As it looks for global growth, Netflix has invested heavily in Indian content. The streaming service now has dozens upon dozens of Indian films—mostly Bollywood, but also some from non-Hindi industries like Tollywood—available worldwide.
You might be asking—what are the best Bollywood movies on Netflix? Or the best Indian movies on Netflix in general, regardless of whether they’re in Hindi or another language?
The Cinema Escapist staff has collaborated to compile this list of the top 13 Indian films on Netflix, including many top Bollywood movies. These Bollywood and broader Indian movies on Netflix represent a variety of genres, such as drama, comedy, action, and romance.
Given our global readership, we’ve made sure to choose films that are available in as many countries as possible—including the US, the UK, Canada, Singapore, and more. This list is up-to-date for 2020, and we’ve double checked to ensure these movies are still available. We’ve also tilted our selections in favor of Indian movies with some social or political significance, in line with Cinema Escapist’s editorial stance of using film to learn about society.
Read on to learn more about the 13 best Bollywood/Indian films on Netflix, current as of 2020!
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13. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Director: Zoya Akhtar | Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif | Genre: Buddy, Roadtrip, Comedy, Romance | Year: 2011 | Language: Hindi
If you enjoy buddy comedies or road movies, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (translated as “Life Doesn’t Come Again”) is one of the best Bollywood productions belonging to those genres. The film centers on three childhood friends named Arjun, Kabir, and Imraan who reunite for a road trip through Spain.
Spain’s tourist bureau probably loved Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, because the film enticingly showcases beautiful Spanish scenery and events like La Tomatina and the running of the bulls in Pamplona. This unique foreign backdrop makes the movie more interesting, and creates great opportunities for the three old friends’ relationship to develop in both hilarious and touching ways. The film offers an energetic and heartwarming feel-good experience that’ll leave you satisfied at the end.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is available to stream on Netflix in 28 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
12. Baahubali: The Beginning
Director: S. S. Rajamouli | Starring: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah, Anushka Shetty | Genre: Action | Year: 2015 | Language: Tamil and Telugu, with Hindi and Malayalam dubs.
We mentioned that many of the films on this list would be Bollywood/Hindi-language, but not all of them. Baahubali: The Beginning is one selection that doesn’t come from Bollywood; instead, it was filmed in both Tamil and Telugu (for non-Indians, those are two prominent South Indian languages, each of which have their own robust film traditions).
This 2015 epic action movie centers on a young man named Shivudu who grows up in the fictional kingdom of Mahishmati. Upon learning about his hidden family legacy, Shivudu gets launched into a journey of sweeping proportions, filled with action and adventure.
Baahubali: The Beginning was one of the most expensive Indian films ever made, and broke numerous box office records. Its sequel Baahubali 2 (also available on Netflix in both Tamil and Hindi) did even better and remains one of the highest grossing Indian films of all time as of this article’s publication.
Be forewarned—this is a true blockbuster, in both good (i.e. action-packed, entertaining) and bad (i.e. CGI overuse, exaggerated action) senses of the word. However, just like Hollywood’s Transformers films have still made a significant cultural impact, so has Baahubali.
Baahubali: The Beginning is available in 25 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker | Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Ballal | Genre: Drama | Year: 2004 | Language: Hindi
At last, Shah Rukh Khan makes an appearance on this list with Swades. In this highly acclaimed cult classic, the superstar actor plays a US NASA project manager named Mohan Bhargava who returns to India and rediscovers his roots and helps his home village along the way (“Swades” translates to “our country”).
Swades is based on the true story of two Non-resident Indians named Aravinda Pillalamarri and Ravi Kuchimanchi who started and volunteered with an organization called the Association for India’s Development. While the film doesn’t follow Pillalamarri and Kuchimanchi’s stories exactly, it still tugs at the heartstrings of many overseas Indians with its realistic and poignant narrative.
If you enjoy movies starring Shah Rukh Khan that touch on the experiences of overseas Indians, we’d also recommend My Name is Khan, which unfortunately isn’t widely available on Netflix but is probably streamable on other services.
Swades is available in 14 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia, Canada, and more.
10. Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran
Director: Abhishek Sharma | Starring: John Abraham, Diana Penty, Boman Irani | Genre: Historical, Action, Drama | Year: 2018 | Language: Hindi
At Cinema Escapist, we don’t shy away from nationalistic films; they provide an interesting and entertaining way to learn about their origin nations. Thus, we’re recommending Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran—a historical action drama that views nuclear weapons and espionage from a decidedly nationalistic Indian perspective.
Parmanu dramatizes the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, which India conducted in 1998. The film stars John Abraham as a Research & Analysis Wing (India’s foreign intelligence agency) agent named Ashwat Raina—who must help India’s nuclear program keep test preparations secret from America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI.
