The top 25 Malayalam Movies of all timeby Renjith-0099 | created - 15 Sep 2016 | updated - 20 Apr 2017 | Public
This is a compilation of the 25 greatest movies of Malayalam film industry. Although its a list of all time best movies, the movies from 60s or 70s did not make it to the list. Maybe those movies were superb at that time but watching them today is just like watching "Gone with the Wind" just because its rated 8.2. The movies that are acclaimed but are simply too parallel for a mainstream film are not considered. Box office Performance of the movie is one of the criterion for ranking along with direction (being the top matrix), story, acting, music, cinematography and entertainment value. Enjoy watching...
1. Devasuram (1993)
Not Rated | 187 min | Action, Drama, Thriller
The heir to a village elder's family squanders his inheritance and bullies all and sundry.
We see people as either good guys or bad guys. The story writer to this masterpiece of all time beg to differ. There is Deva (the "Good" as per Hindu Mythology) and Asura (The Bad) in everyone. The life for everyone is an internal struggle between the two aspects in oneself. Here in the movie people are so keen to see only the "Asura" in Neelkandan (played by Mohanlal) that the "Deva" is seen by only those who really get to know the protagonist. He himself thinks that the "Deva" element in him is non-existent. The movie depicts the ups and downs of the protagonist in such a way that the the audience will be torn between hating and liking him all though the movie. Fabulous acting, wonderful direction and its a timeless masterpiece.
2. Parinayam (1994)
163 min | Drama, History
The film is set in the pre-Independence orthodox 'Namboodiri' Brahmin community. Widowed at 17, only three months after being married to an old man, a young Brahmin girl has, therefore, to ... See full summary »
This movie, if seen by an outsider to Kerala will be written off as a medieval fantasy movie. The story of an 80 year old man getting married to a breathtakingly beautiful 17 year old girl should be nothing but a fantasy, isn’t it? But nothing depicted here is a fantasy. Its like a reality show set in old age Kerala. The director and writer did a fabulous job in recreating the pre-independence Kerala ruled by the laws of Namboothiris and their customs, traditions etc. Nothing is exaggerated here. Nothing is fictional too. A story that is 100% realistic told in such a soothing fashion. The songs in this film are rich with elegant lyrics that are hitherto unmatched. Beautiful cinematography and powerful dialogues. Each person worked for this film from the director to the light boy did a great job.
3. Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989)
168 min | Action, Drama, History
The film offers an alternative version of the epic battle between two legendary Chekavars from the villain's perspective.
The story of Chathiyan Chanthu (Cheater Chanthu, the biggest and most selfish cheater warrior of Northern Kerala folklores) retold from his perspective. When the winners or the powerful tell the story and their followers make songs to spread the story, the losers got too few options to explain their side. But MT, the author to this movie would give a chance to the loser/underdog to tell his side of the story. Literally nobody can go through the movie without wet eyes and a heavy heart. The stunning performance that Mammooty only is capable of this the highlight of the movie. World over who else could do this role? Maybe Tom Hanks, maybe De Caprio… no they can’t, they can’t depict masculinity in such perfection. Maybe Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson… no they can’t depict subtle emotions with such perfection. Its job meant for only one person and he happened to have gotten the job. There is not a scene in the entire movie that doesn’t impress you. World is not fair to those who don’t have a godfather, world is not fair to those who lost a battle….
4. Thoovanathumbikal (1987)
151 min | Drama, Musical, Romance
Jayakrishnan falls in love with two girls, Radha and Clara, and fights his confusion about whom he should marry and spend his life with.
Well the movie name is Thoovana Thumpikal - I guess the person who created the title in Imdb is a bit creative. He thought of the global public.
Most people from Kerala would be looking at this list to see where “Thoovana Thumpikal” is placed to see how credible the list is. Many won’t be happy that this is way down at fourth. The movie is love story to most people, story about a true hero to few others, and comedy of top class to few others, duel personality is discussed and a lot more; there can be no consensus except for the fact that the movie is simply awesome. For me this movie was a love story that spoke volumes about selflessness. How all the three leading characters are absolutely truthful to each other at all the times was really touchy. That shows how morally strong a person can be. It’s easy to lie in love, that too when you know that the truth will be heart-breaking to the partner and they are literally begging you to lie and do what you would love to do. Oh man.. there can never be love like this. If I knew someone for real had this sort of love from anyone I will die of jealousy. We see the movie every next time, we simply start to love the world more for it offers the possibility that this sort of love and honesty could exist. Superb acting, direction and screenplay.
