As always, before we dive into the best Hindi movies of 2023, let’s take a look back at the year that was. After the Boycott trend died down, everyone was eager to see the return of Shah Rukh Khan. The Bollywood star hasn’t had a film playing in theatres for almost five years, and the pressure to prove his haters wrong was immense. However, no one could anticipate that the actor, who didn’t just have one but three releases in 2023, would literally take the Box Office by storm

While things like the Box Office hardly matter to someone like me, I can’t look at 2023 without discussing the kind of money that was minted by the Bollywood fraternity. Movies like Jawan, Pathaan, Animal, and Gadar 2 were unstoppable, and for once, it was great to see people flocking back to the cinemas after being glued to their favorite OTT platforms.

Another important point of discussion, of course, was Bollywood bowing down to the propaganda of the central government. While there wasn’t a huge mega-hit like the vile Kashmir Files, movies like The Kerela Story were able to brainwash a large section of society into believing fiction as fact – treading the fine line between cinema that educates and cinema that manipulates.

Talking about problems in the way cinema is presented, Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s newest film after Arjun Reddy (and its many remakes) met with a similar response. Animal, which has polar opposite responses from film fanatics, was another big talking point. While I wasn’t offended by the film like Kabir Singh, I still do not feel it’s a great film that should be celebrated in any way. 

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Now, coming to the best Hindi movies of 2023, I have to say that this was another low point for Bollywood after the slight improvement in quality in 2022. The movies did not leave a lasting impact, and many of them did not even bother to. Half of the movies that have made it to the list of best of Hindi cinema in 2023 are only here to satiate the algorithm. However, like a year ritual, I’d like to mention a few films that you might wanna check out apart from the ones mentioned here nonetheless. 

First up, Vijay Krishna Acharya’s ‘The Great Indian Family’ which tries to battle the Islamophobia growing rampant in the country right now with a story about a religious Hindu man suddenly coming to the info that he was born Muslim. 

Shubham Yogi’s Kacchey Limbu – a gentle coming-of-age tale about a young, clueless girl who embarks on a journey to win against her own brother in a gully cricket competition after one of her many decisions in life is questioned again. 

And Shudhir Mishra’s bold new thriller ‘Afwaah’ – which does the audacious task of calling out the government on their many scheming and desperate measures that they are using to provoke and disrupt the citizens of the country. 

10. Tu Jhoothi main Makkar

Before people take off their knives and slash me left and right, one of the only reasons the film has found its way to this list is because it is funny as hell. Rom-coms have not worked for a while in mainstream Bollywood movies, especially the ones where the initial attraction between the boy and the girl is entirely transactional. So, what Luv Ranjan does with Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar feels like an interesting entry point. 

This is a film where you are always aware that the man will have his way in typical Ranjan fashion. But the way the film keeps the push and pull going, in spite of reaching a certain threshold, is commendable. The fast-talking, overtly unapologetic characters feel like they have the character depth of an animal, but the way Ranjan creates situations where they can’t escape themselves makes this a really entertaining and engaging watch. 

Watch Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar on Netflix

9. Satyaprem Ki Katha

I give Satyaprem Ki Katha brownie points just because it doesn’t push some kind of traditional Sanskari idea of how men and women should be in the garb of progressiveness. I also give it points for tackling such a topic with dignity and sensitivity instead of making a joke out of it. I give it points for believing and understanding that every single issue in society can only be dealt with with a little ‘empathy.’ And since I have already given it so many points, I forgive it for its male-savior narrative when it is a story of a girl and her plight to stand up for her truth.

In a country where women have to ‘ask’ for everything – even the choices they make about their own bodies, Satyaprem Ki Katha is a film that understands the need to speak up loudly about one of the gravest issues that plague us as a society. If it forces even a single parent to take their girl child and their truths seriously, we will not have so many criminals roaming around free just because respect in society becomes superior to some. 

Watch Satyaprem ki Katha on Prime Video

8. Gulmohar

Dysfunctional family dramas are great fodder for understanding the complexities and the range of human emotions. Rahul V. Chittella’s Gulmohar works because it approaches its characters with a sense of understanding instead of introspection. Like a reworking of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, Gulmohar uses an event in a family’s life to open up the past, present, and future for debate. 

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Featuring the return of the legendary Sharmila Tagore, the film wobbles towards the end, but for a large section of this chamber piece, these people feel like extensions of our bodies or the bodies that have been closer to us from the time we were born. It is a great story told with the conviction of a first handler, but there are sparks of greatness, and for that alone, I wish Chitella would make more movies in the future. 

Watch Gulmohar on Disney+Hotstar

7. Bheed

Best Hindi Movies of 2023 - Bheed

After the tone-deaf accident of Anek, Anubhav Sinha sort of redeems himself with another politically charged and angry movie. Since this is about a time that still haunts most of us, plodding the narrative toward an eventual explosion is the right approach to tackle a time of unanimous uncertainty. 

Dealing with most of the issues we are facing right now, the black-and-white nature of the film is apt because it recounts a page out of history. A page in our policemaker’s books that they simply can’t erase. A page that tells us about their ability to not just isolate the poor but also their inability to tackle a situation with the care and interest it deserves. 

In a way, Bheed points at the people who make a crowd and run the wheel around, but it also shows that the privilege that others enjoy dabbles on a very thin line. Kindness and unity would stand any storm and Bheed makes sure it points that out for everyone.

