Best 15 Bollywood Movies


Bollywood, or legendary Indian productions, is a type of cinema that arouses extreme feelings in viewers. Some hate the long-winded, kitschy genre hybrids, while others love it for its colorful spectacle featuring exotic dancing and singing. We present the history of this cinema, as well as the top 15 Bollywood films that are sure to appeal to lovers of the oriental style.

Bollywood and its history

Bollywood is a name whose history is not entirely clear. The most popular version says that the term was invented by English crime novelist Henry Reymond Fitzwalter Keating. In 1976, the artist used this term to describe popular film productions being made in Mumbai, the capital of the state of Maharasthra. Other theories attribute the authorship of the term to director Amit Khann, journalist Bevinda Collaco or writer Shobhe De. The term itself, however, is a reference to the name “Hollywood,” with the particle derived from the city of Mumbai (disiej Mumbai). Initially, the term was ironic, emphasizing the derivative nature of Indian popular cinema in relation to American productions and the inept copying of their models. Over time, these films began to gain more and more fans in the Western world and the negative overtones of the slogan were neutralized.

Bollywood is a commercial strand of Indian cinema, which is characterized by an unheard-of production pace that now exceeds the number of pictures made in Hollywood. One billion more tickets are sold annually for Indian films than for American films. The convention of this trend draws from Urdu theater and folk street theater. In terms of style, the variety is referred to as so-called “masala films.” The name refers to mass cinema and literally means a mixture of spices, which captures the genre hybridity of Bollywood works. Indeed, in these productions, which usually last three hours, we have to deal with a neighboring of comedy, tragedy, thriller cinema, melodrama or fantasy.

The most distinctive feature of Bollywood pictures is the interweaving of dialogues with spectacular dancing and singing. Elements of Indian religion and traditional culture play an important role. An important function is also played by beautiful landscapes and the presence of great film stars, which, it must be emphasized, are objects of almost divine worship in India.The best examples of this phenomenon are Shah Rukhi Khan or Amitabh Bachchan, in whose honor a temple was erected in Calcutta. At the same time it is worth noting that Bollywood films are subject to moral censorship, as it is not allowed to show kissing and, of course, erotic scenes. The main task of this cinema, and also the reason why Indian audiences love it, is to escape from the reality of poverty into a colorful, idealized world.

The history of Bollywood has evolved in terms of the subject matter covered. In the 1960s, the prevailing trend was “song, laughter and tears,” films about superheroes, “snake films,” comedies and patriotic films. The next decade, on the other hand, brought a focus on heroes of the younger generation, brave avengers. In the 1980s, Bollywood productions were in crisis due to the increasing role of television as mass entertainment. In turn, in the following decade, the Bollywood industry became entangled in dangerous ties with the mafia, which not only financed productions, but also forced its own vision on producers with violence and even went as far as murder. Since 2000, however, it has been possible for private companies to legally sponsor films.

Best Bollywood films

1. ”Mother India”, 1957

Bollywood movies - Mother India

This film became Bollywood’s first spectacular success. Mother India earned an Oscar nomination in 1958, and was prevented on its way to the statuette by such an outstanding work as Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria. The picture tells the story of Radha, a courageous woman who, despite tremendous adversity, tries to survive and provide for her children. Her husband, crippled in an accident, leaves Radha and her three children, and, indebted to a usurer, the woman has to face problems.

The lead role was played by Nargis Dutt, whose performance brought her great fame. Mehboob Khan’s work is called India’s Gone with the Wind. The main character is a personification of all of India – poor, but determined and strong with her beliefs and culture. The Bollywood drama was conceived as a reinforcement of traditional values, according to which the most important things are family and care for the ancestral land. At the same time, Mother India is a kind of warning: although India is a poor country, it can defend its own dignity and will not hesitate to destroy its enemies.

2. “Don”, 1978

Top 15 Bollywood movies - Don

“Don” is another cult Bollywood production. It was directed by Chandra Barot. The main character of the film is a street singer and also a double of the dangerous gangster Don, a certain Vijay, who, after the death of the real Don, is commissioned by the police to impersonate the criminal and inform about the plans of the dangerous gang. However, when his police handler, Inspector D’Silva (Iftekhar) loses his life, no one believes his version, and he becomes a target of both gangsters and justice.

