Now Reading
107 Years Of Indian Cinema: 100 Iconic Films

107 Years Of Indian Cinema: 100 Iconic Films

iconic indian movies

Indian film industry has come a long way since the release of its first film. On this day in 1913, India saw the release of its first full-length feature film Raja Harishchandra, written, produced and directed by Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema. In 1931, Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie was released. Religious, mythological themes dominated this era.

The late 40s saw a shift from the historical, mythological narratives to socially relevant themes. Slowly but surely, the Indian concept of a masala film emerged, combining mixed genres like song and dance along with dramatic elements, giving way to the Golden Age of Bollywood (a portmanteau of Bombay and Hollywood) — 1940s to 60s. This period also saw the origin of the parallel movement led by Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray.

The 70s moved from social, political, message-driven films to grittier, darker, violent cinema. The early 80s were majorly an eyewash for the mainstream, a wasted decade for our cinema. But the Indian parallel movement picked steam around this time.

Romance and family dramas ruled the 90s followed by the 2000s which ushered in the New Age/modern cinema | (Read 50 must watch Bollywood movies of the 21st century)

As Indian cinema completes 107 years today, here’s reminiscing and celebrating its most iconic works. These are all films that have been game changers and have stood the test of time, shaping what Indian cinema stands for today.

Several of these films might seem outdated or regressive today in terms of writing, but one needs to keep in mind the times these were made in.


Watch: 30 Most Beautiful Shots of Satyajit Ray


1. Raja Harishchandra (1913)

Director: Dadasaheb Phalke

Writer: Dadasaheb Phalke

India’s first full-length feature film, Raja Harishchandra was directed and produced by Dadasaheb Phalke, whose contribution to Indian cinema was commemorated by the government in 1969 in the form of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, country’s highest honor in cinema.


2. A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash) (1929)

Director: Franz Osten

Writers: W.A Burton, Max Jungk , Niranjan Pal (story)

Listed in Steven Jay Schneider’s 1001 Movies To See Before You Die (put together by 70 film critics), this one is among the 11 Indian films. The silent, black-and-white film is based on an episode from the Mahabharata. German filmmaker Franz Osten’s third Indian film Prapancha Pash is regarded as one of his greatest works.


3. Alam Ara (Ornament of the World) (1931) 

Director: Ardeshir Irani

Writers: Joseph David Penkar, Munshi Zaheer

India’s first talkie film (funfact: Alam Ara was promoted with the tagline ‘All living, breathing, 100 per cent talking’) and musical ran a full house for 8 weeks after its release. “De de khuda ke naam per” is the first Indian song to have played on screen.


4. Devdas (1935) – Bengali

Director: P.C. Barua

Writer: Sharat Chandra Chatterjee

The film, which essentially criticized the feudalistic system that prevailed at the time, revolutionised the perception of Indian social cinema. Adapted from Sharat Chandra Chatterjee’s classic novel, it stars Barua himself in the titular role.

After watching Devdas, Chatterjee told Barua: “It appears that I was born to write Devdas because you were born to recreate it in cinema.”

The film spawned several remakes, notably Bimal Roy’s 1956 version starring veteran Dilip Kumar.


5. Sant Tukaram (1936) – Marathi

Director: Vishnupant Govind Damle, Sheikh Fattelal

Writer: Shivram Washikar

This film was a landmark in India’s journey to being a leading force in the film industry. It was the first Indian film to receive any sort of international recognition. Venice Film Festival recognised Sant Tukaram as one of the three best films in the world at the time.


6. Kunku (1937) – Marathi

Director: V Shantaram

Writer: Narayan Hari Apte

Based on Apte’s novel Na Patnari Goshta, Kunku was hailed by film critics for its bold depiction of unfair treatment of women in Indian society. It was screened at the Venice International Film Festival.

Kunku was simultaneously made in Hindi as Duniya Na Maane (1937).


7. Manoos (1939) – Marathi

Director: V Shantaram

Writer: A Bhaskarrao

Another Shantaram classic that will go down in history is Manoos, which was also made in Hindi as Aadmi the same year. The story was about an honest policeman who fell in love with a prostitute, his attempts to rehabilitate her, as well as society’s disapproval of it. After watching Manoos, Charlie Chaplin praised Shantaram for the film.


8. Neecha Nagar (1946)

Director: Chetan Anand

Writers: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Hayatullah Ansari

The first Indian film to gain recognition at the Cannes film festival, Neecha Nagar won the prestigious Palme D’Or. It also marked the debut of the great Ravi Shankar as a music director.


