Last Updated on May 5, 2020 by Christine Kaaloa
What are the best Bollywood films of all time? I am sharing the best Bollywood films to watch during lockdown and they will inspire your India wanderlust.
When I tell people that I love Bollywood films, I get a confused look. In fact, they’ve been my “Best Friday Night Date“, beating out dates with a banker and an actor. What is it about these films that keep me addicted to them?
My sister introduced them to me. She likes to bring over films for us to watch during family get togethers and one evening, she brought over Kal Ho Naa Ho, a Bollywood movie (read about my run-in with Saif Ali Khan as a Bollywood extra) . That was it- I was sold. From then on, I began my own journey as a Bollywood junkie.
Table of Contents: 26 Best Bollywood Films of All time (to Inspire India Wanderlust)
Why do Foreigners love Bollywood films
A Bollywood movie is nothing like a Hollywood film. It is a different type of entertainment escape for the masses and it holds a formula which Indian cultures and values understand and appreciate. There are a lot of song and dance numbers and a movie can last up to three hours long, with an intermission midway. Colors and costumes can be bright and cheerful to keep a lively and upbeat vibe unless it is not. Romances can get extreme, usually with family disapproval entering the picture to separate star-crossed lovers.
• A three hour-long epic drama
• The emotional roller-coasting plot of romance-tragedy-romance
• Bright and lavish costumes
• Exotic and cinematic backdrops
• Upbeat song & dance numbers
• You may be eating popcorn, but you’ll find it occasionally tastes like cheese. Not to worry, this flavor is still fun and good, but a chuckle and a little suspended disbelief goes a long way.
• The backdrops, Indian culture and lifestyle… Bollywood films make you dream of traveling India!
26 Best Bollywood films to watch during lockdown
Here are the best Bollywood films to watch during lockdown. They are also the best bollywood films of all-time and they will inspire your India wanderlust.
For those who’ve never seen a Bollywood film before, I’m going to share a list of my all-time favorite Bollywood films with you and you can decide for yourself what makes Bollywood films so special.
1. IQBAL , 2005
Genre: Over-coming the odds, feel-good film, Stars: Shreyas Talpade, Nesruddin Shah
Iqbal: No song and dance numbers in this film but discovering likability is easy. Iqbal, a deaf and mute boy in a little farming town (for some reason, it always reminds me of the Goa countryside) has big dreams of playing cricket for the national team. How likely are his odds? He meets a washed up cricketer turned town drunk and helps get him back on the road to recovery and to becoming his coach. This movie is about overcoming the odds and you will fall in love with it.
2. Veer Zaara, 2004
Veer Zaara has to be one of my all-time favorite romance films. It is beautifully cinematic with romantic and wonderful musical numbers. Although warning: it is a dramatic love story. It is a story within a story, beginning with a young, smart female lawyer (Rani Mukurjee) visiting Pratap Sigh in prison. She believes in his innocence and wants to see him set free, but she must hear his story in order to defend him. Pratap Singh tells her of the journey he took and which landed him there. A young army pilot Pratap Singh helped a Pakistani girl return her grandmother’s ashes to the Ganga River. An unexpected journey unfolds and the two unsuspecting characters fall in love. But the girl is arranged to be wed to another and her fiancee is the jealous type. He sets a trap for the pilot’s incarceration. Years go by, but true love never dies… it merely endures.
3. Vivaah (Marriage) 2006
Genre: Romantic drama, Overcoming the odds of love, touching, Stars: Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao
“A journey from engagement to marriage”… a young couple is arranged to meet for a possible wedding. Prem is from a wealthy family whose matchmaker uncle has set him up with a kind Indian girl, Poonam, who was an orphaned at an early age and adopted by her relatives. They meet and are instantly attracted to one another and agree to marriage. Tragedy enters the picture. How deep are the bonds of love?
4. Omkara, 2006
You won’t find many lively celebrations of life and love here as this isn’t your standard commercial Bollywood formula. No, this is the Indian version of Shakespeare’s Othello, with powerful performances from an all-star Bollywood cast. While Ajay is brooding as always, Saif’ is literally unrecognizable as his normal commercial spunky self; in fact, he’s downright sinister! Solid performance from Karina as usual.
