Bollywood for Beginners

This is a list for people who've never seen Bollywood films, in particular for people who are not from the Indian subcontinent and aren't familiar with the culture. So I kept to the fairly modern films, because since 2000 the films have started to keep the international markets in mind and the technical execution is more polished. The good: The Indian film industry excels at doing films that celebrate emotions and are not afraid to get all vulnerable, shouty, lovey-dovey, etc. The bad: It can veer into melodrama. Things to remember: accept the song-and-dance number! At some point you might get to love it like most fans.
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1.
Jab We Met (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A depressed wealthy businessman finds his life changing after he meets a spunky and care-free young woman. (138 mins.)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
 
2.
Kaminey (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
The desperate lives of two estranged twin brothers converge over missing drugs, politics, racial prejudice, corrupt cops and an unplanned pregnancy. (130 mins.)
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
 
3.
Omkara (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Shakespeare's masterpiece "Othello" set in modern India. A politically-minded enforcer's misguided trust in his lieutenant leads him to suspect his wife of infidelity. (155 mins.)
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
 
4.
Maqbool (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Macbeth meets the Godfather in present-day Bombay. The Scottish tragedy set in the contemporary underworld of India's commercial capital; two corrupt... (132 mins.)
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
 
5.
Kahaani (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A pregnant woman's search for her missing husband takes her from London to Kolkata, but everyone she questions denies having ever met her husband. (122 mins.)
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
 
6.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
The love story between an actress and a director. Inspired by the life of the late south Indian actress Silk Smitha. (144 mins.)
Director: Milan Luthria
 
7.
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A journalist, who is more of an activist teams up with the sister of a murdered model, as she gets interested in the case and wants to bring justice to her case. (136 mins.)
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
 
8.
Paa (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A father tries to help his son cope with a rare condition that causes the young boy to age beyond his years. (133 mins.)
Director: R. Balki
 
9.
Like Stars on Earth (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An eight-year-old boy is thought to be lazy and a trouble-maker, until the new art teacher has the patience and compassion to discover the real problem behind his struggles in school. (165 mins.)
Director: Aamir Khan
 
10.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The story of six young Indians who assist an English Woman to film a documentary on the extremist freedom fighters from their past, and the events that lead them to relive the long forgotten saga of freedom. (157 mins.)
 
11.
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The people of a small village in Victorian India stake their future on a game of cricket against their ruthless British rulers. (224 mins.)
 
12.
The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Based on the life and times of Mangal Pandey, 1857: The Rising is a film about the leader of the 1857 mutiny and his fight against the British rule. (150 mins.)
Director: Ketan Mehta
 
13.
Earth (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
It's 1947 and the borderlines between India and Pakistan are being drawn. A young girl bears witnesses to tragedy as her ayah is caught between the love of two men and the rising tide of political and religious violence. (110 mins.)
Director: Deepa Mehta
 
14.
Fire (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Ashok runs a family business that sells takeout food that also has a video rental store at the side... (108 mins.)
Director: Deepa Mehta
 
15.
Water (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from the highest caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. (117 mins.)
Director: Deepa Mehta
 
16.
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A clash between Sultan and Shahid Khan leads to the expulsion of Khan from Wasseypur, and ignites a deadly blood feud spanning three generations. (320 mins.)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
 
17.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Six newly-married, diverse, honeymooning couples face marital bliss and discord, finding out more about themselves, their significant others and life in this happy-go-lucky, quirky drama. (118 mins.)
Director: Reema Kagti
 
18.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Three friends decide to turn their fantasy vacation into reality after one of their number becomes engaged. (155 mins.)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
 
19.
Luck by Chance (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
When Vikram gets tapped to play the male lead in a Bollywood film, he can't believe his luck. But it may ruin his relationship with his girlfriend. (156 mins.)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
 
20.
Rock On!! (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Four friends reunite to relive their moments of glory as a rock band. (145 mins.)
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
 
22.
Billu (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Based on the story of friendship between Krishna and Sudama. (137 mins.)
Director: Priyadarshan
 
23.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A middle-aged man who lost his love for life rediscovers it by assuming a new identity in order to rekindle the romantic spark in his marriage. (167 mins.)
Director: Aditya Chopra
 
24.
Chak de! India (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A disgraced hockey player coaches the women's national team to win back his honor and dignity. (153 mins.)
Director: Shimit Amin
 
25.
Paheli (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A folk tale - supernatural love story about a ghost who falls in love with a newlywed woman. (140 mins.)
Director: Amol Palekar
 
26.
Swades (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A successful Indian scientist returns to an Indian village to take his nanny to America with him and in the process rediscovers his roots. (210 mins.)
 