5. Vadakkunokkiyantram (1989)
120 min | Comedy, Drama
A man with a serious case of inferiority complex is married to a beautiful girl. Soon, his love and care turns into suspicion.
The name is translated as “Compass” which signifies the character of the protagonist. He simply can’t stop doubting his wife no matter what efforts are put. The movie begins with a letter to a third rate psychiatrist to get us a fair idea of the low self-esteem of Dineshan, the protagonist. The movie goes through chain of comedy sequences that clearly shows the low confidence level, jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, desperate efforts who prove himself to his wife when he absolutely need not. Vadakku Nokki Yantram may not appear in the list of many people since it’s a comedy movie with a story that can be told in about 5 sentences. But the reality that the movie highlights and the effectiveness with which such a delicate subject was handled with perfection make the movie a deserving candidate at top 5. This story can be retold in any language in the world and it would be a blockbuster (well not in the way its Tamil remake was done!!). The movie starts with a disclaimer – “If the characters shown in this film shows any resemblance to persons living or dead then it is purely intentional and not accidental……….”
6. Drishyam (2013)
Not Rated | 160 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A man goes to extreme lengths to save his family from punishment after the family commits an accidental crime.
Votes: 21,440 | Gross: $0.18M
Drishyam needs no introduction to Indian public. Although originally the movie was released in the small state of Kerala it was later remade to many other Indian languages. The trick is not to miss the Malayalam version if you wish to watch the film. The other versions are not as good although they came later and could naturally be expected to be better.
This is the third movie of Mohanlal already in the list – half the list it is. I am afraid it’s going to be the case going forward too. He is simply good and lucky to get chosen for a good number of exceptional roles.
It’s a simple crime thriller movie made exceptional by extraordinary acting. The subject was new and intriguing. Once you start watching the movie you could start doubting the list. May be by the time you reach halfway in the movie you could think that “well it’s a good movie but maybe I picked a wrong movie. This is not the movie at number 6". Well then from half way to the end you will appreciate why its rated so high. This movie broke all box office collection records at the time in Kerala.
7. Amaram (1991)
150 min | Drama
An uneducated fisherman wants his daughter to be educated and become a doctor but his dreams get shattered when she falls in love with her childhood friend.
Paternal love is not a subject that is discussed extensively in Indian movies. In few movies you could see glimpses of it but that would be generalised as love and commitment to family. This is one movie where the central subject is father’s love and care. The miles he would walk to see his daughter happy. The pain he will endure just not to see a smile go off her face. Can you expect the daughter to appreciate it?
Amaram did leave a heavy heart feeling to Kerala. It’s one of those movies you keep replaying in the mind even a month after you saw the movie. It’s very seldom that an actor without uttering a dialogue would be talking to you volumes by just looking at you. Mammooty was talking through emotions. Every time he called his daughter a different emotion spoke to us.We felt what he felt. We felt his pain and he made us all cry without him shredding a tear.
Amaram is beyond cinema as we see it.
8. Kireedam (1989)
124 min | Action, Drama
The life of a young man turns upside down when he intervenes in a dispute in order to rescue his father (a cop) from a ruthless local outlaw.
Kireedam is a family drama. It is about a man cornered. A man cornered in such a way that he simply got one option and that is to react and if he reacts his life's work is gone, all his career aspirations done and dusted. It’s about how doing the right thing cannot always be the right thing to do. Sethumadhavan the protagonist played by Mohanlal would make you feel helpless. The movie begin with a slow pace, take us through an hour or so of soothing story telling with mild humour and affection filled scenes. Then it takes a shocking twist after which you might forget to blink. And your eyes will be watery not because you did not blink for too long. Through his majestic performance Mohanlal made you forget that you were actually watching a movie and not a life unfolding in front of your eyes.
9. Sandesham (1991)
Not Rated | 138 min | Comedy, Drama
A satire on contemporary Kerala politics where brothers turn local leaders of rival parties, leading to distress for their aged and once-proud parents.
This is as good as political humour can get. The movie is a daring attempt to expose the meaninglessness of current political parties, their lack of values, opportunistic methods, greed and how hollow they are ideologically. The story is about two brothers living in same house with opposing political ideologies and how their political views becomes more important than the family. Sandesham could easily be a true life story. It’s about how the leaders misguide the youth to do the dirty work for them. The movie gives a strong social message that only few dared to. The humour is sophisticated and never out of context. The movie got a nice story line too. The performances of all the cast is perfect for the roles and there is not a single moment of awkward feeling when you watch this movie.
