"the director created sympathy for the two lovers"
The 1980s is an era when some of the best Bollywood films came out.
The die-hard fans love Bollywood films from the eighties so much that they continue to watch them – be it through satellite/cable television or via popular streaming sites.
During this period many actors were at their peak including Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Rekha, Zeenat Aman, Rekha, Anil Kapoor and late Sri Devi.
Equally several directors were being critically appreciated for their Bollywood films, especially the likes of Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy and Shekhar Kapur.
Bollywood films releasing in the eighties reflected various genres that include romance, action, sci-fi and comedy.
We feature 10 best Bollywood films from the 1980s that you can learn more about and enjoy when watching:
Director: Feroz Khan
Stars: Feroz Khan Zeenat Aman, Aruna Irani, Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Amrish Puri
Qurbani is a super hit action film, activating the notion of friendship or male bonding. The film is an adaptation of the Italian film, The Master Touch (1980).
Rajesh Kumar (Feroz Khan), a small-time criminal is ln love with cabaret singer Sheila (Zeenat Aman).
Whilst Rajesh is in prison, Sheila falls for Amar who is a former gangster. But their love story fizzles out when Rajesh becomes a free man.
On two separate occasions, Rajesh saves the life of Amar from the underworld leader Vikram Singh (Shakti Kapoor) and his sister, Jwala Singh (Aruna Irani).
Meanwhile, the villains wrongfully trap Rajesh for the murder of criminal Rakka (Amrish Puri). This prompts Inspector Amjad Khan following Rajesh to the UK.
True to the meaning of the film, Amar sacrifices his life for Rajesh in the climax of the film in rural England.
The film has a popular soundtrack including ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ by late Pakistani pop singer Nazia Hassan. Nazia won the Filmfare Best Female Playback Award for this track.
The music by Biddu was simply energetic and electrifying.
Watch the disco-inspired son ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ from Qurbani here:
Director: Yash Chopra
Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Jaya Bhaduri, Rekha, Sanjeev Kumar
Silsila is a successful romantic love triangle, featuring Bollywood’s finest. Air Force officer Shekhar Malhotra (late Shashi Kapoor) is in love with the innocent Shobha (Jaya Bhaduri),
Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan), the younger brother of Shekhar tries to woo Chandni (Rekha) through poetry.
Just when everything is going nice for both couples, tragedy strikes. After Shekhar dies in war, Amit marries Shobha, sacrificing his relationship with Chandni.
Chandni ties the knot with DR VK Anand (Sanjeev Kumar) and resides in the same place where Amit and Shobha live.
Amit and Chandni bump into each other when Shobha loses her baby, following an accident.
With their respective partners suffering in silence, the former couple has an affair.
Despite the two lovers eloping, they return back to their marital partners after Amit saves Dr Anand who is stuck in a blazing aircraft on land.
Pamela Chopra, the wife of late Yash Chopra, writes about the institution of marriage and the affair between two lovers:
“The marriage is a very, very sacred institution in India, and when the director created sympathy for the two lovers who were willing to go outside their marriage and continue their love affair, he did not carry the audience with him.”
The film highlights the alleged real-life affair of Amitabh and Rekha, adding more fuel to the fire. Jaya came out of retirement to play her role. Amitabh in his baritone voice sang a few of the hit songs from the film.
Rekha was at the height of her glamour, especially in the Dutch tulip fields for the song ‘Dekha Ek Khwab.’
Watch Silsila Trailer here:
Umrao Jaan (1981)
Director: Muzaffar Ali
Stars: Rekha, Farooque Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar, Shaukat Kazmi, Leela Mishra
Umrao Jaan is an adaptation from the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada (1905) by Mirza Hadi Ruswa about a courtesan from Lucknow.
Umrao Jaan (Rekha) undergoes training in music and dance, after being sold in Lucknow as a child.
She becomes extremely popular with the elite class of Lucknow.
Umrao Jaan has a brief love story with Nawab Sultan (Farooque Shaikh).
She then finds solace through her childhood friend Gauhar Mirza (Naseeruddin Shah). Moving away from her suffocating life, she finally elopes with bandit Faiz Ali (Raj Babbar).
Literary theorist Aijaz Ahmad (1992) wrote about the female character in the book, saying:
“The scandal of Ruswa’s text is its proposition that since such a woman depends upon no one man, and because many depend on her, she is the only relatively free woman in our society.
“Ruswa was a very traditional man, and he was simply tired of certain kinds of moral posturing.”
The spectacular costumes and sets, along with the music by Khayyam reflect the notion of opulence, boosting Rekha’s performance.
The film has two hit Asha Bhosle ghazals such as ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’ and ‘In Ankhon Ki Masti.’
