No matter what kind of new technologies are used in modern day films, it can’t beat the charm and the simplicity of classic Bollywood films that rocked the cinema theaters since the 1950s until the 1970s.
Apart from the great actors and filmmakers, these films actually set so many trends in Bollywood that are popular and widely used within the industry even today. Whether it’s the lost and reunited formula or the rich girl and poor boy trend, all those became famous just because the audience expected these trends in the yesteryear classic films of Bollywood between 1950 and 1980.
This era between 1950 and 1980 can also be termed as the golden era of Bollywood as it produced some of the best veteran actors in Bollywood, few of whom also earned international fame. These few names include Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Madhubala, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Rekha, and many others.
So, without taking much time now, let’s check out the best classic Bollywood films of that Golden era:
Top Classic Bollywood Movies between 1950 and 1980
Awaara is a 1951 Classic Hindi film directed and produced by Raj Kapoor. The film also marked his debut in the trademark Little Trump character inspired by Charlie Chaplin. Awaara is also credited as the first film that brought the first ever iconic Romantic Jodi of all times on the silver screen, Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Kapoor’s real life father Prithviraj Kapoor portrays his father in the film, whereas Shashi Kapoor, his younger brother, donned the role of his younger version in the film.
Baazi is a 1951 Neo Noir Hindi feature film starring Dev Anand in the lead role. The film was produced under Dev Anand’s own banner Navketan Films and he roped in Guru Dutt to direct the film to fulfill the promise he made to Dutt during their days of struggle. The film was basically inspired by 1946 Hollywood film Gilda. Alongside Dev Anand, the film also stars Geeta Bali and Kalpana Kartik in pivotal roles.
Also Read : Best Neo-Noir Films in Indian Cinema
Baiju Bawra (1952)
The 1950s was an era when Indian audience was most often adjusting to the world of cinema and all they expected was a good story portrayed nicely on the big screen with some of the best-looking actors in it. However, Baiju Bawra was different from other films as it was the first musical film of Bollywood. Although many other filmmakers and critics showed skepticism, in the beginning, the film went on to become one of the biggest hits of that year merely because of its music. The film starred Meena Kumari and Bharat Bhushan in the lead roles.
Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
Do Bigha Zameen is a 1953 emotional drama film directed by famous Bengali film director Bimal Roy. Do bigha Zameen is a Bollywood Film about Farmers and their Problems. The film stars Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy in the lead roles, who are thriving to save their 2 bhiga (land measurement metric in Hindi) land from the hands of landlord and his business partners. The landlord and his partners plan to construct a mill on a huge land, but the only problem is that Shambu, the owner of the 2 bhiga land in the center, is not ready to sell. In order to save his family being deprived of their ancestral land, Shambu and his family face a lot of atrocities as the fate brings one hurdle or the other for them. Whether they are successful in saving the land or not forms the rest of the film.
Boot Polish (1954)
Boot Polish is yet another tragedy drama that focuses on two siblings, a brother and a sister who are orphaned and then mistreated by their aunt. The aunt forced them into begging, while the kids after learning a lesson from John Uncle decides to never beg again. They save some money to get a shoe-polish kit and start earning a livelihood from it. However, as people no more need shining their shoes during monsoon, both brother and sister are left starving. Due to some circumstances, both brother and sister are separated and the rest of the film is about how they cope with their lives individually. They get reunited once again, in the end, to offer a happy ending to this emotionally driven film.
Shree 420 (1955)
Shree 420 is a 1955 romantic Hindi film produced by, directed by, and starring Raj Kapoor. The film’s title refers to the Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, which refers to the punishment for the offense of cheating. This was also Raj Kapoor’s second film, where he tried to mimic Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp character and later on became his trademark persona in several other future films.
There’s no other story in India that has been remade so many times as Devdas. However, the best of the lot was undoubtedly has to be Bimal Roy’s Devdas starring Dilip Kumar in the titular role. Adapted from the highly famous Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel, Devdas, this 1955 film actually established Dilip Kumar as the tragedy king. The film also stars Vyjayanthimala as Chandramukhi, whereas Suchitra Sen as Paro. In addition, the film also starred Motilal, Nazir Hussain, Murad, Pratima Devi, Iftekhar, and Shivraj in other important roles.
Mother India (1957)
Mother India is undoubtedly one of the iconic films in the Indian film industry merely because it tries to display the atrocities faced by and the power of an Indian woman. Although a remake of Khan’s earlier film Aurat, Mother India is renowned and recognized as a legendary film merely because of the brilliant acting and direction throughout the film. With an ensemble cast of Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, and others, the film even went on to become India’s first submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, only to lose by one vote in 1958.
