This one could go on and on, but let’s take a look a decent range of both old and new Bollywood films. In 2018, India ranked highest in the Leading film markets worldwide, by number of tickets sold (in millions). We certainly have a ton of popular movies released in high numbers every year. So, below I have listed 55 such movies. Also, you may click on the link labelled ‘trailer’ if you wish to…well, view the trailer for the films listed below obviously.
1) Sholay (1975)
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Cast: Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Amjad Khan, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri Bachan
About: An iconic film, Sholay is a masala movie in the truest sense of that term. Escaped convicts, Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Bachchan), defend a village terrorised by bandits. The bandits are led by this conniving and notorious villain, Gabbar Singh (Khan).
In fact, since Sholay, Gabbar Singh is actually used as a threat by parents to get their children to go to bed. In Hindi they say, “Go to bed, or Gabbar Singh will come.”
Sholay is a mix of fight scenes, friendship, humour, songs (now memorable), plot twists, and thrilling dance sequences in traditional Indian fashion. And, of course, in the mix you have a young beautiful Hema Malini (Basanti), who really complicates things a little further for everyone. Not her fault though.
A famous line from the movie goes,
Basanti in kutto ke samne mat nachna
Basanti don’t dance in front of these dogs
2) Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
Director: K Asif
Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala
Genre: historical romance, drama
About: Mughal-e -Azam is in essence an epic historical drama, set in the late sixteenth century during the Mughal rule in India. Prince Salim (Kumar), son of the then-ruling Emperor Akbar (Kapoor), falls in love with Anarkali (Madhubala). Now, Anarkali is a slave girl, owned as a court dancer for the Emperor. Akbar is, as you may imagine, against Salim’s new found love. Naturally, this leads to a war between father and son of epic proportions.
While the drama in the film is certainly gripping, one also notices the progressive ideals underlaying the plot- namely, that one should be allowed to love independently of social class.
3) Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Director: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri
Genre: romance, comedy, family
About: While some of the values this movie promotes are not great (at all), it is still considered to be one of the best classic romance films Bollywood has crafted.
Commonly known as DDLJ, this movie is about two travellers (Kajol and Shahrukh) who fall in love on a trip to Europe that they both happen to be taking separately. In typical fashion, Kajol plays a straight laced girl, while Shahrukh plays an immature, easy going, young man. Kajol is to get married soon, given that her rather domineering father has found her a suitor. Obviously Shahrukh is heart broken, as is Kajol. We then see Shahrukh’s relentless battle to get his bride before she is betrothed to another man.
The movie was, and remains, extremely popular- for 19 years now, it is screened daily at the Maratha Mandir, in Mumbai. Perhaps this movie is why most guys think chasing girls is always romantic, no matter how much they resist. Sometimes it is not.
4) Mother India (1957)
Director: Mehboob Khan
Cast: Nargis, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt
About: The name of this film, interestingly, was chosen as a response to an American author, Katherine Mayo. Mayo wrote a bitter book in 1927 titled, Mother India. In it, she vilified Indian culture. Hence, this movie was intended to set the record straight.
Mother India is the story of a village woman, Radha (Nargis), ridden by poverty and struggling to raise her three sons as a single mother- abandoned by her husband. Consequently, Radha was forced to work as a farmer in paddy fields, which entailed working amidst a highly corrupt system of rural farming in newly independent India. Landlords exploited farmers to servile degrees and, as a women, things were even worse for Radha.
Hence, we have the tale of a strong independent woman, unafraid of making the necessary sacrifices to raise her sons. Several critics have called this movie the Gone With the Wind of India. It is also the first Hindi film to have been nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Oscars.
5) Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh
Genre: adventure, drama, sport, historical
About: The word “Lagaan” means taxation in English. The movie is set in the nineteenth century (1893), during the height of the British rule of India. As such, it in essence an epic historical (sports) drama. The story follows a small village called Champaner, in Gujrat. Champaner is plagued by a drought for a painfully long time. To add to the stress, the commanding officer of the Champaner cantonment imposes high taxes (lagaan) on the villagers. Naturally, on account of the severe drought, they are unable to pay said taxes.
A couple of villagers attempt to resolve the situation by seeking help from Raja Puran Singh. Whilst on this mission, they witness the British rulers playing a cricket match. One of them gets into an argument with an officer about the game. As a result of this, the commanding officer offers to cancel the taxes of the whole province for three years if the villagers can defeat his men in a game of cricket.