Watch a scene from Umrao Jaan here:
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Smita Patil, Raakhee, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Shakti is an action drama film, bringing Bollywood legends Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar together.
The overly fervent police officer Ashwini Kumar (Dilip Kumar) is the father of Vijay Kumar (Amitabh Bachchan) who becomes a criminal.
When gangster JK Verma (Amrish Puri) kidnaps Vijay as a child, he realises his father opts for duty over paternal affection. This creates a division in the father-son relationship.
Subsequently, despite pleading his innocence, Ashwini arrests Vijay twice for crimes he did not do. Refusing to help his son, Ashwini is adamant that the law should take its course.
Ultimately, Vijay meets hotelier and smugger KT Narang (Kulbhushan Kharband)a. Saving him once a child, Vijay sees Narang as a new father figure.
In the midst of all this is Vijay’s suffering mother Sheetal Kumar (Raakhee). She is caught in the middle of her husband and son as JK Verma kills her.
The creatively shot night time scene sees Ashwini shooting Vijay on an airport runway.
Roma (Smita Patil), plays the love interest of Vijay, with Ravi Kumar (Anil Kapoor) playing their son.
The film has powerful dialogues and popular songs such as ‘Humne Sanam Ko Khat Likha’ and ‘Jaane Kaise Kab Kahan.’
Watch an emotional scene from Shakti here:
Prem Rog (1982)
Director: Raj Kapoor
Stars: Rishi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure, Shammi Kapoor, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Nanda, Vijayendra Ghatge
Prem Rog is a romantic film with social relevance. The lead characters in the film Devhdar (Rishi Kapoor) and Manorama (Padmini Kolhapure) develop a very strong friendship.
Devhdar begins to fall in love with Manorma, but cannot express his feelings as he is a poor orphan, whilst Manorama is the daughter of Bade Raja Thakur (late Shammi Kapoor).
As a result, Manorama marries a rich Thakur, Kunwar Narendra Pratap Singh (Vijayendra Ghatge).
But shortly after their marriage, Kunwar Pratap Singh meets his death in a car accident.
She then returns home after the elder brother of her husband, Raja Virendra Pratap Singh (Raza Murad) inhumanely rapes her.
When Devhdar learns about how Manorama’s family is treating her widow status, he comes to the rescue.
Eventually, Devhdar and Manorma fight Raja Pratap Singh and Virendra (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) for their love and succeed.
Late actress Nanda plays the role of Choti Maa, with Sushma Seth portraying the character of Badi Maa.
In 1983, the film won four Filmfare Awards under different categories. The film has a wonderful soundtrack, with several meaningful songs.
Watch a painful scene from Prem Rog here:
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Stars: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey, Supriya Pathak, Jugal Hansraj, Urmila Matondkar, Aradhana Srivastav
Masoom is a family melodrama about DK Malhotra (Naseeruddin Shah) who lives a happy life with his spouse Indu (Shabana Azmi) and two daughters, Rinky (Urmila Matondkar) and Minni (Aradhana Srivastav).
DK’s life becomes difficult when he collects his son Rahul (Jugal Hansraj) from a boarding school and brings him home. Rahul is DK’s blood son from a short affair he has with the terminally ill Bhavna (Supriya Pathak).
Following the death of Bhavna, DK and his family adopt Rahul. The presence of Rahul affects the relationship between DK and Indu. But in the end, Indu finally accepts Rahul and forgives DK’s mistake.
Suri (late Saeed Jaffrey) plays the supportive friend of DK in the film.
The film highlights the notion of infidelity and illegitimacy in a glossy yet simple manner.
Watch ‘Tujhse Naraaz Nahin’ from Masoom here:
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
Director: Kundan Shah
Stars: Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Bhakti Bharve, Om Puri, Satish Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Neena Gupta
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is a comedy film about two clumsy photographers, Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah), an Sudhir Mishra (late Ravi Baswani)
The editor of a scandal sheet, Shobha Sen (Bhakti Bharve) employs Vinod and Sudhir to investigate millionaire property developer Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor) and Municipal Commissioner D’Mello (Satish Shah).
The photographers unravel the shady business between Tarneja and his likewise nasty opponent Ahuja (Om Puri).
One of the builders murders the commissioner and wins a contract to construct a flyover, which collapses after a short while.
Vinod and Sudhir lose D’Mello’s corpse when trying to safeguard it as evidence. This leads to a series of events where several people are chasing each other.
The film finishes on a travesty of injustice, with Vinod and Sudhir having to face the law for the fly-over collapse.
The film refers to Bombay’s corrupt politicians from the eighties.
