Succession was the best-reviewed series internationally of 2021; This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection was the sixth best-reviewed film globally of 2021; Minari made history at the Oscars; Mare of Easttown won four Emmys; and Life With Kelly Khumalo, and much else on Showmax, won SAFTAs. But none of those mega-hits cracked Showmax’s Top 10 Most-Watched of 2021 list.
Below, in alphabetical order, are the films and series Mzansi gave the most important prize of all: their time.
AFTER | Romance film
Winner of both the 2019 People’s Choice and Teen Choice Best Drama awards, After follows Tessa, a good girl who meets a bad boy, Hardin, who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life. Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin (nephew to Ralph and Joseph Fiennes) won Teen Choice Awards as the two lovers. The film is based on Anna Todd’s breakout novel. The sequel, the box office hit After We Collided, is also on Showmax: both are rated 16S.
DAM S1 | Showmax Original psychological thriller series
Silwerskerm Best Actress winner Lea Vivier (Wonderlus, Troukoors) stars as Yola, who returns to the Eastern Cape from Chile to bury her estranged father. To her surprise, and her sister’s irritation, he’s left his farm to her, but this may be more of a curse than a blessing, as the house seems to be trying to tell her something. But with her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola has to wonder if the spirits are real or just in her head? Two-time SAFTA winner Pallance Dladla (Shadow) and Hollywood actor Neil Sandilands (Sweet Tooth) co-star. Fortress of Solitude said “it rivals any international production… a must-watch show that promises to fester in your mind long after the credits roll” while Watkykjy hailed it as the “best South African series I’ve seen to date.”
DEVILSDORP | Showmax Original true-crime documentary series
Devilsdorp set a then Showmax record for the most hours watched in its first four days of launch of any film or series ever, which it later lost to The Wife. The four-part docu-series investigates the 11 Krugersdorp Killings between 2012 and 2016, separately known as the Appointment Murders and the Satanic Murders, and how they were all traced back to Cecilia Steyn and the Electus per Deus (Chosen by God) cult. “The result of an 18-month research process, Devilsdorp shows again that truth is stranger than fiction, especially in South Africa,” says director David Enright.
FIFTY SHADES DARKER | Romance film
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the number one US box office hit Fifty Shades Darker, the second chapter based on E L James’ worldwide bestselling, BDSM-mainstreaming Fifty Shades phenomenon. Oscar winners Marcia Gay Harden and Kim Basinger, Emmy nominee Hugh Dancy, and Bella Heathcote (Neon Demon) co-star. Cosmopolitan raved, “Fifty Shades Darker is better than Fifty Shades of Grey in every imaginable way”, while Vanity Fair called it “An utter delight… The silly, good-natured trash masterpiece we deserve right now.” The first film, Fifty Shades of Grey, is also on Showmax: both are rated 16SNL.
RAISED BY WOLVES S1 | Sci-fi series
The biggest TV series ever shot in South Africa, Raised by Wolves is set after the destruction of earth and centres on two androids tasked with raising human children on virgin planet Kepler-22b. The HBOMax hit series was nominated for three 2021 Critics’ Choice Super Awards: Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series, Best Actor: Sci-Fi for Travis Fimmel (Vikings’ Ragnar) and Best Actress: Sci-Fi for Amanda Collin, as well as an Emmy and a Writers’ Guild of America award. Inverse hails the show as “Ridley Scott’s best sci-fi since Alien… there’s no TV show quite like it.” Season 2 starts on Showmax on 4 February 2021, with Kim Engelbrecht (Reyka) joining the cast.
TEMPTATION ISLAND SOUTH AFRICA S1 | Showmax Original reality show
Showmax’s first international reality TV series format, Temptation Island South Africa puts a local spin on Banijay’s Teen Choice-nominated pop culture phenomenon. The ultimate relationship test, Temptation Island South Africa follows couples at a crossroads in their relationship, where they must mutually decide if they are ready to commit to one another for the rest of their lives — or go their separate ways. Together, the couples experience a luxurious holiday in paradise (aka Knysna), where they live separately – with 20 sexy single men and women who are looking for love. This last taste of the single life is meant to help answer their most difficult questions about their relationship, like, “Are we meant to be?” and “Is there someone better out there for me?”. You can compare the South African edition with the latest American incarnation here.
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF DURBAN S1 | Showmax Original reality show
The first episode of The Real Housewives of Durban (RHOD) set a then first-day viewing record for Showmax, which it later lost to first Uthando Lodumo and then The Wife. The drama started from the first episode, when Nonku Williams revealed she had a child with gospel legend Sfiso Ncwane, whose widow, Ayanda, was also part of the show. With LaConco having waited until episode 4 to make her grand entrance, the drama just kept escalating, setting Twitter alight every Friday as new episodes dropped. Also featuring Annie Mthembu, Kgomotso Ndungane, and Sorisha Naidoo, RHOD is the 24th international – and second South African – instalment of The Real Housewives franchise, which is distributed internationally by NBCUniversal Formats, a division of Universal Studio Group. Season 2 starts this Friday, 28 January 2022, on Showmax, with Londie London, Thobile MaKhumalo Mseleku and Jojo Robinson replacing Ayanda and Kgomotso.
THE WIFE S1 | Showmax Original telenovela
The Wife broke both Uthando Lodumo’s record for the most first-day views of all time on Showmax, as well as Devilsdorp’s record for the most hours watched within four days of launch. Inspired by Dudu Busani-Dube’s bestseller Hlomu The Wife, the 40-episode first season tells the story of a journalist (Mbalenhle Mavimbela) who falls in love with a taxi driver, Mqhele (Bonko Khoza), not realising that when you marry a man, you marry his secrets. As IOL’s Debashine Thangevelo put it, “Honestly, I can’t sing the praises enough of this homegrown offering… The actors share incredible chemistry, and their respective performances are unparalleled… Don’t be surprised when it bags a lot of nominations at next year’s award ceremonies.” Season 2, starring SAFTA nominee Khanyi Mbau and adapted from Zandile The Resolute, starts 17 February 2022.
TROLLS WORLD TOUR | Animated family film
Trolls sequel Trolls World Tour is a feel-good animated family musical that sees Poppy and Branch set out to unite the six musically diverse troll tribes and stop Rock Queen Barb and King Thrash from turning everyone into rock zombies. Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Love Life, Pitch Perfect) won a 2021 Kids’ Choice Award for Favourite Voice from An Animated Movie, edging out co-star Justin Timberlake. You can also catch the blockbuster first film, Trolls, on Showmax, as well as the spinoff series Trollstopia.
UTHANDO LODUMO S1 | Showmax Original reality series
Uthando Lodumo broke The Real Housewives of Durban’s first-day viewing record on Showmax, before losing out to The Wife. The three-part reality series follows Bongekile Simelane and Mandla Maphumulo, better known as gqom superstars Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha, from Mampintsha’s proposal live on air on Gagasi FM in October 2020, through marriage counselling, lobola negotiations and pregnancy, all the way to their vibrant traditional wedding in April 2021.