Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

In 2018, it feels like most of the Hindi films I reviewed fell into the “okay” category — not horrible but not necessarily outstanding either. Only five movies merited a star-rating of 3.5 or higher, and just five earned a star-rating of 1.5 or lower. (Obligatory critic’s disclaimer that star-ratings are convenient shorthand lacking context, so please read the reviews!) As a result, I’m only doing a Top 5 and Bottom 5 for 2018.

That said, I think the movies at the top of the list are fantastic for different reasons, and I’d love to revisit all of them someday. Let’s see what made the list!

[Note: I didn’t get to review Tumbbad until after I’d written this post. I’d rank it in second place for the year.]

One of the year’s most delightful surprises was the horror comedy Stree. I wasn’t even sure it was going to open in the United States, given that movies starring Stree‘s lead pair — Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor — aren’t locks for international release. Thank goodness it did, because Stree was a ton of fun, weaving hilarious moments with a progressive message discouraging male objectification of women.

While Stree was about how men view women, Veere Di Wedding was as woman-centric as can be. The female buddy comedy gave wider latitude to its characters than most women are allowed onscreen in Bollywood, and it did so while being positive and uplifting. I have a soft spot for movies about nice people behaving nicely, and Veere Di Wedding was just that.

A buddy film of a different sort, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero follows a trio of vigilantes and what happens when two of them abandon their revolutionary ideals in exchange for middle-class comfort. It’s a timely story of the importance of organized resistance and a rejection of complacency among financially secure citizens, in India and abroad.

In the runner-up spot for 2018 is the top-notch spy thriller Raazi, about a young woman forced to leave her homeland in order to save it. Raazi was another win for women in Hindi cinema–not just because of Alia Bhatt’s riveting performance in the lead role, but because of the two talented women behind the camera: screenwriter Bhavani Iyer and writer-director Meghna Gulzar.

Another thriller was my favorite Bollywood movie of 2018, and the only one to which I awarded 4 stars: director Sriram Raghavan’s fiendishly clever Andhadhun. Ayushmann Khurrana’s first $1 million movie of the year featured him as a blind pianist drawn into danger by a calculating trophy wife, played by a devilish Tabu. Radhika Apte plays Khurrana’s love interest, adding to the talent level of a cast directed by a filmmaker who’s cemented his position as Bollywood’s neo-noir master. Andhadhun is currently on Netflix in the United States, which is great for first-time watchers and those of us who can’t wait to watch it again.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

  1. Andhadhun — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  2. Raazi — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes/stream on Prime
  3. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero — Buy at Amazon/stream on Netflix
  4. Veere Di Wedding
  5. Stree

Previous Best Movies Lists

22 thoughts on “Best Bollywood Movies of 2018

  1. Pingback: Worst Bollywood Movies of 2018 | Access Bollywood

  2. John Davidson

    Agreed with your first two choices, and unfortunately not able to see the followoing 3 choices. I did enjoy and thought worthy of consideration: Padman and Hichki plus Parmanu:The Story of Pokhran. Hichki dealt with tourette’s Syndrome without using the cheap swearing that usually connected to the disorder.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Considering how my Worst Movie of 2018 earned its spot for botching the way it handled characters with disabilities, I really appreciated the effort Rani put into getting her character right in Hichki. I especially liked her press conference with the man on whose book the movie is based, and that she felt it was important to include him in the promotions. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alsU2QsJTLM&t=173s

      Reply
  3. Thank You

    Considering A Gentleman, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Ittefaq (that I can recall easily) were released in 2017, Andhadhun notwithstanding, there appears to be a decline in the entrtainment quality of Bollywood. Hopefully Bollywood producers learn sooner than later that losing focus of entertainment as a priority to boring gimmicks (e.g., the shinkage of Mr. S.R. Khan, the eyeliner of Mr. A. Khan, the right bicep of Mr. S. Khan), is harmful to their capital.

