Photo Credit: Akhil Arora/Gadgets 360
Netflix's collection of the best Hindi-language movies continues to be very contemporary with little representation for decades past. The list below has just seven movies from the 20th century. And it continues to make creatively questionable decisions on the original film front, delivering titles that come across as Bollywood outcasts that found no other company willing to fund them. Hopefully, it'll do better with what's coming up, from the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Vikramaditya Motwane, and Dibakar Banerjee. But until that happens, the best Hindi movies on Netflix are those produced by other Indian studios, be it Reliance, UTV, Viacom18, or Aamir Khan Productions among others.
To pick the best Hindi-language movies on Netflix, we relied on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings, and other critics reviews, to create a shortlist. The latter two were preferred because RT doesn't provide a complete representation of reviews for Indian films. Additionally, we used our own editorial judgement to add or remove a few. 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 Netflix in India, sorted alphabetically.
3 Deewarein (2003)
A documentarian (Juhi Chawla) befriends three death row inmates — a lawyer and a poet (Jackie Shroff), a happy-go-lucky elder fellow (Naseeruddin Shah), and a bad-tempered man (Nagesh Kukunoor) — but her motives aren't as plain as they seem. Kukunoor also writes and directs. The film is often for its realism, though some found the ending to be nonsensical.
3 Idiots (2009)
In this satire of the Indian education system's social pressures, two friends recount their college days and how their third long-lost musketeer (Aamir Khan) inspired them to think creatively and independently in a heavily-conformist world. Co-written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who stands accused in the #MeToo movement.
Adapted from the 2006 Filipino film Cavite, a young Muslim non-resident Indian doctor (Rajeev Khandelwal) returning from the UK is forced to comply with terrorists' demands to carry out a bombing in Mumbai after they threaten his family. Feature debut for Khandelwal and writer-director Raj Kumar Gupta. Noted for its realism Alphonse Roy's cinematography.
Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
Two slackers (Aamir Khan and Salman Khan) who belong to middle-class families vie for the affections of an heiress, and inadvertently become her protectors from a local gangster in Rajkumar Santoshi's cult comedy favourite.
Inspired by the French short film L'Accordeur, this black comedy thriller is the story of a piano player (Ayushmann Khurrana) who pretends to be visually impaired and is caught in a web of twists and lies after he walks into a murder scene. Tabu and Radhika Apte star alongside. It relies a little too much on a series of coincidences, which might break the film, depending on how you view the endgame twist.
Article 15 (2019)
Ayushmann Khurrana plays a cop in this exploration of casteism, religious discrimination, and the current socio-political situation in India, which tracks a missing persons' case involving three teenage girls of a small village. A hard-hitting, well-made movie, though ironically, it was criticised for being casteist itself, and providing an outsider's perspective.
Through the lens of the titular aromatic fermented product — pronounced aa-khoo-nee, it translates as “strong smell” — writer-director Nicholas Kharkongor explores the stereotypes held by, the racism of, and the insular nature of Indians towards their counterparts from the Northeast in a light-hearted fashion. Sayani Gupta and Vinay Pathak star.
Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017)
After a free-spirited, young woman (Kriti Sanon) in small-town Uttar Pradesh chances upon an eponymous book whose protagonist reads exactly like her, she sets out about trying to find the author (Rajkummar Rao) with the help of the printing-press owner and novel publisher (Ayushmann Khurrana). Many critics loved Rao's work, while some found issue with its unsubtle script.
Set in the 1970s amidst the hills of Darjeeling, writer-director Anurag Basu tells the tale of three people (Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Ileana D'Cruz) as they learn to love while battling the notions held by society. It has been praised for its heartwarming nature, but also criticised for its narrative handling and forced prettiness, with one critic going so far to call it “facile and plastic”.
The Blue Umbrella (2005)
Based on Ruskin Bond's 1980 eponymous novella, the story of a young girl in rural Himachal Pradesh whose blue umbrella becomes the object of fascination for the entire village, driving a shopkeeper (Pankaj Kapur) to desperation. A National Award winner directed by Vishal Bhardwaj.
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.
The extraordinary true story of amateur wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan) who trains his two daughters to become India's first world-class female wrestlers, who went on to win gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Though entertaining, inspiring, and boasting of fine performances, it reinforces patriarchy and is overlong with bloat and repetition.
Delhi Belly (2011)
Three struggling friends and flatmates (Imran Khan, Kunaal Roy Kapur, and Vir Das) are unwillingly caught in the trap of a deadly crime syndicate in India's capital. Praised for its comedy, pacing, imagination, and goofiness, though some took issue with its overreliance on scatological humour. It's largely in English, and though a Hindi dub exists, it's not on Netflix.
