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Top 13 Best Bollywood Historical Movies Everyone Should Watch

Updated on April 12, 2019
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Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.

What Are Some of The Best Historical Movies of Bollywood?

India is known for its glorious history. There are countless stories of important events and personalities whose stories are narrated to us till date. The Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, has produced iconic films that vividly portray landmark events and celebrate the heroic deeds of greatest Indians who continue to inspire us.

Here, I bring to you some of the best Bollywood Hindi films you should not miss at all.

Best Historical Films of Bollywood

  1. Kesari (2019)
  2. Manikarnika (2019)
  3. Parmanu (2018)
  4. The Ghazi Attack (2017)
  5. Raag Desh (2017)
  6. Airlift (2016)
  7. Neerja (2016)
  8. Bajirao Mastani (2015)
  9. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010)
  10. Gandhi My Father (2007)
  11. Mangal Pandey - The Rising (2005)
  12. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
  13. Sardar (1993)

1. Kesari (2019)

Akshay Kumar is one of the finest actors in Hindi cinema of our times. Known for choosing subjects with a pan-India appeal, the 51-year-old actor has carved a massive fan following of his own.

His latest release, Kesari, has turned out to be a massive commercial success. The Akshay Kumar starrer is based on the historic battle of Saragarhi, fought between 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Army and tribes of Afghan region in 1897. Havildar Ishar Singh (Kumar) and his small unit of 20 other Sikh soldiers face invasion by a 10,000-strong army of Afridi and Orakzai tribes from Afghanistan.

The film portrays the epic war between the Sikhs and the Afghans during colonial India in painstaking detail. Don't miss out on this nail-biting thriller.

2. Manikarnika (2019)

India’s first war of independence in 1857 was the first freedom struggle against the British. A lot of movies have been made on the heroic deeds by our freedom fighters. National Award winning actress, Kangana Ranaut, essayed the role of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi who took on the British East India Company during the War of 1857.

Manikarnika (Ranaut) is married to the newly-coronated king, Gangadhar Rao of Jhansi. The couple gives birth to a son named Damodar Rao, but he passes away. The duo adopts a child but the Company refuses to acknowledge the adopted child as the heir to the throne of Jhansi. A few days later, Rani of Jhansi is widowed and the British march to the Jhansi fort in a bid to capture the throne.

What follows is Laxmibai’s tale of valor, which is still remembered today. If you're looking for some good Bollywood historical movies, Manikarnika should be your best bet.

3. Parmanu (2018)

India conducted a successful nuclear test in 1998 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The entire operation was carried out in a covert manner in a bid to avoid satellites of the US intelligence agency CIA.

Released last year, John Abraham starrer Parmanu won immense critical acclaim when it portrayed the journey on silver screen. Abraham plays Ashwat Raina, an IAS officer who prepares a prototype of the nuclear test but is betrayed by the political leadership.

After being made a scapegoat over a botched up nuclear programme, Raina is suspended and goes into the wilderness in Dehradun. A few years later, the new government gives him another opportunity to begin from scratch. Raina faces a daunting challenge of carrying out India’s first nuclear test without allowing the US and Pakistani spy agencies from getting a whiff of it.

The team faces endless challenges en route their mission as foreign spies are constantly snooping on suspicious movements at Pokharan in Rajasthan. India's successful nuclear test is still considered one of the biggest failures of the CIA. Catch this thriller to understand how exactly everything unfolded. Though some parts of history are fictionalized, the movie never ventures too far off.

4. The Ghazi Attack (2017)

Directed by Sankalp Reddy, the war film stars Kay Kay Menon, Rana Daggubati, Atul Kulkarni, and Taapsee Pannu in pivotal roles. The bilingual film narrates the heroic deeds of naval officers on board an Indian submarine that sank Pakistan’s submarine, PNS Ghazi, at Visakhapatnam coast during the 1971 war.

The Indian Navy decodes a message sent by Pakistan to its submarine, PNS Ghazi, which is out to sink India’s aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. The high command dispatches a submarine under Captain Ranvijay Singh (Menon), who is known for losing temper. To balance the aggression, the naval command deputes Lt commander Arjun Verma (Daggubati) on the submarine.

