Starring Nargis and Raj Kapoor, “the greatest showman of Indian cinema,” this 1951 drama centers on the intertwining lives of two characters—poor Raj and wealthy Rita. Listed among the greatest films ever made to this day, Awaara holds a cultural influence and legacy that few other films do.
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Mughal E Azam (1960)
Among the most celebrated Bollywood films worldwide, this epic historical drama is a must watch for any Bollywood fan. Following the love story between Mughal Prince Salim, the son of Emperor Akbar, and court dancer Anarkali, Mughal E Azam was also the first Hindi black and white film to be digitally colored.
Following the love story of two Mumbai teenagers from different social classes—wealthy Raja and poor Bobby—this romantic musical was not just a huge commercial success but also a trendsetter for decades of films to follow. Starring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia, this heart wrenching love story is not to be missed.
This 1975 crime thriller was considered a ground-breaking cinematic masterpiece at the time of its release, and is still revered as one of the most potent Bollywood films ever made. Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor as two brothers on the opposite sides of the law, this cult film is considered a reflection of the tumultuous reality of 70s urban India.
If there is one single film not watching that’s completely inexcusable for a Bollywood fan, it is this one. Pop culture references from Sholay are still an everyday affair to Indians and that is testament to how thoroughly gripping it is. Following two criminals who are hired by a retired police officer to capture a dacoit named Gabbar Singh, the film stars Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, and Amjad Khan.
Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
This comedy about three brothers who were separated at birth and thereby raised in households following three different religions is hilarious, heartwarming, and incomparably entertaining. An absolute must-watch for any Bollywood lover, the film follows their reunion several years later and combined effort to avenge those who separated them in the first place.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
This satire on corruption in Indian politics, bureaucracy, and media was not an immediate box office success, though it was critically revered. But decades after its release, it is among the biggest cult classics in Bollywood history.
Andaaz Apna Apna (1994)
This hilarious comedy starring Amir Khan, Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon, and Karishma Kapoor is a cult classic unlike any other. With hilarious dialogue that India can’t seem to quit quoting even two decades later and over-the-top but amusing performances, this is one film that everyone ought to watch right now.
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This romantic comedy-drama follows the story of friends Munna and Mili; the latter dreams of finding Bollywood fame and runs into a leading actor who helps her break into the film industry. With an award-winning soundtrack composed by A.R. Rahman in his Hindi film debut, well-choreographed dance sequences, and critically revered performances by Amir Khan and Urmila Matondkar, this is one cult classic that isn’t to be missed.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)
Following the love story of two young non-resident Indians, DDLJ is the longest running film in Indian cinematic history, with screenings still ongoing at the Maratha Mandir theater in Mumbai. Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, this i an unbeatable favorite among Bollywood lovers.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
This romantic drama following the love triangle of three college students is a hot favorite among Bollywood lovers of all ages. Arguably among the most popular tearjerkers produced by Bollywood in recent times, this heart wrenching movie is not to be missed.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Following three friends in the years after they graduate college and tracing their fallout as they take different approaches to relationships, this film has a cult following in urban India. Starring Amir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna, this is a relatable, heartwarming, and at times hilarious film that needs to be watched by all.
This epic sports-drama follows the story of a group of drought-stricken villagers in British India who challenge the local colonial British presence to a game of cricket in order to waive off their overdue taxes. Starring Amir Khan, this Bollywood favorite manages to tap into India’s love for cricket and cinema as well as its memories of its anti-British independence movements.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001)
This immensely popular family drama has satisfying doses of pretty much everything Indian cinemagoers love—family, romance, drama, and dance. A Karan Johar classic, this is one film you simply cannot afford to miss out on if you are going to be setting foot in India.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
Interspersing bits from a documentary film about the Indian independence movement along with the attempt of a few young college graduates to take down a corrupt politician, this award-winning film is among the most influential in recent Indian cinematic history.