Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world. For more than 100 years, the filmmakers are entertaining us with beautiful stories which are crafted with all the heart. Our films have traversed their own journey—from individually funded, high-risk ventures to a systematic industry with an audience across the world. In this journey of more than a century, the Hindi film industry has crossed many milestones.
Out of the innumerable films released till date, there are some which have made their mark in the history of cinema and have proved to be the landmarks in Bollywood.
Here is a list of such iconic films in Hindi, which will be remembered forever-
This is one of Raj Kapoor’s finest works which featured Nargis opposite him. The film is probably one of the earliest film to be widely watched overseas, in countries like China, Russia and Turkey.
Do Bigha Zamin (1953)
This Bimal Roy directorial is a classic in its own right. The film becomes special as it is one of the first neo-realist films in Bollywood. Perhaps the pioneer of the parallel cinema movement, Balraj Sahni starrer Do Bigha Zamin was a socialist drama speaking about the economic gap in the society.
Pyaasa is acclaimed as an iconic film for its brilliant storytelling and technical finesse. Guru Dutt’s brilliant depiction of struggle of an artist for survival is considered as one of the best performance in the history of Indian cinema. Music album by S. D. Burman is also listed as one of the best soundtracks in Bollywood.
Mother India (1957)
This epic film was the first Indian nominee for an Academy Award in the best foreign language film category. Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar performed brilliantly in the roles of mother and sons. The film by Mehboob Khan set the template for the portrayal of movie mothers in the coming decades.
Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957)
This V. Shantaram film will be considered one of the first films which triggered any change on social level. The open-prison experiment and the prisoner education which is shown in the film actually prompted prison reforms in the country.
The grandeur of the entire film, the picturesquely shot Jab Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, the huge time that the director K. Asif took to complete this film and the humongous business that the film did on box-office—there are several reasons which make this Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer classic the path-breaking film of Bollywood.
Also read- 10 milestone epic films in Indian cinema
Before Yash Chopra’s Waqt, there was no multi-starrer film in Bollywood which showcased the lost-and-reunited family drama. Additionally, it had one of the finest courtroom sequences which became a model for years to come. It is a perfect example of a brilliantly crafted mainstream cinema which offered a complete entertainment package.
Also read- Bollywood’s best courtroom dramas
Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman’s flawless performances, Vijay Anand’s superb treatment and S.D. Burman’s melodious music album made this film memorable. It is considered one of the finest transformations of literary works into film in Bollywood. The film beautifully amalgamates the emotions of love, heartbreak and atonement.
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Raj Kapoor’s most ambitious project flunked at the box office but earned the status of cult classic much later after people understood his vision behind the film. The fact that the runtime of the film was 244 minutes makes it one of the most iconic films in Bollywood.
A heart-touching story of a courtesan, Pakeezah is one of the most loved films of Bollywood even today. Though this Kamaal Amrohi’s classic is often related to Meena Kumari’s tragic life story, Pakeezah is a masterpiece when it comes to art direction, cinematography and, most importantly, music.
This Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia starrer film pioneered the teenage romance films in India. It also had the rich-poor backdrop to the love-story which depicted the condition of the society.
Ramesh Sippy’s masterpiece gave Hindi cinema many gems to remember– the wonderful bromance of Jai and Veeru, the chirpy Basanti, the revenge-seeking Thakur, and cruel Gabbar. The dialogues, the music, the settings and almost everything about the film has been carved in the minds of Indian audiences and that’s why it became the film with one of the longest runs in thetre. It won’t be an understatement if we say that Sholay is the most loved and remembered film of Bollywood.
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In the era of socio-political turmoil, when youth in the country was irritated by the corrupt system, Amitabh Bachchan rose as the angry young man who fought against all odds and found solutions to people’s problems. Deewar was one prominent film which cemented his that status. This Yash Chopra marvel was trendsetting in many ways- for the anti-heroish image of Amitabh, for portraying Parveen Babi as a modern liberated woman and for the hard-hitting dialogues by Salim-Javed.
Gol Maal (1979)
Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the pioneer of the middle cinema of India, directed this film. Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt’s amazing screen presence and perfect timing won the hearts of viewers and critics. It is a subtle love story involving middle-class people and the kind of comedy also is light-hearted and simple.
Also read- 20 best Bollywood comedy films
The not so merry picture of a relationship of husband and wife was realistically portrayed in this intense film made by Mahesh Bhatt. Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi emerged as the ultimate female icons of the Bollywood cinema. The film is a landmark because of the fact that it gave a new perspective to the concept of feminism with a message that woman doesn’t need a companion to lead a happy, liberated and successful life.
