The Film industry in India is one of the largest in the world producing more than 100 films every year. The success of Bollywood has been phenomenal as the industry celebrated its centenarian anniversary in the year 2013. Ever since the inception of Bollywood with the first ever silent feature film named Raja Harishchandra by Dadasaheb Phalke, the industry has come a long way. After all, we flock to the multiplexes every day to catch some of the must watch Bollywood movies produced by the industry’s talented filmmakers.
From comedy to action, horror to animation, Bollywood has produced some of the larger-than-life films that have been loved by not only Indian audience but even the international audience. Evidently, the world of cinema has the power to influence and leave an enduring impact on the minds of the movie lovers, since we have all grown up watching Bollywood films that define our lives. The characters, scenes, songs, and the cinematography, a Bollywood film is a product of the best craftsmanship that industry has.
We have curated the list of 51 Best Must Watch Bollywood Films for every generation. Take a look:
1. Sholay (1975)
‘Sholay‘ is the perfect example of an epic Bollywood film with the right amount of action scenes, humor, bromance, songs and plot twists that make it the best Bollywood film of all time. Featuring the first of the baddest villains in the Bollywood films, this cult masala film sees the escaped convicts Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) defend a village that is terrorized by bandits under the leadership of the insane Gabbar Singh.
2. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ is the ultimate example of a Bollywood romance film that set the benchmark for every romantic film ever in the future. This era-defining film tells the story of a simple girl named Simran who falls in love with a young man named Raj against the backdrop of the Swiss mountains. Hanging between personal choices and family responsibility, the movie finishes with the epic train sequence that is definitely a must watch for all Bollywood lover.
3. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
Set in the late sixteenth century in the Mughal period in India, Mughal-e-Azam is the story of Emperor Akbar’s son, Prince Saleem who falls in love with Anarkali who was a dancing slave girl in the courtroom of the emperor. Majestic sets, huge battle scenes, elaborate costumes, tremendous filmmaking and the naturalistic acting of the stars makes it a highly important film that changed the cinematic scenario of Bollywood.
4. Lagaan (2001)
The film is set in the nineteenth century in a small village named Champaner in the heart of India which under the colonial British control. Incidentally, the government decides to impose double tax “lagaan” on the villagers and the entire decides to take on the cruel imperial rulers by playing a cricket match with them. Lagaan became a box-office success with a new era of subject matter and differentiated storytelling as it was nominated for the Oscars as well.
5. Mother India (1957)
The first Hindi film ever to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the prestigious Oscars, Mother India is a heart-splitting story of the hardships faced by rural farmers in the newly independent India. Purity in storytelling, exceptional filmmaking and the plight of a village mother who is forced to toil the farmland in order to survive, made this film an idealized cinematic experience that the audience fell in love with.
6. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Farhan Akhtar made his directorial debut with this coming-of-age film set in the urban culture of the 2000s. Dil Chahta Hai is a story about three Mumbai boys who are best friends and are a breath of fresh air with the changing trends in the society. From Goa trips to clubbing with friends, the film caters to the metropolitan lifestyle of people living in the cities through every element in the film from the dialogues to the music design.
7. Pyaasa (1957)
Veteran filmmaker Guru Dutt both directed and acted in this cinematic masterpiece that tells the struggling story of a writer and his two best friends. Pyaasa is the story of an artist’s struggle in an unwelcoming society who makes lots of sacrifices in order to achieve his dreams. The movie understood the inherent power of music in the Golden Age of Hindi Cinema with the stellar music by the maestro SD Burman. From exploring the dangers of commercial and selfish world to patronizing art as a trend, this film is indeed sheer brilliance.
8. 3 Idiots (2009)
Three students who are struggling to become the toppers in India’s top engineering university, 3 Idiots is definitely a coming-of-age comedy film. From ragging in college hostel to intense pressure on students to excel in education, the film addresses various intrinsic situations in a student’s life perfectly. It was not only a huge box-office success but has a meaningful message that undoubtedly made an impact on the audience.