9. Andaz (1949)

Director: Mehboob Khan

Writer: S. Ali Raza

One of the first Indian films to introduce the idea of a ‘love triangle’, Andaz raised many questions about the nature of relationships and friendships between men and women, a very progressive take in an era that wasn’t really known for its open-mindedness.


10. Awara (1951)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Writer: Khwaja Ahmed Abbas

Among TIME magazine’s 10 Indian Movies to Treasure list, Awara was Raj Kapoor at his finest, both as a director and performer. Bollywood showman’s work was counted among one of the top 10 greatest performances of all time by the same magazine. Master helmer’s film was entered in the Cannes Film Festival in 1953, where it was nominated for Palme d’Or. (He was twice nominated for the Palme d’Or grand prize. The second was for Boot Polish in 1954).

Did you know Awara was remade in Turkey as Avare in 1964?


11. Shyamchi Aai (1953) – Marathi

Director: Prahlad Keshav Atre (Acharya Atre)

Writer: Acharya Atre

Shyamchi Aai made history by being first film to win the Golden Lotus Award at the first ever National Film Awards in 1954.


12. Do Bhiga Zameen (1953)

Director: Bimal Roy

Writer: Paul Mahendra

One of the frontrunners of India’s Parallel Cinema Movement of the ’50s, Do Bhiga Zameen was best known for its socialist-humanist theme. The Balraj Sahni-starrer film went on to win the International Prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.


13. Andha Naal (1954) – Tamil

Director: Sundaram Balachander

Writer: Javar Seetharaman

The first in the film noir genre in Tamil cinema, made without songs, dance or stunts, Andha Naal has gained a cult status in Tamil cinema.


14. Apu Trilogy (1955-59) – Bengali

Director: Satyajit Ray

Writer: Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray‘s greatest works – Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar placed India as a leading force in world cinema.


Recommended: 12 Best Movie Trilogies Of All Time


15. Shree 420 (1955)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Writer: Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

Raj Kapoor and Nargis together made a stellar duo, with Kapoor’s mastery as a director once again at the forefront as they created a story of love, deception and redemption.


16. Pyaasa (1957)

Director: Guru Dutt

Writer: Abrar Alvi

This was one of the first films that used music and lyrics as a device to move the narrative forward instead of random songs and item numbers.

Pyaasa is a masterpiece that highlights Guru Dutt’s best work as a filmmaker. It’s on TIME Magazine’s All Time Top 100 Movies List.


Recommended: 50 Best Movies On Amazon Prime 


17. Mayabazar (1957) – Telugu, Tamil

Director: K.V. Reddy

The first film in Indian cinema to be made in more than one language, Mayabazar is considered a landmark for both Tamil and Telugu cinema. It was the most expensive film of its time.


18. Mother India (1957)

Director: Mehboob Khan

Writers: Mehboob Khan, Wajahat Mirza, S. Ali Raza

The greatest Hindi film ever made which is revered till today for its cultural significance, Khan’s magnum opus was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Where to Watch: YouTube


19. Harano Sur (1957) – Bengali

Director: Ajoy Kar

Inspired by Mervyn LeRoy’s Random Harvest (1942) and featuring superstars Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, this era-defining pairing and film stand out in the Golden Age of Bengali cinema.


20. Kabuliwala (1957 – Bengali) (1961 – Hindi)

Directors: Tapan Sinha, Hemen Gupta

Story: Rabindranath Tagore

Kabuliwala is a tragic, touching tale of a fruit seller from Afghanistan and the unusual bond he forms with a little girl. The story itself is a classic. But both the Bengali and Hindi films are classics in their own right. Tapan Sinha’s version (Bengali) did justice to the story it was adapted from. The film won Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival. Producer Bimal Roy’s Hindi version is forever etched in audiences’ memories because of veteran Balraj Sahni’s outstanding performance.


21. Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957)

Director: V. Shantaram

Writer: G.D. Madhulkar

A social drama that made us relook at the way prisoners could be treated, Shantaram’s Do Aankhen Barah Haath wasn’t a conventional film. It was a broad departure from his previous film Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje, which was a massive hit at the box office. Many had suggested him against this experiment but the film eventually went on to win acclaim both in India and overseas. It won a Silver Bear at the 8th Berlin International Film Festival and a Samuel Goldwyn Award for Best Foreign Film.


22. Naya Daur (1957)

Director: B.R. Chopra

Writers: Akhtar Mirza, Kamil Rashid

Set in post-independent India, B.R. Chopra’s classic starring Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala showed the impact of industrialization on Indian society. It won Dilip Kumar his 4th Filmfare Award and was the second biggest earner of 1957 just behind Mother India.


