I put up this list of the best movies about India with the help of my partner, an avid movie buff, and his closest buddy, whose most praised film is also on the list.
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Some of these Indian films can be viewed on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or purchased online if you want to see them. That’s why I’ve put it at the end of each film’s synopsis.
In addition to learning more about Indian cinema and history, the process of compiling this article has allowed me to watch or replay nearly every one of the films on this list.
1. Delhi Belly
We begin this list of the best movies about India with a light-hearted comedy about the perils of smuggling and the pitfalls of friendship.
When a friend gets Delhi Belly, which is caused by terrible street-side chicken masala, it generates mayhem and uncertainty, starting with the loss of priceless diamonds from smugglers.
With a budget of just $5 million, Delhi Belly manages to keep you entertained while also depicting a more modern and authentic side of Indian culture.
Because film was shot fully in English, a rarity in Indian cinema, Delhi Belly captures the misconceptions between two generations in India: conservative parents in their late 50s and the millennial youth in their early 20’s.
A must-see Indian film to get a better understanding of today’s young Indians.
Gandhi is one of the most popular Indian films of all time, according to critics.
Richard Attenborough directed the 1982 film on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who helped lead India to independence from the British Empire and is perhaps India’s most recognizable figure.
There is much bloodshed and brutality depicted in this novel that occurred during and after liberation from colonial rule after 300 years of oppression.
With a running time of 191 minutes and eight Academy Award nominations, Gandhi is one of India’s most lauded films. In 1982, it raked in $127 million, which works out to $333 million in today’s dollars.
Indian actor Aamir Khan, who also produced Delhi Belly, stars in Lagaan, which translates as taxes in Hindi and is set in the late 19th century during the British Raj.
Residents of Champaner, a small Gujarati town, find that the British Captain in charge of the cantonment built to keep them safe has levied unduly exorbitant fees on them.
Aamir Khan, on behalf of the entire province, accepts the British officer’s wager of a game of cricket to avoid taxes for the next three years.
It’s possible that you’ve never heard of cricket, but for the residents of this small community, it was a completely strange and exclusive sport only for the rich and famous.
There is much singing and dancing throughout this three-month training period as well as a few love stories while the locals wait for the Monsoon rains with the help of the Captain’s sister.
For the first time, Lagaan won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002, making it the first Indian film to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The running time of this Indian film is likewise mind-boggling at 224 minutes, but you could skip through through a solid hour of Bollywood dancing, which would be a shame.
4. Jodhaa Akbar
One of the most expensive Indian films ever made by Indian standards, it stars Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan as well as the same Director who helmed Lagaan. Jodhaa Akbar has a budget of approximately $30 million.
Akbar, a Mughal emperor, and Jodhaa Bai, a Rajput princess, are the focus of the story. Is it forbidden love? Hate? Political tribulations? War? Historical references to India of the sixteenth century?
Epic singing and dance take place at many locales in Rajasthan, most notably near Jaipur (Amber, Amer), Amber (Amer), and even in Agra.
Visit Hyderabad and Golconda Fort in the Mughal era and marvel at some of India’s most stunning historical structures by watching Jodhaa Akbar and learning more about Indian history during the Mughal period.
This film has won numerous accolades in India.
Indian Hindi with English subs
On a train from Kolkata, a child falls asleep and is separated from his family, ending up hundreds of kilometers away in Kolkata. This is based on a true tale.
After attempting to survive on his own, he is taken into an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple.
He sets out on an obsessive search for the village where he was born using Google Earth years later in search of his roots. He finally locates it and reunites with his mother, whom he had previously lost contact with.
This is a heartwarming film about a love that knows no boundaries, be they based on familial ties, ethnicity, or religion.
The film began as a book, then as a Google Earth documentary, and eventually as a Hollywood film.
The film was shot in Kolkata, India, and Tasmania, and it was nominated for six Academy Awards and earned a slew of accolades in both the UK and Australia. Dev Patel, best known for his role in Slumdog Millionaire, plays Saroo in the film.