The screenplay for the film was created by the Salim-Javed duo. The double role here was played by India’s beloved Amitabh Bachchan. Don was a huge success and after several decades lived to see two remakes, Don (2006) and Don 2 (2011). The leading role in them was created by another great Bollywood star: Shah Rukh Khan.

3. “Disco Dancer”, 1983

Best Bollywood Movies - Disco Dancer

Another film on the list of top Bollywood productions is “Disco Dancer”, directed by Babbar Subhash. It is the story of a street singer named Anil, who, under the pseudonym Jimmy, achieves success as a performer of show-off disco numbers, imitating John Travolta from John Badham’s “Saturday Night Fever”. Unfortunately, the jealous father of another famous dancer Sam (Karan Razdan) tries to kill Anil. The hero’s mother, in an attempt to save his life, dies electrocuted. And Jimmy, in mourning, has to cope with participation in a prestigious international competition.

The leading role is played by Mithun Chakraborty, an actor who started his career in art cinema, but then got involved with masala movies. His performance in Disco Dancer initiated a new style of dance in Bollywood cinema. The film’s popular music was composed by Bappi Lahiri.

4. “Mr. India”, 1987

Best Bollywood Films - Mr India

The film “Mr. India” is a mingling of the conventions of comedy, fantasy, melodrama, thriller and musical. Shekhar Kapur’s picture tells the story of a street fiddler Arun, who takes care of poor orphans. At the same time he tries to save the country from the dictatorship of the terrible Mogambo (Amrish Puri). The protagonist possesses a miraculous object given to him by his father in the past. It is a magical bracelet that allows him to be invisible, so he can effectively fight the enemy as Mr. India. By the way, the man is also trying to get a beautiful journalist – Sima.

The leading roles were played by Anil Kapoor and Sridevi. The attention of the audience was mainly attracted by the disco music composed by the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal. To its rhythm, the beautiful actress dances and sings the on-screen hits “Hawa Hawai” and “I Love You”.

5. “Shahenshah”, 1988

Best Hindi Movies - Shaneshah

“Shahenshah” is a Bollywood directed by Tinnu Anand. It is dominated by the conventions of action and fantasy cinema. The plot of the picture is based on the model of a comic book hero – Superman. This Indian hero is a certain Vijaya Srivastava, a calm and somewhat cool-headed inspector, who also has a second incarnation. Namely, he is the Emperor, a brave superhero intent on avenging the death of his father. The Emperor has a distinctive attribute, namely a tangled cord on his left hand, which has the power to protect the hero from any kind of weapon. In addition to dispensing justice, the hero is also involved in helping the wronged victims.

The main character is played by Amitabh Bachchan, for whom this was a return to his film career after a hiatus of several years, which he devoted to political activities. His beloved Sahina was played by Supriya Pathak, and the main enemy was played by Amrish Puri. Interestingly, the script for the film was based on a story written by the main star’s wife, Jaya Bachchan.

6. “Maine Pyar Kiya”, 1989

the best bollywood movies of all time - Maine Pyar Kia

Bollywood cinema underwent a distinct metamorphosis in the 1990s, as exemplified by the famous 1989 film “Maine Pyar Kiya” by Sooraj B. Barjatya. The main character of the picture is Prem (Salman Khan), whose parents choose a future wife. However, the man does not want to agree to the arranged marriage, because he falls in love with another girl, the beautiful Suman (Bhagyashree). Prem intends to influence his parents to change their minds.

“Maine Pyar Kiya” is a Bollywood movie that introduced a new type of plot and a different type of protagonist to the screens than before. From now on, it will no longer be stories about brave heroes who must avenge the wrongs suffered and help the poor, but rather stories about love. What’s more, heroes from affluent social classes, modern and educated, are coming to the fore. In the era of India’s economic development, personal choices, rather than acting for the benefit of the nation as a whole, have become the most important concern of the characters.