    Regards.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      If nothing else, I think 2018 showed that it’s time to look beyond the usual stars for the best pictures. Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao seem to have good instincts when choosing movies, and they’ve become box office draws in their own right. And with the success of Raazi and Veere Di Wedding — both creatively and financially — Bollywood producers have undeniable proof that movies for, by, and about women are good investments.

      Reply
      1. Amin

        I sensed some irritation, sorry didn’t mean to annoy you, and don’t really disagree with your list. Just that I thought Badhai Ho should have been included.

        Keep up the good work; love reading your blog.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          “don’t really disagree with your list. Just that I thought Badhai Ho should have been included.” — Had you written that initially, Amin, there would be no problem. In writing “A critical omission IMO is Badhai Ho,” you explicitly said that I made an error. This list is just my opinion, hence it can’t be wrong, and it feels bad to be accused of making a mistake I did not make.

          Reply
          1. Amin

            Point taken.Just for grins, following your advice, here’s my Top 6 list (why not 6, just my opinion, right :))…6) Pad Man 5) Raazi, 4) Sanju 3) Laxmi & Tikli Bomb 2) Badhai Ho 1) Andhadhun

            Reply
  4. Thank You

    Bollywood needed a reminder, which the commercial success of Raazi easily provided, after Ms. V. Balan’s Kahaani and Ms. S. Kapoor’s Neerja had made serious money. Movie making is commercially risky but it appears that conventional Bollywood producers this century have, with futile results, generally veered towards risk-aversion by becoming recycling experts instead. Last time I checked, that business is called waste management and it seems that that is the world Bollywood is currently mired in.

    Hopefully “Ek Ladki …” will provide a reminder of what’s what, to use informal language. Bollywood figured out how to photocopy Ms. S.J. Parker’s “Sex in the / and the City” for “Veere …” to make money. It’s not that hard to figure out that there are other feminine muses out there.

    For instance, Ms. C. Theron’s work in Atomic Blonde and the (to put it modestly) epic, epic, epic “Mad Max: Fury Road”, as well as Ms. R. Witherspoon’s Legally Blonde series also comes to mind.

    Mr. N. Pandey’s Naam Shabana was an attempt at a kick-ass female protagonist, he of the A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby fame, but I suspect his testosterone heavy comfort zone gave him subconscious blinders. “Naam …” may have needed a broader perspective than his own, given the noticeably different norms of cultural expectations for the feminine gender in his film’s setting.

    I will be intrigued if a Mrs Jolly, LL.M. (the M is for Madam, for the boss lady that persona can be in a court setting) is made.

    Hollywood is not much better, considering Mr. K. Reeves was approached for The Matrix at the turn of the century after Messrs. T. Cruise, W. Smith, B. Pitt and M. Damon all turned down that film. That opportunity launched the visual effects obsession that Hollywood has become (Exhibit A: a movie about a Lego Batman was made, so, dear Bollywood reviewer, never feel the need to feel insecure that you are reviewing Bollywood considering Hollywood film critics have to live with the fact that they had to review that film). That’s all that Hollywood has learned in the last couple of decades.

    It’s not that hard for professional experts in that trade to figure out what sections of the paying audience are being underserved and putting money to work to cater to that group without dealing with the negative consequences of competitive oversupply. Mr. M. Gibson figured it out with “The Passion of the Christ” in Hollywood and made that film in Aramaic, when no one at a major studio was interested.

    Mr. A. Rai figured out that movies set in the largest Hindi speaking state in India (“U.P.”) were practically non-existent in mainstream HIndi cinema. That led to the commercial success of Tanu Weds Manu (starring a non-native Hindi speaker as the male lead, oooh the irony), it’s sequel, Raanjhanaa (repeat previous parenthetical comment), till others decided there may be something to catering to the cultural preferences of the largest speaking set of the most common language in Bollywood; ergo Bareilly ki Barfi happened, a film that could have been set elsewhere given that it was a French adaptation.