10. Manichithrathazhu (1993)
169 min | Comedy, Horror, Musical
When a forbidden room in an old bungalow is unbolted, the spirit of a vengeful dancer is unleashed.
This could probably be the best psychological/Horror thriller ever made in Indian Cinema. It can be even seen as a science fiction. The movie had a massive star cast and huge directional team. It was later remade to many other Indian languages. The acting brilliance of our all-time best actress Shobhana is the highlight of the movie. It’s not very often you get to see a genius like Mohanlal getting outshined in a movie. The movie, its cast and crew went on to win many state and national awards for the sheer brilliance of the movie. The psychological thriller set in the traditional Travancore family background offers suspense, horror, humour, beautiful song sequences, top class cinematography and a wonderful story line. It’s the “Inception” of Malayalam movies – a single watch may not be good enough to comprehend the movie in total.
11. Thaniyavartanam (1987)
Not Rated | 119 min | Drama
A school teacher living in a village belongs to a family with a history of lunatic males, and soon he falls prey despite being normal due to society misinterpreting his actions.
Yet another movie from the golden era of Malayalam cinema (1985 to 1995). This Mammooty starrer portrays life of Balan, who is accused of being insane by the society. Its age old belief that insanity runs in his family and in every generation one person is bound to be insane. His every action, every word that he utter becomes subject matter of careful analysis to see if he is insane or not. The trouble with insanity is that there is no single false proof way to tell if someone is really sane or not (For instance I am still not sure if McMurphy was insane or not, or maybe at some point did nurse Ratched drove him to insanity). This is one of those disturbing movies that will haunt you for many nights after you watch it. Mammotty as usual steal the show with perfect portrayal of Balan and the rest of the cast got nothing much to do at all. The movie would give you a fair view of family and social life in small villages of rural Kerala.
12. Ulladakkam (1991)
120 min | Drama
Mohanlal plays a psychiatrist who treats a patient (Amala), who starts liking and becoming obsessive about him.
Romance between a doctor and a patient should be frowned upon. What if the patient is a mental patient? Its forbidden, its taboo…
This movie is about how delicate a psychiatrist’s relationships can be with a patient of fragile mental strength. She lives in the world of illusions and she just recovered from a huge trauma. She got a huge crush developing to the doctor but the doctor is already engaged. She is still standing at the thin line between sanity and insanity. If her limits are tested again she may not recover from it. Can the doctor leave her to her fate? Actress Amala featured in only handful of movies but every movie fan in Kerala miss her so much. The biggest reason is her portrayal of Reshma in this movie. The movie features in the list for beautiful direction of a difficult subject, brilliant acting, songs that would make you feel home sick and the entertainment it offers.
13. Innale (1989)
Not Rated | 137 min | Drama, Romance
After a serious accident a girl who was hospitalized forgets her past. She stops worrying about her past when she fall in love with a man and finds herself secure with him. But the reality ... See full summary »
Padmarajan is widely accepted as the best ever movie director in Kerala. He has set the bar so high that every directors after him tried in vain to match it. Many tried imitating him but none reached anywhere close to his level. Innale is one of his best movies.
The movie is a romantic drama featuring Jayaram, Shobhana and Suresh Gopi. The story is told with no melodrama and light humour. Selfishness and selflessness in love is the subject discussed in the movie. Movie would leave us with a troubling question – “is the true love selfish or selfless?” The entire movie is a case presented to us for reaching a judgement. The movie is all about its climax. The 2 hours plus movie would take you to a climax that is so emotional and beautifully done. The Padamarajan touch is something beyond explanation. The clarity he has about his movies is something we see only in a few directors. He is the Quinton Tarantino and Woody Allen of Malayalam movies.
14. Bhoothakkannadi (1997)
Not Rated | 115 min | Drama
Vidyadharan (Mammootty) is in jail and while working finds a link/hole to the outside world. But his vision is distorted through the eye magnifying lens he uses to view because of his fateful past.
When digital era was born the Clock-smiths became redundant. Nobody any longer repair their wrist watches. Vidyadharan (played by Mammotty) is one of those Clock-smiths whose services are no longer required. He is too old to change and seek a new job. He spent his life looking through the magnifying lenses at small mechanical parts of a quartz watch. It actually became his way of life. His lives with many other phobias too. The complex character sketch of Vidyadharan and how hard the life is to him is the movie. For him there is nothing like a small or insignificant incident (remember he looks at everything through a hypothetical lens). His insecurities, multiple phobias and fear would eventually drive him off the edge. Another great movie from Mammotty as an actor but the biggest credit should go to Lohithadas who wrote the screenplay for the movie
15. Midhunam (1993)
Comedy, Drama, Musical
Will Sethumadhavan be able to start his Dakshayani Biscuit factory.