The autobiography, The Long Way Home, is also available on Amazon if you’re interested in reading it. Patel, Saroo, and the screenwriter’s talk at Google can be viewed on YouTube.
6. Slumdog Millionaire
In terms of movies about India, this is one of the most popular and well-known. Based on a true story, Slumdog Millionaire took modern life from India’s slums to the homes of the rich and famous.
When Danny Boyle (the director of Trainspotting) filmed this British drama and love tale, it depicted the torture of street children by organized gangs who go so far as to maim or blind them in order to gain more sympathy when they are begging.
Two boys and one girl from the slums, both of whom have been illiterate, are the protagonists of the novel.
The main character, played by Dev Patel, wins the million-dollar prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire in order to track down his long-lost high school sweetheart.
Best Director and Best Picture went to director Danny Boyle, actor Dev Patel, and actress Freida Pinto for their work on the film. Fox Searchlight Pictures’ biggest grossing film ever.
As a result of this, Slumdog Millionaire was widely criticized in India for its depiction of slum life and the word Slumdog.
The language of instruction is English.
Deewaar, one of the most frequently cited Indian films, was one of Boyle’s primary inspirations for Slumdog Millionaire.
A Bollywood crime drama about Mumbai mobster Haji Mastan and his brother on the other side of the law, Deewaar is based on a true story. They are separated by this barrier, which is symbolized by the word Deewaar (wall).
At the beginning of the film Slumdog Millionaire’s protagonist seeks out Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s autograph, which helps him win the TV show.
Bachchan, who was just a teenager at the time, became a household name in the Indian film business thanks to Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, who wrote the film’s script.
8. Passage to India
Based on the novel Passage to India, which Forster wrote after a trip to India in 1912, Passage to India was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.
An Indian man and three British nationals, two ladies and one male, are involved in a misunderstanding about an attempted rape in this 1984 film, directed by David Lean, who is best known for his epic films The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.
Fairness, racism, and colonialism are among issues that the film touches on in its fictional town in 1920s India.
Images from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jammu, Kashmir and the Bangalore Palace were used to create Passage to India’s spectacular visuals.
On the run from their families, a Hindu man and Muslim woman wed in Mumbai in 1995’s Tamil-language film, Bombay.
As a result of Babri Mosque’s demolishment, the Mumbai riots occurred in January 1993, and they were caught in the middle of it. 900 persons were killed as a result of religious violence.
This is a film that focuses on society’s greatest and worst aspects. People and families who cared for others regardless of religion were the brightest light in the midst of the rioting.
Love, forgiveness, and compassion are the only ways out of the Mumbai Riots’ sullied legacy, according to the film. At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between this and the movie Hotel Rwanda.
Slumdog Millionaire’s soundtrack was composed by MR A R Rahman, who has since become a well-known global music composer and received an Oscar for his work on the film.
Despite the fact that Bombay was not shot in Mumbai, but rather in the southern Indian city of Chennai, it was a huge success. Both the indoor and outdoor shots were shot in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
10. The Lunch Box
An unusual love tale set in the bustle of Mumbai, a city of nearly 18 million people, and which came about due to human error.
It tells the story of a woman who chooses to insert love notes in her husband’s lunch box, which is delivered to him every day by a Dabbawala.
By mistake, a widower receives his lunchbox, and he begins to respond to her letters in order to keep himself occupied and energized. They eagerly await one other’s responses every day.
Love and connection are themes that go through the film.
11. The Namesake
Adapted on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jhumpa Lari, The Namesake tells the story of a man who sets out on a journey to discover the significance of his family’s surname and reconnect with his Indian roots in the city of Kolkata.
After the abrupt death of his father, the main actor, who was born and reared in the United States, realizes that something is amiss.
After being embarrassed by his surname, Gogol goes out to discover what it means in India.
12. Rang de Basanti
Rang de Basanti is a film about the Indian revolutionaries who fought for independence from the British Raj.
When an English woman came to India to document Indian revolutionaries who were fighting against British authority, six of her modern-day companions stepped in to support her.
Filming locations for Rang de Basanti included the Golden Temple of Amritsar in Punjab, Jaipur, and Delhi.