The very own domain of Superstar Rajnikanth, Tamil Film industry is known as one of the best regional film industries of India. The specialty of Tamil Film Industry or better known as Kollywood is a fine blend of art and masala flicks. Over the years, Kollywood has successfully delivered some of the best Indian films of all times. Besides gifting us stars in the form of Rajnikanth, Kamal Hassan, Sridevi, Ramya Krishnan, Vikram, Vijay, Ajith, Asin, Simran, the film industry is also known as the stepping stone for many renowned filmmakers.
Ace film directors like Maniratnam, S. Shankar, A.R. Murugadoss, and many others began their career in Kollywood and later went on to garner accolades from every region both nationally and globally.
Today, with this article I am trying to give a tribute to Tamil Cinema for their contribution to not only Indian cinema but also the world cinema, here is the list of All Time Best Tamil Movies….
List of Best Tamil Films of All Time
Tamil film industry is known for trying out different things. Everything from storytelling to the special effects and cinematography, each aspect of filmmaking in Kollywood gets equal attention.
This list of top Tamil films is the best example of the amazing blend of creativity with technology in Tamil cinema.
Nayagan is a 1987 crime drama film starring Kamal Haasan in the lead role. Directed by Mani Ratnam, the film tells the story of a young Tamil boy who arrives in Mumbai and becomes the local don. Loosely based on the underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar, the film mainly tries to portray the hardships faced by South Indians in Bombay during that period.
It is very rare that two superstars of the different industry come together in a film. Well, if anyone could do that then it is none other than the ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam. Thalapati is a 1991 crime drama film directed by Mani Ratnam. The film features Rajnikanth (the Tamil superstar) and Mammootty (the Malayalam superstar) in the lead roles. This film is based on the Indian Mythology Mahabharata, both characters portray Dushasana and Karan.
Well, all of us love and praised Salman Khan for his performance in Tere Naam. But, when you watch its original film Sethu, you will witness and the new level of brilliance by Vikram. Directed by debutant Bala, Sethu is one of the best Tamil romantic drama films that inspired different film industries to remake the film, including Tere Naam.
Mani Ratnam’s 1995 Bombay got him recognition all over India as the film received accolades from various film industries. The ace filmmaker is known for his unique method of storytelling where he always blends human relationships and its conflicts with the surrounding elements. Featuring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala in the lead roles, the film depicts the love story of the lead actors amidst the Bombay riots of 1992-93.
Moondram Pirai (1982)
Directed by Balu Mahendra, Moondram Pirai is a Tamil romantic drama featuring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead roles. The film is considered as Sridevi’s best film for her brilliant portrayal of Bhagyalakshmi and one of the Best Tamil Films ever, who suffers from retrograde amnesia and behaves like a kid. Hindi film Sadma is the remake of Moondram Pirai with Kamal Haasan and Sridevi reprising their roles.
Anbe Sivam (2003)
Anbe Sivam is a comedy drama film featuring Kamal Haasan and R. Madhavan in the lead roles. Surprisingly the story of the film is written by Kamal Haasan whereas it is directed by Sundar C. The film basically features an unexpected journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai where two strangers with distinctive personalities meet. It is one of the best films in India as it draws our attention towards humanism or humanity.
Thevar Magan (1992)
Directed by Bharathan, Thevar Magan is a drama film featuring Kamal Haasan, Sivaji Ganesan, Revathi, Gouthami, and Nassar in important roles. The 1997 Hindi film Virasat starring Anil Kapoor is the official remake of Thevar Magan. The film follows the life of the protagonist played by Kamal Haasan and his transformation from a Western-influenced young man to a village chieftain.
Touted as a film that portrays the rivalry between M.G. Ramachandran (a.k.a. MGR) and M. Karunanidhi, Iruvar is an epic political drama film directed by Mani Ratnam. Featuring Mohanlal as a film star turned politician same as MGR and Prakash Raj as a screenwriter turned politician just like Karunanidhi, the film uncovers the love-hate relationship between Tamil cinema and politics.
Mouna Ragam (1986)
Mouna Ragam is a romantic drama film directed by Mani Ratnam. The film tries to depict the meaning of true love and convince the audience that love is all about giving not gaining. Featuring Revathi and Mohan in the lead roles, the film really makes you wonder about love and relationships.
Pithamagan is a Tamil crime drama film featuring Vikram, Surya, Laila and Sangeetha in important roles. The film is best known for Vikram’s performance as Chithan who grows up among corpses in a graveyard. His performance in the film also won him National Film Award for Best Actor. Directed by Bala, the film follows the life of Chithan and his encounters with people, crime, and human bonding.
