The 15 Best Movies about Sri Lanka and How to Watch Them
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The best movies about Sri Lanka reveal a lot about the country’s history, landscape, culture, civil war, and society. Whether you are travelling to beautiful Sri Lanka or simply interested in the country’s cinema, this top 15 movies about Sri Lanka selected by one of The Indian Rose editors will help you get an idea of this little known country. Plus we’ll tell you where to find each movie!
You might also enjoy our list of the best movies based on the royal family
TOP MOVIES ABOUT SRI LANKA: HISTORY
Maharaja Gemunu (2015)
Maharaja Gemunu is a great historical movie by director Jayantha Chandrasiri. It is one of the best movies about Sri Lanka if you want to learn about the country’s history because it deals with the importance of Buddhism in Sri Lankan history and society. It is the story of Gamani Abhaya, a king trying to save Sri Lanka from Indian invasions in the years 161 BC to 137 BC. What’s special about Gamani Abhaya is that his ultimate motivation is not power but the preservation of Buddhist culture. Available online.
The Song of Ceylon (1934)
The Song of Ceylon is not only one of the best documentary films about Sri Lanka, but also one of the first travel documentaries in history, directed by one of the creators of the style, Basil Wright. By watching The Song of Ceylon you can learn about the life, culture, religion and administration of what was an English colony at that time. It is available to watch on Youtube!
TOP MOVIES ABOUT SRI LANKA: LANDSCAPE & CULTURE
Elephant Walk (1954)
Elephant Walk is an American movie about Sri Lanka starring Elizabeth Taylor and Dana Andrews, directed by William Dieterle. The plot revolves around a newly married couple who move to a tea plantation in Ceylon during the British Raj. The wife, who comes from England, has to face the difficulties of adapting to a new environment, dominated by rules set by her late father in law. This is one of the best movies about Sri Lanka because it shows life as it was in tea plantations, as well as some Sri Lankan traditions. Moreover, it gives viewers an idea of the beautiful landscape of Sri Lankan tea plantations. Buy or rent it from Amazon Prime.
A Sri Lankan classic and a must watch if you are looking for the best movies about Sri Lanka. This masterpiece by Lester James Peries won a prize at the Venice Film Festival. The story is that of a man who has to decide whether to sacrifice a woman in order to gain access to a treasure. It is a deep, beautiful movie. Available online.
Interested South Asian movies from the 70s? You might like this article on Dimple Kapadia in Bobby, and Indian 70s classic.
TOP MOVIES ABOUT SRI LANKA: CIVIL WAR
Saroja talks about ethnic discrimination during the civil war through the story of two little girls in a Sinhalese village. It is a touching drama by director Somaratne Dissanayake that gives an insight into both the civil war and the way it impacted Sri Lankan villages. It won many prizes and is considered one of the best films about Sri Lanka. Available on Youtube.
Kannathil Muthamittal – A Peck on the Cheek (2002)
Kannathil Muthamittal is an Indian Tamil drama by Mani Ratman, starring Madhavan and Simran Bagga. It is the story of a little girl born into a LTTE family in Sri Lanka, adopted by a Tamil Indian family. When the girl turns 9, her legal parents tell her the truth about her adoption and she decides to embark on a trip in war torn Sri Lanka to find her mother. This is a must watch among the best films about Sri Lanka because it gives a Tamil perspective on the civil war, and because it is a good quality, touching movie with a beautiful story. Available on Einthusan.
Alimankada – The Road from Elephant Pass (2008)
One of the best films about Sri Lanka, The Road from Elephant Pass gives an insight into Sri Lankan civil war. It was directed by Chandran Rutnam and stars Suranga Ranawaka and Ashan Dias in leading roles. It is a love story between a repentant LTTE member (her) and a Sri Lanka army officer. Together, they try to escape violence, and finally reach Colombo, where the woman is supposed to be handled by the army. The movie seems impossible to find online, however you can at least read the book, available as kindle as well as paperback book on Amazon.
TOP MOVIES ABOUT SRI LANKA: THE TSUNAMI
From Dust (2005)
From Dust is a documentary by Indian film-maker Dhruv Dhawan. It is one of the best movies about Sri Lanka to watch if you want to understand how the tsunami impacted the lives of many ordinary people in Sri Lanka. The documentary follows the struggles of real people who are prevented from rebuilding their previous houses by the sea, and questions the government’s handling of reconstruction and aid. A very well researched documentary on Sri Lanka, through which you can learn about real facts and people instead of fiction only. Available for free (low quality) on cultureunplugged, and with much better quality on Amazon Prime.
The Third Wave (2007)
Another great documentary about the tsunami in Sri Lanka, with the participation of Sean Penn. This time the focus is on aid, lack of aid, and the importance of volunteering. Director Alison Thompson follows three volunteers as they desperately try to help rebuild a Sri Lankan village heavily affected by the Tsunami. The documentary shows the sometimes difficult relationship between the volunteers and the village population. It is a must-watch if you are interested in how the tsunami impacted Sri Lanka, and one of the best films about Sri Lanka ever. Available on Amazon Prime.
TOP MOVIES ABOUT SRI LANKA: SRI LANKA SOCIETY TODAY
One of the most acclaimed films about Sri Lanka, Machan was actually directed by an Italian, Uberto Pasolini. The movie tells the true story of a group of underprivileged Sri Lankans who form a fake handball team just to get a visa to compete in Europe, and then vanish. It is a hilarious movie everyone will enjoy. It won many international prizes and is considered one of the best movies about Sri Lanka. Available on Youtube.
Samanala Sandhawaniya – Butterfly Symphony (2013)
A musical movie by Jayantha Chandrasiri, Butterfly Symphony depicts love in Sri Lanka, while also allowing the public to listen to some contemporary Sri Lankan music. The plot revolves around a music student who falls into an impossible love and writes songs for her beloved. One of the best films about Sri Lanka, especially if you are feeling romantic. Available on Youtube.
Thanha Rathi Ranga (2014)
Thanha Rathi Ranga is a movie by Sri Lankan director Nilendra Deshapriya. Through a story of 3 very different friends who embark on a journey in areas that were off-limits during the civil war, the director examines post-war Sri Lanka, and what legacy the civil war left. However, this is not a depressing movie; it is actually quite entertaining, and definitely one of the best films about Sri Lanka if you are interested in what the country is today. Available on Youtube, but very poor quality.
Demons in Paradise (2017)
Another great look at post-war Sri Lanka, this time through the eyes of director Jude Ratnam. It is a documentary based on the experiences of the director himself, who flees a civil war zone in 1983, and goes back to the same area after the war has ended. It shows the scars of the war as well as the hopes for the future. It was once available on Aljazeera, now you may find it on hddocumentary.
Koombiyo (TV Series 2017–2018)
This Sri Lankan TV series is not to be missed! It is the highest rating TV serie on IMDb, with a higher score than Breaking Bad. It is a fabulous crime drama about a con-man trying to make a living in Colombo, and his partner in business. It will keep your eyes glued to the screen. While it is not a movie, it is certainly one the best series to watch if you are interested in Sri Lanka. It is available in Sinhalese on Youtube, and some episodes are also available with subtitles.
For a non conventional look at Indian society, we recommend you check out Lipstick Under My Burkha controversy.
This list comprises movies about Sri Lanka, not movies shot in Sri Lanka. However, you might find it interesting to know that Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom was actually filmed in Sri Lanka, not in India, where the movie is settled.
We provided a very detailed insight into the best movies about Sri Lanka. If we missed any, or you have any suggestions, use the comment space below!