Bollywood 101: My Top 13 All-Time Bollywood Films

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Whenever 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 Hoa Bollywood film with Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan (read about my run-in with him as a Bollywood extra) and Preity Zinta. That was it- I was sold. From then on, I began my own journey as a Bollywood junkie.

The Bollywood Formula:

•  A three hour-long epic drama
• The emotional roller-coasting plot of romance-tragedy-romance
Bright and lavish costumes
• Exotic 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.

My top 13 Bollywood films:

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
Starring: Shreyas Talpade, Nesruddin Shah
Genre: Over-coming the odds, feel-good film

No song and dance numbers in this film but discovering likability is easy. Iqbal, a deaf and mute boy in a little farming town 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
Genre: Overcoming the odds of love, romantic drama
Starring Shah Rukh Khan & Preity Zinta

.top bollywood films

3) VIVAAH, 2006
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao
Genre: Romantic drama, Overcoming the odds of love

“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
Genre: Drama
Starring Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Karina Kapoor

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.

Genre: romantic comedy
Starring 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 NRI London girl  fall in love with a simple Punjabi farm boy? Just watch and you’ll find yourself falling in love as well.

Starring Akshay Kumar & Katrina Kaif
Genre: romantic comedy

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

singh is king movie bollywood top films, top bollywood films

7) CHORI CHORI , 2003
Starring Rani Mukerjee & Ajay Devgan
Genre: romantic comedy

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


Starring Aamir Khan and only Aamir
Genre: drama, period
This film 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 (heart wrenching romance), 1999
Genre: romantic drama
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 (cute, funny  & good song & dance numbers)
Genre:romantic drama
Stars  Abhishek bachchan  & Aishwarya Rai

11) MONSOON WEDDING (Mira Nair film)
Genre: independent

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.

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.

 aaja nachele, top bollywood films


Genre: romantic/slapstick comedy
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Bobby Deol,

A thin storyline. An uptown girl 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. Abhi and Priety do your best to charm you with their characters. One of my favorite music video number is of  Abhi & Preity at the  Taj Mahal.


Have any favorites that I’ve not listed? Give it a shout!

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