There’s nothing quite like a good documentary, especially when it’s about Bollywood!
That’s right: we’re talking about the best Bollywood documentaries you can stream on your couch and watch as you wait for your friends to arrive for the next big party.
From film to food, from politics to religion—these documentaries will take you deep into the heart of Indian culture.
So sit back and enjoy this list of 19 best Bollywood documentary movies of all time!
19 Best Bollywood Documentary Movies of All Time
1. India’s Daughter (2015)
- Director: Leslee Udwin
The documentary India’s Daughter, directed by Leslee Udwin, is a powerful film about the brutal 2012 gang rape in Delhi. Through interviews with the victim’s family, the convicts, and experts, the film sheds light on the prevailing mindset and deep-rooted societal issues related to gender violence in India. With its unflinching portrayal of the incident and thought-provoking narratives, India’s Daughter sparks a crucial conversation about women’s safety, equality, and the urgent need for change in society.
2. Supermen of Malegaon (2008)
- Director: Faiza Ahmad Khan
Supermen of Malegaon, directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan, is a heartwarming and humorous documentary that takes us on a journey to Malegaon, a small town in Maharashtra known for its passionate filmmakers. The film shows how a group of amateurs can make an excellent superhero movie with limited resources. It showcases their dreams, struggles, and the incredible camaraderie that emerges during the filmmaking process. With its endearing characters and genuine moments of laughter and inspiration, Supermen of Malegaon celebrates the power of imagination and the indomitable spirit of pursuing one’s dreams.
3. The World Before Her (2012)
- Director: Nisha Pahuja
The World Before Her, directed by Nisha Pahuja, follows the lives of two young women in India—a beauty pageant contestant and a militant Hindu nationalist. Through their personal journeys, the film explores the contrasting ideologies and societal pressures that shape their lives. With intimate interviews and compelling storytelling, The World Before Her raises important questions about gender, identity, tradition, and modernity in contemporary India. It challenges conventional narratives and provides a nuanced exploration of the complex realities faced by women in a rapidly changing society.
4. Fire in the Blood (2013)
- Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Fire in the Blood, a documentary directed by Dylan Mohan Gray, tells the story of how Western drug companies reap huge profits from people who need medicine and are unable to afford it. Through interviews with activists, doctors, and patients, the film reveals the ruthless business practices and patent laws that prioritize profits over human lives. It highlights the courageous efforts of individuals and organizations fighting for affordable access to essential medicines. With its compelling narrative and eye-opening revelations, Fire in the Blood shines a light on a pressing global issue and advocates for justice and equality in healthcare.
5. Gulabi Gang (2012)
- Director: Nishtha Jain
Directed by Nishtha Jain, Gulabi Gang is a riveting documentary that follows the extraordinary story of Sampat Pal and her fearless group of women activists in Uttar Pradesh, India. The film showcases their fight against gender-based violence, caste discrimination, and corruption. With their distinctive pink sarees and sticks, the Gulabi Gang challenges societal norms and empowers women to stand up for their rights. Through intimate interviews and captivating visuals, Gulabi Gang offers a glimpse into the lives of these inspiring women and their unwavering determination to create a more just and equal society.
6. An Insignificant Man (2016)
- Directors: Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla
The documentary Insignificant Man, directed by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, tells the real-time story of how Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal came to prominence as a politician in India. The film gives viewers a behind–the-scenes look at the party’s highs and lows, along with its strategy for success. It provides a captivating insider’s view of Indian politics, grassroots activism, and the pursuit of change. An Insignificant Man offers a compelling narrative of hope, idealism, and the complexities of democratic processes.