The Indian submarine follows PNS Ghazi and encounters mines underwater. One of the mines hits S21 and damages a part of the submarine. A ferocious underwater fight ensues between the Indian submarine and PNS Ghazi near Visakhapatnam.

The film is indeed intriguing and keeps you glued to the seats right from the beginning till the end.

5. Raag Desh (2017)

Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, the historical drama film is based on the Red Fort trial of the British Indian Army officials. Shah Nawaz Khan (Kunal Kapoor), Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Amit Sadh), and Prem Sahgal (Mohit Marwah) are court-martialled for fighting alongside the Japanese troops in South East Asia.

The famed public court-martial evoked strong reactions from within the armed forces in 1942, the year Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement against the British.

Though underrated, Raag Desh is undoubted one of the best Bollywood historical dramas. I must warn you, however, that it starts off rather slowly. Give it some time for it to come into its own.

6. Airlift (2016)

In 1990, then Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in the midnight of August 2. Around 2 lakh Indians found themselves stranded in the Gulf country.

Directed by Raja Krishna Menon, the commercially successful film narrates the brave effort by a group of Indians who carried out the largest civilian evacuation in history. Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) is a businessman based in Kuwait who runs a successful business. His life takes a tragic turn after Iraq invades Kuwait.

A drive on the war-torn roads in Kuwait gives him a fearful reality check after he is confronted by Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets. Using his contacts, he arranges for an escape with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and kids, but his office soon turns into a refugee camp as several Indians take shelter fearing persecution by Iraqi forces.

He shifts them to a makeshift refugee camp and embarks on a mission to safely evacuate them. Katyal faces several hardships en route his journey of evacuating Indian families from the war-torn country. Watch this heart-wrenching journey of an officer to save his countrymen.

Airlift is arguably one of the best Bollywood movies of the last five years. Give this gem a shot.

7. Neerja (2016)

Neerja Bhanot was only 23 when she gave up her life while trying to save more than 300 passengers from hijackers on board Pan Am 73 flight in Karachi. More than 30 years after her heroic deeds, Sonam Kapoor immortalized her valor on the silver screen as head purser Neerja in Ram Madhvani’s directorial.

Neerja (Sonam) is a Rajesh Khanna fan and uses the superstar’s dialogues and songs impeccably in her personal life. She is a divorcee who now stays with her parents in Mumbai. Besides being an air hostess, she is a model too.

While she is getting ready for her flight, miles away in Pakistan the terrorists are preparing for a lethal assignment. On the other hand, Neerja boards her flight and cheerfully attends to the passengers. Everything is fine until the plane lands for a stopover in Karachi. All hell breaks loose as the hijackers storm into the flight. What follows next is her courageous bid to save the passengers.

8. Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the commercially successful film is based on the Marathi novel, Raau by Nagnath Inamdar.

Bajirao Ballal (Ranveer Singh) succeeds his father as the Peshwa (general) to Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj after proving his diplomatic and military skills. His aim is simple - establish Maratha supremacy across the country after defeating the Mughals in Delhi.

Peshwa Bajirao has a doting wife, Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra). Meanwhile, the kingdom of Bundelkhand sends an SOS to the Maratha empire after facing a threat by invaders.

The Peshwa, however, ends up falling for Mastani (Deepika Padukone), the princess of Bundelkhand, and a stormy affair between the two ensues. The Peshwa weds Mastani while Kashibai accepts the reality. The new Peshwa goes against his own family while he fearlessly accepts his newly wedded wife.

The film was a tremendous commercial and critical success and won several awards. Bajirao Mastani won big at the Filmfare Awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor (Ranveer Singh).

9. Khelein Hum Jee Jan Sey (2010)

Based on the book, Do and Die by Malini Chatterjee, the Ashutosh Gowariker directorial is based on the famous Chittagong Uprising.