Anurag Kashyap offers a modern-day reimagining of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Bengali romance classic Devdas, in which a man (Abhay Deol), having broken up with his childhood sweetheart, finds refuge in alcohol and drugs, before falling for a prostitute (Kalki Koechlin).
This National Award-winning film from writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor is the story of two siblings — a 10-year-old girl and her visually-impaired, eight-year-old brother — who set out on a 300-km journey across the desert of Rajasthan to find actor and goodwill ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, believing he can help with a cornea transplant.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Farhan Akhtar's directorial debut about three inseparable childhood friends whose wildly different approach to relationships creates a strain on their friendship remains a cult favourite. Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Preity Zinta star.
Dil Se.. (1998)
Shah Rukh Khan plays a radio journalist who falls for a mysterious revolutionary (Manisha Koirala) in this third and final instalment of writer-director Mani Ratnam's thematic trilogy that depicted a love story against a political backdrop. Here, it's the insurgency of Northeast India. Also known for A.R. Rahman's work, especially the title track and “Chaiyya Chaiyya”.
Set in the titular Haryana city, this neo-noir thriller explores gender inequality and the dark underbelly of the suburban wastelands through a story of a real estate tycoon's (Pankaj Tripathi) undisciplined son who kidnaps his own sister to pay off a gambling loss. Its grittiness didn't particularly suit audiences, but critics were more appreciative.
Mani Ratnam wrote and directed this rags-to-riches story of a ruthless and ambitious businessman (Abhishek Bachchan) who doesn't let anything stand in his way as he turns into India's biggest tycoon. Loosely inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani. Bachchan was praised for his performance. Aishwarya Rai co-stars, but she had a much lesser role.
Vishal Bhardwaj's Shakespearean trilogy concluded with this modern-day adaptation of Hamlet, that is also based on Basharat Peer's 1990s-Kashmir memoir Curfewed Night. Follows a young man (Shahid Kapoor) who returns home to investigate his father's disappearance and finds himself embroiled in the ongoing violent insurgency.
Set amidst the most militarised zone in the world, a young Kashmiri boy tries to contact his father, who he's told is with Allah, by dialling a number that he somehow learns. Based on Mohd. Amin Bhat's play “Phone No. 786”. Won a National Award, though some critics found it to be slightly simplistic.
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.
I Am Kalam (2010)
Nila Madhab Panda's feature directorial debut is the story of an intelligent and impoverished boy (Harsh Mayar), who befriends the son of a once noble family, and is inspired by the life of India's late President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam — whose family was also poor in his childhood — to pursue an education. Mayar won a National Award.
Inspired by the 1969 Yash Chopra film of the same name, which itself was a remake of the 1965 film Signpost to Murder, an acclaimed writer (Sidharth Malhotra) and a young homemaker (Sonakshi Sinha), the only witnesses and suspects in a double murder, present different versions of events to the investigating officer (Akshaye Khanna).
Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na (2008)
Imran Khan made his acting debut — in writer Abbas Tyrewala's directorial debut — as Jai, a mild-mannered, peace-loving young man, who's the opposite of his best friend Aditi (Genelia D'Souza). The two begin to search for a partner post-college, oblivious and ignorant of how perfect they are for each other, as their friends and family know very well.
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.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Definitely overlong at three and a half hours, this 16th-century epic is the story of the eponymous Mughal emperor (Hrithik Roshan) and the Rajput princess (Aishwarya Rai), whose political marriage turns into true love, as he realises she's every bit his equal. Simply told yet effective, its message is increasingly important in an increasingly intolerant India. Ashutosh Gowariker directs.
National Award-winning director Hardik Mehta concocts a tribute to Bollywood's character actors with this tale of a washed-up actor (Sanjay Mishra) who comes out of retirement after realising that he's one film away from the magic number of 500, hoping to end on a memorable high.
A pregnant woman (Vidya Balan) travels from London to Kolkata to search for her missing husband in writer-director Sujoy Ghosh's National Award-winning mystery thriller, battling sexism and a cover-up along the way. The film loves to outwit its audience, but proves to be quite dumb with computers and intelligence agencies, as a critic noted. It was also criticised for its spoon-fed, lacklustre end.
Oft described as Vishal Bhardwaj's Pulp Fiction, Shahid Kapoor plays estranged twins — one with a lisp and the other who stutters — with an opposite work ethic, whose lives impossibly converge as they are dragged into Mumbai's underworld nexus of mobsters and politicians. Priyanka Chopra co-stars. Much praised for its style, smarts, and complex characters.