9. Guide (1965)
Director Vijay Anand adapted the English novel by R K Narayan into a magnificent drama in the form of Guide. With veteran actors like Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, this movie tells the story of a man named Raju who transforms from a tour guide to a great holy man in his lifetime. Considered to be ahead its time, the award-winning film Guide tops the Best Bollywood classic films of all time.
10. Deewar (1975)
The film with Amitabh Bachchan playing the Angry Young Man is a cinematic marvel that evidently places an anti-hero center-stage. Deewar apparently proved to be Senior Bachchan’s first step the road to stardom with his excellent acting that kept the audience hooked to the screens. The story of two brothers, Vijay who turn into a criminal to provide for his mother and Ravi who becomes a cop, Deewar is one of the Best Bollywood movies of all time.
11. Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
However, this cult classic was a box-office failure, but its popularity has grown over the years. Andaz Apna Apna brought two young actors, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan together on the silver screen and created magic with their epic comic timing and dialogue delivery. Amar and Prem wanted to marry a rich heiress after which they meet their love interests and their father in the film. Evidently, the film takes an iconic turn which is a must watch for every Hindi film lover.
12. Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
This musical romance explores the love lives of dancers in a musical group. One of Yash Chopra’s best, Dil To Pagal Hai is a classic love quadrangle that travels from friendship to love. Interestingly, this classic love story is credited with introducing the dance form of jazz to the Indian audience and brought a revolution in the Bollywood choreography with impressive synchronization of the background dancers.
13. Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
A film about three brothers who were separated at birth, Amar Akbar Anthony set the commercial template that many modern-day Bollywood filmmakers continue to follow even now. With exceptional clichés and implausible situations, this film encapsulates three religions in a movie which is a pleasure to watch. Commendable direction by Manmohan Desai, this action drama has to be on the list of best Bollywood movies of all time.
14. Bombay (1995)
Bombay tells the story of a Hindu man and a Muslim woman who fall in love and later leave their parents to marry in Bombay where they start a family. However, religious violence outbreak in the city and the couple faces extensive difficulties. Based on real-life riots in late 1992 that had a huge impact on Mumbai, Bombay is great picturization with moving imagery and storytelling. And the music of the film by none-other-than A. R. Rahman is to die for!
15. Om Shanti Om (2007)
A striking hit on the box office, Om Shanti Om achieved huge popularity with its satirical take on the Hindi film industry. From a Bollywood clichéd junior artist to an extreme reincarnation story, Om Shanti Om was the perfect blend of masala entertainment in the form of action, comedy, and romance. And apparently, thanks to this film, the queen of hearts Deepika Padukone debuted in the industry.
16. Mr. India (1987)
One of the most famous Bollywood films, Mr. India is the story of a common man who becomes an invisible superhero by the name of Mr. India with the help of a watch. He then uses his superpowers to fight the evil villain Mogambo. Packed with masala film ingredients like cheeky dialogues like ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’, this film became a nationwide craze just after its release.
17. Awaara (1951)
The Show Man Raj Kapoor’s most famous film Awaara is a tragic melodramatic story that explores class division in newly independent India. The landmark movie drove the essence of a meaningful script and exceptional treatment of the subject. The movie was a neat package of flawless music and performance that stood out of the crowd for its social message and entertainment quotient that is viable even today.
18. Jab We Met (2007)
The career-defining film of the ex-lovers Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, Jab We Met is director Imtiaz Ali’s best cinematic work. He uses his love for trains perfectly in the film where the two strangers are introduced in a train who later fall in love after a lot of hysterical complications. Based on conversational romance, travel and beautiful musical compositions, Jab We Met is one of the best examples of Bollywood romance films.
19. Anand (1971)
With the title character played by the reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna, Anand explores the relationship of a man diagnosed with cancer with his doctor. A man with a positive outlook towards his life acts as a meaningful lesson to everyone around him including his strict and serious doctor. Brilliant script and exceptional acting by the cast, this film is a cult classic that should be on your must-watch list.
20. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Three friends going through a mid-life crisis decide to go on a road trip for the bachelor’s party. From doing adventure sports with friends to partying like crazy, this films sets the benchmark for an epic friends get-together. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or should I say ‘You only live once (YOLO)’ provides a hard-hitting message to the new liberal citizens with good-paying jobs that it is okay if things are not in place. One must never forget to live and enjoy life to the fullest.
21. Gol Maal (1979)
An immensely well-crafted film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gol Maal is known as the best homegrown comedy ever made by a Bollywood director and is extremely popular among every generation of audience. The story of double identities by Amol Palekar in order to sustain his job, Gol Maal is a comedy of characters who are lying through their teeth resulting in epic confusion and a joyful end.
22. Chak De! India (2007)
One of its kind, this sports drama weave the story of a tainted ex-Indian hockey player who coaches women’s team for the Hockey World Cup. With the themes of cultural diversity, feminism, religious difference, Chak De! India is an exceptionally quintessential storytelling with the right amount of elements for a must-watch film. The film bagged the perfect score of 10 on 10 from the critics for its cinematic experience.
23. Ankur (1974)
The film that allegedly kick-started the parallel cinema movement in the Indian cinema industry, Ankur is Shyam Benegal’s directorial debut that took the industry by storm. Ankur explores the story of Laxmi, the servant-wife of a deaf and dumb untouchable potter. The realist and commendable film also introduce Shabana Azmi to Bollywood with her debut as Laxmi in a strong feminist stance. This rural melodrama is a serious and essential portrayal of Indian society at best.
24. Ghajini (2008)
Based on the cult Hollywood classic ‘Memento’ by Christopher Nolan, this suspense thriller is based on a character who suffers from short-term memory loss after a severe head injury. Ghajini is the story of the man’s revenge for the death of his lover by the horrific villain in the film. Apparently, the film was a huge box-office and critics success making it a part of the list of best Bollywood movies ever made.
25. Kaala Patthar (1979)
With certain references from the 1975 Chasnala mining tragedy, Kaala Patthar is based on the theme of exploitation of a common man by greedy industrialists. The film is filled with black, browns and grey that brought the reality of the miners on the silver screen highlighting their hopelessness to the problems. The film comes with the power of outstanding performances by not only the actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor but also exceptional direction by Yash Chopra.
26. Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Seemingly, a real-life story of the Mughal emperor Akbar and his Hindu wife Jodhaa, this film is sheer brilliance in its performance, ideas, and storytelling. Director Ashutosh Gowariker perfectly describes the historical story through a lavish and royal blend of costumes and production design with a hint of the entertainment factor in the period drama of Jodhaa Akbar.
27. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)
As the trailer shouted out loud, ‘it is all about loving your parents’, this movie is a true-blue Karan Johar storytelling. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (K3G) brings together a fractured family in the movie and then mends the broken family piece-by-piece. With rich production design, a collaboration of superstars and guilty-pleasure of the dialogues, K3G is one of the best Bollywood movies that have to be on the top list of Hindi movie lovers and best Bollywood movies.
28. The Lunchbox (2013)
One of the highest-grossing foreign-language films worldwide, The Lunchbox got rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival. A simply structured story, The Lunchbox focuses on the lives of two ordinary but lonely individuals who accidentally gets to know to each other through a lunchbox. Set in the mayhem of Mumbai, this directorial debut of Ritesh Batra became India’s most popular films worldwide with its honest and happy storytelling.
29. Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)
This redefining story of friendship and romance by director Sooraj Barjatya takes you on a roller coaster ride with all elements of a typical Bollywood masala film. A boy from a wealthy family falls in forbidden love with a working-class girl and the movie explores his struggles to win his love from the society. Iconic dialogues, evergreen soundtrack and admirable collaboration of friendship and love, Maine Pyar Kiya cannot be missed in any way.