23. Jalsaghar – The Music Room (1958)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Based on Jalsaghar by Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay; Writer: Satyajit Ray

Jalsaghar, the story of a zamindar (landlord) who desperately tries to regain his family’s prestige, is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema.


24. Madhumati (1958)

Director: Bimal Roy

Writer: Ritwik Ghatak

This film was best known for dealing with the idea of reincarnation, a popular theme in our cinema. It went on to become the source of inspiration for countless Hindi films that followed. One notable example is the Shah Rukh-Deepika starrer Om Shanti Om.


25. Kagaz Ke Phool (1959)

Director: Guru Dutt

Writer: Abrar Alvi

Another Guru Dutt masterpiece, Kaagaz Ke Phool actually bombed at the box office when it first released. With time, though, it acquired a cult status. India’s first cinemascope film, Kaagaz Ke Phool was ranked among the greatest films of all time in BFI’s Sight & Sound critics and directors’ poll in 2002.


26. Partition trilogy (1960-62)

Director: Ritiwik Ghatak

Ritiwik Ghatak’s finest work is a trilogy (Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komal Gandhar, Subarnarekha) around the partition of Bengal in 1947 and the raggedy imposed on the refugees.

His most popular film in the trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara has been listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, praising “the grace of Ghatak’s mise en scene, his expressionist sound design, and the enormous sense of loss”.


27. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Director: K. Asif

Writers: Aman, Kamal Amrohi, K. Asif, Wajahat Mirza, Ehsan Rizvi

The K. Asif-masterpiece starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor was the most expensive film of its time. A grand visual spectacle and a milestone in Indian cinema, Mughal-E-Azam was in the making for 10 years before it finally saw light of day.


28. Chaudhvi Ka Chand (1960)

Director: Mohammed Sadiq

Writer: Saghir Usmani

Kagaz Ke Phool may be a Bollywood classic today, but back in 1959, it was a failure in the box office. Chaudhvi ka Chand proved to be a welcome comeback for Guru Dutt and his production studio. It was one of the biggest grossing films of the year.

It was also the first Indian film with a Muslim protagonist after the Partition.


29. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)

Director: Abrar Alvi

Writers: Abrar Alvi, Bimal Mitra

Image Source:

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam saw Meena Kumari, as Chhoti Bahu, deliver one of the finest performances in Hindi cinema. Another Guru Dutt gem, this adaptation of Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel was on TIME magazine’s All-Time Best 100 Movies list.


30. Mahanagar (1963)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Based on: Abataranika by Narendranath Mitra, Screenplay: Satyajit Ray

Mahanagar won Satyajit Ray the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 14th Berlin International Film Festival in 1964. Of one of Satyajit Ray’s greatest films, noted film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “the power of this extraordinary film seems to come in equal parts from the serene narrative style of director Satyajit Ray and the sensitive performances of the cast members.”


31. Haqeeqat (1964)

Director: Chetan Anand

Writer: Chetan Anand

Set against the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Chetan Anand’s film was the first that portrayed war in an authentic light. Starring Dharmendra and Balraj Sahni, it bore all the hallmarks of a Bollywood classic.


32. Charulata (1964)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Based on: Nastanirh by Rabindranath Tagore, Screenplay: Satyajit Ray

Exploring themes of adultery, sexual desires and the relationship between man and wife, this Ray masterpiece received critical acclaim worldwide, winning Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival.


33. Waqt (1965)

Director: Yash Chopra

Writers: Akhtar-Ul-Iman (dialogue), Akhtar Mirza (story)

This multi-starrer film, a first for Bollywood, boasted noteworthy performances from Sunil Dutt, Sadhana, Shashi Kapoor, Raaj Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Balraj Sahni, Achala Sachdev. The Yash Chopra-directed drama became one of the most successful films of its time.


34. Guide (1965)

Director: Vijay Anand

Based on: The Guide by R.K. Narayan, Writer: Vijay Anand

Based on RK Narayan’s novel of the same name, this Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer was a tale of love and heartbreak. TIME magazine listed the film, a high point in Dev Anand’s career, in its Best Bollywood Classics list.


35. Nayak (1966) – Bengali

Director: Satyajit Ray

Writer: Satyajit Ray

This one is an underrated gem in Satyajit Ray’s iconic filmography. It masterfully explores the theme of public perception of a celebrity or film star, who is seemingly perfect in every way, but in reality has his own inner demons.


36. Bhuvan Shome (1969)

Director: Mrinal Sen

Writer: Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay

Mrinal Sen tasted success for the first time with Bhuvan Shome after a string of failures. This was the film that established him as a major filmmaker. Starring Utpal Dutt and newcomer Suhasini Mulay, Bhuvan Shome is also a landmark film for Indian cinema, ushering in a new wave of cinema — realistic, sensitive and subtle in its portrayal in contrast to mainstream storytelling.


37. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Based on: Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, Writer: Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray was a true genius. Each movie of his touched on different themes and genres, and with great success. This children’s film came out 50 years ago but feels as charming and refreshing even today. It was based on the characters Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne, who made their first appearance in the Sandesh magazine in 1915, with illustrations by Ray’s grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury.


38. Satyakam (1969)

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Based on: Novel by Narayan Sanyal; Writer: Bimal Dutta

While Sholay is Dharmendra’s most memorable performance, Satyakam is, undoubtedly, his best. Despite directing some of Bollywood’s all-time great films like Anand (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Khoobsoorat (1980), director Hrishikesh Mukharjee considers this his most favourite film.


39. Uski Roti (1969)

Director: Mani Kaul

Writers: Mohan Rakesh (original story, dialogue), Mani Kaul (screenplay)

Mani Kaul’s classic brought back parallel cinema in a big way, and paved the way for future films of the like. A milestone in arthouse cinema, this was Kaul’s debut feature based on a short story of the same name by Mohan Rakesh.


40. Mera Naam Joker (1970)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Writer: K.A. Abbas

Despite not receiving favourable reviews on its release, Mera Naam Joker achieved cult status over the passage of time. This film can be interpreted as the Indian equivalent to the clown Pagliacci, which focuses on a clown who makes his audience laugh at the cost of his own sorrows.


41. Aranyer Din Ratri (1970)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Writer: Satyajit Ray

Pauline Kael in the New Yorker on watching Aranyer Din Ratri, said, “Satyajit Ray’s films can give rise to a more complex feeling of happiness in me than the work of any other director…. No artist has done more than Ray to make us re-evaluate the commonplace.”

Pure genius!


READ: This Satyajit Ray Film Is As Relevant Even Today, Writes Director Milind Dhaimade


42. Samskara (1970) – Kannada 

Director: Pattabhirama Reddy

Screenplay: Girish Karnad, Pattabhirama Reddy; Story: U. R. Ananthamurthy

Written by U. R. Ananthamurthy based on his novel of the same name, Samskara is said to be one of the pioneers of the parallel cinema movement in the 1970s.


43. Anand (1971)

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Writers: Bimal Dutta, Gulzar, D.N. Mukherjee, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Biren Tripathy

Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi.” This Bollywood tear-jerker which brought together superstar Rajesh Khanna and the not-so-famous (until then) Amitabh Bachchan, tells the story of a man trying to live his life to the fullest, knowing he’ll soon succumb to an incurable disease. A heartwarming lesson on humanity, Anand is an inspiring film.


44. The Calcutta Trilogy (Interview, Calcutta 71, Padatik) (1971-73)

Director: Mrinal Sen

Writer: Mrinal Sen

Exceptionally made, Mrinal Sen’s most remarkable work was a take on anti-establishment, unemployment and corruption in a city that fascinated him the most. “Calcutta instigates me, Calcutta settles me, Calcutta makes me cry, Calcutta inspires me,” Sen had said in an interview.

Sen is the only Indian filmmaker along with Satyajit Ray to have won at all the three big international festivals — Cannes, Venice, Berlin.


45. Pinjra (1972) – Marathi

Director: V. Shantaram

Writer: Shankar Babaji Patil

The V. Shantaram-classic went on to win a National Award for Best Film in Marathi. One of the greatest films of its time, Pinjra was the first step towards color films in Marathi cinema.


46. Pakeezah (1972)

Director: Kamal Amrohi

Writer: Kamal Amrohi

Legendary actress Meena Kumari’s last great performance came in Pakeezah. She died only weeks after its release after battling cirrhosis of the liver. (Tidbit: did you know Meena Kumari was paid Re 1 was her role in the Kamal Amrohi classic?)


47. Bobby (1973)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Writers: Jainendra Jain, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

In a time when the landscape of Indian cinema was changing course, Bobby became an instant trend-setter, introducing Bollywood to the concept of teenage romance.


48. Zanjeer (1973)

Director: Prakash Mehra

Writers: Salim-Javed

In the 70s, Bollywood started moving away from musical and romance dramas on to more serious, gritty stories. This was the film that made Amitabh Bachchan a star, creating his legendary ‘Angry Young Man’ persona.


49. Garm Hawa (1973)

Director: M.S. Sathyu

Writers: Kaifi Azmi, Shama Zaidi

Based on an unpublished short story by noted writer Ismat Chughtai, this Urdu drama dealt with the struggles of a Muslim family during India’s partition.


