For so many years, Nigerian movie lovers have always complained about getting tired of Nollywood cliche-laden projects. The majority of them have not held back when it comes to criticizing the large supply of poor movies that have turned out to be very underwhelming, despite the huge hype that surrounds their release.
However, we still have hidden Nollywood gems that most Nigerian movie fans are yet to discover. Most of these projects might be slow to convince you that they are worth your time in the beginning, but they eventually keep you locked to your screen after a few intriguing scenes.
They might not be the face of the mainstream or get the excellent rating they deserve, but trust me when I say that they did more than enough to make everyone associated with the Nollywood industry proud. See these brilliant projects in our list of Most Underrated Nollywood Movies You Should Watch (2022).
While it is partially acknowledged in literature and film, the concept of an imaginary friend has not generally gained a huge acceptance in a regular Nigerian setting. This is mainly because of how Nigerians take religion, and also because the thought of interacting with another in one’s own head is most strange to the older generation.
Bottomline, any Nigerian who experiences an imaginary friend symptom is automatically perceived as mad or possessed in this part of the world, which makes most Nollywood producers run away from storylines surrounding it as they need a concept the audience can fully relate with.
It is the same fate for the idea of a “spirit spouse” in Nigerian movies. For many Nigerians, this is a very scary occurrence that one should not even wish to happen to an enemy as these spirit wives or husbands immediately trigger the need for lots of fasting, prayer and deliverance sessions.
Nollywood producer, Daniel Oriahi is aware of all this and deserves praise for deciding to deliver this amazing thriller that features top actors like Chris Attoh, Zainab Balogun, Ini Dima-Okojie, Udoka Onyeka, Ijeoma Grace Agu, Lord Frank, Bolaji Ogunmola and Omotunde Lolo.
Its story revolves around a man, Richard who maintained a strong relationship with an imaginary friend named Sylvia right from his childhood. Richard and his friend communicate via his dreams and Sylvia always came through with assistance for his homework and even important life advice from time to time. Their friendship blossomed as the years went by and they did not stop keeping in touch even after Richard lost his mum.
One particular day at a restaurant, Richard, played by Chris Attoh, bumped into a lady named Gbemi and they immediately hit it off. Their romance grew gradually and Richard tells his imaginary friend all about it. Sylvia did not take the news well and it went as far as ruining their friendship for a while.
Months passed, Richard ended up marrying Gbemi and they lived happily for a few years. However, one day, as Richard struggled with a sales pitch at the office, he found himself needing Sylvias help once again, which she gladly granted, despite her demeanour changing this time around. What follows this reality is a turn of events that changed Richard’s life completely.
This brilliant 2018 Nollywood supernatural thriller movie was also directed by Daniel Oriahi, and it was screened at the Nollywood Week in Paris on May 5, 2018, before getting released on the 21st of September, 2021, so it had to make the list.
Sadly, this is the only movie on this list that still has no award to its name, despite earning several nominations. The reception it got was amazing nonetheless because it is one of the darkest thrillers Nollywood fans have seen in a while. Trino studios certainly deserve lots of praise for their bravery to do something no other producer is trying out.
This movie revolves around Mofe and Rosa, 2 people who are hell-bent on leaving Nigeria for greener pastures in Europe. Mofe made up his mind to save up his monthly salary so he can afford a passport and a visa from vendors who work with computers at outdoor markets close to him. Rosa, on the other hand, works several jobs to gather enough money to pay her way through the rugged web of immigration bureaucracy to secure a better life for herself and her pregnant sister.
However, all efforts proved abortive as both Mofe and Rosa experienced one failure after another that forced their abroad dreams to keep getting postponed in the face of unexpected tragedies. The sad reality led them to come up with creative ways to live in a society that often sees kindness becoming a transactional tool humans use to get something in return.
Mofe lost his sister and her 2 young sons when he least expected, and all kinds of financial and family burdens were placed on him from then on, including other serious problems from banks, lawyers and his own father. Rosa also battled challenges with a landlord who wants his favours to be returned with interest and a Lebanese American tourist who has money to spend if there is a reward involved. With nowhere else to go, Rosa found herself seeking help from both men to take care of herself and also cater for her pregnant sister during medical emergencies.
This movie is so beautiful that while Mofe and Rosa’s stories never quite aligned, a sad moment at a hospital and another tender experience one evening carefully portrayed their overlapping timelines. Both storylines, however, worked separately to portray the challenging systemic problems that Nigerians have to deal with on a daily basis.
It is a popular Nigerian drama that was produced, written and directed by the talented twin brothers, Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri on their directorial debuts.
The movie attracted lots of positive reviews from Nigerians and it got screened at several global international film festivals in seventeen nations. In fact on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie maintains a “Fresh” score of 100% after more than twenty reviews by critics. It also has more than ten international awards to its name so far.
3. The Milkmaid:
This is a 2020 Nigerian drama project that was directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, and it gained more popularity when it was chosen as the Nigerian entry for the “Best International Feature Film” at the 93rd Academy Awards, even if it was not nominated. The movie has won 12 international awards thus far too.
Its story revolves around Aisha and Zainab who are sisters and best friends. They lived life as milkmaids in a small village of herders and it prevented them from exploring life and their dreams to the fullest. Marriage then became a reality as well, but on the day of Zainab’s wedding, a shocking visit from “protectors” changed everything.
Pretending to be members of the Nigerian army, terrorists in disguise took over the village wedding and broke up the sisters for good during the chaos. The movie then unfolded into a brave and intense attempt by Aisha to locate her kidnapped sister. As the story evolves, mainly from Aisha’s point of view, audiences have their attention completely gripped as she gets involved in the world of Islamic jihadis.
Aisha ended up being forced to marry Dangana (Usman Kona), a stalwart fundamentalist, having a kid with him, while still making up her mind to reunite with her sister by all means necessary. The reunion happened eventually, but Zainab had moved on completely. Now a terrorist who trains other women on that path, Zainab did not waste any time denying her sister.
The storytelling in “The Milkmaid” is simply beautiful to watch, and its dive into the world of religious fundamentalism is something most Nollywood producers run away from nowadays. Taking this bold step is actually the reason why “The Milkmaid” is, without doubt, one of the most fantastic Nollywood movies Nigerians will rave about for a very long time.
This is a 2018 Nigerian comedy-drama movie directed by Ema Edosio and it was released on October 12 2018. This film had a slow start as it was only accepted to the cinema by December 2018 and premiered on Netflix on January 31, 2020. Sadly, it did not excel at the cinema despite earning several awards at several international film festivals.
“Kasala” is a fun and laugh-out-loud comedy that made its main characters go through amazing emotional growth, despite all the action happening in just one day, over the course of six hours.
Its story revolves around TJ, a young man who wanted to do music and decided to improve his swagger by borrowing his uncle’s car without his permission. He then picked up 3 other neighbourhood friends, Abraham, Effiong and Chikodili as they attended a brief lunch at the home of Shalewa, a lady after TJ’s heart.
They stormed the party in style, but while his friends were having a nice time, Abraham stole TJ’s car keys and goes out to move the car. He starts it, steps on the accelerator, and changes his life and that of his friends forever.
5. Juju Stories:
This is a 3-part anthology film that explores juju (magical) stories that Nigerians can relate to and it was written and directed by C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama and Michael Omonua.
This project first premiered at the 2021 edition of the Locarno Film Festival, it won he Boccalino d’Oro award for Best Film, and also got listed as one of the Best African films for 2021.