Top 10 Best Indian Movies
List of Greatest Hindi Films
From the very first Hindi movie, Raja Harishchandra, to the latest films of today, Indian cinema has produced many world-class films that have received not only national, but also international fame.
Indian cinema is divided in two parts: Bollywood and Tollywood. All of the films in Hindi belong to Bollywood, while movies in other regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, Bengali, and Punjabi belong to Tollywood. Though I usually don't watch Tamil movies (or movies in any language other than Hindi or English), I have included a few regional films due to their strong cult following.
Being Indian myself I was exposed to Bollywood at early age. Indian movies are usually masala movies, musicals filmed in beautiful settings. These films appeal to a wide range of audiences, because they typically include action, romance, comedy, drama, and mystery. That's why masala films have been called the "full entertainment package." They will keep you entertained even if they make no sense in terms of plot or theme.
I love Bollywood. So I decided to come up with a list of the greatest Indian movies. Choosing the 10 best Indian movies from a catalog created by an industry that produces more than 100 movies every year is a tough task. But still there are films that are outstanding, have been praised for their excellence, grossed large amounts at the box office, created milestones In filmmaking, and attracted world cinema to Bollywood.
In coming up with and ranking the movies on this list, I gave preference to national and international award-winning movies from the past five decades. I also took into account my personal favorites. From current releases to the classics, here you'll find the greatest Indian movies of all time.
Have you ever seen an Indian movie?
Top 10 Indian Movies—Vote for Your Favorite Hindi Films
Here is my list of the 10 Indian movies. Chances are that you haven't seen most of the movies listed here. However, if you see a favorite, you can still vote in the poll at the end. Your vote matters.
I have added several new movies to the list. Year-wise, 2012 stands out from the crowd, boasting the most entries on this list (six). At the end of this list, read about what makes 2012 so memorable for Indian cinema. Note that you will not find movies such as Slumdog Millionaire, Gandhi and Life of Pi on this list, because while they have Indian actors and crew, they were not filmed in Bollywood.
Top 10 Indian Movies
Below is the list of my personal favorite 10 Hindi movies.
Why It Makes the Top 10: Ranbir Kapoor has shown his versatile acting in movies like Rockstar and Rocket Singh, but his performance in the title role of Barfi! was next to perfection. The film might have been a one-man show if not for Priyanka Chopra's jaw-dropping performance as an autistic girl.
Barfi! is directed by Anurag Basu and stars Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Ilena D'Cruz. Barfi! tells the story of a mute man who falls in love with a beautiful lady, but his friendship with an autistic girl leads him to find the true meaning of love and companionship.
I expected Barfi! to be a dark and serious drama. But part of the beauty of Barfi! is that director Basu takes special care to make it a light romantic comedy, and he was successful.
Several scenes in Barfi! are inspired by the films of Charlie Chaplin, Mr. Bean, and Tom and Jerry. The soundtrack of the film might remind you of the 2001 Academy Award-winning French film Amelie, yet you'll find Barfi! a fresh piece of cake (barfi is also the name of an Indian sweet dish). I bet you won't stop humming the theme song of Barfi! once you watch the movie.
#9: OMG: Oh My God!—Courtroom Drama Between Men and God
A Trailer: OMG: Oh My God! is a comical look at religions in India. A shop keeper decides to sue God. His logic? Because his was the only shop damaged by a recent earthquake, he concludes that the quake must have been an act of God.
Why It Makes the Top Ten: Have you ever seen a movie that satirizes religions in India without raising controversy? Well, OMG: Oh My God! was that kind of movie. Some who have seen the film may want to correct me by saying that the film satirized people and their blind faiths rather than religion. I agree, but doesn't blind faith produce a new strain of religion?
Hats off to Umesh Shukla, who co-wrote and directed this one-of-a-kind movie. Usually Indian directors don't make movies on religions and God, and if they do, the films usually involve praising one god or another. OMG, on the other hand, satirizes blind faith and people's negligent attitudes toward fake babas and gurus.
OMG revolves around a shopkeeper who files a case against God because his shop is the only one in the whole city to fall down during an earthquake. He argues that because it was an act of God and insurance companies refuse to pay the claim, God should do so. In the end, he wins the case.
It is an old saying in Bollywood that only movies with big stars can perform well at the box office. However, this was not true in case of OMG: Oh My God!. It is a must-watch film.
#8: Gangs of Wasseypur—The Godfather of India
A Scene: If I were to recommend only one scene from the film, I would surely ask you to watch the song 'Teri Keh Ke Looga.' It would be hard to summarize the six-hour-long saga in one song, but still this song could be cited as the face of the film.
I forgot to mention one thing: Basu Sir also worked on the soundtrack of GOW, and it turned out to be a fusion of old classic regional songs along with modern music and sound mixes.
Why It Makes the Top Ten: At first glance, it is easy to claim Gangs of Wasseypur is The Godfather of Indian cinema, but I think it is much more than that.