    I’m meandering again, so I’ll stop.

    Regards.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Excellent points, as always, TY. Wise producers understand the Moneyball-like aspects of the industry: find the under served market. I give a lot of credit to Sonam Kapoor not only for choosing films wisely but for getting into the production game with her sister so as to better steer the direction of her career (same for Anushka Sharma). Not every good movie will find an audience, but you dramatically raise your chance for success when you create a quality product. “Kahaani,” “Neerja,” and “Raazi” are all good examples of that.

      A script with a “kick-ass” female heroine seems easy to write, but it’s not, as shown by “Naam Shabana” and Sonakshi Sinha’s “Akira.” But it would be really fun to see Bollywood get it right. I’m not sure who the ideal director is, but I think such a movie starring Katrina Kaif in the lead role could be a huge hit, if executed correctly.

      Reply
      1. Thank You

        In re: “kick-ass” female protagonism, I’m guessing with some confidence here, but the payroll of the following ladies combined [I’m thinking more like a draft manager of a team in a professional sports league constrained by a salary cap rule here, than a stereotypical film producer] would be less than any single one of the Big 3 Khans, to remake The Magnificent Seven in Hindi:

        Ms. Arora, Malaika [of Dil Se fame, one needs a reputable vamp]
        Ms. Chaudhary, Mahima [of Sehar fame, so the marketers can use the “now returning” tactic]
        Ms. Fernandez, Jacqueline [of A Gentleman fame, one needs a gun-toter]
        Ms. Karnik, Supriya [of Welcome fame, one needs a wisdom imparting sensei]
        Ms. Khan, Gauhar [of Rocket Singh … fame, a steely-eyed glare is part of the portfolio]
        Ms. Sanon, Kriti [of Bareilly ki … fame, there’s always a enthusiastic rookie in any ensemble]
        Ms. Singh, Chitrangadha [of Hazaaron …. fame, for art-house credentials]

        That film’s producers will retire wealthy if they manage to convince the current U.S. President to play the villain. Cross-over success would have a new benchmark. The Academy would award every Oscar to this creative work out of societal pressure alone and then announce that no future awards will be granted, because, the conversation would be over.

        Till then, I await “Ek Ladki … ” hoping it is worth the wait.

        As always, thank for your kind words.

        Regards.

        P.S. – my entire Moneyball review: chick-flick, no chicks.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          I LOVE THIS IDEA SO MUCH!!! Perfect casting, and like you said, much cheaper to make than anything starring a single Khan. If I ever win the lottery, I’m making this happen.

          Reply
          1. Thank You.

            Again, thank you for you kind words.

            For the record, and this is the least I can do, I relinquish any intellectual property claims for such a film, for your benefit.

            Regards.

            Reply
  5. baymaxatthemovies

    Great to see Andhadhun at #1. Hands down one of the best films of this decade, not just Bollywood.

    You should check out Badhaai Ho, Ayushmann’s other 2018 release. I think you’ll love it. Tumbbad is also supposed to be really great as well. Sad to see that you disliked October, however. In any case, I really enjoy reading your reviews and lists. Keep up the good work;

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thanks a bunch, baymax! I’m happy that Andhadhun is getting so much love! I’m hoping to check out Badhaai Ho on Hotstar soon, and I’m really, REALLY hoping that we get a way to see Tumbbad on streaming in the US since it seems to be universally beloved.

      Reply
  6. Gospvg

    I always look forward to this post because there is always a few films I’ve not watched. Will add Stree, Veere Di Wedding & Bhavesh Joshi Superhero to the watchlist. Agree on Andhadhun & Raazi both great films.

    I also enjoyed Tumbadd, Hichki, Sanju & I finally got to enjoy Highway (Alia Bhatt).

    Reply
  7. Pingback: 2018 Access Bollywood Wrap-Up | Access Bollywood

  8. Pingback: From Our Members’ Desks (Jan. 21, 2019) – Online Film Critics Society

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