50. Ankur (1974)

Director: Shyam Benegal

Writers: Shyam Benegal (Screenplay), Satyadev Dubey (dialogue)

This character-driven storyline introduced Bollywood to a more realistic side of the human psyche. Shyam Benegal’s directorial debut spearheaded a new wave of cinema (parallel/arthouse) winning recognition both in Indian and overseas. 3 National Awards, 45 international awards.


51. Sholay (1975)

Director: Ramesh Sippy

Writers: Salim-Javed

A film whose plethora of dialogues alone could make it iconic, each character is unforgettable in it’s own right. Sholaystill has a massive cultural impact on Indians to this day.


52. Deewar (1975)

Director: Yash Chopra

Writers: Salim-Javed

If Zanjeer introduced Bachchan as Bollywood’s next big star, Deewar cemented that status. The film’s anti-establishment theme, along with Bachchan’s vigilante anti-hero character, Vijay, became hugely popular with audiences, and had a huge influence on not just Indian cinema, but world cinema. Deewar is among 11 Indian films in Schneider’s 1001 Movies To See Before You Die.


53. Aandhi (1975)

Director: Gulzar

Writer: Kamleshwar

A film surrounded by plenty of controversy during its release, due to its wide perception of it being based on the life of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But only the look was based on the former Prime Minister.


54. Saamna (1975) – Marathi

Director: Jabbar Patel

Writers: Jabbar Patel, Vijay Tendulkar

This Marathi crime drama was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival.


55. Ghatashraddha (1977) – Kannada

Director: Girish Kasaravalli

Writer: U. R. Ananthamurthy

Girish Kasaravalli‘s debut feature, among the finest in ‘New Wave’ cinema, took Kannada cinema to newer heights. In 2002, it received the honor of becoming the only Indian film among 100 films to be chosen by the National Archive of Paris.


56. Maro Charitra (1978) – Telugu

Director: K. Balachander

Writer: K. Balachander

Dealing with the theme of cross cultural romance, this film received acclaim especially for the performances of the lead actors, Kamal Hasan and Saritha, as well as the direction (K. Balachander).


57. Golmaal (1979)

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Writer: Rahi Masoom Raza (dialogues), Screenplay: Sachin Bhowmick, Story: Shailesh Dey

A timeless comedy, Golmaal features Amol Palekar’s most iconic performance. The combination of Palekar and Utpal Dutt with their performances and comedic timing make this film a laugh riot.


Recommended: 18 Best Bollywood Comedy Movies Of All Time


58. Sinhasan (1979) – Marathi

Director: Jabbar Patel

Writer: Arun Sadhoo

This Marathi political drama is based on two novels by journalist Arun Sadhu, Mumbai Dinank and Sinhasan. The script, written by Vijay Tendulkar is its own game of thrones which involves rival parties plotting against the Chief Minister of Maharashtra (played by Arun Sarnaik).


59. Ek Din Pratidin (1979)

Director: Mrinal Sen

Writers: Mrinal Sen, Amalendu Chakraborty (novel)

Another fine film directed by one of Bengal cinema’s finest, Mrinal Sen. The film was entered into the 1980s Cannes Film Festival, and also received awards at numerous other international film festivals.


60. Uthiripookal (1979) – Tamil

Director: J. Mahendran

Based on: Chitrannai by Pudhumaipithan, Screenplay: J. Mahendran

A realistic film in a commercial setting, Mahendran’s Uthiripookal was a landmark for Tamil cinema. Mani Ratnam once said, “If I get anywhere near what Mahendran did in Uthiripookal, I’ll be a happy man.” Running 25 weeks in theatres, it set a benchmark for future Tamil films and filmmakers.


61. Umbartha (1982) – Marathi

Director: Jabbar Patel

Writers: Vijay Tendulkar, Vasant Dev (dialogue)

Umbartha depicts the struggles of women in Indian society, especially the theme of a woman’s dependence of man in relationships as well as her sensitivities as a mother. Coming from a director known for his largely political themes, Umbartha was a huge success.


62. Gandhi (1982)

Director: Richard Attenborough

Writer: John Briley

Though it can’t be regarded as a Bollywood film, this movie based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, is one of the highlights of international cinema. The film won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Director for Richard Attenborough and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley.


63. Moondram Pirai (1982) – Tamil

Director: Balu Mahendra

Writer: Balu Mahendra

Sadma/Moondram Pirai is a gratifying tale of selfless, unconditional love. Heartening performances from the lead pair Kamal Haasan and Sridevi coupled with Balu Mahendru’s remarkable storytelling and direction make this romantic drama a cult classic.


64. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

Director: Kundan Shah

Writers: Ranjit Kapoor, Satish Kaushik

This Kundan Shah-directed movie is considered one of the finest black comedies in Indian cinema.


65. Masoom (1983)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Screenplay: Gulzar

Based on Erich Segal’s 1980 novel Man, Woman and Child, this coming-of-age drama starring veterans Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi marked the debut of critically acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur.


Recommended: 9 Memorable Indian Films Led By Child Artists


66. Ardh Satya (1983)

Director: Govind Nihalani

Writer: Vijay Tendulkar, Vasant Dev (dialogues)

A film written by leading Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Ardh Satya was a smash hit, winning Filmfare Awards for Best Movie, Best Director (Govind Nihalani), Best Supporting Actor (Sadashiv Amrapurka), Best Story (S.D. Panvalkar) and Best Screenplay (Tendulkar).


See Also
nope explained

67. Maya Miriga (1984) – Oriya

Director: Nirad N. Mohapatra

Writer: Nirad N. Mohapatra

It was the only feature film he ever directed but Maya Miriga was enough to cement Nirad Mohapatra’s stature as a legend in Odia cinema.

Maya Miriga was the second best national film in 1984, Indian panorama. It won the special jury award at Hawaii Film Festival, U.S and ‘Critics Week’ of Cannes in France and was declared the best third world film at Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival.


68. Saraansh (1984)

Director: Mahesh Bhatt

Writers: Mahesh Bhatt, Sujit Sen, Amit Khanna

In what is known as Anupam Kher’s best performance, Saraansh is a story of a mother and father adjusting to life after their son is killed in a mugging accident. It is an intriguing portrayal of the social circumstantial complexity of life. The film, among the finest in Mahesh Bhatt’s filmography, was India’s official entry to the Academy Awards that year.


69. Mukhamukham (Face To Face) – 1984 – Malayalam

Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Writer: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

One of India’s finest filmmakers, Adoor Gopalakrishnan made 11 feature films, 22 documentaries and won several awards in his 40-year illustrious career. One of these (and his seminal work) was for Mukhamukham which won maximum National awards that year.


70. My Dear Kuttichathan (1984) – Malayalam

Director: Jose Punnoose

Writer: Raghunath Paleri

A children’s fantasy film, My Dear Kuttichathan was India’s first film in 3D. It was later dubbed in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi (Chhota Chetan featuring Urmila Matondkar, Satish Kaushik, Shakti Kapoor and Ravi Baswani), all of which did well at the box office.


71. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986)

Director: Basu Chatterjee

Writer: Ranjit Kapur, Basu Chatterjee

A remake of the 1957 classic, 12 Angry Men, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla does enough to be remembered as a Bollywood cult classic, if not reaching the heights of its English-language counterpart.


72. Pushpak Vimana (1987)

Director: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao

Writer: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao

Pushpak or Pushpaka Vimana is regarded as one of Kamal Hasan’s greatest works and remains a gem of Indian cinema to this day.


73. Nayakan/Nayagan (1987) – Tamil

Director: Mani Ratnam

Writer: Mani Ratnam

This Tamil gangster flick starring Kamal Haasan, is another masterpiece by the great auteur. The soundtrack and background, composed by the legendary Ilayaraja, is considered one of his finest works.


74. Mr India (1987)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Writers: Salim-Javed

Bollywood’s first sci-fi film which gave us our first ‘superhero’ of sorts, Mr India was unlike Kapur’s body of work up until then. The film starring Anil Kapoor, Sridevi and Amrish Puri is till date fondly remembered for its music and characters. Who can forget the iconic Mogambo?


75. Ijaazat (1987) 

Director: Gulzar

Writer: Subodh Ghosh (short story Jatugriha), Gulzar

Starring Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah and Anuradha Patel, it sees Rekha give one of the best performances of her career. Filmfare called Ijaazat “one of Gulzar’s most sensitive films.”


76. Thoovanathumbikal (1987) – Malayalam

Director: P. Padmarajan

Writer: P. Padmarajan

Mohanlal is regarded as the greatest actor in the history of Malayalam cinema. And for good reason. Thoovanathumbikal revolves around Jayakrishnan (Mohanlal), who falls in love with two women; Radha (Parvathy), a distant relative of his, and Clara (Sumalatha), an escort in town. The background score of the movie is one which is hugely popular to this day. 30 years after its release, Thoovanathumbikal remains a cult classic, especially among the youth.


