Disney+ Hotstar’s collection of best Hindi movies is no match for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in number, and the technical quality lags too, with the streaming platform stuck on stereo sound. But it kind of makes up for that in that most movies on our list — 30, to be precise — are free to watch, though you’ll have to deal with advertisements. If you don’t want ads, you’ll have to pay Rs. 399 a year — less than what you’d pay for a month of Netflix, and less than half of Amazon for a year — for the Disney+ Hotstar VIP annual subscription, which also gets you access to the rest of the films on the list below. We’ve explicitly marked the films that are free to watch, for your convenience.
To pick the best Hindi-language movies on Disney+ Hotstar, we relied on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings, and other critics reviews, to create a shortlist. The latter two were preferred because RT doesn’t provide a complete representation of reviews for Indian films. Additionally, we used our own editorial judgement to add or remove a few. This list will be updated once every few months if there are any worthy additions or if some movies are removed from the service, so bookmark this page and keep checking in. Here are the best Hindi films currently available on Disney+ Hotstar, sorted alphabetically.
In one of the rare arthouse films to come out of Bollywood, a defence lawyer (Naseeruddin Shah) goes up against his public prosecutor mentor (Amrish Puri), who belongs to a scheduled tribe, to fight for a fellow tribesman (Om Puri) who’s been accused of murdering his wife. Lauded for its examination of caste discrimination and social injustice. The late Om stands accused of domestic violence. Free to watch.
Nearly a decade and a half after the first attempt — in 1968’s Do Dooni Char — tanked at the box office, Gulzar also took on directorial duties for this remake, that’s ultimately based on Shakespeare’s play, The Comedy of Errors. With both Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in dual roles, it’s the story of two pairs of twins who were separated in childhood at sea and then are reunited in adulthood, causing panic and a lot more. Free to watch.
Ankhon Dekhi (2014)
After an eye-opening experience involving his daughter’s marriage, a man in his late 50s (Sanjay Mishra) resolves that he won’t believe anything he can’t see, which naturally leads to some dramatic complications. It was directed by Rajat Kapoor, who admitted to allegations of misconduct levelled against him during the #MeToo movement. Free to watch.
In writer-director Shyam Benegal’s feature-length directorial debut, a child-desiring Dalit woman (Shabana Azmi) married to a deaf-mute alcoholic potter is seduced by the village landlord’s son (Anant Nag), which causes personal and societal problems. Noted for Azmi’s performance, and a favourable comparison to the works of Satyajit Ray. Free to watch.
After A Wednesday! and Special 26, writer-director Neeraj Pandey reteamed with Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher for another thriller, this time following the titular elite counter-terrorism unit that’s out to stop an extremist from carrying out his plan. Some critics weren’t happy with the plot, but there were no complaints in the thrills department. Free to watch.
Badhaai Ho (2018)
Upon learning that his middle-aged mother (Neena Gupta) is pregnant, a twenty-something man (Ayushmann Khurrana) struggles to come to terms with the new development, which also affects his relationship with his girlfriend (Sanya Malhotra). Won two National Awards. Free to watch.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015)
The heavily controversial Salman Khan stars as a devout Hindu Brahmin and an ardent devotee of Hanuman in writer-director Kabir Khan’s comedy-drama, who embarks on a journey to reunite a mute six-year-old Muslim girl, lost in India, with her parents in Pakistan. Kareena Kapoor co-stars. Salman is a convicted poacher, out on bail, and accused of culpable homicide, pending appeal. Free to watch.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
Farhan Akhtar stars as Indian Olympian sprinter Milkha Singh — who lost his parents in the Partition and spent years in refugee camps — in this overlong biopic directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and based on Singh’s autobiography, “The Race of My Life”, co-authored with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. Sonam Kapoor also stars. Free to watch.
This remixed adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s 1892 short story “Kabuliwala” moves the setting to 1980s Afghanistan under a rising Taliban and switches up its titular dry fruit-seller for a travelling cinema exhibitor, who becomes the object of fascination for a documentary film-maker as she looks back on her childhood. Free to watch.
Black Friday (2007)
Denied a release for nearly two years due to an ongoing court case, Anurag Kashyap’s second directorial venture — the first has never seen the (public) light of day — is based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s 2002 book of the same name and charts the events of the 1993 Bombay bombings, told through different perspectives: police, criminals, and victims.
The titular street-smart prostitute (Kareena Kapoor) befriends an investment banker (Rahul Bose) after his car breaks down on the way back home in the red-light district. Kicked off by the late director Anant Balani, and then completed by Sudhir Mishra after his death. Free to watch.
