(Updated: April 10, 2021) Here’s our pick of the 13 best Bollywood thrillers on Netflix. These films build tension, get the milieu right and engage audiences like any good thriller knows how to.
Best Bollywood Thrillers On Netflix
1. Raat Akeli Hai (2020)
Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte in lead roles, Raat Akeli Hai creates a semblance of an offbeat crossover between Sacred Games’ and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Despite being an intense murder mystery, the film is not without emotionality. The makers ensure the film is not just reduced to a chase story full of blood and gore; they embed it with humanity. This, coupled with the taut storytelling accentuates the overall viewing experience.
2. Ludo (2020)
You’re constantly reminded of Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Tamil feature ‘Super Deluxe’ which plays on a similar terrain (and a genre rarely well explored in Bollywood). But this multi-narrative dark comedy thriller holds its own, thanks to taut storytelling, particularly in the first half and and an incredible ensemble cast including Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Bachchan. A stretched out second half impacts the overall pace but Anurag Basu’s ‘Ludo’ is still a riveting watch.
3. Badla (2019)
An adaptation of the Spanish thriller ‘The Invisible Guest’ starring Amitabh Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu, ‘Badla‘ is a a riveting, briskly-paced murder mystery. Director Sujoy Ghosh creates tension right at the outset demanding viewers’ attention and draws you right in. Just when you know you have it all sorted, the film throws you for a loop. It keeps you busy and guessing all along as the cat-and-mouse story unfolds.
Ghosh likes his stories and characters rooted in a believable world. The places not only lend credibility but assume a character of their own in his films. Shot in Glasgow, Scotland, the city aids the general mood of the film — dark, grim, mysterious. Avik Mukhopadhyay’s superlative cinematography adds context to the setting. Together, they get the milieu and atmospherics just right.
4. Kahaani (2012)
‘Kahaani’ is a gripping mystery thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow a woman in search of her husband, all traces of whom have mysteriously vanished from existence.
For a thriller, Sujoy Ghosh knows how to use the milieu and settings just right. The city is almost another character in the film. ‘Kahaani’ is sure to shock you with its clever twists and turns, never underestimating its audience.
5. Udta Punjab (2016)
In an industry swarmed with lacklustre content, Abhishek Chaubey’s ‘Udta Punjab’ shines with an edgy take on a bold, controversial subject. Drug abuse has plagued Punjab for years now. The film brings to the fore its impact on the youth; the involvement or rather the facilitation of its use — from the powers that be to the law enforcement agencies.
6. Gurgaon (2017)
‘Gurgaon’ is one of the best noir films to come out in the year 2017. The daughter of a real estate tycoon gets kidnapped by her own brother. The family tries to track her down but in doing so, they uncover many secrets and everything goes downhill. A well-scripted, narrated thriller, ‘Gurgaon’ keeps you involved throughout its runtime.
7. Haider (2014)
This one is, arguably, Vishal Bhardwaj’s finest and one of the most powerful political films to come out of Bollywood. A modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘Haider’ is a story of revenge and retribution, love for one’s land and love in general. Among the essential films on Kashmir issue, it is marked by what is, perhaps, Shahid Kapoor’s best performance ever. The film dares to raise political issues, explores them in great detail while keeping viewers entertained, which is no mean feat. A cinematic masterpiece, ‘Haider’ is in our list of the 50 must watch Bollywood movies of the 21st century.
8. Article 15 (2019)
‘Article 15’ is a bold, fearless attempt at depicting the grim reality of 21st century India. A fiercely intense and nuanced portrait of a country blinded by its prejudices and hypocritical leanings. It was a much-needed film and so relevant for our times. The socio-political issues couldn’t get any closer to reality. So does the treatment of the film.
‘Article 15’ is brutal and hard-hitting. The performances only add to it. Ayushmann Khurana’s restrained act seethes with unflinching resolve. Sayani Gupta is a revelation. Zeeshan Ayyub’s is a brief but class act. The supporting cast rounds it out to perfection.
9. Pink (2016)
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s social thriller is a well-intentioned and well-realised film. It takes you by the scruff of the neck, immerses you into its reality and shakes you up in the process. The film questions our mindsets more than our morals. Who defines what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s permissible, what’s not, what’s acceptable, what’s not?
A message long overdue to be told, ‘Pink’ highlights everything that is wrong with us as a society sans the sermonising.
10. Andhadhun (2018)
There isn’t a dull or wasted moment in this cleverly crafted, briskly-paced thriller. Veteran Sriram Raghavan knows how to keep his viewers engaged. And he does it without resorting to cheap contrivances and manipulation. A solid script brought alive brilliantly on screen, ‘Andhadhun‘ seals the deal with spectacular performances. Delivering two major hits in a single year in two extremely contrasting genres (thriller and comedy), the everyman and very versatile Ayushmann Khurana turns in one of the strongest performances of 2018. It’s one of the best Hindi thrillers on Netflix.
11. Delhi Crime (2019) – web series
Richie Mehta delves into this horrendous crime with tremendous empathy and restraint, and without any voyeurism. In fact, the crime is not recreated at all and the series focuses on how Delhi Police launched a massive counteroffensive, despite limited tools, to nab the perpetrators in just five days. It’s not a paean to the often overworked and understaffed police force but brings out their perspective well. All the lead actors, masters of their craft, have performed with integrity and control. Shefali Shah excels!
The series is gut-wrenching and soul-destroying in parts, and deeply disturbing. There’s no melodrama or hysterics but viewer discretion is advised.
12. Talvar (2015)
Talvar is based on the investigations and the subsequent court pronouncements of the infamous 2008 double murder case of Noida which shocked and made voyeurs out of the average Indian TV viewers. Understated storytelling aside, what makes Talvar possibly more significant is that it could arguably be rated as Hindi cinema’s best police procedural. One of our cinema’s best attempt in the recent past at realism within the ambits of mainstream conventions, a film like Talvar would be hard to surpass in the years to come. (Read our review of Talvar by Suryadipta Guha)
13. Black Friday (2004)
Based on Hussain Zaidi’s book, Anurag Kashyap’s gritty drama revolves around the infamous 1993 Bombay blasts. They left hundreds dead and thousands injured.
The ruthless explosions were adjudged as retaliation for communal violence in Bombay against Muslims during December 1992 and January 1993.
The narrative focuses on inspector Rakesh Maria’s police task force, formed after the bombing. Considering the highly charged subject matter, the film was banned (lifted after 20 months). While Kashyap condemns the action of the terrorists, he doesn’t present a pretty picture of the overzealous police officers. He’s critical of both sides in the unceasing Hindu-Muslim conflicts.
Kashyap and cinematographer Natarajan Subramaniam’s saturation of heavy brown and red color tones added a lot to the film’s gritty realism. The film’s unwieldy and editorializing structure may prove exhausting for some viewers.
However, its propulsive and potent commentary never gets diluted.
There we are! These are, what we think, some of the best Bollywood thrillers on Netflix. Which are your #Top3. Let’s talk in the comments below.