77. Om Dar-b-dar (1988)

Director: Kamal Swaroop

 Writer: Kuku

Widely considered ‘India’s great LSD trip,’ this postmodernist film directed by Kamal Swaroop received the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie. Yet it was never commercially released in India, despite having huge success in the Berlin Film Festival. It was finally released in 2014 and became a cult classic.


78. Salaam Bombay (1988)

Director: Mira Nair

Writer: Mira Nair, Sooni Taraporevala

Roger Ebert gave Salaam Bombay a 4/4 star rating. “The history of the making of ‘Salaam Bombay!’ is almost as interesting as the film itself.” Salaam Bombay! gave audiences a clear perspective on the true state of the slums of Bombay, and how children were being affected by the lifestyle.


79. Parinda (1989)

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Writer: Shiv Kumar Subramaniam

The depiction of violence was always held back in Bollywood. Audiences were never exposed to the realistic side of the underworld. That is, until Parinda was released. It received critical acclaim for its realistic approach and portrayal of the crime world.


80. Siva (1989) – Telugu

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Writer: Ram Gopal Varma

Shiva marked the directorial debut of Ram Gopal Varma. A cult classic of Telugu cinema, it is regarded as the breakthrough film for its lead, Akkineni Nargarjuna.


81. Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989) – Malayalam

Director: Hariharan

Writer: M. T. Vasudevan Nair

Directed by an all-time great of Malayalam cinema, Hariharan, and starring Mammooty, this film is based on the Chevakan warriors of Kerala folklore. M.T Vasudevan Nair won the Best Screenplay award, while Mammooty won Best Actor at the National Film Awards. Together the director-writer duo did some of the best work in Malayalam cinema.


82. Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)

Director: Sooraj Barjatya

Writer: Sooraj Barjatya

It was Salman Khan’s first leading role. The first of many; one that made him a star overnight. Among Bollywood’s biggest successes (it was the highest grossing film of the 80s), Maine Pyar Kiya set a benchmark for romantic musicals. Alongside QSQT and Chandni, Maine Pyar Kiya ushered the era of romantic and family dramas that headlined the 90s, a shift from the mindless, violence-based films of the 80s.


83. Manichitrathazhu (1993) – Malayalam

Director: Fazil

Writer: Madhu Muttam

Starring the legendary Mohanlal, the psychological horror Manichitrathazhu is the biggest grossing Malayalam-language film ever and has been remade in several languages (Bhool Bhulaiya in Hindi) but nothing comes close to the original’s success and stature. This is Malayalam cinema’s most iconic film. Period.


84. Bandit Queen (1994)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Writers: Ranjit Kapoor (dialogue), Mala Sen

Shekhar Kapoor’s biographical drama is a tragic account of a lower-caste rebel who takes to a life of crime. The film received critical acclaim at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and at the 1995 New Directors New Films Festival in New York.

Director Shekhar Kapoor considers Bandit Queen to be his finest film.


85. Hum Aapke Hai Koun…! (1994)

Director: Sooraj Barjatya

Writer: Sooraj Barjatya

Hum Apke Hai Koun gave the word ‘blockbuster’ a whole new meaning. Not since Sholay did a film have so much influence and impact on Indian culture. Many subsequent Hindi films were influenced by HAHK, especially glamorous family dramas and NRI-related dramas.


86. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Director: Aditya Chopra

Writer: Aditya Chopra

When Aditya Chopra directed his first film at 26, little would he have known of the success that was to follow. The film that established Shah Rukh Khan (there’s a poster in Aditya Chopra’s office signed by the actor that reads, ‘Thank you for making me the star that I am today’) was a turning point for Hindi cinema.

Released on October 20, 1995, DDLJ still runs in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir (a show a day), after 25 years of its release.

No other Indian film has ever come close to the overwhelming love DDLJ has enjoyed both on the home ground and overseas, all these years.


87. Fire (1996)

Director: Deepa Mehta

Writer: Deepa Mehta

One of the first ever Bollywood movies to explicitly deal with homosexuality, Fire courted much controversy. Deepa Mehta’s path breaking film is as relevant and important today.


88. Satya (1998)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Writers: Saurabh Shukla, Anurag Kashyap

Considered a modern masterpiece, Satya was lauded for its realistic portrayal of gangsters and violence. The film introduced a new sub-genre of film noir in Bollywood: Mumbai noir, for its dark, gritty portrayal of Mumbai.


89. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Director: Farhan Akhtar

Writer: Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut explored friendship and love with a very subtle, indie sensibility. It was a generational shift in Bollywood’s style of storytelling in a language that resonated with the youth.

