Remembering Mandela In Movies

The late South African president Nelson Mandela was an iconic figure inspiring a multitude of life stories documented and portrayed in film and TV. Known to be a ladies' man on his personal time – yet passionate, tunnel-visioned activist in saving the world – Mandela's life has been visited on-screen a handful of times. Each portrayal was done with Madiba's personal blessing, making way for memorable, varied performances. Check The Shadow League's picks for the best, Madiba, apartheid-fighting films.


Mandela (1987) – Danny Glover

In this 1987 TV movie, Danny Glover was Emmy nominated for playing the South African leader, while Alfre Woodard portrayed his wife, Winnie. "I clawed and scratched to do Mandela," Glover once said about the role. "I was reading Mandela when I was 20 years old and making it part of my own conscience."


Mandela and De Klerk (1997) – Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier as Mandela. Michael Cain as De Klerk. A mixture of two acting legends makes it no surprise that both were nominated for an Emmy in this 1997 TV movie about the release of Mandela from prison and his relationship with De Klerk.


Endgame (2009) Clarke Peters & Chiwetel Ejiofor

In yet another made-for-TV movie, Clarke Peters portrayed Mandela during his last days of the apartheid struggle where covert meetings between whites and leaders of the African National Congress took place. Chiwetel Ejiofor (who's been buzzing on the Oscar circuit as a favorite to be nominated as best actor for 12 Years a Slave) was Golden Globe nominated for his portrayal of future South African President, Thabo Mbeki. Endgame was Emmy nominated for Best Made-for-TV film.


Invictus (2009) – Morgan Freeman

Likely one of the most popular portrayals of Mandela, Morgan Freeman (everyone's favorite president and voice of God) played Mandela during the monumental, historical happenings of the 1995 World Rugby Cup. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the 2009 film saw both Matt Damon – who played South African rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar – and Freeman earn Oscar nominations for their roles.


Winnie Mandela (2011) Jennifer Hudson & Terrence Howard

Mention Terrence Howard as Mandela in the little seen Winnie and debate ensues. Some show love, others hate. The problem is that so few have seen the film after a quick stint in theaters this summer (conspiracy theorists say it's due to a disapproving protest by the real Winnie Mandela) the film quietly exited the Hollywood screening scene landing on DVD this month.


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) – Idris Elba

The timeliness of this film's release goes without saying, as Idris Elba portrays Mandela. Highlighting the early days of his peaking interest in South Africa's anti-apartheid political scene, the film documents his recruitment into the African National Congress, imprisonment, and eventual presidential win. Long Walk to Freedom features actress Naomi Harris in a fiery, stunning, powerful portrayal of Winnie Mandela. And although Elba's Madiba accent seems a bit off-putting at the film's beginning, his voice is drowned out by a poignant story of Mandela's fight for freedom, along with the evolution and implosion of his relationship with Winnie.


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