Each year, Bollywood, India's Hindi language-based film industry, produces about 1,000 movies — more than double the amount of movies typically made in Hollywood annually. The term "Bollywood" is an amalgamation of Bombay – the old name for Mumbai, the geographic locus of the industry — and Hollywood. While Bollywood has the most international visibility, Hindi-language movies comprise only a fraction of the entire Indian film industry. Other major Indian film production centers create films in the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Tulu languages.
Many of the most beloved and critically acclaimed Bollywood movies are readily available on Netflix. From politically charged courtroom dramas to quirky comedies about father-daughter relationships, each of these movies are all great entry points into Bollywood.
Maybe you, like me, can't resist the normal civilan-to-superstar trajectory that talent shows like American Idol and The Voice display each season. If that's the case, then Secret Superstar is for you. It follows a 15-year-old aspiring guitar player who uploads videos to YouTube that hide her identity — and then her fame skyrockets.
Shy and conservative Rani Mehra (Kangana Ranaut) thinks she knows how her life is going to go. She'll get married to Vijay (Rajkummar Rao), and have some kids. But the day before their wedding, Vijay tells Rani he wants a more fun life — one that he doesn't think she'll fit into. Rani decides to go on her honeymoon to Europe nonetheless. And that's where the fun begins. Rani gets her own personal adventure, right out of Euro Trip.
Pink is a riveting courtroom drama with a resounding message: No means no. Minal Arora (Taapsee Pannu), Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari), and Andrea Tariang (Andrea Tariang) are three young, professional New Delhi women implicated in a crime for which they are innocent – but in the eyes of society, they're guilty. Were they defending themselves against men, or were they "asking for it," by being outside at night? Only one lawyer is willing to take their case, and take on deeply ingrained behaviors of how men should be allowed to treat women.
Jab We Met (2007)
In many Bollywood romantic movies, a mischievous man is paired with a shy, well-behaved woman, and they're forced to work it out. Jab We Met turns that trope on its head. In the movie, Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) is a downtrodden man who, after a string of misfortunes, has more or less given up. While on a train, he meets Geet (Kareena Kapoor Khan), a high-energy, fun-loving woman who's planning to elope with her lover. He gets pulled into her energy, and nothing is ever the same. To this day, Jab We Met remains one of the most famous Bollywood rom-coms. Fun Bollywood trivia: The lead actors were dating when they started filming Jab We Met, and broke up during filming.
As Piku demonstrates with such heart and humor, parent-child relationships don't suddenly cease when kids grow up. If anything, they keep getting more complicated. Piku (Deepika Padukone) is left to take care of her aging father, Bhaskor (Amitabh Bachchan), whose peculiarities drive her, and just about everyone else they know, up the wall. Bhaskor convinces Piku to go on a road trip from Dehli to Kolkata, where they're driven by Rana (Irrfan Khan).
Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) is pregnant and alone in the large, unfamiliar city of Kolkata. She's searching for her husband, Arnab Bagchi. Vidya is dismissed, pushed along, not taken seriously. No one can even remember meeting an Arnab Bagchi. And still: She searches. Kahaani was a massive hit. After the massive twist, people were hoping for a sequel. Kahaani 2 arrived in 2016.
Delhi Belly (2001)
What happens when unsuspecting roommates — Tashi (Imran Khan), Nitin Berry (Kunaal Roy Kapur), and Arup (Vir Das) – are accidentally pulled into the dealings of one of Delhi's most powerful gangs? Since this is a comedy, what happens is funny. In real life, though, this could go another way.