Being born and brought up in Gujarat, I wasn’t introduced to Mallu films too early in my life. But, look at me today. I am sharing the best Malayalam hit movies list of all time as per my experience and suggesting people watch them at the same time.
Like every other kid from Northern India, I was also infatuated by the Bollywood cinema, the glamour, the heart-thumping songs, the action, and the style close to Hollywood. However, eventually, I got introduced to Malayalam movies, thanks to my mother and the cable connection that started broadcasting Asianet.
I was awestruck by the comedy movies produced in the Malayalam film industry and became a huge fan of the likes of Mohanlal, Jayaram, and Sreenivasan. Mostly, I used to skip the serious type of movies but when you have only one or two movies being telecast in a single day, you aren’t left with many options.
Hence, I also watched Mammootty films featuring serious drama or action films.
Some of these best Malayalam films are available on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney Hostar.
Although I preferred comedy flicks more, I also adored the way the Malayalam film industry handled the art of cinema. Over the years, I have watched a lot of Malayalam films ranging from classic ones to modern era films.
And, I am not comparing Bollywood cinema with Malayalam cinema but I would definitely suggest that Bollywood cinema must take some lessons from the Malayalam film industry. The art of cinema is far superior in Kerala than the Bollywood industry.
Today, I will share the best Malayalam hit movies list of all time that I recommend everyone to watch once in their life.
List Best Malayalam Movies of All Time
Malayalam films are actually a different style of cinema if you watch them carefully. They are not your typical masala flicks but try to stay close to reality.
Yeah, there are some odd exceptions in Malayalam cinema too where you will see a Hero beating the shit out of 100 goons all by himself and unnecessary songs as well as item numbers.
Yet, there are other films that purely boast about the art of cinema. Despite the artistic element, these films are not only watched but also adored by the mass.
Hence, we see a lot of Malayalam movies that rely on good script and screenplay rather than just the stars, action, or music.
Here is the best Malayalam hit movies list of all time that you can watch to get a taste of Malayalam cinema:
Chemmeen (The Prawn) is a classic Malayalam film released in 1965. The film reflects on the fisherman lifestyle of Kerala and depicts a story of a pre-marital and later extra-marital relationship.
The film is actually based on the novel of the same name and follows a theme based on the popular legend within fisherman communities in Kerala.
Kodiyettam (Ascent) is a coming-of-age story of the main protagonist, Shankaran Kutty from a carefree individual to a mature adult as he faces new challenges in life.
The film draws two parallels where one storyline deals with his personal life and relationship with his wife and his sister whereas the second storyline deals with his experiences in the outside world.
Whether he succumbs to his carefree attitude or fights his way through it forms the rest of the story.
Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989)
Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (A Nothern Story of Valor) is another interesting tale based on a famous legend among Kerala’s Chekavar warriors.
Directed by Hariharan, the film’s theme is based on the famous martial art of Kerala known as Kalaripayattu.
Despite being based on the famous legend, the film twists the story a bit and shows Chandu Chekavar in a positive light. The film won 4 National awards including the Best Actor award for Mammootty who played the Chandu.
A film that really brought tears to my eyes from Malayalam film industry is the 1989 drama Kireedam (The Crown).
The film tells the story of a young man who is working hard to pursue his father’s dream to make him a police officer. However, fate plays its part and he gets into a fight with a local rowdy.
No matter, how much he tries to stay away from fights; he always ends up on the wrong side of the law. Eventually, he takes a drastic step that ends his dream of becoming a police officer. Directed by Sibi Malayil, the film was remade in Hindi as Gardish in 1993.
Manichitrathazhu (The Ornate Lock) is a psychological thriller film based on a real-life incident in the 19th century.
The story of the film is based on parapsychology and split personality. Fazil, who directed the film, showed courage by making this film as such a theme was never tried before.
Eventually, the efforts played off and the film became the highest grosser at the box office that year. Later, the film was remade in Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiyaa starring Akshay Kumar in the lead role.
Ramji Rao Speaking (1989)
Ramji Rao Speaking set a new benchmark for comedy genre in Malayalam films. Despite having no big stars, the film also fared well at the box office and placed itself among the biggest hits of Malayalam film industry.
