10 Must-Watch Bollywood Historical Movies to Relive the Past
India is probably the most diverse country in the world in terms of culture and history. And it is often portrayed in Bollywood as well. In fact, some of the most successful and critically acclaimed Bollywood movies have belonged to the historical genre.
With that being said, we’re here with 10 must-watch historical movies Bollywood has ever produced. From the Harappan age to the freedom movement, this list consists of movies from every era and for all age groups to enjoy. So, dive in and get reading.
List of 10 Must-Watch Bollywood Historical Movies to Relive the Past
Release Year: 1982
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Roshan Seth, Candice Bergen, Rohini Hattangadi
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer turned freedom fighter, who is best known for pushing for reforms through non-violent methods. He inspired several other peace activists as well like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Although not a Bollywood film, Gandhi perhaps features the best cinematic depiction of Mahatma Gandhi. The film covers his life from the infamous train incident in South Africa to his eventual assassination.
Gandhi also consists of an extensive Indian cast and was directed by veteran Hollywood filmmaker Richard Attenborough. The film was super hit in India and abroad, winning several Academy Awards in the process.
Release Year: 2001
Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley, Yashpal Sharma, Paul Blackthorne
India’s only Academy Award-nominated movie of this century, Lagaan, is a fictional sports drama set during the British Raj. Lagaan follows a group of oppressed villagers who agree to a game of cricket with a cruel British army officer as a wager to quash their taxes.
Lagaan was well-received by critics and is partly responsible for elevating Aamir Khan to worldwide stardom. The film also introduced global audiences to a new generation of Indian cinema. It’s a work of fiction, yes, but one that every Indian should watch at least once in their lives.
3. Mangal Pandey: The Rising
Release Year: 2005
Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Toby Stephens, Kirron Kher, Ameesha Patel
Mangal Pandey was an infantryman in the British East India Company, who is largely responsible for igniting the revolt of 1857.
Pandey, along with several other sepoys, protested the draconian rule of the company and the cow-fat-greased cartridges of their rifles. This led to a mutiny, which eventually turned into a widespread rebellion across the country.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising brilliantly portrayed the life of the titular hero and his heroic actions that almost overthrew the British Raj. Mangal Pandey: The Rising received positive reviews and is one of the few Indian movies to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
4. Bajirao Mastani
Release Year: 2015
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Milind Soman, Mahesh Manjrekar
Bajirao Mastani is an epic historical romance film directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film centers on Peshwa Bajirao of the Maratha Empire and his love story with Mastani, the daughter of a Hindu ruler and a Muslim queen.
The pair are widely ostracised in the community, but like they say, love knows no bounds. Bajirao Mastani is a tale of tragic love that, although is scant on history, is high on heart.
Release Year: 1960
Cast: Madhubala, Dilip Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor, Ajit Khan
Who in India hasn’t heard of Mughal-e-Azam? The film took the Indian cinema by storm upon its release and is often considered the greatest Indian movie ever.
Mughal-e-Azam centers on the love affair between Mughal prince Salim (later Jahangir) and Anarkali, against the wishes of his father, Emperor Akbar. The initial disapproval leads to a war between father and son.
Mughal-e-Azam was the most expensive Indian movie at the time and also became the highest-grossing one for 15 years.
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Release Year: 2019
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Mir Sarwar, Vikram Kochhar
Kesari is a historical war drama based on the Battle of Saragarhi of 1897. It was more of a last stand than a battle involving 21 Sikh soldiers defending Fort Saragarhi against more than 10,000 Afghan invaders.
Kesari superbly portrays this heroic event and, like all good Bollywood films, is heavy on music and melodrama as well.
7. The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Release Year: 2002
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Amrita Rao, Sushant Singh, Akhilendra Mishra, Raj Babbar
The Legend of Bhagat Singh is based on the Indian revolutionary and folk hero Bhagat Singh. He is known for the symbolic bombing of the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi, for which he was arrested and executed.
Bhagat Singh and his associates, Rajguru and Chandra Shekhar Azad, were also complicit in the murder of a British police officer. The trio’s actions received both praise and condemnation. However, Bhagat Singh has since become a symbol of resistance against the British.
Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, The Legend of Bhagat Singh also accurately portrays the life and deeds of its titular hero. The film also won two National Film Awards.
8. Jodhaa Akbar
Release Year: 2008
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar is an epic historical romance film inspired by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhaa Bai. Boasting a lengthy runtime, spectacular visuals and costumes, and amazing performances, Jodhaa Akbar is epic in every way.
The film also accurately portrays several historical events, so it’s a must-watch for all the history buffs out there.
Release Year: 2001
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajith Kumar, Danny Denzongpa
Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC. His exploits are legendary, but Ashoka is perhaps best known for renouncing war and embracing Buddhism.
After witnessing the large-scale destruction of Kalinga, Ashoka gave up arms and devoted his life to Buddhism and spreading its teachings. Santosh Sivan’s Asoka is a fantastic dramatisation of the Mauryan Emperor’s life.
Asoka takes some artistic liberties, but it was well received by critics and audiences alike for its epic scale, musical sequences, and lead performance by Shahrukh Khan.
10. Mohenjo Daro
Release Year: 2016
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh
Mohenjo Daro is another Ashutosh Gowariker film on this list. After depicting the British Raj and the Mughal era, Gowariker stepped foot into the Harappan era with Mohenjo Daro.
The film is set in 2016 BC and is basically a love story between a farmer and a high-status girl in the Indus Valley Civilization. There are very few movies set in that era, and though Mohenjo Daro was a box office failure, it is still a must-watch for any history buff.
- Mangal Pandey: The Rising
- Bajirao Mastani
- Mughal-e Azam
- The Legend of Bhagat Singh
- Jodhaa Akbar
- Mohenjo Daro
So, that’s the list of 10 best Bollywood historical movies, promising both entertainment and some awareness about India’s glorious past. Hopefully, we haven’t missed any other of your favourites. If we did, feel free to mention in the comments and stay tuned for more insightful lists.
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