27.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Yashvardhan Raichand lives a very wealthy lifestyle along with his wife, Nandini, and two sons, Rahul and Rohan... (210 mins.)
Director: Karan Johar
 
28.
Ashoka the Great (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
The Epic tale of King Asoka's life. (176 mins.)
Director: Santosh Sivan
 
29.
Dil Se.. (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The clash between love and ideology is portrayed in this love story between a radio executive and a beautiful revolutionary (163 mins.)
Director: Mani Ratnam
 
30.
Devdas (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
After his wealthy family prohibits him from marrying the woman he is in love with, Devdas Mukherjee's life spirals further and further out of control as he takes up alcohol and a life of vice to numb the pain. (185 mins.)
 
31.
Dev D (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
After breaking up with his childhood sweetheart, a young man finds solace in drugs. Meanwhile, a teenage girl is caught in the world of prostitution. Will they be destroyed, or will they find redemption? (144 mins.)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
 
32.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A sixteenth century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodha. (213 mins.)
 
33.
Aiyyaa (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.3/10 X  
A woman goes on the hunt for her dream man, armed with her wild imagination, her passion for Masala-films, and her ultra-sensitive sense of smell. (152 mins.)
 
34.
Black (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The cathartic tale of a deaf, mute and blind girl, and her teacher who brings a ray of light into her world of BLACK. (122 mins.)
 
35.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Nandini has to choose between Sameer, the man who taught her to fall in love; and Vanraj, the man from whom she learnt how to abide and fulfill promises of love. (188 mins.)
 
36.
Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Goa based Joseph Braganza and his wife Flavy, devout Catholics, are both deaf and mute. He makes a living selling soap bars door to door... (159 mins.)
 
37.
1942: A Love Story (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A young Indian couple, both from wealthy backgrounds, find themselves caught up in the 1940's Indian revolutionary movement against their families whom are under the thumb a sadistic British general. (157 mins.)
 
38.
The Namesake (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways. (122 mins.)
Director: Mira Nair
 
39.
Chandni Bar (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A displaced woman is forced to become a beer-bar dancer, and sire children of a gangster. (150 mins.)
 
40.
I Have Found It (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An Indian adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" focusing on two sisters of opposing temperaments. (151 mins.)
Director: Rajiv Menon
 
41.
The Duo (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Mani Rathnam's take on the real-life rivalry between M.G. Ramachandran and Karunanidhi. (140 mins.)
Director: Mani Ratnam
 
42.
Raincoat (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
All he wanted was to see her just once. Manu was from a village in the backwoods. Neeru was the girl next door, his lost love. (117 mins.)
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
 
43.
Choker Bali: A Passion Play (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
The book, Binodini, is the story of a young woman, who is left to her own devices when her sickly husband dies soon after they are married... (167 mins.)
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
 
44.
Dhoom 2 (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
ACP Jai Dixit and his best friend Ali takes on an international thief known only as Mr. A. Will they be able to catch him? (152 mins.)
Director: Sanjay Gadhvi
 
45.
The Home and the World (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
When the movie opens, a woman is recalling the events that molded her perspective on the world. Years ago... (140 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray
 
46.
Charulata (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The lonely wife of a newspaper editor falls in love with her visiting cousin-in-law, who shares her love for literature. (117 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray
 
47.
The Stranger (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A well-off family is paid an unexpected, and rather unwanted, visit by a man claiming to be the woman's long-lost uncle... (120 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray
 
48.
The Last Lear (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
An aging Shakespearean actor takes on one of the bard's most challenging roles. Based on Utpal Dutt's play "Aajker Shahjahan". (130 mins.)
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
 
49.
Nayak: The Hero (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
En route to Delhi to receive an award, a Bengali film star reevaluates his success through his fellow passengers, dreams and past experiences. (120 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray
 
50.
The Chess Players (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Wazed Ali Shah is the ruler of one of the last independent kingdoms of India. The British, intent on controlling this rich country... (129 mins.)
Director: Satyajit Ray