Pyaasa is a 1957 romantic tragedy drama film produced by, directed by, and starring Guru Dutt. The film focuses on the budding romance between a poet, who is trying to make his works acknowledged in the post-independence India and a prostitute, who helps him getting his poems published. The film also stars Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Johnny Walker, and Rehman in important roles.
Naya Daur (1957)
Naya Daur is a film set in the post-independence era when industrialization was slowly extending its wings in India. The story of the basically follows the life of Shankar, played by Dilip Kumar, who is a tonga walla (horse cart driver). While everything is going smooth, the basic livelihood of tonga wallas in the village is challenged, when the son of the landlord decides to start a bus service intending to run the tonga wallas out of business. Shankar, however, raises his voice against the injustice and the end result is the race between the tonga and the bus, which also becomes the thrilling climax of the film. The film also stars Vyjayanthimala, Ajit, and Jeevan in important roles.
Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)
Directed by V. Shantaram, Do Ankhen Barah Haath is considered as one of the iconic classic films of all time in Bollywood, which didn’t have any major star of that era. The song “Aye Maalik Tere Bande Hum” from the film is widely popular and was used in many films later on. The film was inspired by an open prison experiment and features a jail warden, who decides to rehabilitate 6 dangerous prisoners with a mission to make them good men. The legacy of the film can be noted by the fact that it was the first Indian film to win a Golden Globe Award.
Also Read : You can’t Remake these Epic Bollywood Films
Starring Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in the lead roles, Madhumati is a 1958 drama film produced and directed by Bimal Roy. Madhumati also marks as one of the earliest films made on the concept of reincarnation, a theme that was later widely used in several Bollywood films and is trending even today. The film also marked as one of the earliest female-centric films after Mother India.
Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1959)
Although a box office disaster at the time of its release in 1959, Kaaghaz Ke Phool went on to become a cult classic film and is even today noted among finest Bollywood films of all times. Directed by Guru Dutt, who also plays the lead role in the film, Kaaghaz Ke Phool is a romantic drama film set at a time when India wasn’t ready for extra-marital love stories. India isn’t ready to accept it even today as it is considered as highly immoral in the country. However, Guru Dutt took the bold step and directed a film that would come out as an image of Bollywood in the later years, as we have seen and read about so many love affairs within the industry that resulted in divorces and separation through media.
The younger generation of today must have been amazed by the historic drama such as Bajirao Mastani, Jodha Akbar, etc. However, they are not aware of the fact that despite having no great technology or special effects, Mughal-e-Azam achieved the feat of India’s finest historic war film of all times. The film consisted of stars like Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, and Prithviraj Kapoor and became an epic film in the history of Bollywood in 1960. Directed by K. Asif, the film is even noted for its filming with huge sets to depict the huge forts and war scenes.
Kabuliwala is a 1961 Hindi feature film based on the popular children story Kabuliwala by Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. The film is directed by Hemen Gupta and Balraj Sahni plays the titular role in the film. Just like Tagore’s story, the film also depicts the affection between Kabuliwala, an Afghani immigrant dry-fruit seller in Calcutta and a kid named Mini, a small girl who he imagines to be his daughter back in Kabul.
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Bandini is yet another female-centric film on our list of best classic Bollywood films of all times. This 1963 film is directed by Bimal Roy, who had already achieved a fair share of success with films like Devdas and Do Bhiga Zameen. Bandini stars Nutan in the lead role, while Dharmendra and Ashok Kumar play the male leads in the movie. The film is about a strong yet weak Indian woman, who is serving life imprisonment for a murder under dire circumstances.
Haqeeqat is a 1964 Bollywood war film directed by Chetan Anand. The film featured an ensemble cast of Balraj Sahni, Dharmendra, Priya Rajvansh, Sanjay Khan, and Vijay Anand. Unlike the latest war films in Bollywood that are based on Indo-Pak encounters, Haqeeqat was based on the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Also Read : Best War Movies
Well, it wasn’t the first Bollywood feature film to introduce love triangle theme, but the 1964 romantic drama film Sangam did set a whole new trend for the love triangle concept. The film was produced and directed by Raj Kapoor himself, who also played the lead role in the film alongside Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayanthimala. The film also stars Iftekhar, Nana Palsikar, Lalita Pawar, Achala Sachdev, and Hari Shivdasani in supporting characters. The film basically follows the love triangle between the three main lead of the film portrayed by Kapoor, Kumar, and Vyjayanthimala.