Watch Bheed on Netflix

6. Joram

Best Hindi Movies of 2023 - Joram

All Devashish Makhija films (Ajji & Bhonsle in particular) are fuelled by a sense of revenge. Whether it is hitting back at the system that failed us or the bigots who find refuge within the humongous cracks in the system. 

With Joram, he creates three characters who have been failed by the many changes falling upon them due to the supposed ‘urbanization’ of modern India. So, their motifs are ruled by a sense of desperation and not to gain something that is missing in their lives. 

This brings out a social drama film that is essentially one long chase sequence – a survival thriller if you will. While the characters here feel a tad bit underdeveloped, the film never loses sight of Makhija’s powerful, affecting storytelling beats. Joram is definitely one of the most underrated Hindi movies of 2023, if not the best. 

Joram will be available on Zee5 soon

5. Mast Main Rehne Ka

Best Hindi Movies of 2023 - Mast Main Rehen Ka

Mumbai is a city that we have romanticized for so long that movies tending to evoke a sense of genuine conflict in the city’s maximum output end up standing out. Actor Vijay Maurya helms the director’s chair in Mast Mein Rehne Ka and turns our head towards the other half of Mumbai – the half that is constantly trying to survive in the crowd. The film, however, also manages to take a closer look at those isolated within the crowd and the loneliness of living in one of the most happening cities in the world.  

Mast Main Rehne Ka distills its cultural specificity without hiding the cracks within the system. Most of the conflict in the film comes up due to money, but being abandoned by the fast-moving modern world is yet another hurdle that the four main characters in the film need to dislodge. What we have as a result is a pretty honest and charming film about sticking together and having a good laugh whenever you can. 

Watch Mast Main Rehne Ka on Prime Video

4. Kho Gaye Hum Kahan

Every decade needs an update on what really dictates the dynamics that young people share with each other. Now that social media has become such an essential commodity in our lives, stories about the young cannot be told without actually indirectly showing its impact on them. The good thing about Arjun Varain Singh’s debut film Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is that it takes a look at the life of three friends whose bonds extend beyond the internet. But since a major chunk of their wishes, needs, and dreams are earmarked through it, the change cannot be shown without its absence. 

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So, in spite of its South-Bombay-Soho-House-Layed-Back-and-Hip vibe, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan has a multitude of genuine moments of warmth and observations that make you feel seen. Since the film eventually boils down to the value of truth, the well-rounded and honest performances by Ananya Pandey, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Adarsh Gourav help navigate you through some of its preachiness, making it one of the best Hindi movies of 2023.  

Watch Kho Gaye Hum Kahan on Netflix

3. Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani

Hindi movies of 2023 - RARKPK

If you had asked me a year back, I would have comfortably said that a movie like Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani would never end up on my year-end list. I have been disappointed by mainstream Bollywood cinema for so long that I have stopped expecting anything from them. Therefore, when Karan Johar’s Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani roared into cinemas, I avoided the initial pull. However, when I finally saw it, I couldn’t help but be enamored by it. Johar brings back the silly, over-the-top, traditional family melodrama to the silver screen in a thundering reworking of all his own tropes

Unlike Sandeep Reddy Vanga, whose way of silencing his critics is by provocation, Johar and his team of writers carefully construct a true blue love story that is both sensitive to all its characters and, at the same time, a major mirror-showing moment for those who have been stuck in a time warp (including Johar himself) and refuse to let go off traditions because they were told to. It does preach a bit, but preachy is what we need when it comes to stories that hit so close to home. 

Watch Rocky aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani on Prime Video

2. 12th Fail

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 12th Fail has all the possible cliches you might find in an underdog story. TVF has presented the stories of education institute aspirants in all possible ways, and no one would have thought that anyone else would dare break that mold. Chopra’s film doesn’t break the mold either; it just rids the TVF narratives of nostalgia bait and presents a truly inspiring and authentic tale of one man dreaming bigger than what his head, heart, and pocket would allow him to.

The result is one of the best Hindi movies of 2023 and one of the greatest performances we have seen in Hindi cinema for a while. Since Manoj, the protagonist of 12th Fail, is far away from things like competition, his tryst feels very personal. He just wants to get to a place where he no longer has to be dishonest in any way. This is such a pure and pious conflict that when the eventuality actually happens, you celebrate with him.

12th Fail is a celebration of a man willing to bring his dream to reality by working for it. And for that alone, you need to see it. 

Watch 12th Fail on Disney+Hotstar

1. Three of Us

In a year where big stories made big bucks, the best of them all was a little film that somehow managed to get a release in theatres. The fact that Avinash Arun’s Three of Us got released, albeit in a limited capacity, makes me giddy because it comes with the realization that people want to see such stories, and even though opposing forces will always be there, no one can put a stop to them. 

Three of Us, in all its static beauty, is a moving and meditative ode to the stillness of life and the act of grasping that with one last look. Following a woman who has just recognized early symptoms of dementia hitting her, the poetic story takes her on a journey of closure as we walk along with her.

Memory is such a powerful thing that we often undermine it because we move so fast in life. A film like this tells us to stop for a second and look within and beyond because everything that we have experienced in our lives has been unique. It is a lyrical film that understands the root of humane feelings and, in some way, allows us to relive it. 

Watch Three of Us on Netflix

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