The 10 Best Bollywood Movies for Beginners

The 10 Best Bollywood Movies for Beginners: New to Hindi language cinema? We’ve got you covered! From the 1960 classic Mughal-e-Azam to the present day, we’re counting down the best Bollywood movies of all time.

The Best Bollywood Movies of All Time

Outperforming Hollywood in annual ticket sales, the Indian Hindi film industry, affectionately known as Bollywood, stands as the world’s most prolific cinematic powerhouse. Despite having graced Netflix Canada’s screens since its 2010 debut, Bollywood productions continue to carve a growing niche in urban cinemas across the country. These films seamlessly share the marquee with North American blockbusters, often thoughtfully adorned with subtitles for those less fluent in Hindi.

According to Gazal Dhaliwal, an emerging luminary within the Hindi film realm and co-author of acclaimed works like “Wajir,” “Qarib Qarib Singlle,” and “Lipstick Under My Burkha,” Bollywood offers a treasure trove of surprises for newcomers. “It’s not all about extravagant song-and-dance routines punctuated by melodramatic crescendos—although we certainly relish that when executed with finesse!” she remarks. “Bollywood also delivers simpler, more nuanced cinematic gems that stand as nothing less than timeless classics.”

To provide context for Canada’s ever-expanding appetite for Hindi cinema and unravel its allure to those unacquainted, we set Gazal Dhaliwal the challenge of crafting a curated list of the finest Bollywood movies for beginners.

“It’s a daunting task to encapsulate Bollywood’s enchantment within a mere 10 films,” she cautions. “Yet, this selection should offer a glimpse into what you can anticipate when embarking on the captivating journey that is Bollywood.”

1. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge | October 20, 1995 (India) Summary: When Raj meets Simran in Europe, it isn't love at first sight but when Simran moves to India for an arranged marriage, love makes its presence felt.
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

Familiar themes of personal choice versus family responsibility, and of forbidden love, are remixed for the 1990s in this epic, era-defining romance. In London, Raj (Khan) is an immature young man, while straight-laced Simran (Kajol) is all set for a marriage arranged by her domineering father. She goes InterRailing in Europe, meets Raj and they fall in love against the backdrop of Swiss mountains. The popularity of the film (the title translates as ‘The brave-hearted will take away the bride’) is reflected in the fact that it has screened daily in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir cinema for 19 years and counting. This ultimate romance also raised the bar impossibly high for guys chasing girls.

The big scene
The hit song ‘Tujhe Dekha To…’ sees Simran and Raj reunited in Punjab’s rolling fields, and its lingering gazes and passionate embraces are old school Bollywood at its finest. Raj’s line – ‘Senorita bade bade desho me aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti’ (‘Senorita, don’t get stressed by the little things’) – has crossed into daily usage. Indeed, no less a figure than Barack Obama quoted it during his inaugural visit to India in 2015.


2. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Mughal-E-Azam | August 5, 1960 (India) Summary: A 16th century prince falls in love with a court dancer and battles with his emperor father.
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi, Urdu

“Probably the most iconic and grand period drama to ever come out of India. A film which took more than 10 years to be completed, Mughal-e-Azam tells the tale of a Mughal prince’s romance with a court dancer, which invites the wrath of the emperor, Akbar. The film’s dialogue, music, and the breathtaking chemistry of the leading couple have been etched in the minds of generations.”

3. Sholay (1975)

Sholay | August 15, 1975 (India) Summary: After his family is murdered by a notorious and ruthless bandit, a former police officer enlists the services of two outlaws to capture the bandit.
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

“When you mix a classic Western with the vibrancy, drama, comedy and popular song-and-dance routine of Bollywood, you get the heady cocktail that is Sholay. With the biggest stars of India in the mid-’70s playing some of the most unforgettable characters of Hindi cinema, Sholay, even after four decades, remains completely relevant and an out-and-out entertainer.”

4. Ijaazat (1987)

Permission | July 8, 1987 (India) Summary: Meeting accidentally five years after their divorce, a couple reflects on how their marriage collapsed despite transparency.
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

“This is a personal favorite and will probably not be found on any other roundup of best Bollywood movies. Written and directed by Gulzar, one of the finest poets Hindi cinema has been fortunate to have, Ijaazat is a tender, intimate film about a married couple’s struggle to deal with the man’s past lover, who continues to haunt them—both literally and metaphorically. The songs have evocative melodies and the characters are written with such love that you could almost touch them. Despite having seen it several times, I never make it through the end without tearing up.”

5. Devdas (2005)

Devdas | July 12, 2002 (India) Summary: After his wealthy family prohibits him from marrying the woman he is in love with, Devdas Mukherjee's life spirals further and further out of control as he takes up alcohol and a life of vic... Read all
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

After his wealthy family prohibits him from marrying the woman he is in love with, Devdas Mukherjee’s life spirals further and further out of control as he takes up alcohol and a life of vice to numb the pain.


6. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai | October 16, 1998 (India) Summary: During their college years, Anjali was in love with her best-friend Rahul, but he had eyes only for Tina. Years later, Rahul and the now-deceased Tina's eight-year-old daughter attempts to r... Read all
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

“Loosely inspired by the cheesy candy floss teen romances of Hollywood, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is consummate ’90s Bollywood. It’s set in a make-believe world where everything is bright and shiny, every emotion is heightened, and (obviously) every song is a chartbuster. We Indians are suckers for romance (aren’t we all?) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai serves it in dollops. It doesn’t hurt that the same two superstars who got top billing in 1995’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge light up the screen in this one, too.”

7. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Dil Chahta Hai | August 10, 2001 (India) Summary: Three inseparable childhood friends are just out of college. Nothing comes between them - until they each fall in love, and their wildly different approaches to relationships creates tension... Read all
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi, English

Dil Chahta Hai will always be remembered as a sort of a trendsetter; a film which brought a new language into Bollywood. For the first time, we were delivered an entertaining flick with great songs (goes without saying!) that showed us the lives of India’s urban youth and their unique, new-age problems. The 20- and 30-somethings in metropolitan India finally found they didn’t necessarily need to turn to Hollywood for their dose of relatable fun at the movies.”

8. Lagaan (2001)

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India | June 15, 2001 (United States) Summary: The people of a small village in Victorian India stake their future on a game of cricket against their ruthless British rulers.
Countries: India, United StatesLanguages: Hindi, English

“In my opinion, this is the most recent Bollywood classic in the period drama genre. Bringing together three things that Indians absolutely love—the sport of cricket, superstar Aamir Khan and patriotism—Lagaan is nothing short of epic. Set in 1893, the story focuses on an Indian village standing up against colonial cruelty by challenging the British to a cricket match. With this fascinating premise, it’s no wonder that it’s one of only three Bollywood movies to have ever been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.”

11. Wake Up Sid (2009)

Wake Up Sid | October 2, 2009 (India) Summary: The story of a lazy Mumbai college student who does absolutely nothing, with a turn of events will Sid realize his potential in this world and become a success in the fast-paced life of Mumb... Read all
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi

“Another film that you won’t find on everyone’s list of the best Bollywood movies, the reason I love Wake Up Sid is the simplicity with which it explores the modern relationships of urban youth. It’s also helped immensely by the fact that the lead actor, Ranbir Kapoor, is the finest performer in India today. At the core of the story is a sweet, heartfelt romance between a girl struggling to find her place in a new city and a boy struggling trying to find himself. There’s also a gentle underlying romance with the remarkable city which is not only my home, but the hub of the Hindi film industry itself: Mumbai.”


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