The element of intense action was never a part of Bollywood in its initial years. The only action that you could see in the classic films starring Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, or Dilip Kumar was a 1 or 2-minute fight sequences or some breathtaking chasing scenes.
The 50s era was mostly about romance and drama and later Rajesh Khanna changed the face of cinema in the 60s with a series of romantic blockbusters.
Even then, Bollywood was known to follow the trends and the filmmakers were hardly open to experiments. However, in the midst of romantic heroes, there was an action hero in Dharmendra in the industry as well. Despite his persona and action figure physique, filmmakers hardly cast him for an all-action film. But, the trend changed terrifically when Amitabh Bachchan starred Zanjeer hit the screen in the 70s and a new trend for action films began which has lasted until today.
Today, we decided to pay a tribute to some of the best action packed films ever produced in Bollywood.
Best Bollywood Action Films of All Time
Although Amitabh Bachchan gets the credit for changing the trend of Bollywood cinema from romantic drama to action drama, Bollywood did produce some actors who got labeled as action stars in the industry as they blend perfectly into this action hero figure with multiple hits. Some of these actors were Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan, Sunil Shetty, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, and few others.
Our list of best Bollywood action films also includes some of the best films involving these action stars.
The Dawn of Action Saga in Bollywood
As mentioned before, there were action films before Zanjeer as well but the real turn of events came after the release of this Amitabh starrer action thriller. Amitabh Bachchan evolved as the new face and the eventual superstar of Bollywood and got the title of Shehenshah of Bollywood.
It wasn’t like there were no action films made prior to Zanjeer, but this 1973 action thriller film set the wheels in motion for a new trend in Bollywood. The angry young man avatar of Amitabh Bachchan changed his persona in the industry and helped him evolve from a struggling actor to a superstar. Directed by Prakash Mehra, the film is a typical Bollywood revenge story, but Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of his character took the film to a whole new level.
Deewar is a tale of two brothers following different paths of life, who eventually meet at an intersection between Good and Evil. Directed by Yash Chopra, the film revolves around two brothers; Ravi portrayed by Shashi Kapoor and Vijay portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan. The love and brotherhood is challenged and builds a wall (deewar) between them when Vijay ventures into the crime world and Ravi becomes a cop tasked to nab Vijay. The film is known for its terrific screenplay, unforgettable dialogues, and the persona of Amitabh Bachchan further elaborating his angry young man character.
Sholay is the legendary Bollywood film that is talked about even today. With the multi-star cast of the film, Ramesh Sippy’s direction, evergreen dialogues, Jai-Veeru’s chemistry, and the ultimate character of Gabbar Singh, the film was purely a masterpiece. The film is also known for its dacoit-themed action sequences set in the small village of Ramgarh, which resembles Hollywood styled westerner films. The legacy of Sholay is so huge that there’s no film that can match to its potential till date in Indian film industry, neither in the past nor in the future.
Well, if Sholay depicted the Bollywood version of Hollywood westerner films, Don is the Bollywood version of Hollywood mafia films with a little bit of drama and moral values. The film is about a common man Vijay, who unfortunately looks like a most wanted Underworld Don. To help the police, he agrees to replace the real Don after he dies in a police encounter and help the police nab other gang members. However, things go south for Vijay, when the only Police officer aware of his reality is dead and now Vijay has to prove his innocence while being on the run from both police and Don’s gang members.
Directed by Tinnu Anand, Kaalia is a 1980 Bollywood action film starring Amitabh Bachchan in the titular role. The film is about a young man who is dragged into the criminal world after being convicted for theft and comes out as a fearless and confident man. Out of jail, he decides to avenge his brother’s death and begins establishing his name in the criminal world as Kaalia.
Ram Lakhan (1989)
Yet another brothers’ tale after Deewar makes it to our list. This time it is Subash Ghai’s 1989 Bollywood action drama Ram Lakhan starring Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff in the lead roles. The film is about the bonding between two brothers and their eventual rivalry when both decides to part ways, one of whom choose moral and ethics, while the other longs for power and money. Eventually, they unite once again at the end to take down the criminal empire of Bishamber, Kesariya Vilayati, and Sir John.
Before Ghayal, Sunny Deol was just another star kid trying his luck in Bollywood. Being the son of Dharmendra, he had huge shoes to fill in and I believe he did make his father proud with several hits in Bollywood and the success ride begun with Ghayal, one of the three Rajkumar Santoshi films that turned him into one of the best action film stars in Bollywood. The film is about a brother trying to avenge his brother’s death against the crime lord Balwant Rai. The legacy of Ghayal can be witnessed by the fact that the film was remade in several regional languages.