This is another close to real life story.
The movie is about Sulochana (played by Urvasi) a young girl, not being able to adjust to the reality of life of a house wife after she gets married to her long-time boyfriend. She is saddened by the sudden change in his character. Her small attempts to get his attention and more time together is too silly in the eyes of her husband.
Sethumadhavan, the husband (Played by Mohan Lal) would want her to grow up and be a woman. He got much more serious issues to address.
The movie discusses in detail the struggle of an upcoming small scale businessman in Kerala where corrupt authorities, labour unions and politicians make it almost impossible to set up any new business. In his daily struggle to make the ends meet he got too little time to spare for his family. Every scene in the movie depicts realities of middle class life. Midhunam is a movie a Keralite would watch over and over. The movie got many emotional scenes nicely knit together with high quality humour. None of the cast seemed to have been acting, they were just living onscreen as the characters. This movie made it to the list on account of the relevance of the social and family issues discussed in the movie. Everyone got something to learn from the movie.
16. Godfather (1991)
Not Rated | 150 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Two youngsters from rival clans fall in love.
No, not the Al-Pachino Godfather sequel. We had one with the same name released much later in Kerala. Hailed as the best comedy movie ever released in Malayalam film industry. The movie is about rivalry between two families. The family that keeps losing the fight headed by Achamma (played by Philomena) finally would figure out the secret to Anjooran (the rival family head played by NN Pillai) family’s success is that there is no women in their family. With no women to distract the men, the four sons of Anjooran are united under their fathers command. Unless she gets one of the four brothers to marry there is no hope left. Anjooran is a scary man to Achamma herself and she very well know that none of the four children would dare challenging their father. The eldest son of Anjooran is in his late forties and still single. Who would take up this challenge set a honey trap and how makes it a hugely entertaining movie. The movie got a romance, bit of action, sentiments and non-stop chain of situation comedies.
17. Chithram (1988)
159 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical
A woman hires a stranger to pose as her husband because she doesn't want her ailing father to know that her fiance broke their engagement.
A love story (and a hate story) told through sequences of lovely songs and humour. Acting brilliance of Mohan Lal when it comes to these sort of roles can never be matched. He would make the movie a treat to watch. The support cast complements him in an excellent way. Story is about a staged marriage and its cover up to make a dying man happy on his final visit to his hometown. He should not know that his daughter is widowed at a very young age. Mohanlal plays the role of a small time street thief who is hired to play the fake husbands role by the daughter and a close relative. Nobody else know the truth. The father is convinced and quiet impressed with his (fake) son-in-law. But can everyone in the family be fooled? Some people will get suspicious and would go any length to uncover the secret. It’s a simple story told in a very interesting way.
18. Kaliyattam (1997)
Not Rated | 130 min | Drama
An adaptation of "Othello" set in the south Indian state of Kerala.
The story would need only one line to describe. It is a Malayalam adaptation of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Othello.
Suresh Gopi plays the tribal warrior, the suspicious husband. He won a national award for his acting in the movie, the only one in his illustrious career. The movie did justice to The Othello and many a time exceeded expectations. There are deviations from the original story line to suit the Kerala village arena where the story happens, but the core concept of the book is kept intact without any compromise.
Try not to relate the movie to Othello as you watch each and every scene. Just watch it as a fresh story and you would enjoy it much better.
19. Moonnam Pakkam (1988)
114 min | Drama
An old man spends his life in solitude awaiting his grandson to come for vacation after 6 years. He thought he was the most happiest man in the world until he found out that fate has something unpredictable for him.
Refusal to believe what you do not want to believe is a human nature. But there will be a moment of truth and the moment would come on the third day (Moonnam Pakkam)
It’s an intense movie that gained international acclaims, directed by the maestro Padmarajan. The lead role was perfected by Thilakan whose acting skills never stopped to amaze us till the day he parted us. The great Amithabh Bachan had to play dirty politics once staging a retirement to swing jury’s emotions to his side when he was pitted against Thilakan for a national award for the best actor that year. There was no way Bachan was winning it over Thilakan on account of acting skills. This is one of Thilakan’s, Padmarajan’s and Malayalam’s best.
20. Bharatham (1991)
147 min | Musical, Drama
The retelling of epic Ramayana through the lives of two brothers, their affection, their professional rivalry and the eventual transition of each person.
