Payne, a successful but overworked San Francisco stockbroker who decides to take a vacation to Jamaica to recharge and enjoy life.
While in Jamaica, Stella meets a much younger man named Winston Shakespeare, played by Taye Diggs, and the two develop a romantic relationship despite the age difference. The film explores themes of love, age, and self-discovery as Stella rediscovers her passion for life and romance during her Jamaican vacation.
"How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was well-received and is known for its portrayal of an older woman's romantic relationship with a younger man. It's also celebrated for Angela Bassett's performance in the lead role.
9. Wan Pipel
"Wan Pipel" is a 1976 Surinamese film directed by Dutch filmmaker Pim de la Parra. The title "Wan Pipel" means "One People" in Sranan Tongo, which is one of the languages spoken in Suriname. The film is notable for being one of the first major cinematic productions from Suriname, a small South American country with a diverse cultural background.
The story of "Wan Pipel" revolves around a young man named Roy, who returns to Suriname from the Netherlands after completing his education. He becomes involved in the political and social turmoil of the country as it moves toward independence from the Netherlands. The film explores themes of identity, cultural clash, and the challenges of building a new nation.
"Wan Pipel" is regarded as an important work in Caribbean and Surinamese cinema, and it provides insight into the historical and cultural context of Suriname's struggle for independence and the complexities of post-colonial identity. It is considered a classic in Surinamese cinema and has been recognized for its contribution to the country's cultural heritage.
"Sprinter" is a 2018 Jamaican sports drama film directed by Storm Saulter. The story centers on Akeem Sharp, a talented young Jamaican sprinter who aspires to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Germaine, and make a name for himself on the international track and field stage.
Against the backdrop of Jamaica's vibrant culture and the challenges faced by young athletes in the country, the film explores themes of family, dreams, and resilience. Akeem's journey is a compelling and authentic portrayal of the pursuit of one's ambitions while navigating personal and societal obstacles. "Sprinter" has garnered acclaim for its heartfelt storytelling and its portrayal of Jamaican life and athletics.
11. The Harder They Come
"The Harder They Come" is a 1972 Jamaican crime film directed by Perry Henzell and starring Jimmy Cliff.
It tells the story of Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin, a young musician who turns to a life of crime in Kingston, Jamaica, after facing numerous setbacks and betrayals in his pursuit of a music career. The film is renowned for its iconic reggae soundtrack, featuring songs by Jimmy Cliff, and is considered a groundbreaking work in Caribbean cinema.
"The Harder They Come" is celebrated for its gritty portrayal of Jamaican life, its commentary on poverty and social injustice, and its role in popularizing reggae music and Jamaican culture internationally.
12. I Love You, Anne
"I Love You Anne" is a Haitian film originally released in 2012. The full title of the movie in Haitian Creole is "Mwen Renmen Ou Anpil," which translates to "I Love You Very Much" in English. It's a romantic drama-comedy directed by Richard Senecal.
The film tells the story of Anne (played by Anne Heche), a foreigner who comes to Haiti to do humanitarian work. She falls in love with a Haitian man named Serge (played by Gardy Fury). The film explores the challenges and cultural differences they face in their relationship, as well as the broader social and economic issues in Haiti.
"I Love You Anne" was notable for being one of the first Haitian films to receive international recognition and distribution, helping to put Haitian cinema on the map. It also addresses themes of love, identity, and cross-cultural relationships against the backdrop of Haiti's unique cultural and socio-economic context.
13. The Hummingbird Tree
"The Hummingbird Tree" is a 1992 Trinidad and Tobago drama film directed by Joel Lamangan. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Ian McDonald and is set in Trinidad during the 1940s.
It follows the story of a young boy named Alan, who forms a close bond with his eccentric and wise grandfather, Uncle, while coming of age in a rural Trinidadian village.
The film explores themes of family, cultural identity, and the clash between traditional and modern values. "The Hummingbird Tree" is celebrated for its poignant storytelling and its depiction of the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of Trinidad and Tobago.
14. Moko Jumbie
"Moko Jumbie" is a 2017 Trinidadian drama film directed by Vashti Anderson. The movie tells the story of Asha, a young girl living in Trinidad, who forms a close bond with a mysterious elderly man named Mr. Gidharee.
Mr. Gidharee is a Moko Jumbie, a traditional stilt-walker in Trinidadian culture. As their friendship develops, Asha and Mr. Gidharee navigate the challenges of their lives, including family dynamics, social prejudices, and the preservation of cultural traditions.
The film beautifully portrays the vibrant Trinidadian landscape and explores themes of identity, heritage, and the power of human connection, all against the backdrop of the unique art form of Moko Jumbie.