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
After their grandfather (Rishi Kapoor) suffers a cardiac arrest, two estranged brothers return to their childhood home where they must deal with several more family problems. Alia Bhatt, Ratna Pathak Shah also star. Noted for being a modern-age family drama and a step forward for LGBTQ representation, though it's melodramatic at the end and relies too much on exposition.
Khosla Ka Ghosla! (2006)
After a powerful property dealer (Boman Irani) holds a middle-class, middle-aged man's (Anupam Kher) newly-purchased property to ransom, his son and his son's friends devise a plot to dupe the swindling squatter and pay him back with his own money. Dibakar Banerjee's directorial debut.
Gulzar remade the 1961 Japanese film Happiness of Us Alone with Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan) as a deaf and mute couple, charting their lives across two decades from their courtship through the birth of their two children. Praised for its restraint and its landmark depiction of disability on Indian screen, both Gulzar and Kumar won National Awards.
Set in a small drought-wrecked Indian town during the height of the British Raj, a village farmer (Aamir Khan) stakes everyone's future on a game of cricket with the well-equipped colonisers, in exchange for a tax reprieve for three years. From director Ashutosh Gowariker, it was nominated at the Oscars.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)
In this sequel to the 2003 original (also on the list), the eponymous Mumbai underworld don (Sanjay Dutt) starts to live by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi to impress a radio jockey (Vidya Balan) he's smitten with. Noted for its ability to balance the message with entertainment, even as some felt it dumbed down Gandhism. Co-written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who stands accused in the #MeToo movement.
Farhan Akhtar followed Dil Chahta Hai with this (overlong) coming-of-age romantic war drama about an aimless and irresponsible young Delhi man (Hrithik Roshan) who joins the Indian Army — the film was set against a fictionalised version of the 1999 Kargil War — to make his family and close ones proud of him. Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta co-star.
Set in early 1950s West Bengal as the zamindari system is abolished, an aspiring writer and daughter of a zamindar (Sonakshi Sinha) falls for a conman posing as an archaeologist (Ranveer Singh). Vikramaditya Motwane directs this drama inspired by O. Henry's 1907 short story “The Last Leaf”. Heavily praised for its visuals, but the love story wobbles.
The Lunchbox (2013)
An unlikely mistake by Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox carrier system results in an unusual friendship between a young housewife (Nimrat Kaur) and an older widower (Irrfan Khan) about to retire from his job. Feature debut for writer-director Ritesh Batra, who was heavily praised for the exploration of loneliness and the handling of the moving love story.
Lust Stories (2018)
Four directors — Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar — helm four different parts of this anthology drama that focuses on the romantic lives of four women, delving into love, power, status, and naturally, lust. Noted for its authenticity and portraying real women on screen. A Netflix Original.
The life of Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) — one of the finest Urdu writers of the 20th century — before and after the Partition of British India, whose acclaimed life in then-Bombay is uprooted and finds his work being challenged in Lahore. Nandita Das directs.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2018)
Born with a rare condition that doesn't allow him to feel physical pain, a boy who grew up watching martial arts films trains to protect the vulnerable and longs to meet the one-legged man who won a 100-men fight. Praised for being a fun ride that trades on film nostalgia, though it doesn't aspire to be more than a crowd-pleaser.
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.
Shekhar Kapur's directorial debut was an uncredited adaptation of Erich Segal's 1983 novel “Man, Woman and Child”, in which the blissful life of a family is disrupted after an orphan boy — born of the husband's (Naseeruddin Shah) affair with another woman — comes to live with them. It's a real tear-jerker, mind you, and problematic in a few places.
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003)
After his parents find out their son has been pretending to be a doctor, a good-natured Mumbai underworld don (Sanjay Dutt) tries to redeem himself by enrolling in a medical college, where his compassion brushes up against the authoritarian dean (Boman Irani). Co-written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who stands accused in the #MeToo movement.
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
Based on the 1999 Jessica Lal murder case, an activist-journalist (Rani Mukerji) teams up with the victim's sister (Vidya Balan) to bring the entitled son of a prominent politician to justice. Praised by most critics, though some took issue with its heavy-handedness.
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008)
Dibakar Banerjee's second directorial venture is about the charismatic eponymous thief (Abhay Deol), who after being arrested, recounts his life that began in a poor, suburban West Delhi household and how he became a media sensation with a spree of burglaries.
Paan Singh Tomar (2012)
A true story of the eponymous soldier and athlete (Irrfan Khan) who won gold at the National Games, and later turned into a dacoit to resolve a land dispute. Won top honours for film and actor (Khan) at National Awards.
