Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

2012 was a good year for Hindi movies. Of the fifty 2012 releases that I reviewed this year, thirty-one earned positive reviews of 2.5-stars or higher. The ten films below were the best of the best. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

My favorite movies of the year were almost exclusively dramas, whether the subject matter was political (e.g., Shanghai and Chakravyuh), social (e.g., Ishaqzaade and Talaash), or personal (e.g., Cocktail and Patang).

English Vinglish — a personal drama about a mother’s quest to regain her self-worth — proved to be one of the years most delightful surprises, thanks to a triumphant return to the big screen by Sridevi.

I awarded a perfect four-stars to three movies this year — movies that could not be more different from one another. Supermen of Malegaon is one of the most fun and fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. While it never released theatrically in the U.S., the whole movie is available for free with English subtitles on YouTube.

Evaluated in a vacuum, Barfi! is a wonderful and heart-wrenching movie. But given director Anurag Basu’s apparent lifting of whole scenes from other films, I have trouble recommending it with a clear conscience. Therefore, I instead recommend the (unfortunately-titled) Jism 2, a movie so bad, it’s good. There’s no movie I had more fun watching in 2012.

The best film of the year was a meticulously crafted thriller with character development to spare and a magnificent, evocative setting. My best Bollywood movie of 2012 is Kahaani.

This is a movie I could watch over and over again. Vidya Balan reaffirms that she’s the most talented actress working in Hindi films at the moment. Her co-star, Parambrata Chatterjee, holds his own alongside her, playing a police officer with a crush that’s doomed to go nowhere.

One aspect of Kahaani I particularly appreciate is its positive take on marriage. Balan plays Vidya, a pregnant woman from London searching for her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing in Kolkata. Everyone tries to tell her that he has probably just run out on her, but she refuses to believe them. She knows in her heart that not only would he never leave their unborn baby, but he wouldn’t leave her, either.

So often, we’re confronted with cultural tropes that portray marriage negatively. Husbands are depicted as either incorrigible philanderers or hapless morons barely tolerated by wives who only need them for baby-making and yardwork.
Isn’t it more satisfying to see an onscreen marriage in which both partners really know and value each other? That’s what makes Vidya’s search so frustrating and engrossing: there’s real love at stake.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

  1. Kahaani — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Barfi! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  3. Supermen of Malegaon — Buy at Amazon
  4. Talaash — Buy at Amazon
  5. English Vinglish — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Patang — Buy/rent at iTunes
  7. Ishaqzaade — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Chakravyuh — Buy at Amazon
  9. Shanghai — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  10. Cocktail — Buy at Amazon

Honorable MentionJism 2 — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists


22 thoughts on “Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

  1. mettemk

    I really need to catch up on 2012 Bollywood movies… although I didn’t like Barfi that much. I would’ve just “liked” it if my expectations hadn’t been so high.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing this inspirational list.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks, mettemk! I understand about Barfi! not living up to expectations, given all the hype surrounding it.

  2. Shah Shahid

    I can’t believe you liked COCKTAIL. *gasp*
    I’m going to go read your Review of it now and leave you hate-comments.


    P.S.: I wholeheartedly agree with KAHAANI. A genius work. My dad was watching (We’re Bengali) and he was freakin’ out about how authentically Kolkata was portrayed in the film.

    1. Kathy

      Sujoy Ghosh did such a wonderful job portraying Kolkata with love and honesty. Glad to know it has the Bengali seal of approval!

  3. Anushka

    Lovely list,Kathy!I am yet to watch Shanghai though.Dying to watch it…I have to agree,Kahaani was epic,a taut and a film with lots of heart..So it will be among my faves this year.
    Also Barfi! I liked.
    But my favorite is English Vinglish..Such an endearing,heartwarming film!I have already watched it thrice and I just loooved it..Sridevi’s performance is my favorite this year,followed by Vidya.
    Talaash was an engaging film but I didn’t like it as a thriller.
    Cocktail,I found so-so..Liked the first half but it was cliched and predictable in the latter half.

    1. Kathy

      English Vinglish is a great choice, Anushka. It’s one of those movies (like Kahaani) that I feel like I would always be in the mood to watch. Sridevi is super.

  4. Abdul Q

    Hi Kathy,

    I’ve been a silent reader to Access Bollywood for almost two years now and every time I decide to watch Hindi language film in cinema I’ll refers to your blog first. Agree with most of your top ten best choice, Love Kahaani and Barfi so much (but my top favorite of 2012 is Barfi for its homage to silent movies)..haven’t watch Patang and Superman yet, Ishaqzaade look fine but I only manage to watch half only, still not able to find inspiration to complete the other half. Gangs of Wasseypur will be one of my top ten along with English Vinglish, Shanghai (love this much), Vicky Donor (love this too), OMG, Talaash and Ek Main Aur Ek Tuu…and I’m totally agree with you on Cocktail. Growing up in Malaysia, I am familiar with Hindi film and know well all the stereotype and cliche about it…watching Cocktail however surprised me a lot…I don’t know how to described it in English…it’s like they twisted the ‘stereotype formula’ a bit, make it look fresh, not so simple, not so cliche anymore…something like that..and that’s why I love it….

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Abdul! And thank you for having my back regarding Cocktail!! I was fearing I was alone on that one. 🙂 Gangs of Wasseypur, OMG, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, and Vicky Donor were all in my Top 20. I wish there had been room in the Top 10 for Agent Vinod, too. 2012 was a really good year for Hindi movies.

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