15. Brown Sugar is too Bitter for Me
“Brown Sugar is too Bitter for Me” is a 2013 movie about love and social injustice on a sugar plantation in Guyana.
There is little information online about this movie. However, in the context of Guyana's history and the indentured labor system, "sugar" refers to the sugar industry, which was the dominant economic activity in the region during the colonial period. Guyana, like many other Caribbean and South American countries, relied heavily on the cultivation of sugar cane as a cash crop. Indentured servants played a crucial role in this industry.
Indentured servants were individuals who were coerced into signing contracts (indentures) to work on plantations for a specified period in exchange for passage to a new country. Indentured servitude began immediately following abolition. The true extent of the servitude and the hardships were not revealed prior. In Guyana, the sugar plantations were labor-intensive, and indentured servants from India, China, and other parts of the world were brought to the country to work in the fields.
These indentured servants, often referred to as "coolies" in Guyana, were subjected to harsh working conditions, and their contracts were exploitative. They played a vital role in the production of sugar, which was a major export commodity. The sugar industry in Guyana, as in many other colonies, had a profound impact on the social, economic, and cultural development of the region, shaping Guyana's history and demographics in significant ways.
16. Better Mus' Come
"Better Mus' Come" is notable for its historical context, as it is set during a time when Jamaica experienced significant political violence and upheaval.
The film uses this backdrop to tell a gripping and emotionally charged story of personal struggle and societal change. The title "Better Mus' Come" is derived from a Jamaican Patois expression that means "better things are yet to come," reflecting the hope for a brighter future amid the challenges of the time.
The film received critical acclaim for its portrayal of a significant period in Jamaican history and its compelling characters. "Better Mus' Come" is considered an important work in Caribbean cinema, highlighting the complexities of politics, violence, and survival in Jamaica during the 1970s.
There are a few other mentions (that were not chosen by the Caribbean community):
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, produced by Disney, is a swashbuckling adventure franchise known for its mix of supernatural elements, comedy, and memorable characters.
It began with "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003), directed by Gore Verbinski, where Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) teams up with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) to rescue Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from cursed pirates led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
The success of the first film led to a franchise that includes "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007), forming a trilogy focused on Davy Jones and the quest for freedom from his curse.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011) sees Jack Sparrow searching for the Fountain of Youth, while "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (2017) introduces Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and features Henry Turner, Will's son, on a mission to break a curse.
These films blend action-packed maritime adventures, supernatural legends, and Johnny Depp's iconic portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow to create a beloved and enduring Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
The pirate movies were not selected by my community but I know many enjoy them.
The James Bond film series, renowned for its international settings and secret agent intrigue, has featured several iconic Caribbean locations throughout its history.
Notably, the 1973 film "Live and Let Die" directed by Guy Hamilton, starring Roger Moore as James Bond, showcases the Caribbean prominently. Set in the region, the film takes Bond to various exotic locales, including the fictional island of San Monique, where he investigates a drug lord's operation.
Additionally, "Dr. No" (1962), the first film in the Bond franchise with Sean Connery, features scenes filmed in Jamaica, including the iconic beach sequence at Laughing Waters Beach. These Caribbean settings add a sense of glamor, intrigue, and tropical allure to the James Bond movies, contributing to the series' enduring popularity and sense of adventure.
You can find many of these Caribbean films online with YouTube, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and more.
We hope you have good times watching some of the best actors in the best island movies.
By Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. | This content is copyright of West Indian Diplomacy, LLC and may not be reproduced without permission.
She runs West Indian Diplomacy, a Caribbean blog aimed at promoting West Indian history and business in the global marketplace.
Melissa has been an attorney for over 10 years. She currently focuses on trademark registration, trademark searches, and office actions. She also has extensive legal experience in the areas of trademarks, copyrights, contracts, and business formations. She owns her own Trademark Law Firm that is virtually based out of Fort Lauderdale.
Please Sign Our
Petition to Preserve Our Ship Records
By Submitting this Form
This page may contain affiliate links and ads at no extra charge to you. If you purchase something from these links and ads, West Indian Diplomacy may earn a small commission that goes towards maintaining the website and sharing our history.
The First East Indians to Trinidad: Captain Cubitt Sparkhall Rundle and the Fatel Rozack https://amzn.to/3VwEuV4
India in the Caribbean https://amzn.to/42kysca
The Guyana Story https://amzn.to/42scvba
Coolie Woman https://amzn.to/3nqzmVY
History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago https://amzn.to/3VNZHKp
An Introduction to the History of Trinidad and Tobago https://amzn.to/3LxK44L
The Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana, with a Relation of the Great and Golden City of Manoa https://amzn.to/3LYS6Fy