Hotstar has built itself as India's biggest streaming service on the tenet of bringing TV online, which explains its content: serving Star India's soap operas and live sports to a growing smartphone base. Owing to that, it's largely treated everything else as second fiddle. That explains why despite it being the only local player in the big three, it has the least number of Indian movies. But unlike Netflix and Amazon, Hotstar is a freemium platform. And that means, on the list below, some films need a subscription, while others are free to watch, albeit with advertisements. We've explicitly marked those that are in the latter category.
To pick the best Hindi-language movies on Hotstar, we relied on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings, and critics reviews, to create a shortlist. The latter two were preferred given RT doesn't provide a complete representation of reviews for Indian films. Additionally, we used our editorial judgement to add or remove several. This list will be updated once every few months if there are any worthy additions or if some movies are removed from the service, so bookmark this page and keep checking in. Here are the best Hindi films currently available on Hotstar in India, sorted alphabetically.
Nearly a decade and a half after the first attempt — in 1968's Do Dooni Char — tanked at the box office, Gulzar also took on directorial duties for this remake, that's ultimately based on Shakespeare's play, The Comedy of Errors. With both Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in dual roles, it's the story of two pairs of twins who were separated in childhood at sea and then are reunited in adulthood, causing panic and a lot more. Free to watch.
Ankhon Dekhi (2014)
After an eye-opening experience involving his daughter's marriage, a man in his late 50s (Sanjay Mishra) resolves that he won't believe anything he can't see, which naturally leads to some dramatic complications. Free to watch.
In writer-director Shyam Benegal's feature-length directorial debut, a child-desiring Dalit woman (Shabana Azmi) married to a deaf-mute alcoholic potter is seduced by the village landlord's son (Anant Nag), which causes personal and societal problems. Free to watch.
After A Wednesday! and Special 26, writer-director Neeraj Pandey reteamed with Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher for another thriller, this time following the titular elite counter-terrorism unit that's out to stop an extremist from carrying out his plan. Some critics weren't happy with the plot, but there were no complaints in the thrills department. Free to watch.
Badhaai Ho (2018)
Upon learning that his middle-aged mother (Neena Gupta) is pregnant, a twenty-something man (Ayushmann Khurrana) struggles to come to terms with the new development, which also affects his relationship with his girlfriend (Sanya Malhotra). Won two National Awards. Free to watch.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015)
The heavily controversial Salman Khan stars as a devout Hindu Brahmin and an ardent devotee of Hanuman in writer-director Kabir Khan's comedy-drama, who embarks on a journey to reunite a mute six-year-old Muslim girl, lost in India, with her parents in Pakistan. Kareena Kapoor co-stars. Salman is a convicted poacher, out on bail, and accused of culpable homicide, pending appeal. Free to watch.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
Farhan Akhtar stars as Indian Olympian sprinter Milkha Singh — who lost his parents in the Partition and spent years in refugee camps — in this biopic directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and based on Singh's autobiography, “The Race of My Life”, co-authored with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. Sonam Kapoor also stars. Free to watch.
The titular street-smart prostitute (Kareena Kapoor) befriends an investment banker (Rahul Bose) after his car breaks down on the way back home in the red-light district. Kicked off by the late director Anant Balani, and then completed by Sudhir Mishra after his death. Free to watch.
Ajay Devgn and Tabu star in this remake of the 2013 critically-acclaimed Malayalam original, about a local cable operator (Devgn) who does everything he can to protect his family, suspected in the missing-persons case of a high-ranking police officer's (Tabu) son, who had blackmailed his daughter with a nude video. It's overlong and simplistic, watch the original — also on Hotstar — if you're okay with subtitles. Free to watch.
Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1990)
Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi, and Irrfan Khan star in this National Award-winning drama inspired by the life of Bengali physician Subhash Mukhopadhyay. In it, a hard-working doctor (Kapoor) discovers a vaccine for leprosy at his homemade laboratory, but he's pushed to the sidelines by an uncaring bureaucracy and disbelieving colleagues. Acclaimed for its look at the obstacles faced by Indian scientists, though it's more talky than symbolic.
The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), India's iconic leader in its non-violent independence movement against the British, from his days in South Africa to his assassination in 1948 won eight Oscars including best picture, best actor for Kingsley, and best director for Richard Attenborough. Runs over three hours.
Ajay Devgn plays a senior superintendent of police who's installed in a fictitious Bihar district overrun by crime and corruption — one of the villains shares his name with corrupt and convicted Lalu Prasad Yadav's brother-in-law — and vows to breathe life into the dysfunctional police force. Prakash Jha writes and directs. Free to watch.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003)
Set against the politically-charged backdrop of the Emergency in the 1970s, writer-director Sudhir Mishra's film revolves around three friends (Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh, and Shiney Ahuja) whose lives are transformed in the wake of the turbulent period.
Jhankaar Beats (2003)
The directorial debut for Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh focused on two R.D. Burman fans and copywriters in an advertising agency, played by Sanjay Suri (My Brother... Nikhil) and Rahul Bose (Shaurya), who team up with their boss' guitarist son (Shayan Munshi) to win a music contest they have lost twice. Free to watch.
Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
A decade before he made Andhadhun, writer-director Sriram Raghavan gave us this neo-noir thriller adapted from the 1963 French film Symphony pour un Massacre. Neil Nitin Mukesh made his acting debut alongside Dharmendra, Rimi Sen, Vinay Pathak, and Zakir Hussain — not the tabla legend, obviously.
Love Sonia (2018)
Newcomers Mrunal Thakur and Riya Sisodiya play two sisters who become involved in Mumbai's dangerous world of sex trafficking in this film from a Slumdog Millionaire producer, alongside an ensemble cast featuring Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Freida Pinto, Richa Chadha, Anupam Kher, Demi Moore, Mark Duplass, and Adil Hussain.
Vishal Bhardwaj kicked off what would become his Shakespeare trilogy with this adaptation of Macbeth set in the Mumbai underworld, starring Irrfan Khan in the conflicted titular role, Tabu in the role of the ambitious Lady Macbeth, Pankaj Kapur as the king, and Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah in the gender-flipped roles of the Weird Sisters. Free to watch.
Neeraj Ghaywan ventures into the heartland of India to explore the life of four people in his directorial debut, all of whom must battle issues of caste, culture and norms. Winner of a National Award and the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. Free to watch.
In what is called by some as the best Hindi film ever made, a 16th-century Mughal prince (Dilip Kumar) clashes with his father, Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj), after he falls in love with a court dancer (Madhubala). Its historical accuracy is questioned, and the film takes creative liberties elsewhere, but that can't take away from the fact that it stands as a milestone in Indian cinema. Noted for its grandeur, especially a musical piece set in a replica of the Lahore Fort's Sheesh Mahal. Free to watch.
Mukti Bhawan (2016)
This National Award-winning film follows a son (Adil Hussain) forced to set aside his job and accompany his elderly father (Lalit Behl) to the ghats of Varanasi, where the latter hopes to attain salvation. Feature-length debut for writer-director Shubhashish Bhutiani.
My Brother... Nikhil (2005)
Based on the true story of Dominic D'Souza — changed to Nikhil Kapoor (Sanjay Suri) in the film — a champion swimmer who, after learning he was HIV-positive, was ostracised from his family and isolated from society, due to the stigma around homosexuality and a lack of awareness that led to abusive laws. Juhi Chawla, Purab Kohli also star, while Dia Mirza, Sujoy Ghosh have cameos. Free to watch.
Namak Haraam (1973)
Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna lead this Hrishikesh Mukherjee film that follows two friends whose varying ideologies put them on diverging paths against the backdrop of the rise of trade unions in the textile mills in 1970s then-Bombay (now Mumbai). Rekha, Asrani, and Simi Garewal also star. Free to watch.
The true story of the youngest recipient of India's highest peacetime honour Ashok Chakra, 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), who thwarted the hijacking of a Pan Am flight in 1986 and died trying to get passengers to safety. Free to watch.
Set against the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and inspired by a real-life tale, the story of a Parsi family — Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika playing the parents — who desperately look for their missing son among the communal violence raging on the streets. It's largely in English, with bits and parts in Gujarati and Hindi. Free to watch.
Phas Gaye Re Obama (2010)
Before the legal comedy film series Jolly LLB, writer-director Subhash Kapoor made this post-2008 financial crisis satirical comedy about a recession-hit Indian-American businessman (Rajat Kapoor) who returns home to sell off ancestral property in Uttar Pradesh but is kidnapped by recession-hit goons. Both Kapoors stand accused in the #MeToo movement; Rajat has apologised. Free to watch.
Salaam Bombay! (1988)
Mira Nair's feature-length directorial debut, which won the National Award for best Hindi film and two awards at Cannes, focuses on the day-to-day life of children — not professional actors, but actually from the street — living in the slums of then-Bombay (now Mumbai).
Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977)
On the eve of the Indian rebellion of 1857, writer-director Satyajit Ray presents two stories in parallel: two noblemen obsessed with an ancient form of chess, against the background of scheming enemy officials and an inept ruler. Free to watch.
Based on a Karnataka urban legend — though transported to small-town Madhya Pradesh in the film — this Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.-written comedy horror follows a women's clothing tailor (Rajkummar Rao) who falls for a mysterious woman (Shraddha Kapoor), who frequently disappears.
Meghna Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj combine forces to tell the story of the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl and the family's hired servant were killed, and the inept police bungled the investigation. Uses the Rashomon effect for a three-pronged take. Free to watch.
Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2016)
Five thirty-something friends struggle to find a place in Mumbai where they can play football in peace in this light-hearted rom-com tale, which explores gender divides and social mores along the way. Free to watch.
An elderly psychology professor (Naseeruddin Shah) and a young advertising agent (Kalki Koechlin) befriend and comfort each other after they find themselves in similar situations at a hospital: waiting on their respective comatose partners. Free to watch.