Friendship, love, and affection were often the main elements always common in Bollywood films from the beginning because the Indian audience applauded when these elements were presented in the right way. That’s the reason why a film like Dosti that didn’t have any main star cast but two characters, one of them blind and the other crippled, went on to become one of the Iconic films of all time featuring friendship. Directed by Satyen Bose, the film is about the friendship of two orphans, a blind boy and a crippled boy, who literally defined the meaning of real friendship and set an example for everyone who watched this film ever in their lives.
Waqt is a 1965 film with a multi-star cast that includes Sunil Dutt, Balraj Sahni, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Madan Puri, Sharmila Tagore, Achala Sachdev, and Rehman. Directed by the ace director Yash Chopra, the film is credited to re-introduce and trend the concept of lost and reunite formula in the Bollywood film industry. The film is about a happy and prosperous family, which is separated due to an unfortunate incident and the rest of the film is about their reunion and a final courtroom drama.
Guide is one of the first romantic drama films in Bollywood that literally raised some eyebrows as it featured a romance between a young man and a married woman. This 1965 film starring Dev Anand and Waheed Rehman in the lead roles was actually adapted from the R.K. Narayan novel The Guide. Time Magazine has included the film fourth on the list of Best Bollywood Classics.
Gumnaam is the first suspense thriller film on our list of best classic Bollywood films. Directed by Raja Nawathe, the film is about a group of people, who are deserted on an island with a killer on the loose within the group trying to kill everyone one by one. Then, there’s also a mysterious girl roaming around the island singing the title song of the film. The song “Gumnaam Hai Koi” also went on to become the trademark song in many films to depict a ghostly presence. The film stars Manoj Kumar and Nanda in the lead roles alongside Pran, Helen, and Mehmood in supporting characters.
Upkar is a typical Indian classic film that features the rural life in India. The film is directed by Manoj Kumar, who has also played the lead role in the film. Upkar also marks the debut of Mr. Bharat for Manoj Kumar and his drift towards playing patriotic characters. The film is about a village man “Bharat” for whom his brother is everything. He sacrifices a lot to help his brother go abroad and get a higher education. His brother, on the other hand, gets greedy and takes the wrong path while Bharat joins the Indian army during the 1965 Indo-Pak war and returns a war hero in the village. The rest of the film is about the union of two brothers. The film also stars Asha Parekh, Prem Chopra, Pran, and Kamini Kaushal in pivotal roles.
Padoson is a 1968 Hindi comedy film starring Sunil Dutt and Saira Banu in the lead roles alongside the supporting cast of Mehmood, Kishore Kumar, Mukri, and Keshto Mukherjee. Directed by Jyoti Swaroop, the film is about wooing the neighbor girl by a young man with the help of his friends. It was actually the Hindi remake of Telugu film Pakkinti Ammayi.
Satyakam is one the most tragic movie I have ever watched till date. Surprisingly the film was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who made us laugh a lot with films like Bawarchi, Chupke Chupke, Anand, Khoobsurat, etc. Although Satyakam is one of the best classic Bollywood films of all time, I would still not advise to watch it just because it is a film that’s so depressing and can be emotionally exhausting. The film features an ensemble cast including Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, and Ashok Kumar in important roles. Also, the film is considered to be Dharmendra’s finest acting performance his career. The film was actually based on a Bengali novel of the same name by Narayan Sanyal.
Kati Patang (1970)
Kati Patang is a Hindi romance drama starring Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh in the lead roles. Directed by Shakti Samantha, the film went on to become one of the best romantic dramas of all time in Bollywood. The film features a budding love story between a young man and a widow. But wait, there’s more to the story as the film proceeds further and the truth about the widow is revealed after lots of mystery. The film also had some memorable songs that are found even today on the playlists of all generations.
Purab Aur Paschim (1970)
Yet another patriotic film starring Manoj Kumar in the lead role as Bharat, Purab Aur Paschim is about the western influence corrupting the minds of young Indians. The film tries to draw our attention towards the importance of Indian roots and cultural values which are being forgotten by the youngsters going abroad for further studies under the influence of western culture. Bharat also goes to London for higher studies but remains adamant on his Indian values. On the other hand, he also makes few of them realize the value of Indian culture and redeems them, including his would-be wife Preeti, played by Saira Banu.
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Mera Naam Joker is a 1970 Indian drama film directed by Raj Kapoor. After the huge success of Sangam, Mera Naam Joker was highly anticipated and overly hyped film of Raj Kapoor. Many believe that the movie was based on Kapoor’s own life. However, the film took 6 years in the making and was considered too lengthy. Eventually, it was under huge criticism and resulted into a commercial failure because of the length as well as multiple plots in the film. However, the film went on to become a cult classic. The film also had a multi-star cast including Raj Kapoor himself alongside Simi Garewal, Manoj Kumar, Rishi Kapoor as Kapoor’s younger self, Dharmendra, Dara Singh, Padmini, Rajendra Kumar and many others.
Anand is a 1971 Indian drama film directed by the ace director Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The film stars Rajesh Khanna in the titular role and Amitabh Bachchan plays a supporting character in the film. The film basically follows the life of Anand, who is suffering from a rare type of cancer and would be dying very soon. Anand, however, stays cheerful and jolly all the time despite knowing that he will be dying soon and has only six months or so to live. When he is introduced to Bhaskar, an oncologist played by Amitabh Bachchan, he is amazed by the cheerful nature of Anand and his attitude towards life even after knowing that he has not many days to live. Although the whole film is a treat to watch, I specifically like the last scene of the film when Anand has died and Dr. Bhaskar is devastated and goes into an emotional breakdown. The film, though tragic in the end, is one of the top inspirational movies of all time in Bollywood.
Bawarchi is yet another movie directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This 1972 film stars Rajesh Khan in the lead role as a Bawarchi (i.e. The Chef), who roams around from one house to the other anticipating broken relations within the family trying to mend it and spread happiness throughout in such a way of life. It is a typical Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie that depicts no sort of violence or obscenities but talks about family values and morals with clean comedy. Alongside Khanna, the film also stars Jaya Bachchan, Asrani, A.K. Hangal, Usha Kiran, and Durga Khote in supporting roles.
Amar Prem (1972)
Amar Prem is the second collaboration between Rajesh Khanna and Shakti Samantha that made into our list of best Bollywood classic films of all time. Amar Prem is a 1972 drama film based on Bengali short story Hinger Kochuri by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. The film follows the life of Pushpa, a prostitute with a heart of gold played by Sharmila Tagore, and Anand Babu, a lonely businessman played by Rajesh Khanna. They both fall in love as they find the much-needed love and affection from one another and to end their circle of love, there’s Nandu, a young kid ill-treated by her step-mom, who is cared and adored by this couple.
In Bollywood, there are two eras. One era before Amitabh Bachchan and another after Amitabh Bachchan came onto the scene. However, I believe the film that divides these eras is the 1973 action film Zanjeer directed by Prakash Mehra, which also changed the trend of Bollywood from romantic films to action films. The film also marks the beginning of the grand career of Amitabh Bachchan earning him the superstar status in the industry and gaining him the title of Angry Young Man. Alongside Bachchan, the film also stars Jaya Bachchan, Pran, Ajit, and Bindu in important roles.
Although they had worked together before, Abhimaan became the first film that features Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan in the lead pair after their marriage. This 1973 Hrishikesh Mukherjee marvel follows the story of a young couple, who are drawn into the world of egos and jealousy while building their respective careers in the music industry. Whether they get separated or be together forms the rest of the story.
Yaadon Ki Baarat (1973)
Yaadon Ki Baarat is a 1973 action drama film directed by Nasir Hussain. The film is based on the highly popular lost and reunite concept in Bollywood in that era. Basically, the film is about three brothers, who are separated during their childhood and later dramatically get reunited with one another by the end of the film. Besides the plot, the film is also known for its music by R.D. Burman that consists of some of the most memorable songs of all times. The film also includes an ensemble cast of Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Ajit, Vijay Arora, Tariq Khan, and Neetu Singh. Owing to the popularity of the film, it was later remade in Tamil as Naalai Namadhe, in Telugu as Annadammula Anubandham and in Malayalam as Himam.
The list of best Bollywood classic films of all times can’t be complete without the inclusion of a Shyam Benegal film and hence here it is. Ankur is a 1974 Indian film by the ace director Shyam Benegal. The film debuts Shabana Azmi and Anant Nag in the lead roles. The film belongs to the genre of art films, more popularly known as parallel cinema in the Indian film industry. The film was shot in Hyderabad as the story of the film was based on a real-life event happened in Hyderabad during the 1950s.
Kunwara Baap (1974)
Kunwara Baap is one of the iconic and inspiration films of all time in the Indian film industry. It is also an interesting film because it stars Mehmood as the lead. Generally, Mehmood is often seen as a supporting actor in Bollywood, typically as the main lead Hero’s sidekick. However, he proves his mantle as the lead actor with the 1974 film Kunwara Baap that is also directed by Mehmood himself. The film is about a rikshawala, played by Mehmood, who rescues an infant kid left alone at the steps of a temple. As the child grows up, it is found that he develops polio. Although tragic and too emotional, the film was an attempt by Mehmood to deliver a positive message about the importance of polio vaccination.
Aandhi is a 1975 political drama film starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar in the lead roles. Directed by Gulzar, the film was initially touted as the film based on the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her relationship with her estranged husband due to political pressure. However, it was later clarified by Gulzar that only the look of Suchitra Sen in the film was inspired by politicians Tarkeshwari Sinha and Indira Gandhi. The film is about a leading politician, who stays in a hotel run by her estranged husband during one of her campaigns. A new spark of romance ignites between them and where it leads is what forms the rest of the story.
Well, if Zanjeer introduced the Angry Young Man character of Amitabh Bachchan, the 1975 film Deewar built that persona for him and made him the biggest star of Bollywood. Directed by Yash Chopra, the film is about morals and values that are questioned during a rift between two brothers; one of them being a police officer, and the other being a wanted criminal. Alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor also plays the lead in the film, in addition to another supporting cast including Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Nirupa Roy, Satyendra Kapoor, Iftekhar, and Madan Puri. The film is also very popular for its evergreen dialogues, mostly delivered by Amitabh Bachchan.
One of the highly decorated films of Bollywood, Sholay is completely from a different class that set new standards in the way of filmmaking in India. It had the Indian essence of drama and music blended with some of the western influence of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films. The film is about a rift between a retired police officer and the most-wanted bandit, who also went on to become one of the deadliest villains of Bollywood. Sholay featured a multi-star cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Amjad Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and many others. Despite having such a huge cast with established actors, the director Ramesh Sippy did a fantastic job in justifying each character and roles displayed in the movie and that’s what makes this movie special.
Chupke Chupke (1975)
Well, Ramesh Sippy brought an action specific excellent feature film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra together, Hrishikesh Mukherjee did something unimaginable in the same year when Amitabh was proclaimed as the Young Angry Man with Deewar and Sholay, while Dharmendra has already grown as the action He-man of Bollywood. Hrishi da brought these two action heroes together in the 1975 comedy film Chupke Chupke alongside Jaya Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore as their respective pairs. The film is a laughter ride and became one of the Best classic Comedy films of all time in India.
Kabhi kabhi (1976)
Kabhi Kabhi is another Hindi film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor under the direction of Yash Chopra. The 1976 film is a romantic drama that runs through two generations concerning broken relationships and young love. The film starts with a love story between Amit Malhotra, played by Amitabh Bachchan, and Pooja, played by Rakhee. However, their love is short-lived when Pooja has to marry Vijay Khanna, played by Shashi Kapoor, under the influence of her parents and Amit feels betrayed. All of them are reunited once again when Vikram, the son of Vijay And Pooja, follows the love of his life Pinky to the residence of Amit. This brings Pooja back in Amit’s life and all the old memories are sparked again eventually ending on a happy note. The film is a brilliant piece of the craft by Chopra defining love in his own grandeur way.
Don is another Indian film that tries to imitate the Hollywood style of filmmaking that features a mafia gang led by a Don, played by Amitabh Bachchan. However, the film gets interesting with the double role concept that is also most widely used in Indian film industry and got very popular after the 1978 film Don. The film is directed by Chandra Barot and follows the life of a young man, who looks like an underworld mafia Don and is approached by a police officer to infiltrate the gang by replacing Don and getting inside information about the rest of the gang and the real mind behind all criminal operations. The film also stars Zeenat Aman, Pran, and Iftekhar in important roles.
Trishul is a 1978 Indian action film and is also the 3rd film featuring the collaboration between Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor in the lead roles under the direction of Yash Chopra. The film also stars Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Rakhee, Poonam Dhillon, and Prem Chopra in important roles. The film follows the life of Vijay, played by Amitabh Bachchan, who comes to know about his illegitimate father from his dying mother. To seek revenge, he comes to Delhi with an intention to ruin his father’s business and happy family. Whether he is successful or has a change of mind is what forms the rest of the story.
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Gol Maal (1979)
Gol Maal is a 1979 comedy drama film starring Amol Palekar in one of his best character portrayals of all times. Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the film is about Ramprasad Sharma, played by Amol Palekar, who finds it difficult to get a job to take care of himself and his sister. He gets an opportunity to work under Bhavani Shankar, played by Utpal Dutt, who is a man of traditional values. Hence, Ramprasad must change his lifestyle and bring a new persona as an ideal Gandhian in front of Bhavani Shankar. From there, a series of interesting and funny events follow and Ramprasad works his way out even creating a fake twin brother of himself and a fake mother.
We have shared our list of Best Classic Hindi Movies, You can share your favorite in the comment section or you can suggest some more movies which we should add to this list of Old Greatest Bollywood Movies Ever.