Bollywood films have a long tradition of being excellent movie experiences for cinematic lovers. From comedy and action to drama and romance, it’s the trendiest movie genre to explore right now.
If you’re curious about great Indian films, then these are the first five films you need on your watch list to introduce to you the best in the business. For newbies to the genre, check out this list one movie at a time. There’s a mix of American films starring Indian actors and Bollywood favorites, making it the perfect introduction.
1. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
While the football-themed “Bend It Like Beckham” is not a Bollywood film in a strict sense, the movie’s dive into the cultural extravagance of India offers a glimpse into Bollywood. Following a football-hungry girl and her very traditional parents, it’s a great first ride into Indian films as it’s set in the Indian-British community in London.
Starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, this clever teen romantic comedy is exactly the kind of cheery style that is popular in Bollywood movies. With Indian culture and modernization at the center of this flick, viewers get a taste of the traditions of Hindi culture, such as marriage and gender roles, while still being firmly planted in today’s world. It’s a great watch for everyone.
2. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Starring Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, this movie was a huge hit not just for Bollywood lovers but also with movie lovers all over the world. The story begins with an 18-year-old boy sitting in the hot seat on the Indian version of the TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” From question to question, the movie looks at the life and experiences that have put him in the running to win a million dollars.
Making over $384 million internationally, “Slumdog Millionaire” is responsible for introducing many people around the world to Bollywood. An eye-opener to how life experiences can shape our future, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a lesson in believing in the best and going after what you want.
3. Today’s Special (2009)
Written and starring Aasif Mandvi of “The Daily Show” fame, this feel-good film dives into some traditionally made Indian food in Manhattan to revive a business, a life and, most importantly, family relationships.
When Samir gets frustrated with his boss at an upscale restaurant, he quits to pursue his dream of studying French cooking abroad, but fate intervenes. With his father becoming ill and Samir’s help needed at the family restaurant, it’s impossible for Samir to make the European move. Instead, he turns his attention to improving the restaurant. While it wasn’t Samir’s original plan, it turns into a great vacation for the chef who was looking to make his impact on the culinary world.
4. Queen (2014)
This adventure comedy drama begins the way many Bollywood films do: with an Indian girl whose life is dictated by tradition and her very conservative parents from New Delhi. When her fiancé breaks off their marriage just before the ceremony, her life is turned on its head. Despite the upheaval, she decides to go on their planned honeymoon solo, and not only does she travel, but she also discovers herself.
Perfect for those viewers who also love a bit of wanderlust-worthy scenery—the movie travels to Paris and Amsterdam—“Queen” is the kind of heartwarming tale that can bring a smile to anyone’s face with its uplifting message and cheery characters. It’s also a serious proponent of girl power, so, ladies, don’t miss this one!
5. Singham (2011)
“Singham” is definitely a Bollywood favorite, but you can keep all your singing and dancing because this thriller is one for the action lovers. An honest police officer named Singham ends up far from his beloved home and community when criminals seek their revenge. With truth on his side and plenty of smarts, Singham must tackle corruption charges, kidnapping, racketing and more as he battles the underbelly of Goa.
Starring Ajay Devgn, Kajal Aggarwal and Prakash Raj, “Singham” was incredibly popular in its initial release for its good-guy-versus-bad-guy motif and adventurous thrills. It’s available for streaming on Netflix, so grab your VPN and your remote because this one is a wild ride.
From Bollywood classics to new-age movies that borrow from Hindu culture, these five films are the best start for any novice who wants to become obsessed with Bollywood films. Spend your time with these titles, and then you’ll be prepared to go after more great movies in the future!
About the author: Diamond is an entertainment junkie and a pop culture writer with a love for the best must-watch lists from every genre. From Netflix to Hulu, she’s subscribed to every streaming service under the sun so that her binge watching hobby never runs dry.