Top 38 Women Centric Bollywood Movies every Feminist Must Watch

It is not entirely false that our cinema dictates our lifestyle. Whether it is the fashion sense that we easily follow or the dialogues that we deliver with a flair; whether the gush of patriotism after watching Uri or the horror of a movie “based on a true story”, Indian cinema shapes our mindset. But how often it allows a deviation from cute heroes expressing their undying, unrequited love to a girl, with super cheesy dialogues and winning their hearts by their formidable acting skills? Sometimes? Yes. How often is the woman a hero in the books of Indians fighting her way through without getting a whistle? Sometimes? Yes. How often does a woman express her opinions in words rather than smiles, smirks and furrowed brows? Sometimes? Yes. Here, we bring you our sometimes to see the contribution of Indian Cinema.

Mother India (1957)

A movie none like any other, Mother India never needed a review or recommendation. A poverty-stricken, socially abused widow raising her two sons and not even hesitating to kill her own son when it came to her morals, this movie is the very first in the line of women-centric movies.

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Chak De! India (2007)

Kabir Khan, a former hockey player, lost his reputation in the society when he was wrongly framed after a lost match against Pakistan. The journey though is not his story but of the female hockey team that was under-dogged into the society with the statement that “Yeh chakla-belan chalane wali kya hockey stick chalayengi?” The movie revolves around 16 national level women hockey players who are fighting their inner as well as the societal demons.

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Raazi (2018)

On the surface, a quiet film, Raazi is the journey of a young girl through family, patriotism and honour. Sehmat. A Kashmiri college girl is sent off behind enemy lines as a spy in disguise, married into a Pakistani military family. She trades intelligence secrets to Indian spy agency RAW while keeping her true motives hidden. The film is nuanced and nationalistic without being in-the-face. Based on the book Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka, this spy thriller is less of explosives but keeps the storyline on the edge with its constant lingering tension.

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Kahaani (2012)

A pregnant woman in search of her lost husband on a foreign land, where everyone is denying his sole existence. The story line of Kahaani is extremely gripping along with stating the fact that a woman is unstoppable when she is onto something.

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Parched (2015)

The story is set in a small village of Rajasthan. Parched revolves around the lives of four women facing different issues related to patriarchy, misogyny, misconduct and emotional, social, as well as sexual exploitation. It takes us into disturbing territory with its good storytelling, real-life social situations and most importantly how women slap back when it becomes more than enough. The movie aptly says “Mard banna chod pehle insaan banna seekh.”

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Queen (2013)

Rani sets out on a solo honeymoon after her fiance cancels the wedding just before the wedding day on the pretext of no longer finding her compatible. A small town girl in the big city of Paris, meeting new people, gaining new perspective and most importantly leaving behind the negativity teaches us what life is all about.

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Pink (2016)

Three young women living an independent life are being questioned about their morality in a courtroom even when they are the victims. A girl living away from family, another in a relationship with an older man, and a northeastern girl; that becomes the parameter of judging their characters. Depicting the double-faced urban modern society, the movie with its powerful dialogues leaves a deep-rooted effect on our mindset. In a country where “ghadi ki sui, venue, and independence decide character”, Pink plays a marvellous role in depicting that “no means no, and when someone says no, you stop.”

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Mardaani (2014)

Shivani Shivaji Roy, an inspector of crime branch of Mumbai police, is faced with a situation when a girl, Pyaari, she previously rescued is kidnapped. She fights valiantly to track the mastermind behind a child and sex trafficking mafia. Karan, the mastermind attempts some spine chilling threats on Shivani and yet the latter finally tracks him down. Karan humiliates her on being weak because she is a woman, she fights back. Narrating a story of a woman with vigilance and will, makes the Indian Cinema sometimes stand out.

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Lajja (2001)

Four women who refuse to accept tyranny at the hands of the society fight against male chauvinism. The movie starts with a pregnant Vaidehi running away from her abusive husband. On her way, she meets Maithaili and Janki who brave up against the world and refuse to be dominated by the ill society finally landing in a village where a local leader Gajendra has been exploiting the village women. A series of gut-wrenching incidents which include the rape of a midwife named Ramdullari before being burnt alive take place and Vaidehi finally takes up the task on speaking on the behalf of all women calling Gajendra a rapist, fraud and harm to the society. Her speech when she screams out “Aati hai Lajja (Shame)!” shows us the reality of the abuse women face in the society.

