List of Indian movies for my non-Indian friends 9

This list consists of some formulaic movies and some that are innovative. I am working on the list and hope to build it over time.

Some of my most cherished Indian movies require a contextual knowledge. The best of Tamil movies involves a play of words that cannot be captured by subtitles – and in any case the subtitles of most movies leaves us wanting. So, each time a friend asks me what’s a good movie to watch, I am left dumbstruck. I’ve finally decided to put together a list on which I can receive some help – and some feedback.

I produced the list as I thought of it. I hope to classify movies, provide links and reviews soon.

  1. Hey Ram (Tamil and Hindi – I naturally prefer the Tamil version)
  2. Page 3
  3. Hazaroon Kwaishein Aisi
  4. Shwaas
  5. Mrs & Mr Iyer
  6. Lage Raho Munna Bhai
  7. Dil Chaata Hai
  8. Lagaan
  9. Titli
  10. Anbe Sivam
  11. Thevar Magan
  12. Apoorva Sagotharargal (Appu Raja in Hindi)
  13. Pesum Padam (Pushpak in Hindi) – This is a silent movie but of recent origin.
  14. Avargal
  15. Thillu Mullu
  16. Guna
  17. Moonram Pirai
  18. Appu Trilogy (three movies by Sathyajit Ray)

If you know an Indian movie that someone without the cultural background can enjoy, please leave a comment below. My detailed reviews of movies can be found here and to see my ratings for various movies and short reviews, click here.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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9 thoughts on “List of Indian movies for my non-Indian friends

  • Heman

    Moonram Pirai and Guna are excellent choices. I would certainly include those if it was me. Pushpak is alright. But I would withdraw Thevar Magan, Apoorva Saghothargal and Thillu Mullu: these can be a little overindulgent, schmaltzy or worse, ludicrous (Thillu Mullu, for instance) for non-Indian (Caucasian) audiences.

    Instead, I would recommend Raja Paarvai ( and Salangai Oli ( Some outstanding acting are to be found in the lead male roles here.

    Avargal is a K. Balachander film, and his films are of high-quality relative to the average Tamil film. I would recommend three further K. Balachander films: Varumayin Niram Sigappu, Manathil Urudhi Vendum, and Punnagai Mannan.

    Mouna Raagam is another brilliant film (by Mani Ratnam) that I am sure your non-Indian friends will appreciate.

    I suggest the films above because they are well-directed, not excessive in their dramatisation, has a sense of finesse and balance in the story and acting, and do not necessarily have your run-of-the-mill fairytale ending.

    My personal list would almost certainly contain these films as I believe they are among the cream of the crop of Tamil films that have come out in the past 30 years.

    (You might like to also consider ‘Water’ by Mira Nair).

  • vivek

    Hi Heman,

    Thanks for your comment, I strongly endorse all your suggestions…almost. I like the Tamil movies you have recommended, though I’ve not seen Manathil Uruthi Vendum as yet. The rest are positively among my favourites. The only movie that I dont seem to like in your list is Water…I guess there should be some difference in tastes!


  • Heman

    Hi Vivek! Nice to hear back from you. I didn’t like John Abraham in Water (that sort of spoiled the film for me a bit) — but my non-Indian friends kinda liked it. I guess they found it accessible and exotic in some way I guess. But yes, I wouldn’t say it’s really that great or anything.

    There is an international film festival going on where I live. I was browsing the list of films showing and I noticed an entry from India, called “Kamli”. What caught my eye was that Nandita Das (you may know this actress; she acted in Mira Nair’s “Fire”) is acting in it, and she’s a fairly watchable actress. I might check the film out, and if I do, I will let you know if it is interesting enough to include in your list.

    Just out of curiosity: Who is your favourite Indian actors/actresses?

  • vivek

    Given the list, I guess you’ll notice that Kamal Hassan is my favourite actor. I have liked many actresses, but I am not sure if I’ve specially liked anyone over a period of time…

  • kaia

    I am trying to find a movie that I saw years ago… it is about a woman who is studying singing to carry on the family tradition or something.. she hears a young child singing the songs so purely that she can’t sing anymore.. I cannot remember the exact story line but the child travels with an older man who then helps the woman sing again.

    Hope you can help

  • Abhay

    You have given a good list. i did not know those tamizh movie actually. thanks for this posting.
    These are some of the movies i liked –
    1 Valu – the wild bull. (Marathi)
    Story of a forest range officer who is on mission to capture a wild bull; with his brother who want to make a documentory on this theme. Its light comendy.

    2 Antar-mahal (Bengali)
    Set in british period;Its the a story of an artist. Based on the story of Rabindranath Tagore. (i suppose)

    3 Bhavni bhavai (Gujarti)
    Landmark in Gujarati cinema; based on folk tale.