We especially recommend Parmanu for non-Indian audiences, as this movie offers an action-packed way to learn about India’s complex relations with the US, Pakistan, and China. As India grows more muscular in world affairs, it’s important to learn more about its motivations and political context. Furthermore, Pokhran provides diversity away from Hollywood, as it belongs to a tradition of international films/shows that depict Americans as adversaries. If you’re interested in more muscularly nationalistic Indian movies, you should also consider Uri: The Surgical Strike, which isn’t on this list because it’s not on Netflix.
Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran is available on Netflix in 28 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
9. C/o Kancharapalem
Director: Venkatesh Maha | Starring: Subba Rao Vepada, Radha Bessy, Kesava Karri | Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance | Year: 2018 | Language: Telugu
One of the few non-Bollywood films in this list, C/o Kancharapalem is a Telugu indie anthology which depicts the love stories of four characters of varying ages. The format is reminiscent of Love Actually, but goes far beyond the trappings of a love story to quietly weave in questions around religion and social standing, gender dynamics, and changing belief systems.
The true strength of the film lies in the genuine performances of real people cherry picked from Kancharapalem, where the film is also shot. With no prior acting experience, the untried actors are simultaneously awkward and endearing, and shine with authenticity.
C/o Kancharapalem illustrates that love has many shapes and forms: it can mean gifting a songbook to a classmate so she can learn the lyrics to her favorite song or bringing along a bottle of sugar water for your diabetic co-worker. The magic of the film lies in the effortless depiction of the evolution of love. In an industry famous for overspending, this film proves that a moving screenplay can wholly capture both audience interest and heart.
C/o Kancharapalem is available in 17 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
8. Article 15
Director: Anubhav Sinha | Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Nassar, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra | Genre: Crime, Drama | Year: 2019 | Language: Hindi
If you’ve ever wanted to curl up in a ball and question the extent of human cruelty, we have just the hard-hitting film for you. Article 15 loosely follows the Baduan rape case through the eyes of fictional police officer Ayan Ranjan. As Ranjan conducts his investigation of the rape and murder of two teenage girls, he exposes the painful residue of India’s history with caste hatred.
Article 15 provides an easy-to-digest introduction to the caste system, and attempts to educate as much as it critiques. The well-rounded cast of characters weave complex agendas into a simple crime story. Every horrific twist will make justice seem increasingly distant, and invests you further into the plot. You won’t realize just how strong of a grip the film has on your emotions until its closing moments.
So hold tight to your existential dread, grab some tissues, and settle in for a haunting but necessary movie. If you want to learn more about Article 15, check out our full-length review!
Article 15 is available on Netflix in 27 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
7. Made in China
Director: Mikhil Musale | Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Mouni Roy, Boman Irani | Genre: Comedy | Year: 2019 | Language: Hindi
As Made in China reminds us, India and China have the world’s largest populations—and that’s the result of Indians and Chinese having lots of sex. Yet, talking and learning about sex is largely taboo in Indian society. This leads to frustrations in the bedroom, and public health challenges.
Made in China addresses this ironic reality through the lens of dark comedy. The movie stars Rajkummar Rao as Raghu Mehta, a serial failed entrepreneur who stumbles upon a purportedly magical Chinese aphrodisiac called Tiger Penis Soup. Mehta convinces a doctor to be his business partner, and the two embark on a mission of business conquest—and sexual health education.
Raunchy and irreverent but nowhere near disgustingly vulgar, Made in China offers a surprisingly tasteful and exceptionally hilarious take on an important social issue in India. The film will keep you laughing out loud, and its characters are highly relatable and likable.
Made in China is available on Netflix in 26 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
6. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
Director: Shree Narayan Singh | Starring: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar | Genre: Comedy, Drama | Year: 2017 | Language: Hindi
Toilets are serious business in India. After his 2014 election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to build 100 million of them to make up for an acute shortage and discourage defecation in the open. Open defecation not only creates sanitation issues, but also makes life more dangerous for women.
Thus, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (translated as “Toilet: A Love Story”) released amidst one of India’s biggest toilet-building campaigns to great fanfare—and social relevance.
Starring superstar Akshay Kumar, the film offered audiences an accessible window into the challenges associated with toilet-building and open defecation. Kumar plays Keshav—a man from a superstitious rural family who falls in love with an educated woman named Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar). Unfortunately, Keshav’s family lacks toilets, and this thwarts their relationship. Thus, Keshav and Jaya must battle against conservative attitudes and family members and take a stand for sanitation and women’s dignity.
Aptly blending comedy with social commentary, Toilet both entertains and educates without seeming tone deaf or puerile. If you’re interested in other socially conscious films starring Akshay Kumar, we’d also recommend Pad Man (also streamable on Netflix)—which addresses taboos around menstruation and lack of affordable sanitary pads for India’s women.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is available on Netflix in 28 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and more.
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj | Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Shraddha Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Kay Kay Menon | Genre: Political, Crime, Drama | Year: 2014 | Language: Hindi
To watch, or not to watch, that is the question…
Well, we’d like you to watch Haider—which is perhaps the most meaningful and entertaining adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the world.
