10 Bollywood Masterpieces That Define Indian Cinema | TheReviewGeek Recommends

You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate a Bollywood classic. Some films are so iconic, so deeply moving, that they transcend culture and language. They represent the heart and soul of Indian cinema.

If you’re new to Bollywood or just want to revisit some old favourites, here are 10 masterpieces that define the industry. From colourful musicals to gripping dramas, this list has something for everyone.

Prepare to laugh, cry, sing along, and maybe even dance in your living room. These films showcase the vivid colours, lavish sets, melodic music, and unabashed emotion that Bollywood is known for. Even if you don’t understand Hindi, you’ll find something magical in each frame. So grab the popcorn, turn up the volume, and experience the beauty of Bollywood at its finest. And, feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Released in 1960, Mughal-E-Azam is considered a masterpiece of Indian cinema. This epic historical drama focuses on the doomed love story of Prince Salim and courtesan Anarkali during the reign of Emperor Akbar.

Filmed over 16 years, the lavish sets and costumes transport you to 16th-century India. Anarkali’s dancing and the classic song ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’ have become cultural touchpoints. The chemistry between Madhubala and Dilip Kumar as star-crossed lovers is palpable.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Mother India (1957)

Released in 1957, Mother India is considered one of Bollywood’s greatest epic dramas. This moving film follows Radha, played by Nargis, as she overcomes many hardships and raises her sons alone after her husband abandons them.

With Radha’s struggles, we see the challenges of life in rural India. She works tirelessly in the fields to provide for her family and keep their farm going. However, in the end, she has to do something so difficult that our entire understanding of love and duties is put to the question.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), also known as DDLJ, is considered one of the greatest Bollywood films of all time. This romantic drama made superstars out of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, who play Raj and Simran, two young non-resident Indians who fall in love during a trip in Europe.

The film is a journey of self-discovery for Simran, who starts the trip betrothed to another man in an arranged marriage. But after spending time with the charismatic Raj, she realizes that she wants to forge her own path in life and follow her heart. Facing obstacles from their traditional parents, Raj and Simran struggle to reconcile their love with their cultural values and responsibilities.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Sholay (1975)

Sholay is a Bollywood classic that has become ingrained in Indian popular culture. Released in 1975, this epic action-adventure film is set in a small Indian village and follows two criminals hired to capture a ruthless dacoit (bandit).

Considered one of the greatest Bollywood films ever made, Sholay is a sprawling, dramatic story of friendship and revenge. It features memorable characters like Gabbar Singh, the menacing dacoit, and the buddy criminals Veeru and Jai. Full of over-the-top fight scenes, catchy musical numbers, and moments of humour, Sholay has all the masala (spice) that makes Bollywood films so entertaining.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Lagaan (2001)

Lagaan (2001) is a Bollywood sports epic film set in 1893 during the British Raj. The story revolves around a small village in Central India that has been experiencing a drought and famine for several years. The British officer in charge of the region, Captain Russell, demands lagaan (tax) from the villagers. When the villagers protest that they have no crops and cannot pay the lagaan, Russell proposes a wager. He will cancel the lagaan for 3 years if the villagers can beat his men at a game of cricket.

Bhuvan, a young farmer, takes up the challenge and begins preparing the villagers for the match. The British did not expect the villagers to pick up the game so quickly. On the day of the match, Russell stacks the team with superior players to ensure the villagers lose. Despite Russell’s tricks and traps, Bhuvan leads the villagers to victory. They are overjoyed at having their lagaan cancelled for 3 years.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Devdas (2002)

Devdas is a lavish Bollywood adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic tragic romance novel of the same name. Set in early 1900s Bengal, the film follows Devdas Mukherjee, the son of a zamindar, who returns home after 10 years of education in England. He falls in love with his next-door neighbour Parvati (Paro), a match that is forbidden by his family due to class differences.

Spurned, Paro’s family arranges her marriage to a much older man. Devdas seeks solace in alcohol and the courtesan Chandramukhi, who falls in love with him. He descends into alcoholism and self-destruction, still pining for his lost love.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Rang De Basanti (2006)

One of the most impactful Bollywood films of the 21st century, Rang De Basanti highlighted the power of youth to spark change. Released in 2006, the film centres around a group of Delhi University students who are initially apathetic towards politics and social issues.

They agree to act in a film about Indian revolutionaries from the freedom struggle, which ignites their patriotism. The movie draws parallels between the freedom fighters of the past and the struggles of modern India, emphasizing the need for idealism and action to combat injustice, corruption and social evils.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
3 Idiots (2009)

One of the most iconic Bollywood films of all time, 3 Idiots follows the story of three engineering students who challenge the social pressures of the Indian education system. Released in 2009, this comedy-drama film struck a chord with audiences, highlighting themes of friendship, non-conformity and following your passion.

Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, 3 Idiots stars Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, and Sharman Joshi as the title characters. The plot centres around their time at the Imperial College of Engineering, a prestigious college with a rigorous curriculum and high expectations. Our protagonists question the one-size-fits-all approach to education, encouraging independent thinking and learning by understanding, not just memorization.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces

One of the most heartfelt and poignant films in Bollywood history, Swades tells the story of Mohan Bhargava, a NASA scientist who returns to India to find his childhood nanny. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the film is a reflection on patriotism and the meaning of home.

Mohan travels to a remote village where his nanny Kaveri Amma still lives, hoping for a quick reunion. But he finds the village struggling with poverty, lack of electricity and education. Mohan’s plans change as he decides to help improve conditions there. He installs solar panels, helps start a school and motivates the villagers to take charge of their destiny.

Best Bollywood Masterpieces
Hera Pheri

The 2000 comedy film Hera Pheri, directed by Priyadarshan, is considered one of the greatest Bollywood comedies of all time.
This hilarious film stars Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, and Paresh Rawal as three down-on-their-luck friends who hatch a plan to earn some quick cash.

When a ransom call is mistakenly made to their telephone number, they decide to pose as the kidnappers in a risky scheme to claim the ransom money. Of course, their half-baked plan spins out of control, resulting in absurd situations and plenty of laughs along the way.

There we have it, our list of 10 best Bollywood movies. How many of these have you watched? Let us know in the comments below:

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