Bollywood Movies to Watch Before Travelling to India

Bollywood Movies to Watch Before Travelling to India

Bollywood films are an integral part of Indian cinema and are generally known for their vibrant storytelling, colourful dance sequences and melodious music. Immersing yourself in a few films from this genre can be a fun and enjoyable way to get a taste of India’s cultural richness and diversity before you experience it firsthand. From blockbuster hits like 'Slumdog Millionaire' to powerful dramas such as 'Colour me Saffron', there’s an assortment of must-see flicks guaranteed to enlighten and entertain. While many of the following films portray a fictionalized version of India, watching them may help spark excitement and intrigue for your upcoming travels to this wonderful destination. Want to know a few of the best Bollywood movies to watch before stepping off that plane? Keep reading for our top picks…


  1. The Big-Hearted Will Take the Bride
  2. Slumdog Millionaire
  3. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  4. City of Joy
  5. Colour me Saffron
  6. Swades
  7. Haider


The Big-Hearted Will Take the Bride

First up on the watchlist is The Big-Hearted Will Take the Bride (or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in Hindi). This classic Bollywood romantic drama was released in 1995 and has since gained iconic status in Indian cinema. It follows the story of Raj and Simran, who meet and fall in love while travelling through Europe. But, like any memorable love story, their relationship faces a few hurdles: Simran's father has already arranged her marriage to another man back in India. The larger-than-life narrative is set against the backdrop of rural Punjab in India and beautifully captures the essence of Indian values and traditions, as well as the importance of familial bonds.


Slumdog Millionaire

While this isn’t a Bollywood movie in the traditional sense, we’re adding the critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire to our list of Bollywood movies to watch because it won multiple Academy Awards and offers a captivating depiction of life in the slums of Mumbai. Directed by Danny Boyle, this British film introduced Indian actors Dev Patel and Freida Pinto to a global audience and exquisitely depicts the energy and chaos of India’s largest city. It follows the journey of Jamal Malik, a young man participating in an Indian version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and provides a raw and gritty depiction of poverty, adversity and resilience.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This heartwarming comedy-drama tells the story of a group of British retirees who decide to spend their golden years in India, lured by the promise of a luxurious retirement destination called the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s a delightful tale that offers a unique perspective on India, showcasing the bustling streets, vibrant markets and the warmth of its people. It highlights the contrasts and complexities of Indian society, from the vibrant chaos of Jaipur to the peacefulness of rural villages, and touches upon themes including cultural immersion, spirituality and faith, and social hierarchy.


City of Joy

Next up on our list of best Bollywood movies to watch is City of Joy, a must-see for fans of Patrick Swayze. This thought-provoking drama follows the story of American doctor, Max Lowe, who travels to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and becomes involved with a community of slum dwellers. Released in 1992 and directed by Roland Joffé, this popular film raises awareness of social issues, shedding light on the harsh living conditions and spirit of the people living in these marginalised communities. If you’re planning on pressing play before a trip to India, try to keep an open mind and be aware that there is much more to this beautiful country than the challenges depicted in the film.


Colour me Saffron

Want a deeper understanding of India's social and political landscape? Choose Colour me Saffron, or Rang de Basanti in Hindi, a critically acclaimed Bollywood film that's not for the faint-hearted. It follows a group of university students in Delhi who become inspired to take action after being cast in a documentary about India's freedom fighters. Released in 2006 and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, it manages to draw parallels between India's struggle for independence and the need for a new generation to stand up against contemporary challenges.



With soul-stirring music and breathtaking cinematography, Swades perfectly captures the essence of India through the lens of an Indian-American scientist who returns to India and rediscovers his roots. It delves into themes of patriotism and social responsibility, depicting the many challenges often faced by rural communities in this country. Embrace the underlying message in this film and you can embark on your travels with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the country's diverse landscapes, cultures and people.



Our final recommendation of Bollywood movies to watch is Haider, a Hindi-language adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet that offers a powerful exploration of the impact of political turmoil and conflict in the region of Kashmir, India. The protagonist returns to his hometown of Kashmir to find his father missing and his mother remarried to his uncle. Much like the original story, the young man’s search for his father leads him down a path of revenge, political intrigue and personal transformation. But Haider also delves into the complex sociopolitical landscape of Kashmir, shedding light on the impact of insurgency and militarization. This Bollywood rendition provides a gripping and thought-provoking portrayal of the Kashmir conflict, capturing the beauty of the region alongside the emotional turmoil faced by its inhabitants.