Starring Shahid Kapoor, Haider adapts Shakespeare’s tale of regicide and revenge to take place in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Kapoor stars as Haider Meer, the son of a prominent doctor who gets “disappeared” during the Kashmir conflict in 1995. Haider suspects his uncle of betraying his father—and plots revenge whilst struggling with existential angst and Kashmir’s political complexities.
Regardless of where you stand on the Kashmir issue, and even if you don’t have much knowledge about the conflict, Haider is a worthwhile watch.
For one, it’s action-packed. There’s no other Hamlet adaptation that features AK-47s and grenades; those who think Shakespeare is only for boring stuffy old white people will find their minds changed. Furthermore, the movie brings up pointed questions about identity and sovereignty that will resonate in a world where such topics are at the forefront of public discourse everywhere.
4. Taare Zameen Par
Director: Aamir Khan | Starring: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Tanay Chheda | Genre: Family, Drama | Year: 2007 | Language: Hindi
Already a Bollywood superstar of considerable renown, Aamir Khan made his directorial debut with Taare Zameen Par, which tackles the suffering and pain of 8-year-old Ishaan Awasthi as he lives with dyslexia. In an education system that has traditionally marginalized children with learning disabilities, Ishaan struggles to read and write, and hides his inability behind a mask of mischief. Frustrated at the implication that his child may be “abnormal,” Ishaan’s father packs his son off to boarding school in hopes that he will learn some discipline.
The vivacious Ishaan retreats into a shell, even forgoing his previous penchant for painting, until Nikumbh (Khan), the new art teacher at the school, recognizes that Ishaan suffers from dyslexia. Nikumbh works with Ishaan to improve his reading and writing, and is able to coax the child back to his previously spirited self.
Ostensibly about dyslexia, Taare Zameen Par drives home the point that every child has unique capabilities and untapped talent that are often smothered beneath the competitive regiment of the Indian education system. The film is still relevant today, as stigma around mental health and disabilities remain rampant within India.
Taare Zameen Par is available on Netflix in 34 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
Director: Sriram Raghavan | Starring: Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte | Genre: Crime, Thriller, Black Comedy | Year: 2018 | Language: Hindi
Black comedies have been going strong in Bollywood lately, and Andhadhun is one of the strongest Hindi-language examples of the genre.
Adapted from a 2010 French short film called The Piano Tuner, Andhadhun centers on a pianist named Akash who fakes being blind to bolster his virtuosity. At a private performance, he witnesses a murder—which he can’t report unless he decides to come clean about his false blindness.
Offbeat and deliciously twisted, Andhadhun bears resemblance to the films of top American directors like the Coen brothers and Alfred Hitchcock, which should appeal to non-Indian audiences. The film is thrilling, suspenseful, and offers a taut performance that’s hard to look away from.
Andhadhun is available to stream on Netflix in 27 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
Director: Nitesh Tiwari | Starring: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra | Genre: Sports, Drama | Year: 2016 | Language: Hindi
In Dangal, superstar Aamir Khan appears yet again as Mahavir Singh Phogat—the father of Geeta and Babita Phogat, the two oldest Phogat sisters. Besides undergoing intense training, Geeta and Babita must overcome patriarchal prejudices on their path to wrestling success.
With a rousing narrative, gripping fights, and emotional character relationships, Dangal is a must-watch. It’s not just popular in India—even Chinese audiences loved the movie for its authenticity, social consciousness, and generally high production quality.
Dangal is available on Netflix in 34 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
1. 3 Idiots
Director: Rajkumar Hirani | Starring: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi | Genre: Comedy | Year: 2009 | Language: Hindi
Our choice for the #1 Indian film on Netflix is 3 Idiots, a celebrated classic college comedy also starring Aamir Khan (you might notice we’re pretty big Aamir Khan fans). If you grew up in an academically competitive society—be it India, South Korea, China, or an immigrant enclave in the West—you’ll find 3 Idiots highly, highly relatable.
3 Idiots satirizes academic competitiveness through the lens of three students at the fictional Imperial College of Engineering (ICE), modeled after the IITs. Aamir Khan plays Ranchoddas “Rancho” Chanchad, the most eccentric of the trio. Rancho has a thirst for knowledge, but realizes that ICE’s hypercompetitive and inhumane system discourages true learning. He proceeds to subvert that system through hilarious antics that earn him the ire of ICE’s director—the infamous Professor Viru “Virus” Sahastrabuddhe.
Aamir Khan was already famous in India before 3 Idiots, but the film catapulted him to international prominence. To this day, 3 Idiots remains one of the most loved and discussed Indian movies outside India. If you want a mix of unbeatable humor, exceptional human drama, and uplifting social commentary, look no further than 3 Idiots!
To learn more about 3 Idiots, read our full-length review.
3 Idiots is available on Netflix in 17 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and more.
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