Though Indian cinemas went dark for months due to COVID-19, Bollywood, Kollywood, and other Indian film industries still managed to release numerous films during 2020.
You might then ask: what are the Best Bollywood Movies of 2020? Or the Best Indian Movies of 2020 in general, regardless of whether they’re in Hindi or another language?
To answer those questions, the Cinema Escapist staff has compiled this list of the top 10 Indian films of 2020. Our list includes not just Bollywood movies in Hindi, but also films in Tamil and Marathi. These Bollywood and broader Indian movies of 2020 represent a variety of genres, such as drama, comedy, action, and romance. As per Cinema Escapist’s editorial stance of using film to learn about society, our selections also put special emphasis on Indian movies with social or political significance.
Given many of these top Indian films bypassed theaters and went straight to services like Netflix, we’ve also provided streaming links when available.
Let’s take a look at 2020’s best Indian movies!
• • •
10. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
Language: Hindi | Director: Hitesh Kewalya | Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao | Genre: Romance, Comedy, Social Issues
A historic judgement decriminalized gay sex in India in September 2018. Despite this, discrimination against LGBTQ people is still extremely common in India, and same-sex marriage is still banned.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan takes a surprisingly funny and light-hearted look at this very contentious issue in Indian politics, through the story of Karthik Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar). Tripathi returns to his hometown for his sister’s wedding to convince his family to accept his relationship.
The film is arguably the first in Bollywood to feature an openly gay couple—learn more about its social context and impact in our review. Check out this film if you want to watch a funny movie, with strong messages about accepting all forms of love.
Stream this best 2020 Bollywood movie on Amazon Prime Video.
9. Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Language: Hindi | Director: Sharan Sharma | Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Angad Bedi | Genre: Biographical Drama
How a country looks back at its history speaks volumes about its present. Gunjan Saxena is based on the true story of the eponymous Air Force pilot, who was one of the first women to fly in the the Kargil War. The film focuses on Saxena’s persistence, which led her to many firsts in the Indian Air Force.
While the film is liberal with hyperboles, it portrays Saxena’s uphill battle in an inspiring way for the countless young women in India who are trying to overcome the effects of traditional gender roles. The result is a movie that will leave you uplifted, while also teaching you a little about the history of the Indo-Pakistani conflict.
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is streaming on Netflix.
8. The Disciple
Language: Marathi | Director: Chaitanya Tamhane | Starring: Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave | Genre: Drama
The Disciple is a gem of an indie film that premiered at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival. The movie heavily exemplifies award-winning director Chaitanya Tamhane’s love for North Indian classical music. It explores the legends of the musical form through its main character Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak), and his personal journey to become a master musician himself.
This film progresses at a slower pace than most mainstream movies, but is particularly unique in how it conveys most of its emotions through a rich soundtrack and Nerulkar’s facial expressions. If you want to cozy up for an introspective film that will make you want to retry your abandoned dreams of becoming a musician, don’t miss this film.
For a deeper look into the themes of The Disciple, read our review and interview with the director Chaitanya Tamhane.
7. Angrezi Medium
Language: Hindi | Director: Homi Adajania | Starring: Irrfan Khan, Radhika Madan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Deepak Dobriyal | Genre: Comedy, Drama
Angrezi Medium will unfortunately go down as Irrfan Khan’s last film, since his passing in April 2020. Buoyed by a fantastic final performance from the star, the film follows the story of a daughter who dreams of leaving her small town, and her poor father who will do anything to make that dream come true.
The comedic difference between the people in small-town India and London adds laughs to a familiar, but well-written plot. It’s a film that will make you miss your parents in the most heartwarming way.
Stream this top 2020 Bollywood movie on Hotstar.
6. Shakuntala Devi
Language: Hindi | Director: Anu Menon | Starring: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta, Amit Sadh | Genre: Biographical Comedy, Drama
In a world that frequently faults women for failing to play the role of perfect mother or wife, Shakuntala Devi’s titular character is unapologetic for her less than traditional priorities.
Shakuntala has her fair share of idiosyncrasies, and loses many of the people in her life to them. Yet, the film manages to inject a buoyant note throughout, despite the complexity of the subject at hand. The film, despite being outwardly feminist, is problematic at times, such as with its awkward portrayal of Shakunta’s stand on homosexuality. Despite its shortcomings, Shakuntala Devi is an important film, for it challenges the very prevalent notion that women are made for motherhood.
