Cary Fukunaga cast real former child soldiers and members of the various factions from the Sierra Leone and Liberian Civil War such the Liberian Armed Forces, the LURD, and the CDF as extras and consultants but they ran into difficulty getting everyone onto the set in Ghana because they were held up in the Ivory Coast as suspected mercenaries.
Annointed Wesseh, who played the naked soldier Tripod, was a member of the Liberian Armed Forces during the Liberian Civil War. He insisted on going naked during the scene.
The worldwide distribution rights were bought by Netflix for around $12 million; it was released simultaneously in theaters and online through its subscription video on demand service. Considering it a violation of the traditional 90-day window of exclusivity to theaters, AMC Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment-four of the largest theatre chains in the United States, announced that they would boycott the film, effectively downgrading it to a limited release to smaller and independent theaters.
They had to hire locals during filming because some of the actors were arrested on suspicion of being mercenaries.
Cary Joji Fukunaga colored the film personally, basing the look largely off of 1970s photo-chemical film stock.
The biggest difficulty managed by the production coordinator was getting food to the set. As Cary Joji Fukunaga put it, "An army runs on its stomach and so does a film crew".
Originally, Cary Joji Fukunaga wasn't meant to be the director of photography as well as writer and director. However. after the original DP injured his arm before the shoot, it was decided to not get a new DP but for Fukunaga to do it himself.
In preparation for playing The Commandant Idris Elba, exercised less, put on a few pounds, grew out his beard and shaved the front of his hair to suggest a receding hairline because he wanted his character to be rough-looking and out of shape, to distinguish him from the usual handsome, fit, well-groomed characters he often played.
Idris Elba and Cary Joji Fukunaga based the Commandant largely on members of the Civil Defense Forces they had consulted with during the pre-production phase of the film.
Cary Joji Fukunaga based the look of the film on the work of photojournalists. Some scenes are reminiscent of the work of photographer Tim Hetherington's coverage of the Second Liberian Civil War, which was featured in the documentary Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington (2013).
Nigerian singer Fela Kuti has a song called "Beasts of No Nation" where he criticizes the UN for its lack of equality and hypocrisy.
First non-documentary feature film distributed primarily by a streaming service (Netflix) to be nominated for major film awards. Idris Elba received Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Abraham Attah also received a Critics Choice nomination for his performance. However, due to the Academy's years long bias at the time against the non-theatrical distribution model of Netflix and other streaming platforms, the film received no Oscar nominations. It wasn't until Mudbound (2017) that a non-documentary streaming film (also Netflix) received nominations in major categories (or in any category for that matter) at the Academy Awards.