Jackie Shroff, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, and Anupam Kher star in this crime drama that finds two brothers (Shroff and Kapoor) caught on the opposite sides of a gang war, after one's boss (Patekar) orders the death of the other's friend. Vidhu Vinod Chopra directs.
Peepli [Live] (2010)
With elections around the corner, a farmer about to lose his land due to an unpaid government loan seeks help from an apathetic politician, who suggests he take his own life to benefit from a government programme that helps families of dead farmers. An incisive satire of farmers' suicides in India, and the media and political circus surrounding it. Produced by Aamir Khan and wife Kiran Rao.
A lawyer (Amitabh Bachchan) comes out of retirement to help three women (Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang) clear their names in a crime involving a politician's nephew (Angad Bedi). Won a National Award. Faulted for giving more space to the male lead, right from the poster to the dialogues, which stands in irony to the film's empowering, feminist message.
A satirical comedy-drama that probes religious dogmas and superstitions, through the lens of an alien (Aamir Khan) who is stranded on Earth after he loses his personal communicator and befriends a TV journalist (Anushka Sharma) as he attempts to retrieve it.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
Aamir Khan leads the ensemble cast of this award-winning film that focuses on four young New Delhi men who turn into revolutionary heroes themselves while playacting as five Indian freedom fighters from the 1920s for a docudrama.
Balu Mahendra remade his own 1982 Tamil film Moondram Pirai with Kamal Haasan, Sridevi, and Silk Smitha reprising their roles from the original. It's the story of a young woman (Sridevi) with retrograde amnesia who regresses to a child's mental state and ends up in a brothel, where she's rescued by a lonely school teacher (Haasan).
Secret Superstar (2017)
Though frequently melodramatic, this coming-of-age story — produced by Aamir Khan and wife Kiran Rao — of a Muslim girl from Vadodara who dreams of being a singer dealt with important social issues and broke several box office records during its theatrical run.
A short-tempered young policewoman and her cool-headed female boss must contend with ingrained misogyny in their daily lives and even at work, where it impacts their coordinated attempts to tackle the rise of crimes against women in Delhi. A Netflix Original.
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.
Shah Rukh Khan stars a successful NASA scientist in this based on a true story drama, who returns home to India to take his nanny to the US, rediscovers his roots and connects with the local village community in the process. Khan and director Ashutosh Gowariker, who also co-wrote, were praised for their work, though it's definitely overlong with a runtime of over 200 minutes.
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Sent to boarding school against his will, a dyslexic eight-year-old is helped by an unconventional art teacher (Aamir Khan) to overcome his disability and discover his true potential. Feature directorial debut for Khan, only one since. Noted for its sensitive depiction of disability; although the script was called weak, devoid of real drama, and its treatment of said disability simplistic.
Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, and Kareena Kapoor lead the cast of this psychological crime thriller, in which a police officer (Khan) must confront his past to solve a high-profile murder, which involves a sex worker (Kapoor) and his grieving wife (Mukerji). Co-written by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, also director. Largely praised, though some think it tries to do too much.
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.
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.
Vikramaditya Motwane made his directorial debut with this coming-of-age story of a teenager who is expelled from boarding school and returns home to the industrial town of Jamshedpur, where he must work at his oppressive father's factory.
Udta Punjab (2016)
With the eponymous Indian state's drug crisis as the backdrop, this black comedy crime film depicts the interwoven lives of a junior policeman (Diljit Dosanjh), an activist doctor (Kareena Kapoor), a migrant worker (Alia Bhatt), and a rock star (Shahid Kapoor).
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.
Wake Up Sid (2009)
A wealthy Mumbai businessman's carefree, spoiled son (Ranbir Kapoor) experiences a rude awakening after he fails his college final exams, and then begins to take on more responsibility and be more independent with the help of an aspiring writer friend (Konkona Sen Sharma) who moved from Kolkata. Ayan Mukerji's directorial debut.
A Wednesday! (2008)
Neeraj Pandey's film is set between 2pm and 6pm on a Wednesday, naturally, when a common man (Naseeruddin Shah) threatens to detonate five bombs in Mumbai unless four terrorists accused in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings case are released.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, and Abhay Deol star as three childhood friends who set off on a bachelor trip across Spain, which becomes an opportunity to heal past wounds, combat their worst fears, and fall in love with life. Zoya Akhtar directs, as Katrina Kaif and Kalki Koechlin co-star. Called fresh, delightful, and aesthetically pleasing — it feels like an advert for Spain at times; faulted for its pacing, runtime, and contrived nature.
Can Netflix force Bollywood to reinvent itself? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS. You can also download the episode or just hit the play button below.