Watch this 2020 Indian movie on Amazon Prime today.
5. Paava Kadhaigal
Language: Tamil | Directors: Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivan, Gautam Vasudev Menon, Vetri Maaran | Starring: Kalidas Jayaram, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, Bhavani Sre | Genre: Social Issues, Drama
Loosely translated as “Sin Stories,” Paava Kadhaigal explores societal constructs through a series of four stories revolving around the sins that people commit in the name of family honor. Starting from the title sequence, which portrays the various stages of a woman’s life, to the chilling end of the last short, Paava Kadhaigal shows in unflinching terms the oppression women from all walks of life face.
Though it handles some issues more sensitively than others, Paava Kadhaigal forces the audience to acknowledge the horrors condoned in the name of honor. It is a tough, even chilling, watch, but a necessary call to reject the patriarchy.
Paava Kadhaigal is streaming on Netflix today.
Language: Hindi | Director: Meghna Gulzar | Starring: Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey | Genre: Social Issues, Drama
Chhapaak is based on the real-life story of activist Laxmi Agarwal. Like Agarwal, the film’s protagonist Malti (played by Deepika Padukone) is the unfortunate victim of an acid attack. Though laws have been passed in India to curb acid attacks, the vicious act is still prevalent in the country today, with acid freely bought and sold.
After her features are disfigured beyond recognition, Malti rallies in a conscious effort to still make something out of the shattered pieces of her life. Together with Amol Dwivedi (Massey), she helps other acid attack victims, and eventually succeeds in obtaining a restriction on the sale of acid. Chhapaak is not a lighthearted watch, and lacks the typical opulence of a Bollywood film. However, the movie effectively delivers cutting social commentary without succumbing to melodrama.
Read more about the implications of acid attacks, as depicted by Chhapaak, in our review.
Chhapaak is available for streaming on Hotstar.
Language: Hindi | Director: Anurag Basu | Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Rajkummar Rao | Genre: Comedy, Drama
Anurag Basu brings us yet another whimsical Bollywood film through Ludo, a compelling commentary on dharma (duty) and karma (morality). Told from the perspective of two narrators playing a game of Ludo, the film ties together four characters—Bittu (Abhishek Bachchan), Akash (Aditya Roy Kapur), Aalu (Rajkummar Rao), and Rahul (Rohit Suresh Saraf)–through the antagonist Sattu (Pankaj Tripathi).
Throughout the film, the narrators prompt the audience to question preconceived notions of morality, the ramifications of our actions, and whether people deserve second chances. There are no obvious or easy answers to the issues raised in Ludo, and one comes to the end of the film still contemplating virtue and vice, and everything in between.
Watch this 2020 top Bollywood movie on Netflix today.
Language: Hindi | Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari | Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Jassie Gill, Richa Chadda | Genre: Drama, Sports
Athletes typically have short-lived careers, with most retiring from their sports in their mid-30’s. However, Panga’s protagonist Jaya Nigam (Ranaut) re-enters the world of kabaddi at the age of 32, encouraged wholly by her husband and son. Jaya confronts societal stereotypes around a mother’s role, as well as the physical restrictions of her own aging body, with aplomb.
A heartwarming watch, Panga is an ode to mothers and the many sacrifices they make for their families—and a reminder that they can dare to dream as well.
Stream Panga on Hotstar today.
Language: Hindi | Director: Anubhav Sinha | Starring: Taapsee Pannu | Genre: Drama, Social Issues
As you may have noticed from this list, Indian films focusing on social problems that women face are becoming increasingly common, as filmmakers use their platform to fight archaic mindsets. Thappad does this particularly poignantly.
Amrita Sabharwal (Taapsee Pannu) is in a happy marriage for many years to her husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati). When Vikram is denied a promotion by his boss, Amrita tries to stop the fight that breaks out between the two at a party. Vikram slaps her in front of everyone, which opens her eyes to all of the little unfair sacrifices she’s been making for him.
Thappad is a wake-up slap to a culture that traditionally believes “everything is allowed in a marriage” for husbands. The film, along with Amrita, fights the mentality of keeping up the facade of a marriage at the cost of an individual’s pain.
Watch Thappad on Amazon Prime Video.
• • •
Want more Indian movies? Check out our list of the Best Indian & Bollywood Movies on Netflix.