30. Mera Naam Joker (1970)
This four hours of self-loathing angst by actor-director of the film Raj Kapoor is apparently a box-office failure. Mera Naam Joker tells the story of a sad clown who invites the women he once loved to his last ever circus performance. Even after crashing down at the box-office, there is no barring that this film is one of the best examples of epic film making with a moving soundtrack. Narrated in three chapters, this film defines the meaning of life with a hint of feminism in the right manner.
31. Queen (2014)
A novel plot and extensively original filmmaking technique, Queen stands out from the crowd as one among the best Bollywood movies ever made. Queen became a huge critical and box-office success after the path-breaking performance by Kangana Ranaut playing the lead role. It is the story of a small town girl who decides to go on her ‘honeymoon’ to Europe all alone after being ditched at the altar by the groom. With witty lines and strong portrayal of human behavior, this movie is a cinematic masterpiece.
32. Rockstar (2011)
What a performance by Ranbir Kapoor as Rockstar in the film! Bollywood and Imtiaz Ali gave India a young superstar that we look forward to watching on the silver screen. Credible music by AR Rahman, Rockstar is a masterpiece by Imtiaz Ali with nuanced performances by the team and ingenious storytelling that grabbed the attention of the audience like never before.
33. Pink (2016)
Pink is the soul-stirring tale of three young working girls whose life turns upside down after they go out partying with some guys. Amitabh Bachchan playing the character of a lawyer who hits back at the society with the powerful comments on feminism. Dealing with the issues of patriarchy, condescending attitude of the society towards women in the 21st century, this film is a definite watch. Pink is one of its kind movies that best deals with women-centric issues in Bollywood movies.
34. Bobby (1973)
Well, the industry hasn’t explored the arena of teenage romance in filmmaking until the release of Bobby. Directed by Raj Kapoor, the film is a variation of Romeo and Juliet that introduced the genre of teenage romance with a rich-versus-poor clash in the backdrop. Debutantes Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia mesmerize the audience with their marvelous acting making it one of the most successful Bollywood films of all time.
35. Bandit Queen (1994)
A career-defining film by director Shekhar Kapoor, Bandit Queen is a powerful and fearless biopic of the Indian dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi. Seemingly, one of the most controversial films in the Hindi cinema, this film is not only a successful characterization of the protagonist but is also technically brilliant. The film wins in making an impact on the audience with complicit scenes and tremendous acting by the lead.
36. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
Directed by Anurag Kashyap, this film is a brutal and visually appealing gangster film. Made in two parts, Gangs of Wasseypur is the story of a clash between Sultan and Shahid Khan that leads to an expulsion of Khan from the Wasseypur village. This ignites a deadly blood feud between the gangs spanning over three generations. With compelling scenes and extraordinary dialogues, this film indeed shreds Bollywood’s image of shooting airbrushed heroes in exotic locations. Loosely based on real-life gang wars between coal mafias in Dhanbad, this movie will certainly take you on an enthralling journey.
37. Rang De Basanti (2006)
Released on January 26, 2006, this film is based on historical events of revolutionary movements in India. A story of six young Indians who assist an English woman in making a documentary on the extremist freedom fighters from the past, Rang De Basanti is a cult Bollywood movie that will make you relive the long-forgotten saga of freedom struggle in the country.
38. Swades (2004)
Swades is a classic melodrama about a successful scientist from NASA who returns to his birthplace in an Indian village to take his babysitter to the USA with him. In order to fulfill his deeds, he discovers his lost roots in the village and the movie takes you on a simple yet unconventional storyboard that will leave you amazed while watching the film.
39. Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Taare Zameen Par is the soulful story of an eight-year-old boy who is thought to be a lazy trouble-maker until his new art teacher discovers the truth behind his struggles in the new school. Apparently, suffering from dyslexia, the boy explores his life in an imaginative world which always lands him in troubles. With stellar performance by Darsheel Safary and Aamir Khan, this movie is one of the best Bollywood movies ever made.
