There is plenty to love about Bollywood movies. You might prefer the music and dancing, the epic storylines, the colorful costumes and sets, or the epic layers of drama. After all, Bollywood films leave the standard American movie musical in the dust, and the drama is unlike anything American moviegoers are familiar with.
Top 10 Bollywood Movies You Can’t Miss
Bollywood movies are genre-defying, and many have revolutionized Indian filmmaking. Regardless of whether you’re a longtime Bollywood viewer or a complete newbie, here are the top 10 Bollywood classics that you absolutely must watch!
Sholay is pretty much universally regarded as the epitome of the Bollywood classic. If you only watch one film in the genre, make it this one. Sholay has a cult following in India, and this masala western does not disappoint! Besides the escaped convicts, magical bandits, fight scenes, and unique plot twists, Sholay has an attention-grabbing storyline, epic dances, and an utterly fantastic score.
Salaam Bombay! (1988)
Salaam Bombay revolutionized Indian movies, both in the creation and casting as well as the cinematic style. Along with Sholay and Mother India, it makes up the trifecta of classic Indian cinema. The director interviewed street kids to create the script and cast those same children in the movie. Then, she blended a fictional script with documentary-style location-based filmmaking, resulting in a moving film that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.
Mother India (1957)
Mother India is a straight drama and was the first Hindi movie to be nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Academy Award, a well-deserved honor. If you’re looking for a good cry, this is your film! The movie deals with themes of abandonment, exploitation, and survival, and is set against the backdrop of a newly independent India. Like American cinema of the same era, Mother India holds up an idealized version of both nation and motherhood.
This historical romance is set during India’s 16th-century Mughal Empire and is one of the rare movies about Muslims that became a blockbuster in India. Like all good romances, it features strong class differences and a forbidden relationship between royalty and a slave.
Mughal-e-Azam is also a fantastic example of epic Indian filmmaking; in addition to spectacular sets and costumes and a wonderful score, this film has amazing battle scenes that include actual elephants! Watch Mughal-e-Azam for a brilliant and artful peek into India’s past.
Pyassa, or Thirst, is a beautiful film from the so-called golden age of Indian cinema. It is the story of a struggling writer who finds solace in his two close friends as they collectively navigate the challenges of their lives. If you enjoy storylines containing a touch of mistaken identity, betrayal, and ultimate reckoning, give Pyassa a try. It also has one of the most iconic Indian musical scores so pay extra attention to the music!
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Universal themes get a 1990s update in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, also known as DDLJ. In its own way, DDLJ is a modern epic of forbidden love; the movie spans two continents and focuses on a mismatched couple who fall in love while traveling across Europe on a train.
DDLG is a contemporary addition to the arranged marriage and misunderstood love interest tropes, but the film remains both incredibly popular and commercially successful. It has grossed over $60 million worldwide and is still screened daily in a Mumbai theater. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’s popularity makes it a great movie to watch via India proxies which can be ordered via IProyal.com. It will make it easier to view international content without restrictions.
Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
Amar Akbar Anthony follows three brothers, Amar, Akbar, and Anthony, who were separated at birth and adopted into families of different faiths – one Hindu, one Muslim, and one Christian. Another masala film, Amar Akbar Anthony is the movie that is most responsible for establishing the commercial Bollywood template that is still largely followed today.
The most prominent theme here is religious tolerance, a theme that continues to be explored in masala movies to this day. A humorous movie with catchy music and awesome dance scenes, Amar Akbar Anthony has surprising staying power and is a true Bollywood classic.
Lagaan is a period piece and, incongruently, one of India’s first sports movies. Tackling imperialism and colonialism with cricket as the primary focus, it is hard to imagine the movie would have been successful. But the added elements of music and romance, along with the long tradition of rooting for an underdog, make for a memorable movie.
Lagaan forever changed the way Bollywood movies were made; until Lagaan, Bollywood filmmakers tended to follow standard genre tropes, but Lagaan changed all of that. In the aftermath of its success, more and more movies began using alternative storytelling methods and exploring the diverse subject matter.
Guide is a movie adaptation of a 1958 novel of the same name by famed Indian author R. K. Narayan. This masterpiece deals with class issues, love, infidelity, tragedy, and religion, and does so boldly; especially in depictions of the two main characters engaging in an extra-marital affair, the film pulls no punches. Additionally, portraying the protagonist in a generally unfavorable way was highly unusual for Hindi cinema in the 1960s.
Pakeezah is a historical romance about lovers from different worlds struggling to overcome a society focused on keeping them apart. Pakeezah, which means Pure, follows the romance between a respectable boy and the dancing girl he marries. The couple faces separation and questionable support from the larger society. Pakeezah’s lush and lyrical soundtrack blends well with the storytelling and evokes a true feeling of romance and eroticism.
Bollywood movies are genre-defying masterpieces of music, dancing, drama, and adventure. The films on this list are by no means all of what Bollywood has to offer; there are hundreds of movies out there to match whatever anyone is looking for. You might be unsure about digging deeper into all Bollywood has to offer, so use this guide as a jumping-off point. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover everything that Indian cinema has to offer.