If there is one thing besides politics and cricket that keeps the nation going, it has to be Bollywood! Ever since its inception in the 20th century, the Hindi film industry has churned out thousands of movies. Romance, action, patriotism, sports, social message, etc. – have all been the fantasy of movie makers and viewers alike, which is why there is never a dearth of Hindi movies every year.
But not every movie that Bollywood produces is worthwhile. There are some which leave a long-lasting impression on us, while there are plenty others which are not even worth remembering. After much debate on which Bollywood movies to choose as the “best ones of all times”, we finally bring to you a list of the top 20 Bollywood movies of all times:
This 1957 film by Guru Dutt remains a popular favorite, especially among filmmakers. The film is the story of a poet (played by Guru Dutt), who is striving hard to establish himself, but meets a good-hearted prostitute (played by Waheeda Rehman), who helps him get his poems published.
This timeless classic features among the top romantic movies of all times, and has also been declared as one of the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films by Indiatimes Movies.
One of the many masterpieces by Raj Kapoor, the film is about a poor guy who falls in the traps of a dishonest businessman and is led into the world of illegal and immoral activities. When he realizes that he has been cheated, he sets things straight and gets the baddies arrested.
The film grossed a whooping 20 million INR at that time, but was later overtaken by Mother India. Songs like ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’, ‘Ramaiya Vastavaiya’, ‘Ichak Dana’ and the evergreen ‘Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua Hai’ are still hummed by music lovers. The cherry on top? The terrific Raj Kapoor- Nargis pairing!
Although a remake of 1940 film ‘Aurat’, ‘Mother India’ was and is still regarded as an epic film. The film is about the hardships of a poor village woman, who raises her children despite all odds, and in the end, chooses moral good over her own criminal son.
The importance of Indian woman, cultural values and the fact that most parts of rural India were victims of poverty and evil moneylenders was something which the people could relate to. The chemistry between Nargis and Sunil Dutt as mother-son on screen, and a couple off it, was the icing on the cake. The film went on to win several major awards, and continues to be among the most watched movies of all times.
Do Bigha Zamin
Among the first movies of Indian cinema to have set a benchmark for the way films should be made, this 1953 Bimal Roy classic film won the International Prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The story revolves around a farmer and his family, and how fate mercilessly takes away their sole property- two acres of land- from them.
Superb performances by Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy, the Lata-Rafi-Manna Dey trio and the socialist theme made the film a must watch for all cinema lovers, and that’s why it features in our list of top 20 Bollywood movies of all times.
A film does not hold the record for being the highest grossing Bollywood film of all times for 15 long years for nothing! Yes, that is Mughal-E-Azam, the story of Prince Salim and court dancer Anarkali, who fail to pass the test of love owing to Emperor Akbar. The film became a milestone and the characters played by Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala became iconic.
The amazing sound track, the beautiful Madhubala as Anarkali, the unforgettable dialogues and the overall film made Mughal-E-Azam a classic piece of all times, which is why it features on our list of the top 20 Bollywood films of all times.
Kaagaz Ke Phool
Yet another Guru Dutt- Waheeda Rehman love saga, this film was regarded as Dutt’s autobiography. The film is about a film director who is going through problems in his married life, and seeks solace in another woman, whom he casts in his films. The Guru-Geeta-Waheeda love triangle was too apparent to be ignored.
Although it failed at the box office in 1959, it was re-released in 1980s, when it went on to become a classic cult film, and this is why it features on our list of top 20 Bollywood films of all times.
Another social theme-based film of 1957, it revolves around a group of tongawallahs whose livelihood is in danger when bus services begin operating in town. Their determination to overcome their troubles through a competition was an inspiration to the audiences. An undeterred Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala enacted brilliantly to make this film a social milestone in the history of Indian cinema.
The film’s music was another runaway hit, right from patriotic song ‘Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawaanon Ka’ to the cutely romantic number ‘Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri’ to the encouraging and confidence-boosting ‘Saathi Haath Badhana’. Naya Daur was the 2nd most successful film of 1957, after Mother India.
The ‘King’ of all Bollywood movies, Sholay is about two criminals who are hired by a former policeman to capture a merciless dacoit. Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur, Amjad Khan as Gabbar, Dharmendra as Veeru, Amitabh Bachchan as Jai, Hema Malini as Basanti, Jaya Bachchan as Radha, and other characters like Mausi, Dhanno and Samba, made the film what it is.
Sholay describes what is called a ‘complete Bollywood masala flick’. No wonder it holds the record of celebrating a silver jubilee (a 25-week run) in more than hundred theatres across the entire nation! The film continues to remain in the limelight even now, thanks to its superb dialogues, engrossing music, and the typical characters.
A film by Yash Chopra highlighting the dirty politics prevailing in the country during the 1970s couldn’t be wrong anywhere. Two brothers, impoverished due to their father’s misdeeds, struggle for a living in Mumbai- was the plot of the film. The film gave the Hindi film industry an “Angry Young Man” in the form of Amitabh Bachchan, and a “New Bolly Babe” in the form of Parveen Babi.
Although not a blockbuster in terms of gross earnings, the film swept many Filmfare Awards in 1976 and is counted among the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films of all times.
Mera Naam Joker
One of the most touching films ever made in Bollywood, Mera Naam Joker gave us the lesson for life- “The Show Must Go On”. It taught people that no matter what situations we face, we must not stop in our journey.