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7 Khoon Maaf (2011)

Ruskin Bond’s short story, Susanna’s Seven Husbands inspire this film. The story is narrated by Varun who knew Susanna since childhood and is devastated to learn something shocking about her. He tells his wife how grateful he is to Susanna for funding his education and looking out for him. But there’s a flipside of Susanna, she has had 6 husbands and every time she left them, they died under suspicious circumstances. Varun’s wife listens intently as he narrates her life story.

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Ishqiya (2010)

Ishqiya, set against the backdrop of the Uttar Pradesh criminal world, is the story of two rogue goons, Khalujan and Babban. They arrive at Krishna’s doorstep in order to seek refuge from their boss, who in turn decides to use them for her own benefit. She seduces them and convinces them into helping her achieve her personal goal of finding her husband.

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The Dirty Picture (2011)

Reshma is an ordinary girl from a rural village with extraordinary dreams of becoming one of the biggest stars the South of India has ever witnessed. Her love for films allows her to break free from poverty and try for roles, but she fails at first. Her ordinary appearance stops her from achieving big roles but she manages to get background roles and soon becomes a symbol of attraction in the theatres. Over time, Reshma becomes a huge success, eventually working with big stars and attaining a lot of fame. The movie then progresses by showing how she deals with the hurdles presented to her in the male-dominated film industry.

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Dangal (2016)

Based on the true story of the two Phogat wrestlers whose father proudly said “Mhari choriya choro se kam hai ke”, Geeta and Babita not only fight in the ring but the societal stereotypes. This story proved us how children whose parents support them and help them fight the stereotypes of the world, make them feel proud. From the local dangal to wrestling for the country in Commonwealth Games, Geeta and Babita show that women are incapable of nothing.

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Dor (2006)

Destiny, more like tragedies links two women together who are miles apart. Zeenat who’s husband accidentally kills a man in Dubai, moves to claim a signed accord from Meera, the wife of the man killed. Friendship, fate and fear woven into a story, Dor is a beautifully picturised story.

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Fashion (2008)

The price sometimes a girl has to pay (and sometimes willingly pays) to make her dreams in the fashion world to come true are harsh. Meghna Mathur, an aspiring model moves to Mumbai to take care of her dreams and is faced with choices. A story woven within the reality existing in the fashion industry, and the abuse of power and status (and drugs), Fashion (another of Madhur Bhandarkar’s masterpiece) has a brilliant storyline.

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Gulab Gang (2014)

A rose hued gang of activists and vigilantes are lead by a strong headed woman named Rajjo. The gang fights social injustice and politics, and an evil, greedy female politician after which Rajjo finally realizes that all she needs in her life is that she uplift the society,

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Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)

From the crowded streets of Bhopal, four women fight different battles to find solace after they decide to live their lives on their own terms.

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No One Killed Jessica (2011)

The film is based on the real-life murder case of model Jessica Lal who was shot dead by Manish, the son of an influential politician. Sabrina fights for justice to her deceased sister for seven years, only to be disheartened by the acquittal of the Manish. Meera, an investigative journalist, gets fascinated by the case and discovers a conspiracy in the legal system that leads to the acquittal of the murderers. Meera wants Sabrina to revive her spirit and fight for Jessica once again.  

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Tumhari Sulu (2017)

Tumhari Sulu is a light hearted movie of Sulochana (aka Sulu) who is a loving housewife in the day and a passionate radio jockey by the nights. The story of a woman who is enthusiastic about her life brings a fresh change in the theme of the women centric movies.

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Naam Shabana (2017)

Shabana is our routine karate kid with a scarred past. A boy hopelessly in love with her is accidentally murdered by the son of a politician and that is when a secret intelligence agency intervenes to help her take revenge, in turn, sacrificing herself for the best of the nation. A sort of prequel to the action-packed movie Baby, Naam Shabana revolves around the life of women upping to revenge for a love she didn’t get a chance to express.

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Bandit Queen

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Margarita with a straw

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Highway (2014)

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Neerja (2016)

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Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

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Arth (1982)

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Nil Battey Sannata (2015)

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Naam hai Akira (2016)

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Mom (2017)

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Mary Kom (2014)

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Calendar Girls (2015)

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Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019)

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Chandni Bar (2001)

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Page 3 (2005)

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Heroine (2012)

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Super Nani (2015)

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English Vinglish (2012)

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Now that your bucket is packed with quite many movies that show the fierceness of the women and challenge your story ideals, grab a tub of popcorn and start watching!

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Laxitha Mundhra

Laxitha is a content creator at FlickZee. A management student, reader, movie buff and a couch potato by day, and a writer by night. Coffee keeps her awake and she is introverted. Try finding her on Instagram and Facebook. But a word of caution: Don't get her started on Harry Potter and MCU.