Directed by the duo Siddique-Lal, the film became a cult classic over the years. A Hindi remake titled Hera Pheri also enjoyed a similar success and revived the Akshay Kumar’s career in Bollywood.
In Harihar Nagar (1990)
In Harihar Nagar is another comedy thriller film without any big stars. The story revolves around a group of four friends who fall for the same girl.
In order to get her sympathy and attention, they lie about knowing the girl’s brother and pretend to be his close friends. While doing so, they not only attract her attention but also get chased by some goons.
Directed by the duo Siddique-Lal, the film is a pure entertainer and keeps you glued to the seats throughout. It was later remade in Hindi as Parda Hai Parda in 1993 and Dhol in 2007.
Thaniyavarthanam (All Together) is an interesting tale of a man who belongs to a family with a history of lunacy.
A male member of every generation has suffered from mental illness in the past and now it’s either of the two brothers who are believed to get the curse.
After a nightmare and some events, everyone starts suspecting the elder brother to be lunatic when he’s not. The rest of the story revolves around his attempts to clear their suspicions but in vain.
Malayalam cinema is known for its bold approach when it comes to filmmaking. One such bold attempt is Thoovanathumbikal (Dragonflies in the Spraying Rain) starring Mohanlal, Parvathy, and Sumalatha in the lead roles.
The film tells the story of a young man who falls in love with two women. While one is a distant relative, the other woman is an escort. Directed by P Padmarajan, the film is an interesting romantic tale.
Another interesting romance drama is the 1990 film Mathilukal (Walls). The film is based on the life of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, mainly portraying his prison life and his romance saga with a female inmate named Kalyani.
The interesting element of the film is the fact that the female inmate isn’t seen throughout the film but represented only through her voice. The film received many accolades and Mammootty even won the National Film Award as the Best Actor for his portrayal of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer.
Directed by Priyadarshan, Kilukkam (Jingle) is a 1991 musical romantic comedy starring Mohanlal and Revathy in the lead roles.
The main theme of the movie is the budding love story between a tourist guide and a lavish tourist.
However, things are not as simple as it seems and a series of comical events follows and the audience experience a great laughter ride throughout the film.
Amaram (Stern or Strict) is a 1991 Malayalam drama film directed by Bharathan. Starring Mammootty in the lead role, the film follows the life a fisherman whose only dream is to educate his daughter and wants her to become a doctor.
His dreams are trashed when his daughter falls in love and marries her childhood friend. The rest of the film shows how the father copes with the agony and felt betrayed by his own daughter.
Directed by Sreenivasan, Vadakkunokkiyantram (Mariner’s Compass) is a black comedy starring the director himself in the lead role alongside Parvathy as his female lead. The story of the film follows the life of a recently married young couple.
The central theme of the film is the insecurity caused by the husband’s inferiority complex which results in marital discord. It’s an interesting film that tries to draw our attention towards jealous and possessive men in the society.
Bharatham is a musical drama film directed by Sibi Malayali. The film is actually a modern version of Ramayana but from Bharat’s perspective.
While we all praise Rama for his valiant triumph against Ravana in the epic tale, we have hardly credited Bharat for his duty. The film tells the story of a younger brother who has to take all the responsibilities of the family when the elder brother becomes an alcoholic and later sets off on a pilgrimage.
Mohanlal plays the younger brother, whereas Nedumudi Venu plays the elder one.
Classmates is a coming-of-age romantic thriller film starring an ensemble cast of Prithviraj, Jayasurya, Narain, Indrajith, Kavya Madhavan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Balachandra Menon, and Radhika. The film begins with a reunion of the classmates who attended the same chemistry class in the final year.
However, the mystery begins when everyone starts reliving the past and the suspense around one of the student’s murder is uncovering itself. Directed by Lal Jose, Classmates is actually one of the best films centered on college theme.
Mumbai Police (2013)
Mumbai Police may sound like an odd name for a Malayalam film. However, mark my words that this is one of the best crime thrillers you will ever come across in the history of Indian cinema.
The film follows the lives of three police officers nicknamed as Mumbai Police for their reckless attitude.
When one of them is murdered, the duty to find the culprit falls on the other two. From there, a series of mystery and suspense grows with a shocking climax in the end.
Ustad Hotel (2012)
Ustad Hotel is a beautifully timed film and a breakthrough film in Dulquer Salman’s career. Directed by Anwar Rasheed, the film tells the story of a young man who wants to become a chef against his father’s wishes.
He lands up in India and starts working as a cook at his grandfather’s restaurant. Here’s where he finds his true calling and his coming-of-age story begins. It’s one of the best films showcasing true Indian values to make the youth realize that India is after all not that bad as a country to live in.
If there’s any film that offers a tribute to cinema in the thriller genre, then it has to be Drishyam (Visual).
Directed by Jeetu Joseph, the film follows the story of the happy family of Georgekutty and the atrocities they face at the hands of police after they become the prime suspects regarding the abduction of the only son of the Inspector General of Police.
Whether they survive the chaos or not forms the rest of the story.
Munnariyippu (Warning) is a mystery thriller film with a dark secret revealed only at the end. Directed by Venu, the film follows the story of a convicted prisoner who even after serving his sentence professes that he hasn’t committed the crimes he was convicted of.
Throughout the film, the story keeps the audience intrigued and confused until the truth is revealed in the end.
Also Read: 15 Brilliantly crafted Indian Neo-Noir Films
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (2009)
Well, the list of best Malayalam hit movies list is incomplete without a historical war drama. So, here’s one titled Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.
Directed by Hariharan, this 2009 war drama is based on the life of Pazhassi Raja, an Indian king who fought the British in the 18th century. The film features Mammootty in the titular role alongside an ensemble cast of some great actors.
Adaminte Makan Abu (2011)
Adaminte Makan Abu (Abu, Son of Adam) is a brilliantly crafted story of an elderly couple trying to fulfill their desire for Hajj Pilgrimage.
Directed by Salim Ahamed, the film was praised all over for its emotional quotient and typical hardships of a common man in India. The film won several National Awards including Best Actor for Salim Kumar. This film was also the official entry from India for Oscars that year in the Foreign Language category.
Premam (Love) became a huge sensation among the Kerala youth at the time of its release. Directed by Alphonse Puthren, the film is a coming-of-age musical romantic comedy.
The film hit the right cords among the youngsters in Kerala by depicting three love stories comprising of a teenage crush, a college love affair, and the serious relationship that turns into marriage. It’s one of the best youth films and became a cult favorite instantly.
Maheshinte Prathikaaram (2016)
Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is an innocent comedy film set on revenge theme.
Directed by Dileesh Pothan, the film follows the life of a photographer who gets into a tussle between his friend and another group of youngsters while attempting to resolve a conflict.
However, he is knocked to the ground creating an embarrassing scene in front of his neighbors. As a result, he takes a vow to never wear his slippers until he has avenged his insult. It is one of those films that keep you guessing what happens next!
Pulimurugan (Tiger-Murugan) deserves a special mention in our top Malayalam hit movies list. It is the biggest hit in the history of Malayalam cinema and the first Malayalam language film to cross Rs. 100 crore mark as well as Rs. 150 crore mark at the box office collections.
Directed by Vysakh, the film follows the life of a lorry driver who also happens to be the savior for the villagers from man-eating tigers in the nearby forest. The film gained fame for its spectacular graphics and cinematography setting new benchmarks for Malayalam cinema.
Bangalore Days (2014)
Another coming-of-age romantic drama, the 2014 film Bangalore Days is a story about three cousins who have grown together as best friends. When all the three grow up a move on with their respective lives, they miss each other dearly.
The film is actually about their time spent together when they reunite in Bangalore for different reasons. It’s a fun, lovable film about friendship, romance, and togetherness.
Also Read: Best Malayalam Movies Released after 2005
Over to you!
Malayalam cinema is known for its bold approach when it comes to art and cinema but it also ensures that the films remain attached to the traditional roots.
That’s what makes them different and unique from the rest.
The filmmaking has often evolved along with new times but still keeps up with culture and traditions resulting in a perfect blend that entertains people from all generations in Kerala.
While language would be the biggest barrier, I really advise you to watch the films included in our top Malayalam hit movies list at least once. You can always use the subtitles to understand the language if you are not from Kerala.