5. Namastey London , 2007
Genre: romantic comedy, Stars Akshay Kumar & Katrina Kaif
Once you see this jodhi-couple on the big screen, you’ll want to keep their films rolling. Akshay and Katrina have a chemistry which is endearing to watch. How can a spoiled non-residential London girl fall in love with a simple-minded Punjabi farm boy? Just watch and you’ll find yourself falling in love as well.
6. Singh is King 2008
Genre: romantic comedy, Stars Akshay Kumar & Katrina Kaif
Naive and clumsy oaf, Happy Singh leaves his home for Egypt after he is tricked by his village and sent away as a way to re-instill a peaceful town. Along the way he meets Sonia and falls head over heels in love with Sonia, who is in love and engaged to another. Both accidentally meet again in Australia when Happy is meets up with Lucky Singh, the head of the underworld and is mistakenly placed in Lucky’s home, as the mob boss recuperates from his unfortunate run-in with the clumsy Happy. Can Happy’s simple and honest way change the underworld and Sonia’s heart
7. Chori, Chori (Stealthily) 2003
Genre: fun romantic comedy, Stars Rani Mukerjee & Ajay Devgan
Ajay as the brooding young architect and Rani as the spunky rogue living a bit of a hustler’s life. The two meet by fate and Ajay unknowingly sheds details of a house he’s building (for a girlfriend who has rejected his marriage proposal) with a down-on-her luck homeless rogue. Rani secretly moves in, until she is discovered by Ajay’s parents, by which the comedy of errors and mistaken identities ensue as she is mistaken for Ajay’s fiancée.If this plot sounds vaguely familiar it’s the Bollywood version of House Sitter, with Steve Martin, Dana Delaney and Goldie Hawn
Genre: drama, period, Starring Aamir Khan and only Aamir
This film , Lagaan, was actually an Academy Award winner and is a period piece set against the Indian desert and the sport of cricket.
9. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam , 1999
Genre: romantic drama, heart wrenching romance, Starring Aishwarya Rai, Ajay Devgan, Salman Khan
Young love. Passionate lovers, Nandini and Sameer, find each other, but tragedy ensues when they are forced apart; Nandini (Rai) is promised to wed another. Now repulsed by an arranged marriage, which has cast her love into rubble, she vows to never love again. However, over time, the patient and enduring love of her gentle husband, Vanraj, slowly revives her dead spirit. But when Sameer comes calling again, whom will she choose?
10. Kuch Naa Kaho (Don’t Say Anything)
Genre: Romantic drama (cute, funny & good song & dance numbers)
Stars Abhishek bachchan & Aishwarya Rai
A bachelor falls in love with a single mother. Enough said.
11. Monsoon Wedding
Genre: independent, Directed: Mira Nair
While I wouldn’t necessarily classify a Mira Nair film as Bollywood, this was my first introduction to India in movies and it was pretty seductive as a shootout between various conflicting issues in India.
Three lives are brought together around a grand wedding. Lovers discover that “love” can be patient and still powerful, while secrets are uncovered and threaten damage to their relationships with family and each other.
12. Aaja Nachle (Come Let’s Dance!)
Genre: romance, overcoming odds
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Akshaye Khanna, Kunal Kapoor
A town’s star dancer-turned New York choreographer- returns to her town after news of her teacher’s failing health. When she arrives, she finds that their small theater is in jeopardy of being closed down and turned into a mall. In an effort to save their theater and the town from commercialization, she auditions actors for a new theater group, but the “actors” are townspeople oddballs.
13. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom , 2009
Genre: romantic comedy; tongue-in-cheek
Stars: Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Bobby Deol,
A thin storyline but very entertaining. An uptown London girl (Preity Zinta) meets a street hustler and they spend an afternoon spinning yarns about their non-existent fiancees. But what happens when the two actually find themselves falling in love with each other? The story is a bit thin but the song and dance numbers are cool. The dance battle is the show stealer. Abhishek and Priety do your best to charm you with their characters.
Tip: One of my favorite music video number is of Abhi & Preity at the Taj Mahal.
14. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ,1995
Genre: Light-hearted romance. Stars: Shah Rukh Khan,
A popular Bollywood flick of many featuring Shah Rukh Khan.
15. Mary Kom , 2014
Genre: Light-hearted romantic action. Stars: Priyanka chopra
Priyanka Chopra stars in this real life story of Manipur female boxer Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte who went from the farm fields of her land to the boxing ring as a six-time World Amateur Boxing champion.
