Deploying Django Web Application in Docker With PostgreSQL, NGINX, and Gunicorn

I recently created a clean art portfolio website for my wife at and I wanted to deploy it in Docker. As I was looking for the best solution for my needs, I stumbled upon many guides that ran the Django web application inside a Docker container behind an NGINX reverse proxy which also ran in a container. However, this solution has many downsides, which you can read more about from this article.

In this post I will show my solution which runs NGINX on the host server while the actual Django web application is running inside a container on a Gunicorn WSGI server. I’m also using poetry to manage my python requirements, but you can use the traditional approach of requirements.txt file (or manually manage python packages in the Dockerfile).

Dockerfile and Docker Compose to Run Gunicorn WSGI Server and PostgreSQL

To start off, I have created a Dockerfile which builds a Docker Image suitable for the container based on Alpine Linux.

# Pull python image
FROM python:3.10-alpine

# Set work directory
WORKDIR /usr/src/app

# Set python env variables

# Install pip package dependencies
RUN apk update \
    && apk add postgresql-dev gcc python3-dev musl-dev g++

# Install dependencies with poetry
RUN pip install -U --pre pip poetry
ADD poetry.lock .
ADD pyproject.toml .
RUN poetry config virtualenvs.create false
RUN poetry install --no-interaction --no-root

# Copy and set entrypoint as executable
COPY ./ .
RUN sed -i 's/\r$//g' /usr/src/app/
RUN chmod +x /usr/src/app/

# Copy project
COPY . .

# Run entrypoint
ENTRYPOINT ["/usr/src/app/"]

To summarize the Dockerfile, I first begin by using the official Alpine Linux Python image as a base. I then install some additional packages which are required to build Werkzeug Python package, among other things. Next, I use poetry to install the Python dependencies. Lastly, I copy the project files inside the image, set the entry point script as executable and define the image entry point as that script. The entry point script in my case just checks if PostgreSQL is running and when it is, it begins executing the command defined in the docker compose file:


if [ "$DATABASE" = "postgres" ]
    echo "Waiting for postgres..."

    while ! nc -z $DB_HOST $DB_PORT; do
      sleep 0.1

    echo "PostgreSQL started"

exec "$@"

As I mentioned earlier, I am running the Django web application with a Gunicorn WSGI server. This is done by using the following Docker Compose file. I am also running my PostgreSQL database inside a container with the default Alpine Linux PostgreSQL image.

version: "3.9"

    image: postgres:14-alpine
      - postgres_data:/var/lib/postgresql/data/
      - ./
      context: ./src
    command: gunicorn christinanissi.wsgi:application --bind
      - .:/code:cached
      - ./src/staticfiles:/usr/src/app/staticfiles
      - ./src/mediafiles:/usr/src/app/mediafiles
      - "8005:8000"
      - ./
      - db

The important details here are to note that I am using bind mounts instead of named volumes. This is important as we need access to this data on the host server for our NGINX configuration. I am also opening the Gunicorn server to a local port 8005 on the host server, which is how we can access it from NGINX.

After building the image and running our containers, we can move on to the NGINX configuration.

NGINX Configuration as a Reverse Proxy on the Host Machine

Now we should have two containers running on our server — the PostgreSQL container and our web application container running a Gunicorn WSGI server which is open to a local port 8005. To set up the NGINX reverse proxy we need to listen to port 80 for HTTP traffic (HTTPS traffic comes from port 443 which I won’t go over in this guide). We define the server name and then to connect the traffic to our Gunicorn WSGI server we use NGINX proxy pass to direct the traffic to our local port 8005. We need to also make sure that the local WSGI server gets the correct headers from each request, so we also pass those.

In the last section, I mentioned how I mounted the static and media file directories as bind mounts. The reason for that is so we can access the files with NGINX on the host machine, since we don’t want to serve the static files with a WSGI server (that is bad practice and very slow compared to NGINX). To serve the static and media files with NGINX, we define the URL location such as /static/ and the path to the bind mount where these static files reside on the host server.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

    server_name <host_name>;

    location / {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:8005;
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        proxy_redirect off;

    location /static/ {
        alias <path_to_project_dir>/src/staticfiles;

    location /media/ {
        alias <path_to_project_dir>/src/mediafiles;


By containerizing only the Django web application and PostgreSQL database while having NGINX running on the host machine we can make sure that our NGINX server is always running and we can also have multiple web applications or static websites running on the same server as they are not limited to a docker container.

To see the full configuration for this web application I used as an example in this guide, you can visit its git repository.