Ardh Satya (1983)
Govind Nihlani’s Ardh Satya holds relevant even today. The hard hitting truths about the system, especially law and order, which the film showcased, haven’t even changed a bit. Ardh Satya is a very important film in the parallel cinema wave of Bollywood because of its top-notch performances, amazing style of storytelling and its relatability with every common citizen.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
One of the first satire films in Bollywood, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was a take on all the corrupt systems in the country- from politics to business and even media. Sharp writing and powerful performances gave an edge to this social commentary coupled with black humour. This was a commercial film which undermined every rule of a typical Bollywood film as it had no songs, no big hero or no villain and no love story; yet it managed to attract audiences to theatres.
Also read- Best Satire films of Bollywood
Mr. India (1987)
Mr. India is iconic for the fact that it showcased a fantastical story how an ordinary man who can turn invisible, fights the evil in the society. Despite of being primarily a kids’ film, Shekhar Kapoor managed to give it a social angle. Anil Kapoor as the lead character became every child’s superhero.
Hum Aapke Hai Koun (1994)
Family films as a genre and wedding as a major theme is this film’s gift to the Hindi cinema. Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer Hum Aapke Hai Koun became a benchmark of films showcasing Indian culture thorugh rich families having mansion-like houses. HAHK style ceremonies, wedding outfits and family game night became the trends which still are popular. The popularity of the Sooraj Barjatya film is so huge that even today, whenever it is telecasted on TV, audience are glued to it.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1997)
This Aditya Chopra directorial redefined the romance in Hindi cinema. Raj and Simran, played by SRK and Kajol, became two of the most remembered characters in Bollywood. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ, as it is popularly called, beat Sholay’s record and became the longest running film in the history of Indian cinema. The film still is a crowd-puller at Maratha Mandir Cinema in Mumbai.
Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya can certainly be called one of the most influential films of Bollywood as it gave birth to a new genre of gangster films. Breaking away from the popular wave of romantic cinema, the director created a realistic and intense picture of the criminal world on celluloid. It revived the neo-noir cinema in Bollywood and gave platform to the talents like Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj and Manoj Bajpayee who later emerged as flag bearers of realist cinema.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
This Farhan Akhtar’s film released in the first year of the new century and perfectly depicted the issues of millennials. Dil Chahta Hai introduced a new kind of urban cool cinema which focussed on the youngsters and talked their language. With a realistic take on love and friendship, this film challenged the usual methods of storytelling in Bollywood. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy also brought in the new style of songs in the industry.
Also read- 10 Best trio films of Bollywood
Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Lagaan starring Aamir Khan was the first film to get nominated in the foreign language category of the Oscars. As the director chose to take the less travelled path of bringing sports drama set in pre-independence period on screen, the entire cast and crew of the film performed to excellence and crafted this extravagant film which succeeded in earning critical acclaim and audience appreciation as well.
Munnabhai MBBS (2003)
The film introduced us to one of the finest filmmakes and storytellers- Rajkumar Hirani. With subtle comical treatment and finely crafted heart-touching sequences, Munnabhai MBBS made us aware of several social problems that need our attention. The impact of the message that every complex problem has a simple solution stays with us even today.
Koi Mil Gaya (2003)
Though it was a remake of ET, Koi Mil Gaya has to be touted as the first ever sci-fi film in India. For the first time ever, a story of an UFO landing on the earth and an alien living with humans was showcased by this Rakesh Roshan directorial. With the next instalments in the series, the film opened a new genre of superhero films in Bollywood. Hrithik Roshan’s performance as Rohit was acclaimed by all.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black is brilliance on another level. The story of blind-deaf girl has reached new highs with captivating acts by Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and child artist Ayesha Kapur. Bhansali has crafted every frame to have a symbolic meaning with prominent use of just two colours- black and white. The success of film lies in the fact that it did not just tick-mark the subject but brought a finely crafted cinematic gem on celluloid backed by spellbinding performances.
Chak De! India (2007)
Shimit Amin has to be given his due credit for bringing a full-fledged sports film on screen for the first time in Bollywood, that too a hockey film and more than that, a women’s hockey film. One of SRK’s best performance came through this film as coach Kabir Khan. Though it is a typical commercial entertainer, the director has got his cinematic grammar correct which has resulted in a wonderfully made film.
Rang De Basanti (2008)
The film made patriotism look cool, introduced us all to citizen activism and made everyone aware of the fact that if the youth in the country takes up any issue, it can disrupt entire system. The Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra film starring an ensemble cast was full of amazing performances and was backed by a path-breaking music track by maestro A. R. Rahman.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
Hats off to Vidya Balan for pulling off such a challenging role as Silk in Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture. Though the film had small roles of Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi and Tushaar Kapoor; Vidya single-handedly shouldered entire film and how! The film broke several stereotypes in which a woman, especially an actress is perceived in the society and made a strong statement with its narrative.
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
Gangs of Wasseypur redefined the Indian sensibilities of filmmaking and brought the neo-realism of European cinema to Bollywood. Largely influenced by style of Quentin Tarantino, Anurag Kashyap told a simple story of revenge, rooted in Indian soil, with such a style that it gave a completely new viewing experience to Bollywood audience. Kashyap’s unique taste in music elevates the film to an altogether different level.