Master Surya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan) is a school teacher and also a freedom fighter in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh). He builds a team along with other revolutionaries, including Kalpana Datta (Deepika Padukone), and Pritilata Waddedar (Vishakha Singh). They plan to raid police lines, armory, and telegraph office in the town on April 18, 1930. After training the team in martial arts, shooting, and bomb-making, Surya da plans a raid on the prescribed date.

Was the raid successful? The underrated film, which arguably is one of the best Bollywood historical movies, will keep you glued to your seats from the beginning till the end.

10. Gandhi My Father (2007)

Directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, the film was based on the book, Harilal Gandhi: A Life. The film explores the uneasy and turbulent relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his son, Harilal.

Bapu (Darshan Jariwala) wants his son, Harilal (Akshaye Khanna), to join the freedom struggle, but the latter wants to go abroad and become a barrister like his father. He abandons his father and goes to South Africa with his wife and children. Distraught and disgusted, he fails in his endeavors and returns home.

Harilal turns alcoholic and clashes with his father on a regular basis. The father and the son are poles apart and differences between them won’t end so easily. This film is a classic example of how great personalities undergo conflicts in their personal lives just as we do.

11. Mangal Pandey-The Rising (2005)

The War of 1857 is India’s first armed revolt against the British rule. Although there were many reasons behind the uprising against the East India Company, the immediate one was a Sepoy mutiny in Bengal.

Directed by Ketan Mehta, the film had Aamir Khan play the titular role of Sepoy Mangal Pandey who fired the first shot of the Revolt of 1857. Mangal is an upper-caste soldier of Bengal Native Infantry in Barrackpore. He befriends a British Captain, William Gordon, despite their cultural differences.

Meanwhile, the Company decides to replace the old Brown Beck rifles with the new Enfield rifles. The sepoys are supposed to bite the cartridge before putting the gunpowder into the gun. Rumour spreads that the cartridge is greased with the fat of cow and pig.

Initially, the British lie to the sepoys that greased fat was a rumor, but Mangal is enraged after he finds out that the cartridge was actually greased. He along with the other sepoys revolt against the Company. Although the film was panned and criticized by historians who claim factual inaccuracies, it is indeed a decent watch. If you're a history buff, however, Mangal Pandey-The Rising might look like a half-hearted attempt at retelling the story.

As long as you're not holding the director and the screenwriters accountable for historical inaccuracies, this capricious flick should be a fun ride.

12. The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002)

The Legend of Bhagat Singh shows the titular freedom fighter as a child who starts hating the British rule after the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He participates in Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement but is dejected after Bapu called off the agitation following the Chauri Chaura incident.

Later, Bhagat joins hands with other freedom fighters like Chandrashekhar Azad (Akhilendra Mishra), Sukhdev (Sushant Singh), Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, and others. After Lala Lajpat Rai is fatally wounded during an agitation against the Simon Commission, these young guys start taking more responsibilities upon their shoulders in a bid to intensify the revolution. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt later throw bombs at the Assembly, raise slogans, and are arrested.

The film’s songs still rekindle our patriotism and are used to motivate youngsters. Ajay Devgn won the National Award for Best Actor for portraying the role of revolutionary Bhagat Singh in Rajkumar Santoshi’s 2002 biographical film.

13. Sardar (1993)

Directed by Ketan Mehta, Sardar is a biographical film on freedom fighter, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Starring Paresh Rawal, the film begins with Patel’s first meeting with Gandhi. Although a critic of Bapu’s policies, Patel is highly influenced in the first meeting itself and joins the freedom struggle.

The film chronicles his journey right from satyagraha to his role as a home minister. After independence, Patel is entrusted with the task of unifying more than 550 princely states. Patel is also credited with successfully integrating Hyderabad into the Indian state despite the Nizam threatening to join hands with Pakistan.

The film also deals with Patel’s differences with Jawahar Lal Nehru after Bapu is assassinated. Such is Patel’s aura that you will not feel like pausing the movie at any point in time.

Did I miss out on any other good Bollywood historical movies? Let me know in the comments section.

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