7. Mughal-e-Azam: A Tribute to Love (2004)
- Director: K. Asif
Directed by K. Asif, Mughal-e-Azam: A Tribute to Love is a timeless classic that showcases the epic love story of Prince Salim and Anarkali in the backdrop of the Mughal era. The film boasts a stellar cast, including Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, and Prithviraj Kapoor, and mesmerizes audiences with its grandeur, lavish sets, and memorable music. Mughal-e-Azam is not only a cinematic masterpiece but also a cultural landmark that celebrates the richness of Indian history and showcases the power of love against all odds. With its captivating performances and visually stunning scenes, the film continues to enchant audiences for generations.
8. The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye (2020)
- Director: Kabir Khan
The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye, directed by Kabir Khan, is a riveting docudrama that brings to life the untold story of the Indian National Army (INA) and its struggle for independence during World War II. The series follows the journey of Lieutenant Sodhi and a group of freedom fighters as they battle against the British Raj. With its compelling storytelling, authentic performances, and breathtaking war sequences, The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye pays tribute to the forgotten heroes who fought for India’s freedom. It sheds light on a significant chapter in Indian history and evokes a sense of patriotism and pride.
9. The Bengali Detective (2011)
- Director: Philip Cox
Directed by Philip Cox, The Bengali Detective is a captivating documentary that takes us into the intriguing world of private detective Rajesh Ji and his detective agency in Kolkata. The film follows Rajesh Ji and his team as they tackle a variety of cases, from cheating spouses to counterfeit cosmetics. The Bengali Detective combines elements of mystery and humor with thoughtful commentary about modern-day India. It explores themes of love, dreams, and the complexities of urban life in modern India.
10. The Yes Men Fix the World (2009)
- Directors: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno
The Yes Men Fix the World, directed by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, is a satirical and thought-provoking documentary that follows the exploits of activist duo Andy and Mike. Through their elaborate pranks and impersonations, they expose corporate greed, political corruption, and environmental destruction. The film jabs at the powers that be, and urges us to change course before we completely destroy our planet. The Yes Men Fix the World serves as a reminder that ordinary individuals can make a difference by questioning authority and taking unconventional approaches to bring about change.
11. Jai Bhim Comrade (2011)
- Director: Anand Patwardhan
Jai Bhim Comrade, directed by Anand Patwardhan, is a documentary that explores the struggle of India’s Dalit community for social justice and equality. The film explores the lives of individuals, their stories of oppression, and the resistance they face in a deeply entrenched caste system. Through stirring interviews, stirring music, and evocative visuals, Jai Bhim Comrade sheds light on the ongoing battle for Dalit rights and the resilience of those fighting for change. It is a poignant and eye-opening exploration of caste discrimination and the fight for human dignity.
12. The Battle of Banaras (2014)
- Director: Kamal Swaroop
The Battle of Banaras, directed by Kamal Swaroop, is a fascinating political documentary that captures the high-stakes electoral battle between heavyweight politicians in the historic city of Banaras. The film gives us an inside look into the intense campaigning, heated debates and behind-the scenes strategies employed by candidates. With its raw and candid footage, The Battle of Banaras offers a glimpse into the world of Indian politics and the complexities of democratic elections.
13. Riding Solo to the Top of the World (2006)
- Director: Gaurav Jani
A breathtaking adventure-documentary, Riding Solo to the Top of the World chronicles secondhand motorcycle dealer Gaurav Jani’s journey across Himalayan terrain. The film reveals the challenges faced by the filmmaker, as well as moments of self-discovery along the way.
14. The Great Indian School Show (2010)
- Director: Avinash Deshpande
The Great Indian School Show is a documentary about children, teachers, and parents within the Indian education system. The film highlights the pressures, expectations, and challenges students face as they navigate a competitive academic environment. Through heartfelt interviews and compelling narratives, The Great Indian School Show examines the impact of rote learning, the pursuit of academic success, and the broader implications on the well-being and creativity of students. It raises important questions about alternative approaches to education and the need for holistic development.