Recounting his insecurities as a filmmaker in his biography, An Unsuitable Boy, Karan Johar says, “there was a part of me that got a little afraid,” post the release of Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai. “I felt that in that year, the syntax of cinema had changed… What was really, intrinsically, authentically cool was Farhan Akhtar’s depiction of urban youth, the way they dressed, spoke, the mannerisms. My sensibilities were mixed up with those of the filmmakers of yore — Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Raj Kapoor.”


90. Lagaan (2001)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Writers: K. P. Saxena (Hindi Dialogue), Ashutosh Gowariker (English Dialogue)

One of the most defining films of our times, Lagaan altered the course of modern Indian cinema. The Aamir Khan-starrer masterpiece was the third Indian movie to be nominated for an academy award.


91. Maqbool (2003)

Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Writers: Vishal Bhardwaj, Abbas Tyrewala

Vishal Bhardwaj is known for his adaptations of Shakespearean plays. Maqbool was, arguably, his finest. Based on Macbeth, it starred Irrfan Khan as the right hand man of an underworld don, set in the shady Mumbai underworld.

The film has garnered wide critical acclaim internationally.


92. Swades (2004)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Writers: Ashutosh Gowariker, M.G. Sathya, K. P. Saxena(dialogue)

Ashutosh Gowariker started writing Swades at the same time as Lagaan. The latter released first and obviously left the critics and audiences wondering ‘What after Lagaan?’ Gowariker’s answer was down pat. Nothing better could have followed. Swades is inarguably, one of the best films of our times. However, it remains a disappointing fact that the film was a commercial failure.

Shahrukh Khan as Mohan Bharghava shone in one of the career’s best performances, brilliantly bringing out the character’s internal conflicts.


93. Black Friday (2004)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Based on Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts by Hussain Zaidi; Screenplay: Anurag Kashyap

One of Kashyap’s finest works, this docudrama won the Grand Jury Prize at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and was a nominee for the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival.


Recommended: 16 Banned Bollywood Movies Worth Watching 


94. Shwaas (2004) – Marathi

Director: Sandeep Sawant

Writer: Madhavi O. Gharpure

A seminal work of Marathi cinema, Shwaas became the first Marathi film in 50 years to win the National Award for Best Film (since Shyamchi Aai). It was India’s official entry to the 2004 Oscars.


Recommended: Revival of Marathi Cinema: 9 Best Films Of The 21st Century


95. Rang De Basanti (2006)

Rang De Basanti influenced young minds, it changed the way they looked at society and their role in it. The film, which dealt with several themes — corruption, bureaucracy and opened up ground for discussions around them, stands hugely relevant even in today’s socio-political context.


96. Harishchandrachi Factory (2009) – Marathi

Director: Paresh Mokashi

Writer: Paresh Mokashi

Marking the directorial debut of Paresh Mokashi, this movie depicts the struggle of Dadasaheb Phalke in making Raja Harishchandra, India’s first ever feature-length film, in 1913.


97. Vihir (2009) – Marathi

Director: Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni

Writers: Satee Bhave, Girish Kulkarni

Vihir is the story of two adolescent cousins (and friends), and their outlooks on life, which do not coincide with the rest of their surroundings. A tragic, yet touching story, this film was featured in the Berlin film festival and Rotterdam International Film Festival 2010.


98. Gangs of Wasseypur 1, 2 (2012)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Story: Zeeshan Quadri; Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap

One of the best Indian movies that failed to work its magic at the box office, Gangs of Wasseypur has gained a huge cult following over time. It’s the only Indian film to feature in The Guardian’s 100 Best Films of the 21st century list. Anurag Kashyap, known for pushing the envelope, brings a Martin Scorsese-esque vibe mixed with regional culture in this two-part crime drama.


99. The Lunchbox (2013)

Director: Ritesh Batra

Writer: Ritesh Batra

A film which many consider generation-defining, The Lunchbox is made with an honesty and simplicity hard to match. Ritesh Batra’s debut feature starring the finest actors of our times, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui garnered wide acclaim internationally.


100. Bahubali 1, 2 (2015-2017)

Director: S. S. Rajamouli

Writer: K. V. Vijayendra Prasad

Indian cinema has seen or experienced nothing like this celestial madness. This is magic surrealism and superhero ethos rolled into one mind-blowing journey. I hope that one day soon director S.S. Rajamouli can pack these two parts into one glorious film of three hours, subtitle it in English and expose the global audiences to the magic of Indian cinema.

Contributors: Saumya Verma, Arun Kumar, Advait Kamat, Shridhar Kulkarni, Aditya Sarma, Mansi Dutta

View Comment (1)

Leave a Comment

Discover more from Flickside

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading