Top 10 Masala Films of All Time – Part I

This is Part I of my video essay on the Top 10 Bollywood Masala Films of all time. This was supposed to be my first video but it somehow got delayed for various reasons.

I’ve chosen my top 10 based on the following criteria (in order):

a) Historical significance
b) The film’s legacy and lasting impact
c) The cut-off point or the earliest point (1973)
d) Personal choice, which accounts for at least 1 film out of the top 10

Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did while making it. I will be releasing Part II of this series next week.

140 Responses to “Top 10 Masala Films of All Time – Part I”

  1. Well made video giving credit to writers and music also.


  2. Good one Saket! Loved it. It requires lot of patience and dedication to gather the images and make the video. Lot of information as well. Waiting for the next part…

    About DON, right from his shirt, to his dance, to the theme music, everything was SPOT-ON. And what a fantastic observation it turned out to by Manoj Kumar regarding KHAIKE PAAN BANARASWALA!

    DON’s theme – funk music at its best….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, An Jo.

      Knew you’d definitely appreciate a video about Masala films. I certainly had a lot of fun doing the research behind the video.

      There will be some controversial choices in Part 2, but I’m sure Masala fans will appreciate it.


      • I’m guessing Sholay, Deewar, Shaan, maybe Shahenshah (the controversial choice?)


        • Close but no cigar 🙂


          • I guessed Shahenshah on the basis that it was Amitabh’s comeback and his fans may have had a great time at theatres.

            Maybe Agneepath? Another Manmohan Desai film?


          • Can’t reveal the final 5 names but both Shehenshah and Agneepath are not in it.

            I’m not even sure I would call Agneepath a pure ‘masala’ film. I loved Shehenshah as a kid though but, nah, it’s not a great masala film. Certainly not top 10 worthy by any stretch of the imagination.


          • Lagaan? Sholay Deewar Lagaan Shaan


          • Close again, but there is at least one film that’s too difficult to guess 🙂


          • Sholay, Deewar, Lagaan, Karan Arjun, Shakti?


          • Ghulami, Tezaab, Ram Lakhan?


          • Ghulami would surely make my extended Top 25 list. Tezaab and Ram Lakhan, not so much.

            Subhash Ghai had practically lost all of his skill after making Kalicharan and Karz.


          • And this brings me to this amazing paradox (paradox in the sense that I admire directors as much as actors/stars) — I don’t admire Subhash Ghai at all and yet his Karz finds a place in my top 10.

            Chandra Barot never made a significant film after Don and is now largely forgotten…but he’s the one who directed Don!


          • @Saket, give clues which decade is it from?


          • The 70s…


          • It’s a toss between Trishul, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Suhaag for me.

            BTW, Salim-Javed said they never wrote masala but drama. Your thoughts?


          • Trishul, I had to leave out with a lot of regret but it’s definitely up there. MKS and Suhaag are fine films but not top 10 worthy.

            Masala is an all-encompassing term that includes drama, melodrama, comedy and action. Salim-Javed may not have been writing ‘masala’ films consciously but they were subconsciously channelling the myriad influences that informed masala cinema. Those influences include but are not limited to ancient Sanskrit drama, folk theatre of India, Parsi theatre and Hollywood musicals.

            To quote the Wikipedia article on Masala cinema:

            “whereas Hollywood filmmakers strove to conceal the constructed nature of their work so that the realistic narrative was wholly dominant, Indian filmmakers made no attempt to conceal the fact that what was shown on the screen was a creation, an illusion, a fiction. However, they demonstrated how this creation intersected with people’s day to day lives in complex and interesting ways.”[23]

            Javed Akhtar, a pioneer of masala films, was also greatly influenced by Urdu novels by Pakistani author Ibn-e-Safi, such as the Jasoosi Dunya and Imran series of detective novels.[24] They inspired, for example, famous Bollywood characters such as Gabbar Singh in Sholay (1975) and Mogambo in Mr. India (1987).[25]

            During the 1970s, commercial Bollywood masala films drew from several foreign influences, including New Hollywood, Hong Kong martial arts cinema, and Italian exploitation films.[26] Following the success of Bruce Lee films such as Enter the Dragon in India,[27] Bollywood films starting with Deewaar (1975) up until the 1990s often incorporated fight sequences inspired by 1970s martial arts films from Hong Kong cinema.[28] Rather than following the Hollywood model, Bollywood action scenes tended to follow the Hong Kong model, with an emphasis on acrobatics and stunts, and combined kung fu (as it was perceived by Indians) with Indian martial arts (particularly Indian wrestling).[29]

            Liked by 1 person

        • Sholay, Deewar, Kala Pathaar, Gadar Ek Prem Katha, Bajrangi Bhaijaan

          Does Bahubaali qualify as mass-ala?


          • Yes, Baahubali is a proper masala film. I wouldn’t call it my personal favourite though…


          • I got 3/5. Missed Shalimar and Lagaan (since it’s s controversial masala pick) .

            Once you mentioned to Aman he was close, Lagaan became obvious

            Looks like I was the only one to pick Kala Pathar but didn’t expect it to be so high


  3. Sholay, AAA, Don, Satte pe Satta all starring Bachchan.
    Bajrangi Bhaijaan, HAHK, DDLJ, Dangal or Lagaan
    Caravan, Qurbani, Seeta aur Geeta, Aa Gale Lag ja
    Mr.India, Gadar ek Prem katha, Herapheri


  4. Well, from my memory…I can imagine these no particular oder

    4) NASEEB
    5) COOLIE
    6) Ramesh Sippy’s ANDAAZ

    That 7.5 minute song in NAMAL HALAL has to take the cake…the more I listen and watch it, I am stunned with Amit’s intelligence in doing FULL justice to the film…

    And I don’t think I would classify films like DEEWAR, TRISHUL, DO ANJAANE, KAALA PATTHER as masala since there was too much a reflection of ‘reflection’ of realism going on there…but that’s just my view …


    • SATTE PE SATTA of course being another one


    • Some great choices here, An Jo

      Some of them would definitely be part of my extended list of masala films. I’ve chosen my top 10 based on the following criteria:

      a) Historical significance
      b) The film’s legacy and lasting impact
      c) The cut-off point or the earliest point (1973)
      d) Personal choice, which accounts for at least 1 film out of the top 10


  5. Well done Saket. Bit confusing as the video suggests towards end this was Part II at 13mins 50 secs.


  6. My fav song from TGG Amit looked so dashing here ..


  7. Andaz, Anari, Mughal E Azam, Deewaar, Sholay, Karma, Agneepath (1990), Sarfarosh, Lakshya, Dangal. Worth mentioning – Trishul, Aakhree Raasta, Baazigar, Lagaan, Khakee, Taxi 9211, 3 Idiots, Bahubali 1, Tanhaji.


    • Some great films listed here, Shivaay…although strictly speaking, MEA and Anari aren’t exactly ‘masala’ films.


      • yes, since 1973 was the year that started the masala genre as per you with YKB, think of post 1973 movies.


      • Anari (1950) & a few of the 60s stuff like Jewel Thief & Ram aur Shyam can qualify being masala films to a large extent despite having a lack of the action genre per say. Any film with a good amount of majority of the genres (romance, action, thrill, comedy etc) mixed into one can qualify as a masala film even though 1 genre is bound to supercede the others (DDLJ was romantic masala, the Dhawan-Govinda films of the 90s were comedy masala, Shetty’s Singham was action masala while CE was comedy masala. Hirani is predominantly comedy masala).

        Liked by 1 person

        • These films can be called precursors to Masala cinema but they are more likely to be classified as social dramas. This particular genre reached its peak in the 60s with directors like Shakti Samanta making copious social dramas. I agree some of these films contain several masala elements but then Masala cinema borrows heavily from a wide variety of sources, including Bollywood musicals. The lost-and-found formula was first seen in Ashok Kumar’s Kismet (1943), for example.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Krantiveer, Gupt, Dushman & Khoon Bhari Maang deserve mentions as well.


  8. Another lovely song … a favorite of mine … and not a bad film either…


  9. @Saket,

    I’ll wait for 2nd part video before posting my comments.

    My definition for masala maybe slightly different but Happy Ending is a must, also the film has to be little light: My top 10 top of my head would be:

    Waqt, Amar Akbar Anthony, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Naseeb, Qurbani, Suhaag, Don, Bobby, Dharam Veer, Ram-Lakhan

    There are so many other great masala films but above are what came to mind first and are some of my favorites.


    • Great choices, Z

      I’ll just add one point though — masala cinema was noted as a genre after Yaadon Ki Baarat came on to the scene. YKB is considered to be the first Bollywood masala film…although the lost-and-found formula can be traced back to Ashok Kumar’s Kismet, which released in 1943.


    • Happy endings are not part of half the masala films of folklore. No wonder you missed out on Sholay, the greatest of them all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t miss out on Sholay, just like i didn’t miss out on Deewar, Trishul, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and so many other great films.

        I grew up in early 70s so i lived thru it.

        I have my set of criteria for masala films and i’m consistent with it. So i can say a combination of Prakash Mehra/Amitabh Namak Halal is masala film for me while Sharaabi/MKS aren’t.


    • is Don a rip off Kaalicharan?

      though Ghai has later Karma rip off Sholay and Ram Lakhan rip off Deewar.


      • Unlikely. Don released 2 years later than Kalicharan but was in production for 3.5 years. Nariman Irani, the producer of Don, died during the production and the film had to face quite a few financial problems.


      • Sholay’s origin itself can be traced back to Mera Gaon Mera Desh & The Magnificent Seven to an extent.


  10. Can someone list down the list of the movies in the video? Will watch video later.


  11. Baahubali films, specially the first one.


  12. Manmohan Desai with Kaka
    Sacha Jhuta

    Nasir Husain is another masala film maker
    YKB, Caravan, Hum kisise Kam Nahin

    Raju Hirani
    Munnabhai MBBS

    Rajkumar Santoshi
    Andaz apna apna

    Ek tha tiger By Kabir Khan

    Khoon Bhari Maang by Rakesh roshan
    and Kaho na pyaar hai
    Karan Arjun

    I think Raj Kapoor is a big masala film maker Though somewhat tragic his Mera Naam Joker and Ram Teri Ganga |maili are unabashedly masala. Wolves in sheeps’ clothing!


    • Ghayal, Damini & Ghatak were high class masala films by Santoshi.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Raj Kapoor has masala elements in all of his directed films.

      Love triangle films were made before but it was Sangam which started the trend and is a foundation.

      Bobby is a template for many love story films which followed.

      I would say dialoguebaazi is another ingredient of masala films and Raj had some great (mature) dialogues in his films.

      Rakesh Roshan had hit it out the park with Karan Arjun as far as Masala genre is concerned, he had rouched all of the bases with this film, as well as KNPH.

      There are many other great masala film makers such as Raj Khosla, even Raj Kumar Kohli made some successful masala films.

      I think it would be a good post to have everyone list one fav masala film per director.


      • Z, I agree with you on the ‘dialoguebaazi’ part. A great Masala film usually has many memorable lines to choose from.

        But I wouldn’t call Raj Kapoor a masala filmmaker. He used to make social dramas inspired by Hollywood (and Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief), mostly, and his films were perhaps precursors to Masala films but weren’t masala in the all-encompassing form that existed from the 70s onwards.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agree, that’s why i said that it has masala elements but were not full fledge masala films. Bobby is probably the closest of his film to masala.


        • How would you classify the Rajesh Khanna super hits like Aradhana, Haathi Mere Saathi etc? Romance on celluloid has never been as spicy as Khanna’s era of the late 60s/early 70s.


          • Aradhana was a typical Shakti Samanta social drama. Rajesh Khanna is considered a romantic hero but if you look at his biggest hits, they are all social dramas, mostly. Aap Ki Kasam, Anand, Namak Haraam and so on…


  13. Masala attributes

    drama and high drama
    somewhat unrealistic
    popular songs
    big stars
    big boxoffice success

    If a film meets atleast 3 of the attributes, it can be called masala in my opinion.

    We have to differentiate between good masala films and bad masala films.


  14. What do yo think of PARVANA Saket? The FIRST negative/obsessed role that Amit played to the hilt and later inspired DARR [of course, DARR was flat-out copied from Marty’s CAPE FEAR which itself was a reinterpreation of the 1962 film with an incredible performance by ROBERT MITCHUMA –

    Bachchan demonstrates ample skills to give early indications of his later year dominance in the film industry. It is his movie as much as Madhusudan’s for envisaging a brilliant plot. Madan Mohan’s music also contributed a few chartbusters, notably the Rafi-Asha duet “Jis Din Se Maine Tumko Dekha Hai” and Kishore Kumar’s “Simti Si Sharmaai Si”…….It was a pity the movie failed at the box office.


    • Pretty good film and its plot was referenced in Johnny Gaddaar, if my memory serves me right.

      Sriram Raghavan knows his masala cinema quite well.


  15. Mera gaon mera desh and Dharmatma were solid masala films too from 70s.


  16. Saket is throwing many clues. Let me guess.

    Yaadon ki Baaraat.

    Some Dharmender film.

    Mr. India



    Amol Palekar’s Golmal

    Chashme Baddoor

    Ram Lakhan





    Gangs of Wasseypur


  17. SAAHEB !!!!


  18. Satya


    Dev D


    Yeh vada raha

    Teesri Manzil



  19. Filters

    1970 January to 1979 December.
    Huge period.

    No Amitabh, no Salim Javed.

    Masala films. So pure romantic films are ruled out.

    Dharmendra, Jeetendra are masala heroes. Other masala heroes who are not perfect method actors.


  20. Hare Rama Hare Krishna


  21. Chacha Bhatija, Chiotchor, Rafoo Chakkar, Roti, Victoria No.203, Haathi mere Saathi, Aan milo sajna, Shalimar, Gol Maal.



  22. By the way, watched Dastaan and Dil apna aur preet paraye.
    Dastaan is a good masala film with one great song by Rafi.
    Dil apna has beautiful songs, beautiful emotions.


    • I watched Mr India today after 30 odd years! It’s still so much fun and there are lots of details that I could pick up this time.

      For example, Mogambo’s minions give him a Hitler-like salute (Hail Mogambo!) and one of them actually wears a proper Nazi uniform!

      Ashok Kumar who plays a scientist, more likely a Physicist, has test tubes on his desk! When he’s teaching a class, I could read the following text on the blackboard — BONEY’S SPACE TIME CONTINUUM.

      A lot of the sequences are completely illogical but that’s the point — Masala cinema, or at least good masala cinema, doesn’t shy away from being illogical, as long as it doesn’t detract from the emotional core of the film. Mr. India is first and foremost a human drama involving good and bad people. And these characters are very well written. This film holds up very well even if the technical aspects are quite outdated at this point in time.

      And yes, Sridevi, she was so good when it comes to physical comedy! Also, it’s one of the last films featuring Kishore Kumar’s voice, which sounded a bit tired and worn out, given his age.


      • Anil Kapoor wore a single worn-out jacket throughout the film and also a hat — references to Raj Kapoor’s avatar in Sri 420.

        Amrish Puri’s Mogambo was clearly modelled on a Bond villain, perhaps Goldfinger!


  23. Has to be my favorite masala film of the decade of the 2010s. Action, suspense, thrill, comedy, romance, even unnecessary song & dance it had it all in the good old chor police kahani narrated in the most delightful way by the genius of Neeraj Pandey. Baby would be a top notch masala film as well barring the limited romantic track (thank goodness for that!).


  24. Seems to be forgotten on this forum. A popcorn masala flick that’s still the best in its franchise by a country mile. YRFs best masala flick post 2000 at par with WAR.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. tonymontana Says:

    Great narration Saket. Great choice for a subject. Hope you come up with more like these and do not limit yourself to reviewing latest releases.

    Good masala films are always so much fun and have high repeat value, but it’s sad that they’ve shrunk in numbers over the years. There’s no middle ground anymore: either we see independent cinema catering to a very niche audience (many OTT releases, these days) or brainless films that serve junk in the name of pleasing the masses.


    • Thanks!

      Yes, I agree that there isn’t a middle ground present today. Good masala filmmakers like Rajkumar Santoshi are pretty much out of favour these days and what’s left are the Rohit Shettys and Ahmed Khans who are just not good enough.


    • You can thank the masses from AP/Telangana for that.


  26. The greatness of masala cinema lies much more with the villains than the heroes. Its the Amrish Puri’s, Danny Denzongpa’s & Amjad Khan’s that I’ve found much more delightful than the protagonists. Even in modern day masala cinema i ended up half rooting for Sunil Shetty in Main Hoon Na, Ajay D in Khakee, John & Hrithik in the Dhoom films & Sonu Sood in Dabangg. Aditya Srivastava in Super 30 is another example of a brilliant villainous act.

    Liked by 1 person

      • NOT a single director could capture and understand the giant that AB is in masala, except RKS….

        Liked by 1 person

        • Prakash Mehra & Yash Chopra are the original masala kings who introduced AB in his commercially appeasing angry young man avatar with gems like Zanjeer & Deewaar. Mehra gets a lot less credit than he should when it comes to creating the aura of AB during the 70s & 80s.

          Liked by 1 person

    • tonymontana Says:

      The stronger (and more hateful) the villain, the stronger the conflict, and the more you are invested in the film. The ultimate revenge is then satisfactory for the viewer. Don’t remember when was the last time the Hindi film industry pulled off something like this.
      Ghajini, maybe? Though I wish its impact would have been more if there was a better actor in place of Pradeep Rawat as the main villain.


  27. @ Saket,

    Just saw your comment “It was a tough choice between KRK’s Deshdrohi and Kanti Shah’s Gunda…”

    Gunda is actually very enjoyable film to watch. Yes, very silly but it has many good masala moments. There’s a reason why many enjoy this more now than when it released 🙂

    Deshdrohi is just garbage, but unintentionally hilarious.

    After early 80s, I think Anil Sharma made couple good masala films like Hukumat, Tahalka, Gadar. Hukumat was a big hit and revived Dharam career. Everyone know what Gadar did.

    N Chandra made Ankush, Tezaab, Narsimha, he understood masala but than it was all down hill after narsimha.

    Santoshi made many good films but i found his films to drag and not sure if it’s pure masala. He was more Prakash Mehra than Desai.

    Mukul Anand is another one. one big budget film after another but i found his films to be 20 to 30 minutes longer than it needs to be.

    By the way, you not having Qurbaani in top 10 (where you have Mr. India), i think it kills your list. I still remember the long line queue 6 o’clock in the morning for this movie. Qurbaani is a tricky film because it doesn’t meet one of my main requirement where i want to be like the main lead. But this film had every masala from first scene to the last and it was so cool and modern looking in it’s time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to leave out films like Trishul, Ghulami and Khakee…there’s no way Qurbani makes it to the list.

      I agree it was a stylish flick and it was a monster box office success as well, but it’s not something I’d watch today…or encourage others to watch.


      • I loved the songs and Amjad Khan. Especially Laila O Laila.
        Cant ignore Amjad Khan in any movie. He was larger than life. Unlike Amrish Puri, Amjad Khan had smooth looks. Smooth villain?


        • Good observation on Amjad, sometime we forget how good/great the side actors (for lack of words) were.

          Amjad in Sholay, Qurbaani, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Laawaris and so many other films, he was perfect in those.

          That’s the beauty of old films. It wasn’t just actor, director, side actors, singers, music directors, script/dialogues writers, etc… It was everyone, each one did their job right, where you can see in the final product how everything gels so nicely.


      • I had conversation with Satyam in past on Ghulami. Ghulami is perhaps one of the best film to be made in 80s but not sure I would put it in masala category.

        Again, staying consistent with my criteria for what masala films are.
        Also, I think if i sit down and really think about it, i would probably have Don in top 5.

        But this is your list, will be cool to see every ones top 10 after ward.

        Heck, my top 10, really didn’t put much thought into it, just listing what’s coming to mind.

        1) Naseeb
        2) Dharam-Veer
        3) Don
        4) Suhaag
        5) Amar Akbar Anthony
        6) Qurbaani
        7) Satte pe satta
        8) Mr. Natwarlal
        9) Yaadon ki Baraat
        10) Karz

        The list is really what’s came to mind right away, i’m sure if i think about it, i would revise it but i’m sure 8 of these would stay on the list.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. As most have covered the movies of 70s and 80s to perfection, here is my list of masala movies from 90s onwards.
    In no order:

    3 Idiots
    Main hoon naa
    Chennai Express


  29. An ordinary scene; elevated to extra-ordinary heights thanks to AB …


  30. Another one…and Ramesh Sippy was so ahead of the times…to this date I am not able to figure out why SHAAN is considered a flop…this is on par, or even better than QURABANI….


  31. @Saket,

    Was just thinking about this while mowing lawn yesterday, how about top 10 masala songs? Will be very difficult but again without much thought, some of these came to mind.

    Just to clarify, my choices are not based on being fixated with one actor/star, director, etc…

    Some of my criteria for masala song
    – Makes me wish/dream to be like the actor on screen in that song
    – Catchy tune and lively song
    – Good choreography
    – Holds the story together or moves it forward (climax song), but not an absolute requirement

    Not in any order (my cutoff point is early 80s)

    – Title, old (Don)
    – O meri mehbooba (Dharam-veer)
    – Ek hasina thi (karz)
    – John Jaani… (naseeb)
    – parda hai parda (AAA, i think this maybe the best masala song in history)
    – apni to jaise (lawaaris)
    – dukki pe dukki (satte pe satta)
    – Title (yaadon ki baraat)
    – Hum ko tumse (AAA)
    – Title (Dus Numbari)

    Goodness, there are hundreds of other great ones like laila o laila, pag goongro, etc…


    • Chana jor garam (kranti) is also a great masala song.


    • wow, mowing lawn is for a few privileged folks.


      • “I like the freedom here. I make my own food, clean my own space, shop for my own groceries,” – Sonam


      • “wow, mowing lawn is for a few privileged folks.”

        Most house owners in USA will have to do it.

        Believe me, it’s no fun. It’s lots of work weekly and gets costly too. I mean i do save money since i’m doing my own, 90% of my neighbors have it contracted out. I do my own just to get some exercise out of it.


        • Lifestyle of most people in fat part of bell curve in earning capability, is very similar.
          You drive your own car to work, grocery, laundry, cook food, rinsing utensil for Dishwasher; In many cases even clean houses (you can pay someone to do that periodically, other things are considered too personal to invade into). In that sense life is quite independent unlike in India where you have help for smallest things if you earning decently.


          • “In that sense life is quite independent unlike in India where you have help for smallest things if you earning decently”

            This is a great point.

            Some of my family members are, i would say less than middle class (most of their income comes from children who are in US/UK/Aus/etc) but yet they have someone coming in daily to do the dishes, wash cloths, sweep/mop floors, etc.

            I would always debate with my cousin when i visit india that your life is much better than us who are in USA. We have to do everything on our own.

            But than he would counter argue with, “Than why don’t you move to India”

            Liked by 1 person

          • If you see people in US are quite active even in 60s..In India people tend to go in retirement late 50s…
            And it shows up in health (you can see that in median age of casualties in Corona pandemic)…we don’t realize how much (self) work is delegated in India..even simplest task like fetching water, we tend to find someone young or mother to get you a glass of water. In US, you go get water yourself or carry hydroflask or something similar…When I am in India, I hate server waiting near table to serve food in plate…But many people like server putting food in plate in restaurant dining.

            ps – When I returned first time to India, after eating food, I went and put my plate in Kitchen sink after rinsing rather just leaving where I was eating. My Mom said, “mere ladka badal gaya hai” 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  32. Weekend has come. And waiting for the revelation. Best masala film.

    Liked by 1 person

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