15. I Am (2010)
- Director: Onir
I Am, directed by Onir, is an anthology of four interconnected stories that explore themes of identity, sexual orientation, societal prejudices, and personal redemption. The film delves into the lives of individuals dealing with their own fears, desires, and struggles. With its heartfelt performances, sensitive storytelling, and evocative music, I Am offers a deeply moving and thought-provoking cinematic experience. It challenges social norms, advocates for inclusivity and acceptance, and highlights the power of personal narratives in shaping our understanding of ourselves and others. I Am is a poignant and introspective exploration of human emotions and the complexity of relationships.
16. Celluloid Man (2012)
- Director: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Celluloid Man, directed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, is a captivating documentary that pays homage to the life and work of P.K. Nair, the founder of the National Film Archive of India. The film chronicles Nair’s relentless efforts to preserve and restore India’s rich cinematic heritage, highlighting his passion for film and his invaluable contributions to film preservation.
17. The Rat Race (2010)
- Director: Miriam Chandy Menacherry
The Rat Race, directed by Miriam Chandy Menacherry, is a captivating documentary that explores the lives of a group of street children in Kolkata, India. The film follows the daily struggles, dreams, and resilience of these children as they navigate the harsh realities of poverty and marginalization. Through intimate interviews and poignant moments, The Rat Race sheds light on the societal issues of child labor, homelessness, and the exploitation faced by vulnerable communities. It challenges viewers to confront the inequalities and systemic challenges that perpetuate the cycle of poverty, while also highlighting the indomitable spirit and determination of these young individuals.
18. The Argumentative Indian (2017)
- Director: Suman Ghosh
The Argumentative Indian, directed by Suman Ghosh, is a thought-provoking documentary that explores the intellectual journey and ideas of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. The film provides an intimate portrait of Sen, capturing his reflections on democracy, secularism, and the role of public intellectuals in society. The Argumentative Indian, through conversations and interviews with scholars of diverse backgrounds, explores the complexities of what it means to be Indian in a global culture. It explores the impact of ideas, critical thinking and knowledge in shaping a more inclusive world.
19. Katiyabaaz (2014)
- Directors: Deepti Kakkar, Fahad Mustafa
Katiyabaaz, directed by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa, is a gripping documentary that explores the rampant electricity theft and power crisis in Kanpur, India. The film follows two Delhi residents, Loha Singh and Ritu Maheshwari—a local electrician and an idealistic government official, respectively. Katiyabaaz sheds light on the struggle for access to electricity, the impact on people’s lives, and the systemic issues that contribute to the crisis. With its engaging storytelling and powerful visuals, the documentary offers a compelling examination of socio-political issues and the human cost of electricity deprivation.
Best Bollywood Documentary Movies of All Time: FAQs
Q1: What are Bollywood documentary movies?
Ans: Bollywood documentary movies are non-fiction films produced in India that explore real-life subjects, issues, and events. Some movies, if done well, can give audiences an insight into a culture or part of the world they are not familiar with.
Q2: What makes a documentary movie the “best”?
Ans: The “best” documentary movies are subjective and can vary based on personal preferences. However, some common factors that contribute to their recognition include their ability to shed light on important subjects, their engaging storytelling, impactful visuals, in-depth research, and the ability to provoke thought and inspire change.
Q3: Are these documentary movies based on true events?
Ans: Yes, the Bollywood documentary movies listed are based on true events, real-life stories, and societal issues. They aim to provide an accurate representation of the subjects they explore and often incorporate interviews, archival footage, and expert analysis to present a comprehensive and authentic portrayal.
Q4: Can documentary movies be entertaining?
Ans: Absolutely! While documentary movies primarily focus on presenting factual information, they can also be highly entertaining. Many Bollywood documentaries skillfully blend informative content with engaging storytelling techniques, captivating visuals, and compelling narratives, ensuring an entertaining and enlightening viewing experience.
Q5: Are these movies only for educational purposes?
Ans: While documentary movies offer educational value by presenting real-world subjects and issues, they are not limited to educational purposes alone. These movies can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, as they provide a glimpse into the lives of others.