Deepika Padukone stars in this based-on-a-true-story tale of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, following her through facial reconstruction surgeries, the police investigation, court proceedings, and a petition to regulate the sale of acid. Meghna Gulzar directs and co-writes. The film was commended for its treatment but faulted for its screenplay.
Ajay Devgn and Tabu star in this remake of the 2013 critically-acclaimed Malayalam original, about a local cable operator (Devgn) who does everything he can to protect his family, suspected in the missing-persons case of a high-ranking police officer’s (Tabu) son, who had blackmailed his daughter with a nude video. It’s a little overlong and simplistic, and we say watch the original — also available on Disney+ Hotstar — if you understand Malay or are okay with subtitles. Free to watch.
A senior superintendent of police (Ajay Devgn) who’s installed in a fictitious Bihar district overrun by crime and corruption — one of the villains shares his name with corrupt and convicted Lalu Prasad Yadav’s brother-in-law — vows to breathe life into the dysfunctional police force. Prakash Jha writes and directs. Free to watch.
Set in the titular Haryana city, this neo-noir thriller explores gender inequality and the dark underbelly of the suburban wastelands through a story of a real estate tycoon’s (Pankaj Tripathi) undisciplined son who kidnaps his own sister to pay off a gambling loss. Its grittiness didn’t particularly suit audiences, but critics were more appreciative. Free to watch.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003)
Set against the politically-charged backdrop of the Emergency in the 1970s, writer-director Sudhir Mishra’s film revolves around three friends (Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh, and Shiney Ahuja) whose lives are transformed in the wake of the turbulent period.
I Am (2010)
Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala, Nandita Das, Rahul Bose, Radhika Apte, and Sanjay Suri star in this anthology made up of four short films — a woman (Das) who chooses sperm donation, a Kashmiri (Chawla) who returns home after two decades, a director (Suri) dealing with PTSD stemming from child sexual abuse, and two gay men threatened under the former Section 377 — from director Onir. Praised for shining a light on ignored topics, though it feels “less than the sum of its parts www.sbs.com.au/films/movie/11746/I-Am-”. Free to watch.
Jhankaar Beats (2003)
The directorial debut for Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh focused on two R.D. Burman fans and copywriters in an advertising agency, played by Sanjay Suri (My Brother… Nikhil) and Rahul Bose (Shaurya), who team up with their boss’ guitarist son (Shayan Munshi) to win a music contest they have lost twice. Free to watch.
Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
A decade before he made Andhadhun, writer-director Sriram Raghavan gave us this neo-noir thriller adapted from the 1963 French film Symphony pour un Massacre. Neil Nitin Mukesh made his acting debut alongside Dharmendra, Rimi Sen, Vinay Pathak, and Zakir Hussain — not the tabla legend, obviously.
Naseeruddin Shah leads the cast of this then-Bombay chawl comedy-drama that serves as a modern spin on the ancient tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, following a good-natured clerk (Shah) who’s taken advantage of by everyone and his fast-talking friend (Farooq Shaikh) who impresses everyone with tall tales. National Award-winner Sai Paranjpye directs. Free to watch.
Love Sonia (2018)
Newcomers Mrunal Thakur and Riya Sisodiya play two sisters who become involved in Mumbai’s dangerous world of sex trafficking in this film from a Slumdog Millionaire producer, alongside an ensemble cast featuring Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Freida Pinto, Richa Chadha, Anupam Kher, Demi Moore, Mark Duplass, and Adil Hussain.
Vishal Bhardwaj kicked off what would become his Shakespeare trilogy with this adaptation of Macbeth set in the Mumbai underworld, starring Irrfan Khan in the conflicted titular role, Tabu in the role of the ambitious Lady Macbeth, Pankaj Kapur as the king, and Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah in the gender-flipped roles of the Weird Sisters. Free to watch.
Neeraj Ghaywan ventures into the heartland of India to explore the life of four people in his directorial debut, all of whom must battle issues of caste, culture and norms. Winner of a National Award and the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. Free to watch.
A 16th-century Mughal prince (Dilip Kumar) clashes with his father, Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj), after he falls in love with a court dancer (Madhubala) in this epic drama, which stands as a milestone in Indian cinema and is called by some as the best Hindi film ever made. Noted for its grandeur, especially a musical piece set in a replica of the Lahore Fort’s Sheesh Mahal. Questioned for its historical accuracy and creative liberties elsewhere. Disney+ Hotstar has the 2004 digitally-coloured version. Free to watch.