When was the last time you saw a film in which each and every character was meaningful in the plot? In Gangs of Wasseypur, the storylines of the different characters are beautifully woven together to move the plot of the film forward. Other than Gangs of Wasseypur, Sholay is the only Indian film for which detailed development was done for each character. Anurag Kashyap is undoubtedly the greatest director of our generation.
I saw this movie on my birthday (29th June, 2012). The second part was released two months later. This crime-drama-thriller hypnotized me; for almost four months all I did was talk about how great director Anurag is, analyze how amazing this film turned out to be, and mimic the dialogues of various characters from the film. At first, I thought it would be a mere copy of The Godfather 1 and 2, but trust me, the film exceeded my expectations.
There were no big stars in the film, only theater actors. Each and every actor showed dedication to the project. Sir Anurag beautifully wove together all the characters in the plot, and the presentation was marvelous. There were so many memorable dialogues in the film—"Keh Ke Lunga," for example, or "Baap ka, Dada Ka, Bhai ka, Sabka badla lega re Tera Faizal." A must-watch Indian film. This film has grittiness like The Girl With Dragon Tattoo from Stieg larson
#7: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro—The Laughter Riot
A Scene: It is shocking to know that Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is unknown to many Indians. If you haven't scene this Indian classic, then here is a glimpse of how funny the film is. Here is the famous 'Mahabharat Scene' from the film.
Why It Makes the Top 10: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is the funniest Hindi film you'll ever see (though Priyadarshan's Hera Pheri, released in 2000, gives some close competition).
Released in 1984, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro stars well-known comedians of that time, including Satish Shah, Om Puri, Nasseruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, and Ravi Vaswani. Om Puri and Nasseruddin Shah showcased their method acting and versatility with perfect comic timing and eccentric dialogue deliveries.
Every bit of this movie is funny, from the Mahabharat scene to the memorable sequence where a drunk Om Puri tries to help Satish Shah's dead body start his 'car' (which is actually a coffin). Also the film includes many memorable lines like Naseeruddin Shah's "Thoda khao, rhoda phenko" and Om Puri's "Oye DMello, Tu to gaya." In short, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is an essential film for those looking for fun satires.
#6: Mughal-E-Azam—The Most Expensive (and Highest Grossing) Film of All Time
A Scene: After the film was released in 1960, the song 'Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya' became India's love anthem for next few decades. Here is the Youtube video of the famous song.
Why It Makes the Top 10: Mughal-E-Azam cost more to produce than any previous Indian film, and was the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, a record it held for 15 years. No cost was spared—for example, the song 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' was one of the most expensive to film and produce of its time. With the director K. Asif and an all-star cast of some of the the best actors in drama, including Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, and Madhubala, Mughal-e-azam was crowned as a masterpiece. Did you know that the film took almost 15 years to make?
The movie tells the true love story of Salim (son of Mughal emperor Akbar) and Anarkali (a courtesan entertainer in Akbar's court). The film is memorable for Dilip Kumar and Prithvi Raj Kapoor's father-son rift.
When I saw the movie, at first I wondered if it was actually Akbar Salim on the screen. To date, the acting of Dilip Sir and Prithvi Raj is mimicked by fans and followers.
The film's popularity inspired the studio to re-release it in Technicolor (the original was in black and white). Even four decades after the film's debut, the re-release performed well at the box office and was liked by the younger generation too.
Why It Makes the Top 10: There are two things people go crazy for in India. One is cricket and the other is movies. Just mix them together with a blend of drama, romance, and action, and you'll get a film that becomes favorite of every Indian.
It was not so long ago that almost-unknown director Ashutosh Gowrikar teamed up with Aamir Khan (who not only played the lead role in the film but also co-produced it) to try their hand at the above formula. The setting was a small village in Gujrat, the era was of British India, and the subject was cricket. This set-up was enough to create a film that resonated with every Indian. No wonder the film was a super hit and popularized the trend of patriotic movies initiated by Gadar at that time. The film also gave Aamir the tag of 'Mr. Perfectionist.'
Lagaan is that rare Hindi film that represented India in world cinema.The film was nominated for the Academy Awards (becoming the third Indian movie, after Mother India and Salaam Bombay!, to do so).
#4: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
Why It Makes the Top 10: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is a romantic-drama-comedy film. The film stars hit duo Kajol and Shahrukh Khan and marks the directorial debut of Aditya Chopra (elder son of Yash Chopra).
The plot of DDLJ focuses on Raj and Simran, a couple who fall in love on a European trip and want to get married against their parents' wishes. The film mainly owes its success to its plot. Every Indian boy and girl relates his or her love story to DDLJ in one way or another.
If you're a girl, I bet you will fall in love with Shahrukh Khan after watching this film. It was DDLJ that made Shahrukh Khan king of Indian hearts. I usually do not enjoy long films, but the three-hours-and-ten-minutes-long DDLJ never bored me for a tiny second.
DDLJ also holds the world record as the longest-running film in the history of Indian cinema, with 700 weeks of continuous screening in a Mumbai theater.
#3: Mother India—The Indian Gone with the Wind
A Scene: Personally, I enjoyed the acting of Sunil Duty. But the film is a tribute to the Indian woman, and here is one scene from the film that depicts the condition of women in India following the country's independence.