40. Dangal (2016)
Yet another super hit by Aamir Khan, Dangal explores the story of the former Indian wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his two wrestler daughters who struggle to achieve victory at the Commonwealth Games. With dedication, determination, and courage, the father and the daughters are able to tackle the societal oppression and win the hearts of not only the on-screen fans but off-screen audiences as well.
41. Black Friday (2004)
Written and directed by Anurag Kashyap, Black Friday is a masterpiece inspired by a book by Hussain Zaidi about the 1993 Bombay bombings. This Indian crime drama film is based on the investigations following the 1993 Bombay bombings with the help of different elements that makes it a must-watch Bollywood movie. Even after being a controversial film, Black Friday went to become a commercial and critical success.
42. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
A biopic based on the story of ‘The Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag tops the list of an epic Bollywood sports drama. The athlete’s struggle to make his name in the World Games is portrayed perfectly through mind-blowing performance by actor Farhan Akhtar.
43. Haider (2014)
Shahid Kapoor’s career-defining acting in this modern-day adaption of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet is a must watch for every Bollywood fan. The story of a young man who returns to Kashmir after his father’s disappearance in order to confront his uncle, is one of the best crime tragedies Bollywood has ever produced. This film written and directed by Vishal Bhardwaj is set amidst the insurgency-hit Kashmir conflicts of 1995 and the tragic disappearance of civilians.
44. Guru (2007)
An biographical story of a villager named Gurukant Desai, Guru is a splendid cinematic experience by director Mani Ratnam. The film is apparently, a fictionalized depiction of the business magnate Dhirubhai Ambani who founded the Reliance Industries. Exceptional soundtrack by A.R. Rahman and one of the best performances by Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, this movie has to be on the list of best Bollywood movies ever made.
45. Munna Bhai MBBS (2003)
The story of a gangster who sets out fulfill his father’s dream of him becoming a doctor, Munna Bhai MBBS is a trendsetting film by Rajkumar Hirani starring Sanjay Dut as the gangster Munna Bhai. This classic comedy is filled with hilarious anecdotes about friendship, love and family that will keep you entertained. The film’s success was defined by the tremendous box-office collection.
46. PK (2014)
Aamir Khan indeed knows the right ingredients for a perfect Bollywood film. This unique story of an alien from a different planet visiting the Earth in order to learn about the lifestyles of the inhabitants, is a remarkable Hindi film by Rajkumar Hirani. An interesting take on the diversity of religious perspectives makes PK an all-time classic fantasy movie that will keep you hooked to the screens.
47. Black (2005)
An emotional tale of a young girl who cannot see, hear or talk and her interactions with her teacher who enters her dark world as a ray of light, Black will touch your heart in all ways possible. Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan played one of the most challenging and toughest characters in their acting career in this film which makes Black a must-watch film.
48. Kahaani (2012)
This Bollywood suspense thriller tells the story of a pregnant woman who visits Kolkata from London in search of her missing husband. Apparently, everyone she questions about his whereabouts denies of having ever met him. Later the plot of the movie unfolds with an unpredictable twist. Kahaani takes you on a roller-coaster ride in the adventurous and gripping storyline.
49. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1998)
An all-time favorite romantic story, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is yet another modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in the decade of eighties. This movie came around the time of violent themes in the mainstream cinema as a trendsetter with classic performances by newcomers Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla who became stars with the overnight success of the film.
50. Pakeezah (1972)
A moving story of a courtesan named Pakeezah, this movie became the most loved and talked about film in the Hindi cinema for years. A cult classic film about the tragic story of Pakeezah’s life, this film had the veteran actress Meena Kumari as the lead. However, this film didn’t achieve instant success at the box-office, but the lead actress’s death weeks after the release of the film turned the tables around making it one of the best Bollywood movies of the time.
51. Hera Pheri (2000)
One of the most cherished comedy movies in Bollywood, Hera Pheri is the story of three unemployed men who try to find different answers to their common problem of money. Their attempts in earning a livelihood make this movie a memorable film. Made in two installments, this movie will give you a stomach ache with laughter riots.