1. Lagaan (2001) – Ashutosh Gowarikar
Nominated for an Academy Award
This 2001 epic directed by Ashutosh Gowariker remains one of the most celebrated Indian films of all time. It was the 3rd Indian movie to be nominated for an Academy Award, and holds a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty crazy. In 2010, the film was ranked No. 55 in Empire magazines ‘The 100 Best Films of World Cinema’, and in 2011, it was listed in Time magazine’s special ‘The All-Time 25 Best Sports Movies’. Basically, everyone loved it.
2. Earth (1998) – Deepa Mehta
Roger Ebert gave this movie 3 out of 4 stars
This film by Deepa Mehta was released in 1998. Set in 1947 in the midst of the Partition of India, Earth received high praise in India and abroad. Pulitzer Prize winning critic Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars, and said the movie has a universal message. The movie was also highly recommended by The New York Times and The New Yorker, who praised Deepa Mehta’s directorial prowess.
3. Dil Se (1998) – Mani Ratnam
Won the Netpac Award at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival
Apart from being Preity Zinta’s film debut, Dil Se was the third in Mani Ratnam’s trilogy of terror films. Released in 1998, the film won the Netpac Award at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival. It earned praise for cinematography and screenplay at the Era New Horizons Film Festival and the Helsinki International Film Festival. As well as being critically acclaimed, the movie also did very impressively US and UK box office.
4. Liar’s Dice (2013) – Geetu Mohandas
Won a special jury award at Sofia International Film Festival
This 2013 movie directed by Geetu Mohandas stars Geetanjali Thapa and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in lead roles. It was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam, and It won a special jury award at Sofia International Film Festival. It also won awards at the Pesaro International Film Festival and the Granada Cines del Sur Film Festival, and was India’s entry for the 87th Academy Awards.
5. Devdas (2002) – Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Was nominated for a BAFTA award
This 2002 version directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali was a massive critical and commercial success in India. This acclaim led to the film being India’s submission of the Academy Award and getting nominated for a BAFTA award for best foreign language film. Time Magazine called it the best world movie of 2002 and recently included it in the top 10 movies of the millennium worldwide. It was also ranked #74 in Empire magazines ‘The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema.’
6. Black Friday (2004) – Anurag Kashyap
Received high praise from New York Times and LA Weekly
Anurag Kashyap’s 2004 movie about the Mumbai Blasts was a critical hit, inviting controversy and acclaim on an international scale. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and was a nominee for the Best Film award at the Locarno International Film Festival. The New York Times, LA Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter, all gave the movie glowing reviews for the raw and gritty narrative style.
7. Awaara (1951) – Raj Kapoor
Was included in the list of 100 all time greatest films by TIME magazine
This 1951 movie directed by, produced and starring Raj Kapoor, was released in 1951. The story focused on the effects of socio-economic differences on individuals, and was an instant hit in the Erstwhile Soviet Union, East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. This massive popularity ensured it was included in the All-Time 100 Greatest Films by TIME magazine.
8. Monsoon Wedding (2001) – Mira Nair
Was nominated for a BAFTA award
A 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes usually means good things. Mira Nair’s 2001 movie about the emotional toll of organising a wedding won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival and received a Golden Globe Award nomination.The movie even inspired its own Broadway musical. It also received nominations for a BAFTA and won a British Independent Film Award. This film was a combined production between Indian and foreign companies.
9. Pather Panchali (1955) – Satyajit Ray
Was the first Independent Indian film to receive acclaim abroad
No list about Indian cinema is complete without Satyajit Ray’s 1955 drama Pather Panchali, which inspired a whole generation of film-making. It was the first film from independent India to attract major international critical attention and it won the Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. It achieved immense success in the US, and received immeasurable praise from critics the world over.
10. Salaam Bombay (1988) – Mira Nair
Was amongst the ‘1000 Best Movies Ever Made’ by NY Times
This 1988 film by Mira Nair told the story of how Bombay street kids survive and end up in the situation they are in. The tragic and hard hitting story caught the attention of the world audience, and it won the National Board of Review Award for Top Foreign Film, the Golden Camera and Audience Awards at the Cannes Film Festival, and three awards at the Montréal World Film Festival. The film was also among the list of ‘The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made’ by the New York Times.
11. The Lunchbox (2013) – Ritesh Batra
Won the Grand Rail D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival
A joint effort from production companies from India, Germany, France and the US, the movie was screened at International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. It won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award (Grand Rail D’Or) and was nominated for the Film Not in the English Language category of the British Academy Film Awards 2015.
12. Mother India (1957) – Mehboob Khan
Was the 1st Indian movie to be nominated for an Oscar
This epic about a poverty stricken single mother was one of India’s all time greatest box office hits. It is regarded as one of the best films in Indian and world cinema and was India’s first submission for the Academy Awards, where it even got nominated. The movie also won awards in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.