And so begins a battle against colonialism through cricket. At first, no one wanted to touch this script until Amir Khan decided to play the lead role. Lagaan’ is, so far, the last mainstream Hindi film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
6) 3 Idiots (2009)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor
About: 3 Idiots is primarily the story of the trials that come with being forced into a certain vocation against your will- which in this case is engineering. One of the three, Amir Khan, actually enjoys engineering. But his two friends do not. Ultimately, the pressure become unbearable for one friend, pushing him over the edge. 3 Idiots draws our attention to a pressing social issue that has been prevalent India for as long as anyone can remember. Yet, at the same time, the movie is funny and entertaining, with a nice little twist at the end.
When 3 Idiots made its television debut in July 2010, it attracted a staggering 39 million viewers in India. Interestingly, when 3 Idiots released in China (through the pirate market mostly) it make a cult hit. As a result of this, Amir Khan gained a huge Chinese fanbase. Apparently, 3 Idiots has been ranked China’s 12th favourite film of all time.
7) Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Cast: Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance
About: This was the first film written and directed by Farhan Akhtar, and is perhaps the best thus far. Dil Chahta Hai is set in modern-day urban Mumbai and Sydney, and focuses on a major period of transition in the lives of three young friends. The subtle progression of the story line is very realistic, with dialogue that reflects how regular people talk- a fresh change from most Bollywood movies at the time. It is a simple story about coming-of-age.
Here is a random weird fact- Saif Ali Khan almost pulled out of the film since the film was to be made in sync sound instead of the actors dubbing their lines.
8) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar
Genre: comedy, adventure, drama, road movie
About: In English the title means “YOLO or ‘You only live once.’ But if you directly or literally translate the title, it means something like “you will not get this life again.” It is the story of three old friends having their own versions of mid-life crises, separately. Together, they decide (albeit reluctantly) to go on a road trip to Spain. On this trip, they must each tackle one of their worst fear through a fun activity. The underlaying message of this movie screams, “it’s okay to not conform, and romance doesn’t mean happily-ever-after forever.” Life is unpredictable and messy, all you can do is keep learning and move forward.
9) Chak De! India (2007)
Director: Shimit Amin
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shukla, Vidya Malvade
Genre: sports, drama, musical
About: Chak De is the story of the Indian women’s national field-hockey team, coached by an ostracised hockey player (Shahrukh). Shahrukh’s character, after facing a terrible defeat to Pakistan, was shunned from the sport and driven out of his neighbourhood. He returns to coach the women’s team as form of redemption.
Cleverly, the movie weaves in several critical issues that have maintained their importance. It explores the themes of feminism, sexism, cultural differences, the partition of India, and racial, ethnic, regional and religious prejudice. Through the medium of hockey, we see multiple rather complex issues unfolding in an intense setting- thus, making Chak De a sports drama.
10) The Lunchbox (2013)
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Genre: romance, drama, comedy
About: The New York Times reviewed The Lunchbox as,
A culinary and epistolary friendship with a perfect balance of tact and sentimentality. A deft and charming first feature.-A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Ritesh Batra’s debut film really turned out to be one of the most popular films internationally. Indeed, in the United States, this movie was amongst the highest grossing foreign-language films of the year.
The lunchbox is the simple story of two lonely people, Saajan (Khan) and Ila (Kaur), who find a friend in each other. Ila packs a lunchbox for her husband everyday, unfortunately in futile hope of his appraisal and appreciation. On one day, the lunchbox goes to someone else (Saajan). Deeply grateful for the excellent food, Saajan sends a note back with the empty lunchbox. And so begins their sweet friendship through the exchange of notes concealed inside a single lunchbox being transported back and forth.
Here Are 45 More Suggestions
- Rang De Basanti (2006)
- Rock On (2008)
- Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
- Queen (2014)
- Coolie (1983)
- Dewaar (1975)
- Rockstar (2011)
- Main Hoon Na (2004)
- Tezaab (1988)
- Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
- Tashan (2008)
- Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993)
- Ghajini (2008)
- Tare Zameen Par (2007)
- Kaala Patthar (1979)
- Barfi! (2012)
- Piku (2015)
- Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
- Jab We Met (2007)
- Shree 420 (1955)
- Om Shanti Om (2007)
- Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
- Bombay (1995)
- Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
- Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
- Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
- Guide (1965)
- Pakeezah (1972)
- Golmaal (1979)
- Dangal (2016)
- Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
- Gully Boy (2019)
- Munnabhai MBBS (2003)
- PK (2014)
- Swades (2004)
- Devdas (2002)
- Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)
- Badtameez Dil (2013)
- Bachna Ae Haseeno (2010)
- Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012)
- Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
- Don (1978)
- Gully Boy (2019)
- English Vinglish (2012)
- Hum Aapke Hai Koun…! (1994)
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Tags- Best Bollywood Movies of All Time, best hindi movies of all time, top bollywood movies of all time, list of best bollywood movies of all time, list of top bollywood movies of all time