7. “Dilwale Dullhania Le Jayenge” (“DDLJ”), 1995

The best bollywood films of all time - DDLJ

This movie is particularly notable in the history of Bollywood. It was the longest screened picture in the history of this cinematography, it was shown until 2015: for nineteen years and four months. “DDLJ”, directed by Aditya Chopra, is the love story of two Indians who meet while traveling, in London, and fall in love with each other. He is the son of a millionaire, she is the daughter of a shopkeeper. After returning to the country, Simran is to marry the man of her parents’ choice, a certain Kuldzit Singh (Parmeet Sethi). Raja (Shah Rukh Khan) goes after his chosen Simran (Kajol) and tries to convince her parents to let their daughter marry him. Only after many adventures will the couple finally be able to be together.

DDLJ” is a film that expresses praise for traditional Indian culture and its customs. It is significant that the characters do not prioritize love, but obedience to their parents, which is particularly evident in the case of the main character. The woman must at all costs remain faithful to her father’s will and follow his decision. There is no question of any rebellion. The lovers can ultimately be together only because of an extraordinary coincidence. The film achieved spectacular success in India also because of the musical side. Songs from the picture became big hits, and the dance, choreographed by Farah Khan, was met with unheard adoration by fans.

8. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, 1998

Top bollywood films - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Karan Johar’s film “KUch Kuch Hota Hai” was also a Bollywood success. This picture tells the story of a widower who, after the death of his wife, raises an eight-year-old daughter alone. The man remembers a woman with whom he once studied, and realizes that he had a deeper affection for her. So he decides to find Anjali.

The lead role was played by Shah Rukh Khan, and he was partnered by Kajol. The famous star is regarded as the king of Bollywood, and interestingly his career path was somewhat different from other members of this profession in India. Indeed, he did not come from any acting clan, which is a very characteristic feature of this formation. The turning point in his career path was his role in “DDLJ”. In total, he starred in more than eighty films.

9. “Bandit Queen”, 1994

The Best Hindi films - Bandit Queen

This film represents a unique position in Bollywood cinema. “Bandit Queen” is a story based on fact. Shekhar Kapur’s movie tells the story of a woman who headed a band of dacoits and together they served justice on their oppressors. The role of Phoolan Devi was played by Seema Biswas. The biography of this Indian parliamentarian seems downright incredible. As an 11-year-old, she was married off to a man three times her age, beaten and raped in an unsuccessful attempt to escape her tormentor. Not only did her family not help her, but her cousin threw her into prison, where she was cruelly tortured.

She then joined a band of dacoits. And after the death of its leader, she formed her own gang, with which she robbed the rich and aided the poor. She also took bloody revenge on her rapists and her tormentors of other women. After a huge manhunt, Phoolan Dei was arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Thanks to the intercession of the prime minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, she was freed and later entered parliament as an icon in the fight for women’s rights. The heroine died in 2001 from an assassination attempt, at the age of 37.

10. ”Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”, 2001

Hindi Movies List - Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

This big Indian blockbuster has conquered audiences around the world. Karan Johar’s film was based on the melodramatic theme of love incompatible with the intention that parents have for lovers. The main character of the film is Rahul, the adopted son of Yash and Nandini, who, against his father’s wishes, decides to marry a lower caste girl with whom he has fallen in love. The young couple, despite their efforts, do not get the blessing of their family and have to leave the country for London, where Rahul once studied. Years later, the man is visited by his younger brother, who tries to reconcile him with his parents.

”Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”is a groundbreaking film in some ways. This is because it shows love understood along the lines of Western civilization: as the most important motivation, in the name of which a person has the right to defy tradition and parental expectations. The confrontation between the West (represented by London) and the East plays an extremely important role here. The film features a whole plethora of Bollywood stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol or Rani Mukherjee.

11. ”Main Hoon Na”, 2004

Best Bollywood of all time - Main Hoon Na

”Main Hoon Na” is the directorial debut of Farah Khan, a well-known choreographer of Bollywood productions. What we have here is a combination of a sensation formula with melodrama and musical. Ram (Shah Rukh Khan) is an Indian officer who is given two important missions by his dying father. The man must locate an unknown brother and take on the protection of the daughter of a general who was shot in an assassination attempt. The girl is studying in Darjeeling, where the hero goes. Soon Ram falls in love with an attractive chemistry teacher (Sushmita Sen).