Watch comedy scene from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro here:
Mr India (1987)
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Stars: Anil Kapoor, Sri Devi, Amrish Puri, Satish Kaushik, Ashok Kumar
Mr India is a sci-fi superhero film about a vulnerable Arun Verma (Anil Kapoor) who obtains his father’s invisible formula from Professor Sinha (Ashok Kumar).
After becoming Mr India, he defeats the blond Nazi-style villain Mogambo (late Amri Puri) and his cronies, Daaga (Sharat Saxena) and Teja (late Ajit Vachani), courtesy of the gadget.
With Arun looking after several orphans, he finds reporter Seema Soni (late Sri Devi) as a tenant for his house. Seema dislikes kids, but eventually makes friends with Arun’s adopted children and cook Calendar (Satish Kaushik)
The film features celebrities Ahmed Khan and Aftab Shivdasani as child actors.
Seema also falls in love with Mr India not knowing who he really is and also convinces her boss Mr Gaitonde (Anny Kapoor) about him.
Seema performs to the famous song ‘Hawa Hawai’ and imitates Charlie Chaplin in a scene too.
Watch a funny invisible clip from Mr India here:
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)
Director: Mansoor Khan
Stars: Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla, Ravindra Kapoor, Dalip Tahil, Alok Nath, Raj Zutshi
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is a sparkling teen romance that takes a leaf out of Romeo and Juliet (1595) by William Shakespeare.
The film unfolds when Raj’s father Dhanraj Singh (Dalip Tahil) kills Rashmi’s uncle Dharampal Singh (Ravindra Kapoor).
Dhanraj murders Dharampal because he impregnates his sister Madhumati (Seema Vaz) and then refuses to marry her. Madhumati kills herself as a result.
Consequently, Dhanraj is sent to prison. After serving his sentence he joins his family who has a flourishing business.
Meanwhile, during a private visit Raj (Aamir Khan) catches the attention of Rashmi (Juhi Chawla) at a wedding and falls in love with her.
The two meet again holidaying in Mount Abu, India and express their love, despite their families being enemies of each other.
Raj and Rashmi run away when latter’s father, Randhir Singh (Goga Kapoor) comes to know about their relationship.
Making a home for themselves in a forest, the couple seems happy together.
On the other hand, Randhir assigns a contract killer to murder Raj. But when both families go looking for them, Randhir’s goons shoot Rashmi twice.
After overpowering the gangsters, Raj commits suicide by stabbing himself with a dagger.
The film finishes, with both families heading to Raj and Rashmi who lie dead together amongst the sunset behind.
‘Ghazab Ka Hai Din’ and ‘Ae Mere Humsafar’ are popular tracks from this cult film.
Watch a best scene from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak here:
Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)
Director: Sooraj Barjatya
Stars: Salman Khan, Bhagyashree, Alok Nath, Rajiv Verma, Reema Lagoo, Ajit Vachani, Mohnish Behl, Laxmikant Berde
Maine Pyar Kiya is a musical film, reflecting the romance between a rich boy with a poor girl.
Prem Choudhary (Salman Khan) who is the son of businessman Kishan Kumar Choudhary falls in love with Suman (Bhagyashree), daughter of small-time mechanic Karan (Alok Nath).
Karan leaves Suman at Kishan’s house as he has to travel overseas for his business.
Kishan and his business partner Ranjeet (late Ajit Vachani), along with his son Jeevan, create obstacles in the way of the two love birds.
Prem’s mother approves her son’s choice but has no credible say on the matter.
Upon Karan’s return, Kishan accuses him of leaving his daughter to try and woo his son. Following the humiliation, Karan and Suman return back to their village in the country.
Not happy about being away from Suman, Prem follows them in pursuit of his love.
Karan who still is furious by the accusations of Kishan, tells Prem that he can only marry his daughter if he earns money by working and living separately.
With sheer grit and determination, Prem toils away and earns some money. Even though Jeevan and his henchmen try to kill Prem, he survives.
Prem pleads with Karan who eventually feels sorry for him and agrees to give his daughter away.
The climax of the film sees Prem, Karan and Kishan joining hands to save Suman from the evil Jeevan.
With Karan and Kishan reuniting as friends again, Prem and Suman marry.
Watch a scene from Maine Pyar Kiya here:
So there we have it, 10 best Bollywood films from the eighties period.
Some of the other great Bollywood films that we had to leave out include Karz (1980) Naseeb (1981), Arth (1982), Satte Pe Satta (1981), Woh Saat Din (1983) Hero (1983), Saagar (1985), Karma (1986) and Khoon Bari Maang (1988).
So if you are a fan of Bollywood films, and have missed any of the movies from our list, watch them on some of the digital platforms available online.