16. Dhoom 2 , 2006
Genre: Light-hearted romantic action. Stars: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek B
Not my favorite film but I love the dance numbers in this film. This film packs heat and cheese. Don’t mind that the master thief (and hunky hero) shoots out from water from a ski jet onto a moving train.. a detective is on the trail of a thief who falls in love with a small time thief of hearts.
17. Bodyguard , 2011
Genre: Light-hearted romantic action. Stars: Salman Khan,
Lovely Singh is a simple-minded bodyguard assigned to protect the family of a rich politician. But what happens when he falls in love with the eldest and most difficult daughter of the family?
18. Dil Hai Tumhara
Genre: Sweet and Light-hearted romantic action. Stars: Preity Zinta,
Set against a beautiful backdrop of a north India hill station, rebel girl grows up feeling unloved by step mom who always fawns on her good sister. Rebel girl starts a new job and meets rich but spoiled boss who eventually falls in love with her. Only problem is that boss is arranged to marry rebel girl’s sister.
Genre: Light-hearted comedy drama. Stars: Imran Khan, Shah Rukh Khan
Billu the Barber of his town is a virtual nobody, which townspeople take for granted. That is, until a Bollywood production comes to town and people accidentally mistake Billu as being close friends with the mega star actor. Everyone soon wants favors to meet the actor… What is Billu to do?
Best Bollywood Films to Watch to Inspire India Wanderlust
20. Laaga Chunari Mein Daag ( Journey of a Woman)
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: Set in Varanasi, this story starts hopeful as two sisters have a bright future ahead. Until their family falls into debt and the eldest must find a way for their family to survive. This movie brings Varanasi and all characters of ghat life to a bright, colorful and humorous light.
Check out my Varanasi Travel Guide and my Varanasi travel video to inspire you more.
21. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Backdrop: India at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a unique hotel which welcomes those retired in life. This is not a Bollywood film, but it is all about India and the romance of moving to India to start a new life there. The twist is that it is a bunch of retired British seniors who are doing it, leaving their London lifestyles and problems to encounter a new life, a new set of challenges as they find their lives transformed through their new home. Great performances by Julie Dench and quite a new but likable role for Bill Nighy, who often plays hipster villains.
Film locations: Udaipur, Jaipur
22. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride)
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Stars: Katrina Kaif, Imran Khan
Mere Brother Ki Dulhan : A man must find his London brother a bride. But what happens when he falls in love with her and the pair are a perfect match? It shows an interesting dynamic of the Indian family values of tradition over modern society, while also offering a stunning backdrop of the Taj Mahal.
23. Slumdog Millionaire
Genre: Drama, Cinematic. Directed: Danny Boyle
A cinematic work of art, the Slumdog Millionaire story shed a light on poverty in Mumbai’s slums and the heart-wrenching story of a young man who as a homeless street urchin overcomes all his plights to fight for a girl he loves through a popular Indian game show: Who wants to be a Millionaire?
24. Dangal (Wrestling competition), 2016
Genre: Drama, Romance, Cinematic. Directed: Amir Khan Stars: Amir Khan
Dangal is loosely based on the life of Mahavir Phogat, a wrestler who trained his daughters to wrestle for the Commonwealth Games. It will make you want to visit Varanasi’s wrestling stables.
25. Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Genre: Drama, Romance, Cinematic. Directed: Yash Raj Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma
One of my favorite films (because I love Katrina Kaif) is Jab Tak Hai Jaan, a story of a Indian soldier stationed in the sparse Ladakh region. He is fearless at detonating bombs. His withdrawn but bitter and lonely personality stems back to his past love. Stunning scenery of Ladakh region and nearby. Short scene in Leh
Genre: Documentary. Directed : Ron Fricke of Baraka
Samsara is the Sanskrit word that means “wandering” or “world” and points at the cyclic nature of the universe. Everything is connected and evolves and changes. Opening scene of Samsara is filmed in Northern India’s Ladakh region, home to Indo-Tibetan Buddhism beliefs and monasteries. The Leh-Ladakh region’s arid but extreme beauty is a heaven on earth. The giant Buddha and wheel is filmed at Ladakh’s famous Thikse Monastery.
What are your best Bollywood films of all time?
Check out my secret Bollywood Dance Workout Playlist
You can find my list here on YouTube. Enjoy the beats!
More Ways to Plan your India Trip
Watch India Travel Guides for Solo Travelers!