Historical movies

10 must-see Bollywood historical films to relive the past

India is probably the most diverse country in the world in terms of culture and history. And he is often depicted in Bollywood as well. In fact, some of the most successful and critically acclaimed Bollywood movies belong to the historical genre.

That being said, here we are with 10 must-see historical films that Bollywood has ever produced. From the Harappan era to the freedom movement, this list consists of films from all eras and for all age groups. So dive in and read.


Release year: 1982

Cast: Ben Kingsley, Roshan Seth, Candice Bergen, Rohini Hattangadi

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer turned freedom fighter who is best known for pushing for reform through non-violent methods. He also inspired several other peace activists like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Although not a Bollywood film, Gandhi presents perhaps the best cinematic portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi. The film covers his life from the infamous train incident in South Africa to his eventual assassination.

Gandhi also features a large Indian cast and was directed by veteran Hollywood filmmaker Richard Attenborough. The film was a super hit in India and abroad, winning several Oscars in the process.

2. Lagaan

Lagan (2001)

Release year: 2001

Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley, Yashpal Sharma, Paul Blackthorne

The only Oscar-nominated Indian film of this century, Lagaan, is a fictional sports drama set during the British Raj. Lagaan follows a group of downtrodden villagers who agree to a game of cricket with a cruel British army officer in a bid to cancel their taxes.

Lagaan was well received by critics and is partly responsible for Aamir Khan’s rise to global stardom. The film also introduced global audiences to a new generation of Indian cinema. It is a work of fiction, yes, but a work that every Indian should see at least once in their life.

3. Mangal Pandey: The Rise

Mangal Pandey (2005)

Release year: 2005

Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Toby Stephens, Kirron Kher, Ameesha Patel

Mangal Pandey was an infantryman with the British East India Company, which was largely responsible for starting the 1857 revolt.

Pandey, along with several other sepoys, protested the company’s draconian rule and the cow-greased cartridges in their rifles. This led to a mutiny, which eventually turned into a widespread rebellion across the country.

Mangal Pandey: The Rising brilliantly depicted the life of the titular hero and his heroic deeds which nearly overthrew the British Raj. Mangal Pandey: The Rising received positive reviews and is one of the few Indian films to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

4. Bajirao Mastani

Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Release year: 2015

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Milind Soman, Mahesh Manjrekar

Bajirao Mastani is an epic historical romance film directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film centers on Peshwa Bajirao of the Maratha Empire and her love affair with Mastani, the daughter of a Hindu ruler and a Muslim queen.

The couple is largely ostracized in the community, but as they say, love knows no bounds. Bajirao Mastani is a tragic love story that, though poor in story, is full of heart.

5. Mughal-e-Azam


Release year: 1960

Cast: Madhubala, Dilip Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor, Ajit Khan

Who in India has not heard of Mughal-e-Azam? The film took Indian cinema by storm upon its release and is often considered the greatest Indian film of all time.

Mughal-e-Azam focuses on the love story between Mughal Prince Salim (later Jahangir) and Anarkali, against the wishes of his father, Emperor Akbar. The initial disapproval leads to a war between father and son.

Mughal-e-Azam was the most expensive Indian film at the time and also became the highest grossing for 15 years.

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6. Kesari

Kesari (2019)

Release year: 2019

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra, Mir Sarwar, Vikram Kochhar

Kesari is a historical war drama based on the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi. It was more of a last stand than a battle involving 21 Sikh soldiers defending Fort Saragarhi from over 10,000 Afghan invaders.

Kesari portrays this heroic event superbly and like all good Bollywood films it is also loaded with music and melodrama.

7. The legend of Bhagat Singh

The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)

Release year: 2002

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Amrita Rao, Sushant Singh, Akhilendra Mishra, Raj Babbar

The legend of Bhagat Singh is based on Indian revolutionary and folk hero Bhagat Singh. He is known for the symbolic bombardment of the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi, for which he was arrested and executed.

Bhagat Singh and his associates, Rajguru and Chandra Shekhar Azad, were also complicit in the murder of a British policeman. The trio’s actions received both praise and condemnation. However, Bhagat Singh has since become a symbol of resistance against the British.

Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, The Legend of Bhagat Singh also accurately depicts the life and deeds of its titular hero. The film also won two National Film Awards.

8. Jodhaa Akbar

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Release year: 2008

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar is an epic historical romance film inspired by Mughal Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhaa Bai. Boasting a long runtime, spectacular visuals and costumes, and incredible performances, Jodhaa Akbar is epic in every way.

The film also accurately depicts several historical events, so it’s a must-watch for all history buffs.


Asoka (2001)

Release year: 2001

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajith Kumar, Danny Denzongpa

Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC. His exploits are legendary, but Ashoka is perhaps best known for renouncing war and embracing Buddhism.

After witnessing the large-scale destruction of Kalinga, Ashoka gave up arms and dedicated his life to Buddhism and spreading its teachings. Santosh Sivan’s Asoka is a fantastic dramatization of the Maurya Emperor’s life.

Asoka takes some artistic liberties, but it was well received by critics and audiences alike for its epic scale, musical sequences and lead performance by Shahrukh Khan.

10. Mohenjo Daro

Mohenjo Daro (2016)

Release year: 2016

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Pooja Hegde, Kabir Bedi, Arunoday Singh

Mohenjo Daro is another Ashutosh Gowariker film on this list. After depicting the British Raj and the Mughal era, Gowariker set foot in the Harappan era with Mohenjo Daro.

The film is set in 2016 BC and is basically a love story between a farmer and a high-ranking girl in the Indus Valley Civilization. There are very few films set in this era, and although Mohenjo Daro was a box office failure, it remains a must-watch for any history buff.

  • Gandhi
  • Lagaan
  • Mangal Pandey: The Rise
  • Bajirao Mastani
  • Mughal-e Azam
  • Kesari
  • The Legend of Bhagat Singh
  • Jodhaa Akbar
  • Asoka
  • Mohenjo Daro


So there you have it, the list of top 10 historic Bollywood movies, promising both entertainment and some awareness of India’s glorious past. Hope we haven’t missed any other of your favorites. If we did, feel free to mention it in the comments and stay tuned for more insightful lists.

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