Mani Ratnam has mostly narrated a love story amidst social conflicts. While Bombay was a film about the indifferences between two communities, his 1992 film Roja tells a love story amidst terrorism as the base. Featuring Arvind Swamy and Madhoo in the lead roles, the film is a romantic saga between the lead couple whose world turns upside down when one of them is abducted by the terrorists. The movie is a must watch for all.
Thillu Mullu (1981)
While many great Tamil films inspired Bollywood, Thillu Mullu is among those films that got inspiration from Bollywood. Yes, Thillu Mullu is the Tamil remake of Hindi film Gol Maal, one of the best comedy films in Hindi cinema. Directed by K. Balachander, the film features Rajnikanth, Madhavi, and Thengai Srinivasan in the lead roles.
16 Vayathinile (1977)
16 Vayathinile is a breakthrough film of the yesteryear Bollywood Diva Sridevi and One of the Best Films of Sridevi. Besides Sridevi, the film also features Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth. Both the superstars were struggling and didn’t achieve the stardom at the time. Kamal Haasan played the male protagonist in the film, whereas Rajnikanth played the villain. The 1979 film Solva Sawan is the Hindi remake of 16 Vayathinile.
Mullum Malarum (1978)
Mullum Malarum is a 1978 film directed by J. Mahendran. The story of the film basically focuses on the brother-sister bond and the sacrifices made by the brother for the happiness of his sister. The film is inspired by the novel of the same name penned by Umachandran. Mullum Malarum features Rajnikanth as the lead protagonist, whereas Sarath Babu, Fatafat Jayalaxmi, and Shobha play supporting roles in the film.
Featuring in his debut film, Karthi hits a bull’s eye with the 2007 epic romantic drama Paruthiveeran. Directed by Ameer Sultan, the film tells the story of Paruthiveeran, played by Karthi, whose parents are banished from the village, thanks to their inter-caste marriage. However, the history repeats itself when Paruthiveeran and her cousin Muththazhagu, played by Priyamani, elope to get married. But, fate had other plans as Muththazhagu is gang-raped by Paruthiveeran’s friends and he is beaten to death by the girl’s father and other relatives.
Most romantic films feature a love story starting from the first meet to the eventual marriage. Well, Alaipayuthey is slightly different. Directed by Mani Ratnam, the Tamil musical romantic drama features a love story post marriage and focuses on the problems many young couples face in real life. Featuring R. Madhavan and Shalini in the lead roles, the film explores the struggles of a married life and tries to find the true meaning of love.
It is very rare for Indian filmmakers to make a vigilante film. While most filmmakers opt for a plain story, there are a few who produce marvels like the 2005 psychological thriller film Anniyan. Directed by S. Shankar, the film features the story of Ramanujan who is a law-abiding citizen and gets disturbed by public negligence towards law. His frustration leads to a split personality disorder. One of his identities is a vigilante serial killer named Anniya, whereas the other identity is Remo, created after failure in love. The film features Vikram in the lead role with Sadha as his love interest.
If you love kids, you will definitely love the 1990 film Anjali. While the film explores the innocence of kids, especially Baby Shamil who plays the titular character Anjali; it also features a sad ending. Directed by Mani Ratnam, the film tells the story of a mentally disabled child Anjali who is also critically ill. It’s a fun yet disturbing story and will make you both laugh and cry throughout the movie.
Mudhalvan is a Tamil political thriller film and shares an interesting story. The 1999 Tamil film is a must watch if you are also frustrated with Indian politics. Directed by S. Shankar, the film tells the story of a young reporter who is challenged by the CM of Tamil Nadu to take charge of the latter’s post for one day. The reporter accepts the challenge and does a tremendous job in 24 hours that the people of Tamil Nadu unite to elect him as the new CM. The rest of the story follows his struggles and triumph in the new avatar as the permanent CM.
Also Read: 50 South Indian Films Remade In Bollywood
If you want to witness or wish to motivate yourself to fight against the odds, then watch the 1952 Tamil film Parasakthi. The film tells the story of three brothers and their only sister. All of whom are separated for various reasons but unite in the end. Throughout the film, the sister and the brothers face atrocities and struggle to make amends for their life. Although a classic film and a couple of generations old, I honestly believe that the movie will inspire you to some extent.