In Ramayana (Holi book of Hindu’s) Bharatha, the younger brother of Lord Rama was forced to take the throne that was vacated by Lord Rama when he was exiled to forest. Bharatha did not want the crown for himself, he would rather have the sandals of Rama placed on the throne than let himself sitting on it. He neither aspired for the crown nor did he consider himself worthy of it. But it’s Karma that decided it for him. He had no say in the matter. But unless you know Bharatha like lord Rama would have known him, you would always blame Bharatha for the exile of Rama.
This movie is not about Ramayana, but it’s about someone who was put in the shoes of Bharatha in a different context.
The ego of a talented and renowned musician and his downfall sets the stage for an intense sentimental family drama. This movie is more like a musical. Songs would play one after another all though the movie. The younger brother worships the elder brother as his god and guru. But he would not be able to stop himself from taking over the deserving position in the world of Karnatic music that once his elder brother occupied. Then a huge tragedy would hit the family and the younger brother would have to face it alone. There is a lot of questions about right and wrong to be answered. Family had to be put ahead of the duties and he was made to walk through the hell alone.
Its intense and its engaging.
21. Thalayanamanthram (1990)
135 min | Comedy, Drama
Believe it or not, one of the greatest all time movie is discussing a subject you might consider too trivial to base a movie on. The subject is “pillow talk” (Thalayana Manthram). In an arranged marriage there is a phase right at the beginning of the relation when (some) men would want to prove themselves to the newly wedded beautiful wife. He would want to win her respect and admiration. He is dying to hear what is it there that he can do to make her happier. But they live in a joint family. There is no room for long private talks without the rest of the family interfering. That’s where pillow talk becomes so influential. Pillow-talk; - its fresh wisdom, pure and magical poured through your ears straight to your brain. It opens up extra senses and make you see what you would never have seen otherwise!!!! If pillow talk is capable of breaking down empires to dust and make beggars out of Kings then what chance do an ordinary village mason got?
22. Guru (1997)
136 min | Drama, Fantasy
Situations turn a man who believes in secularism into an extremist. He plots to bomb a monastery where the survivors of a riot take refuge.
Guru is a movie ahead of time and just because it was too ahead of its time it did not do well in the box office. Most common men could barely comprehend it. It is probably the MulHolland Drive of Malayalam movies. It was too cryptic, hypothetical and complex to the taste of most viewers. The word Guru means the one who drives darkness away and brings light to your life. Most part of the story is set in a hypothetical land where all people are blinded (to Religion, hatred etc) by the establishment and they don't know any source to light. The establishment itself is blind and it believes darkness is the only way of life. They do not think light exist. The movie talks to you in a cryptic language. It is about Guru’s efforts to let people know that the light actually exists. When he finally finds the way to light for everyone, he would find it even a bigger challenge to get people to accept it.
23. Dasharatham (1989)
154 min | Comedy, Drama
Rajeev, an orphan eccentric millionaire, has his own strange taste towards everything. With less knowledge about family relationships, he struggles hard to achieve his aim to become a father without marrying.
Rajiv Menon, the protagonist (played by Mohan Lal) hate women, well most of them. He would never want to marry or lead a family life. But then on one fine weekend he gets to know the joy and the wonder that children are!!! Now he would want a child for himself (just the way a child would want a fancy toy). This is the first movie that I know of discussed surrogate pregnancy in Indian movies. The movie is a great family drama with three strong characters played by Mohanlal, Rekha and Murali.
24. Desadanam (1997)
95 min | Drama
When your young boy is the chosen one, does your feelings as a father matter? He must leave you and serve the greater mission that’s asked of him and everything else is immaterial. Desadanam is another musical set in Brahmin family background. This movie is a start to end an intense sentimental story. The movie would be great watch if you like to get a closer look at the traditions of Bhrahin community and the sacrifices they will have to make on account of what they believe in. Its about Karma
25. Kamaladalam (1992)
154 min | Drama, Musical
The story of love, grief and betrayal with the back drop of dance and arts.
Kamaladalam is a triangular love story. Nandagopan (played by Mohan Lal) is now an alcoholic but once a brilliant dance teacher in the best school of dance in the country. He would get a second chance at his career to train a promising young dancer (played by Monisha). Things won’t go between them as they should have and it leaves a young lover (Vineeth) broken hearted. This movie is rich with many beautiful songs and mesmerising dances. It do not deserve to be in the tail end of this list too. Based on your taste for fine arts this could be pinned anywhere on this list. No list of great Malayalam movies is complete without Kamaladalam added.