The film is an exemplary realization of a masala movie, so it abounds in exaggerated, almost supernatural scenes of dueling heroes. Special effects lurk at every turn, intertwined with melodramatic emotions. A novelty is the plot of the illegitimate brother, which somewhat weakens the idealized portrait of the traditional family characteristic of this cinema.

12. ”Devdas” (2002)

Bollywood romantic films - Devdas

Snajay Leela Bhansali’s “Devdas” is the story of the title character, who falls in love with his childhood friend named Paro. The boy is sent to study in London, but his feelings are not changed and upon his return he hopes to marry his chosen one. However, the man’s wealthy parents do not want to agree to the marriage, which would be a misalliance. The two families come into conflict, and the hero leaves and abandons his beloved, and she is married to another. It is only then that Devdas realizes his mistake and falls into alcoholism out of despair.

This Bollywood blockbuster is based on a 1917 novel by Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The creator is India’s most popular writer, who is more famous than India’s Nobel laureate in literature, Rabindranath Tagore. “Devdas” is a particularly beloved novel in India, which has received many screen adaptations. The 2002 film replicates the myth of the idyllic Indian countryside as a refuge of traditional values, contrasted with the modern and decrepit city, which becomes the cause of the protagonist’s ultimate defeat. Interestingly, another adaptation of Devdas, five years later, by Abhay Deol, differed significantly from the masala movie version. The director, with references to Italian neorealism and Tarantino cinema in his style, showed the modernized story in a realistic and brutal manner.

13. “Fanaa” (2006)

the greatest bollywood movies - Fanaa

Kunal Kohli’s “Fanaa” is another Bollywood production that has gained immense popularity. The main theme here is Rehan’s love for the beautiful blind Zooni. The man is a tourist guide leading a casual lifestyle. The hero shows the girl around Delhi and introduces her to the charms of the world. At the same time, however, he hides the truth about himself from her.

The shooting of “Fanaa” was partly done in Poland (Zakopane), which is meant to imitate the landscape of Kashmir. The production featured Kajol, who appeared on screen after a long break, and Aamir. Of course, as befits a classic Bollywood show, there is a mishmash of genres and intricate choreography to the rhythm of Indian music.

14. “Raavanan” (2010)

List of bollywood movies -Raavanan

This item of Bollywood cinema is one of the most important productions, if only because it is a screen adaptation of India’s most famous epic – the Ramayana. Manni Ratnam’s “Raavan” depicts one episode of the epic, telling the story of the kidnapping of the god Rama’s wife, Sita, by the evil demon Ravana. The plot has been modernized: the demon is played here by the bandit Bira Munda, while Rama is a police inspector named Dew. Moreover, the moral emphases of the story are reversed. Indeed, righteousness lies with Bira (Ravana), not Dew.

As a result, Ragini (that is, Sita’s counterpart) ultimately chooses Bira over her husband, recognizing his hypocrisy. The inspector, despite being certain that his wife did not succumb to her kidnapper during the abduction, cynically uses her desire to prove her fidelity to get at and destroy her enemy. Here we have a clear reevaluation of the story from the Ramayana, where Sita, after accusing her husband of infidelity, threw herself into the fire to prove her innocence. She was then saved by the god Agni, who gave the woman back to her spouse, and the couple then lived happily ever after.

15. ”My Name is Khan”, 2010

The 15 best bollywood films of all time - My name is Khan

“My Name is Khan” is another Bollywood blockbuster directed by Karan Johar and starring Kajol and Shah Rukhi Khan. This time the star plays a Muslim man who is accused by Americans of terrorist activities. The man will prove his innocence at all costs. To this end, he intends to meet with the US president.

The film has a more “Western” style than the typical masala. The subject matter itself is extremely modern, as it deals with the global changes that have occurred as a result of acts of terrorism. Also new is the character of the main character, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which is an additional barrier to his communication in a foreign country.

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