Why It Makes the Top 10: Mehboob's Mother India is a tribute to the Indian woman! The film is set right after the independence of India and tells the tale of a woman—a mother who is struggling to earn a livelihood for her two sons and herself. The movie focuses on the condition of women in Indian society at that time.
Mother India earned many accolades and was praised by world-famous critics. It was the first Indian to get a nomination in the Best Foreign Film Category at the Oscars.
The film is praised for direction of Mehboob and acting by Nargis as Radha (a role to die for).
Fun fact: The actor who played one of Nargis's sons, Sunil Dutt, saved her when the set caught fire. The two later become romantically involved and married.
#2: 3 Idiots
Why It Makes the Top 10: Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots was loosely adapted from the novel Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat.
I read the novel first, then watched the movie. And while the novel was good, the movie was better. It re-created the scenarios described in the novel and added even more humor to them.
The plot is about two engineering students who befriend a mysterious peer named Rancho. Rancho has his own philosophies and theories, which he follows and applies to his life wholeheartedly. Rancho changes the life of almost every person around him. But soon after college, he enigmatically disappears.The two friends set out on a journey to find Rancho, all the while sharing the good old memories of him.
3 Idiots was met with both critical acclaim and commercial success. The film is among those rare Indian movies rated highly on sites like imdb.com. Characters from the movie, such as Silencer and Chatur, have entered mainstream culture and songs like "All Is Well" have become catchphrases that pop up in everyday conversation (specially in Indian politics).
Why It Makes the Top 10: Two thieves in a small village become pawns in the revenge of an ex-police officer whose family was brutally murdered. Mix in a Daciot, a widow, a Tanga Puller, and the result will be Sholay, the greatest epic story ever told.
The film's tagline is "The greatest star cast ever assembled—the greatest story ever told," and I will testify, it indeed is true. With Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Khan, Hema Malini, and Jaya Bhaduri, Sholay has arguably the best star cast of that time—and I would argue, of any time.
Sholay was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Though it's not an exact adaption, the main theme of both films is the same. Several scenes in the movie became so popular, that they are copied in other films to this day.
A few interesting facts about Sholay:
- The starring onscreen couple went on to become real-life partners.
- Sanjeev Kumar, who played one of the oldest characters of movie, was actually much younger than Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, and Amjad Khan.
- Even the movie's minor characters, including the jailor, Soorma Bhopali, Kaalia, Sambha, Mausie,and even Dhanno the pony became very popular.
Personally, I love this movie so much that I could spend 24 hours a day watching this movie again and again without getting bored. In fact, it refreshes my mind.
Your Favorite Hindi Movie In the list - Vote Please
Which Indian Movie among the following movies is your favorite?
The Year 2012 in Indian Cinema
In the history of Indian cinema, 2012 will be written in golden letters. The year produced a dozen record-breaking films that were successful both commercially and critically. Lately, Indian cinema has been buzzing about the masala films in the 100 Crore Club, but if you look at the box office receipts, you will find that non-masala films too earned good money.
Take for example Vicky Donor, Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Barfi!, OMG: Oh My God!, Talaash, and Gangs of Wasseypur.
Vicky Donor is totally original, both in theme and topic. When I first heard of this film, I thought it would be another vulgar comedy. Then I saw the trailer and revised my original judgement: I thought the director was trying to add sense to vulgarity. But when I saw the movie, I became an instant fan of Juhi Chaturvedi, who wrote the screenplay of the film. The film dealt with the serious theme of sperm donation. No matter how much the idea might make you laugh, I bet your thinking on the topic will change after watching the movie.
Paan Singh Tomar was a biographical film about Indian athlete Paan Singh, who turned into a fearful Dacoit (Bandit) in the '80s. Irfan Khan (of Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Amazing Spider-Man fame) was the best choice to play the title role. A must-watch film for Indian government officers and politicians.
Kahaani was inspired by several Hollywood movies with twist endings, yet I would say what truly set the movie apart were the efforts of its director, Dibakar Banerjee, and actress Vidya Balan. There are very few women-oriented movies in India. Films that depend on a lead actress usually do not perform well. Kahaani, however, not only showcased Vidya's versatility, but also her increasing strength at the box office, good news for Indian actresses.
Talaash, like Kahaani, was inspired by surprise-ending movies like The Sixth Sense and Fight Club. Actor Aamir Khan also went above and beyond in his riveting performance.
An Honorable Mention—The Apu Trilogy
The Apu trilogy is Satyajit Ray's gift to Indian cinema. This trilogy stands alone in world cinema in its representation of India; no other Bollywood film has been as recommended by renowned critics and magazines. The trilogy includes three films: Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). The whole trilogy revolves around the life of a Bengali boy named Apu during the time before Indian independence.
Ray was short on his budget while filming Pather Panchali, and so he was not able to pay well-known actors of that time. Instead, he took on an inexperienced crew and actors, and worked with them for four years to complete the trilogy (1955 -1959). The trilogy is the first from India to receive critical acclaim; Pather Panchali has earned the Apu trilogy a place in the British Film Institute's "The 50 Greatest Films of All Time."