Mukti Bhawan (2016)
This National Award-winning film follows a son (Adil Hussain) forced to set aside his job and accompany his elderly father (Lalit Behl) to the ghats of Varanasi, where the latter hopes to attain salvation. Feature-length debut for writer-director Shubhashish Bhutiani.
My Brother… Nikhil (2005)
Based on the true story of Dominic D’Souza — changed to Nikhil Kapoor (Sanjay Suri) in the film — a champion swimmer who, after learning he was HIV-positive, was ostracised from his family and isolated from society, due to the stigma around homosexuality and a lack of awareness that led to abusive laws. Juhi Chawla, Purab Kohli also star, while Dia Mirza, Sujoy Ghosh have cameos. Free to watch.
Namak Haraam (1973)
Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna lead this Hrishikesh Mukherjee film that follows two friends whose varying ideologies put them on diverging paths against the backdrop of the rise of trade unions in the textile mills in 1970s then-Bombay (now Mumbai). Rekha, Asrani, and Simi Garewal also star. Free to watch.
The true story of the youngest recipient of India’s highest peacetime honour Ashok Chakra, 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), who thwarted the hijacking of a Pan Am flight in 1986 and died trying to get passengers to safety. Free to watch.
Set against the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and inspired by a real-life tale, the story of a Parsi family — Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika playing the parents — who desperately look for their missing son among the communal violence raging on the streets. It’s largely in English, with bits and parts in Gujarati and Hindi. Free to watch.
Phas Gaye Re Obama (2010)
Before the legal comedy film series Jolly LLB, writer-director Subhash Kapoor made this post-2008 financial crisis satirical comedy about a recession-hit Indian-American businessman (Rajat Kapoor) who returns home to sell off ancestral property in Uttar Pradesh but is kidnapped by recession-hit goons. Both Kapoors stand accused in the #MeToo movement; Rajat has apologised. Free to watch.
A lawyer (Amitabh Bachchan) comes out of retirement to help three women (Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang) clear their names in a crime involving a politician’s nephew (Angad Bedi). Won a National Award. Faulted for giving more space to the male lead, right from the poster to the dialogues, which stands in irony to the film’s empowering, feminist message.
Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977)
On the eve of the Indian rebellion of 1857, writer-director Satyajit Ray presents two stories in parallel: two noblemen obsessed with an ancient form of chess, against the background of scheming enemy officials and an inept ruler. Free to watch.
Stanley Ka Dabba (2011)
Taare Zameen Par writer Amole Gupte concocts another elementary school drama about the titular student (Partho Gupte, Amole’s son) who doesn’t have a lunchbox — “dabba” is Hindi for lunchbox — of his own, and is routinely berated by the cantankerous Hindi teacher (Amole) who loves digging through his other students’ lunchboxes. Free to watch.
Based on a Karnataka urban legend — though transported to small-town Madhya Pradesh in the film — this Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.-written comedy horror follows a women’s clothing tailor (Rajkummar Rao) who falls for a mysterious woman (Shraddha Kapoor), who frequently disappears.
Meghna Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj combine forces to tell the story of the 2008 Noida double murder case, in which a teenage girl and the family’s hired servant were killed, and the inept police bungled the investigation. Uses the Rashomon effect for a three-pronged take. Free to watch.
The Threshold (2015)
A sexagenarian wife (Neena Gupta) decides to leave her husband (Rajit Kapoor) the day after their son’s marriage, prompting a series of conversations that wade through their difficult, decades-long marriage in a raw and bitter manner. Directorial debut for theatre veteran and cinematographer Pushan Kripalani. Favourably compared to the works of Mike Leigh, Ingmar Bergman, and Before Midnight.
Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2016)
Five thirty-something friends struggle to find a place in Mumbai where they can play football in peace in this light-hearted rom-com tale, which explores gender divides and social mores along the way. Free to watch.
In this thriller from writer-director Anurag Kashyap, a struggling actor (Rahul Bhat) and a policeman (Ronit Roy) look for a missing 10-year-old girl: their daughter and step-daughter, respectively. Termed as one of Kashyap’s best by many, though some took issue with its routineness, flabbiness, and unearned insights.
An elderly psychology professor (Naseeruddin Shah) and a young advertising agent (Kalki Koechlin) befriend and comfort each other after they find themselves in similar situations at a hospital: waiting on their respective comatose partners. Free to watch.
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