Of course, it's difficult to narrow down the plentiful Arabic fare currently on Netflix. But think of this list as a great place to start. The streaming site's algorithm will lead you down a path of endless entertainment.
An Egyptian Story by Youssef Chahine, Egypt (1982)
One of the classics from a beloved Egyptian filmmaker whose work doesn't seem to age thematically. This is the pseudo autobiographical tale of filmmaker Yehia (played by the late Nour El-Sherif) who undergoes open heart surgery in London and finds himself imagining his heart chambers as the courtroom where, in an elaborate trial, he faces younger versions of himself. Times and situations of his life collide as these versions of Yehia confront family members, witness revolution and travel to international film festivals in search of success. Find the film here.
The Square by Jehane Noujaim, Egypt (2013)
This one is actually a documentary, but while Noujaim tells her own street-level view of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in the Oscar nominated film, one can almost swear this is a narrative film. There are full fledged characters in this film and the story, though familiar to all by now, is told in such a different manner, from Tahrir's initial moments all the way to Morsi's ousting in 2013. And from the filmmaker's own POV, so that we sit on the edge of our seat to discover where it may lead us. Find the film here.
"Sometimes art is ahead of revolution." -- Filmmaker Ziad Doueiri
West Beirut by Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon (1999)
Often hailed as a classic, this was Doueiri's first feature and stars his brother Rami in the role of Tarek, a high school student in 1975 civil-war Beirut, who is thrilled by all the chaos and upheaval because he no longer needs to go to school. As he and his buddy shoot Super-8 films of the conflict unfolding around them, their jovial mood begins to be affected by the reality unfolding around them. Find the film here.
Barakah Meets Barakah by Mahmoud Sabbagh, Saudi Arabia (2016)
While Haifaa al-Mansour may have put modern Saudi cinema on the map, Mahmoud Sabbagh's romcom featuring social media sensations Hisham Fageeh and Fatima al-Banawi definitely brought it home. In the sense that by watching this tale of a modern day Saudi-set Romeo and Juliet, boy and girl from different backgrounds falling in love, one truly can sense the pulse of Jeddah. Find the film here.
The Present by Farah Nabulsi, Palestine (2020)
This is the only short film on our list, but it totally belongs as it's nominated for the Live Action Short Film Academy Award this year. Starring Saleh Bakri (pictured above) as a father and husband who struggles to make wishes come true in occupied Palestine, Nabulsi's film is a rare treat. A fully formed film that comes in a little package of under 25 minutes. Find the film here.