Directed by S. Shankar, Enthiran is an Indian film that really raised the bar for Indian filmmakers in the Science Fiction genre. Featuring Rajnikanth in dual roles and Aishwarya Rai as the female lead, the film became a cult favorite with a spiritual successor 2.0 as the sequel. It is also the first Indian film featuring a robot as the main character.
Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010)
Different shades of romance are explored in Tamil cinema. One such theme is portrayed in the 2010 blockbuster film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. The film tells a love story of a Hindu Tamil boy and a Syrian Catholic Malayali girl. It is an innocent romance saga with lots of conflicts and emotional struggles due to religious differences coming in the way of true love. Whether the duo is united or separated in the end forms the rest of the story.
Kaththi is an action drama film featuring Vijay in dual roles alongside Samantha Ruth Prabhu as the female lead. Directed by AR Murugadoss, the film tells the story of two individual who are lookalikes of one another but with highly distinctive personalities. While one is fighting for the rights of farmers, the other is a petty criminal. In a turn of events, the petty criminal takes place of the honest in order to escape prison. However, he has a change of heart and takes up the mantle to fight for the farmers in his own way. Whether he succeeds or not forms the rest of the story.
Kamal Haasan is known for making films with new themes that are never tried before. The 2013 spy thriller film Vishwaroopam is one such film. He not only acted as the main lead but also directed the film himself. Despite the controversies around the film and the resultant ban, the film earned accolades from all over during a fragmented release later on. The film was shot simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil.
Also Read: Best Bollywood Thriller Movies
Aadukalam is considered as Dhanush’s best performance till date. He even won Best Actor award at both 58th National Film Awards and 59th South Filmfare Awards. Directed by Vetrimaran, the film tells the story of a young rooster trainer who is an expert in breeding and training roosters for cockfights. The film tells the story of love, betrayal, loyalty, and ego clashes. It’s an interesting film if you are into filmmaking.
Mankatha is one of its kind black comedy heist drama film produced in India. The film is beyond morality and ethics. Directed by Venkat Prabhu, the film tells the story of a heist drama involving 4 thieves, a suspended police officer, and an investigating police officer. The film features Ajith and Arjun Sarja in the lead roles, whereas Trisha Krishnan, Vaibhav Reddy, Lakshmi Rai, Andrea Jeremiah, and other play pivotal roles.
Featuring Siddharth, Bobby Simha, and Lakshmi Menon in the lead roles, Jigarthanda is an interesting musical gangster film. Directed by Karthik Subbaraj, the film follows the life of Karthik, an aspiring filmmaker, who is eliminated from a reality show because of his short film. After encouragement from one of the reality show judges, he sets out on a journey in the hunt for a script on a real-life gangster. Here’s where the film gets interesting and the rest of the story focuses on the challenges Karthik faces while making his breakthrough film.
Also Read: Best Indian films about Film Making
Kanchivaram is a 2008 drama film featuring the life of silk weavers in the famous town of Kanchipuram. Directed by Priyadarshan, the film follows the life of Venkatam, played by Prakash Raj, who is a silk weaver. Through the film, the director draws our attention towards a time when the worker’s community in India suffered and it is still in some places. The film also depicts the struggles faced by the silk weavers initially and also justifies the need for a movement that focuses on the interest of the workers.
Kaaka Muttai (2015)
Kaaka Muttai shares an interesting tale of two slum children of Chennai desiring to taste Pizza once in their life. Directed by M. Manikandan, the film follows the lives of two kids living in Chennai slums who grow a desire to eat Pizza after watching a commercial on their new television. Whether they fulfill their desire or not forms the rest of the story.
Kaakha Kaakha (2003)
Featuring Surya in the lead role, Kaakha Kaakha is a 2003 action drama film about an IPS officer and his battle against organized crime in the city. While he is successful in putting a hold on the criminal activities, he also pays a huge price for the mission. The film starts off as a typical action movie but eventually turns into a thriller at the end. Jyothika plays the female lead in the film, whereas Jeevan plays the antagonist.
Pudhupettai is a 2006 neo-noir Indian film featuring Dhanush in the lead role. Directed by Dhanush’s elder brother Selvaraghavan, the film narrates the story of a young slum-dweller and his rise in the underworld and later into politics. Besides Dhanush, the film also features Sneha and Sonia Agarwal as the female leads.
Over to you!
Tamil film industry is known for its versatile filmmaking and has often set new benchmarks in different genres. This is why many Tamil films are remade in different languages including Hindi. Watch each of these best Tamil movies of all time and taste a new flavour of Indian cinema.
Also, feel free to mention your favorite All time Best Tamil Movies that you believe it deserves to be on the list in the comments below.