The film is about a clown who has to make the world laugh at the cost of his own pain and troubles. Mera Naam Joker gave us the future heartthrob Rishi Kapoor, the sexy Simi Grewal and ‘Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan’. Although the film failed commercially, it garnered much critical acclaim.
Based on R. K. Narayan’s novel ‘The Guide’, this Dev Anand- Waheeda Rehman starrer 1965 film is regarded as one of the most classic films of Indian cinema. The film is about a guide who helps a woman achieve her dreams, but is rejected by her. He is sent to jail, and upon return, is mistakenly taken for a saint by villagers. The story ends on a tragic note, with the saint sacrificing his life for the well-being of the villagers.
The film proved as a landmark in many aspects- Vijay Anand as a director, ‘Guide’ as one of the best works of Dev-Waheeda, and the evergreen music by S. D. Burman. Not to forget, the melodies by Lata and Rafi! Reason enough for it to make it to our list.
Based on the life of Phoolan Devi, the film Bandit Queen shows how a young girl is mercilessly exploited sexually and how she seeks revenge by turning into a dangerous bandit. Starring Seema Biswas in the lead role, the film went on to win three National Awards and other Filmfare Awards.
The film was not a huge commercial success but the gripping plot and superb performances by the actors makes it a must-watch for all.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
Another superhit film from the Chopra banner (well, it would be a shame to call this film just a ‘superhit’!), DDLJ redefined romance and love. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol play a young couple who fall for each other on a vacation to Europe, after which the journey to win over the girl’s parents begins.
Bagging 10 Filmfare awards at one go, along with a National Award and three Star Screen Awards, the film became an all-time blockbuster, breaking Sholay’s record. 17 years down the line, DDLJ still plays at a theatre in Mumbai. Need we say more?
Set in the period of British Raj in India, the film is about the poor farmers who are oppressed by the burden of heavy taxes and failing monsoons, and how they win a cricket match against the British to get their taxes cancelled.
The great combo of director Ashutosh Gowariker, actor-producer Aamir Khan, musician A.R. Rahman and costume designer Bhanu Athaiya yielded a terrific film, which went on to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The film set a new benchmark for Indian films.
Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
Before the release of this film, no one had ever thought that it would go on to be a blockbuster. A tale set against the backdrop of the 1947 Partition and the subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots, the film is about a Sikh truck driver and a girl from a Muslim aristocratic family and how their love triumphs all odds.
Brilliant performances by the actors and some great music helped the film become immensely popular among the masses, especially in North and West India. It was not for nothing that the film won and was nominated for numerous awards at various award functions. If you haven’t yet watched the film, then you have missed out on something very great!
Dil Chahta Hai
Among the milestones of modern Indian cinema, Dil Chahta Hai won the National Award for Best Film, besides other awards like the Filmfare, IIFA and Star Screen. Directed by Farhan Akhtar, the film is about three friends and the journey of their friendship through the different phases of each one’s lives.
The matured way in which Akhtar dealt with relationships in the film was tremendously outstanding, and so were the performances by the actors. Eleven years down the line, we can still picturize the road trip to Goa whenever we hear the title track. Ecstasy!
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s adaptation of the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name was the most expensive Bollywood film at the time of its release. Shah Rukh Khan as the rebellious alcoholic, his childhood sweetheart Paro (played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) and courtesan Chandramukhi (played by Madhuri Dixit) were the prime characters of the film.
The film won several National Awards, Filmfare Awards, Star Screen Awards and IIFA Awards, along with a nomination in the BAFTA Awards and screening at the Cannes Film festival and the prestigious Oscars. We still drool over Madhuri as Chandramukhi!
Very rarely does Bollywood produce films which change the dialect of people. Munnabhai M.B.B.S was one of those solid films. A crime don who attends a medical college to fulfill his parents’ dream was a new story, which became an instant hit with audiences.
The Munna-Circuit chemistry, the touching side-stories in the film, ‘Mamu’, ‘Jadoo Ki Jhappi’ and Sunidhi Chauhan’s seductive number ‘Dekh Le’ tickled at the ribs as well as the tear glands of –people. No wonder it won four National Awards and many other popular awards!
Rang De Basanti
A classic film about a group of friends who play historic characters in a documentary, and how they fight against the corrupt Government officials- Rang De Basanti was another film which changed the way youth was portrayed in Indian cinema. Starring Aamir Khan, Siddharth Narayan, Sharman Joshi, Kunal Kapoor, Atul Kulkarni, Soha Ali Khan, R. Madhavan and Alice Patten in pivotal roles, the film became an inspiration for many youngsters.
The film was well-received in many award functions both domestic and international. The sheer spirit of the youth and the real face of politics revealed in the film had an instant appeal to the audience, which is why the film features in our list of top 20 Bollywood films of all times.
Now this was a tough decision between Ghajini and 3 Idiots, but I decided to go anyways with the latter, since it broke the records of the highest grossing Bolly films previously held by the former. Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra collaborated to give us this one helluva comedy-drama, led by Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, R. Madhavan, Boman Irani and Kareena Kapoor.
A fun film with lots of messages on the Indian education system, the film was refreshing change from the typical Bolly films. The film became the highest grossing Bollywood films not just in India but also overseas, and quite obviously swept many awards at the popular award functions. Needless to say, it features in our list of top 10 Bollywood films of all times!
We could actually carry on with this list, as the talent pool of Bollywood is not just limited to “Top 20” best films of all times. Hopefully, we will be back with more soon! Till then, grab your sets of DVDs of this list and have fun!