Telugu cinema contributed a lot to the development of Indian cinema, both commercially and cinematically. The actors, directors, producers and other technicians from Tollywood made us proud with the movies they made in various genres.
Right from the advent of the talkie era in 1931, Telugu cinema has produced some of the best movies in the history of Indian cinema.
We give you the top 20 movies produced in these 88 odd years in Tollywood, which were not only popular regionally, but also had a national impact.
- Devadasu (1953)
This Vedantam Raghavaiah movie was noted for the birth of a legend—Savitri. The young girl, who was doing secondary heroine roles in films, was catapulted to the level of a great leading actress in the South with this retelling of Devdas, the classic Bengali novel written by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay.
- Mayabazar (1957)
The K.V. Reddy directorial is still considered as a textbook for screenplay in many Indian film schools. The story, loosely based on the epic Mahabharata, told the legend of Abhimanyu and Sasirekha. Mayabazar was voted as the greatest movie of the Talkie Era of Indian Cinema in an online poll by CNN IBN.
- Alluri Sitaramaraju (1974)
The legendary story of Sitarama Raju, an influential leader during the freedom struggle of India, was told in a telling manner by V. Ramchandra Rao, with Superstar Krishna in the lead. The movie is remembered for Krishna’s powerful portrayal of Alluri Sitarama Raju and the alluring music of Adinarayana Rao.
- Soggadu (1976)
This movie, produced by D. Ramanaidu, gave the moniker of Soggadu, meaning a flamboyant debonair, to its lead actor, Sobhan Babu. The village drama was noted for its story of an arrogant man, tamed by his lover to become a better guy. Jayasudha and Jayachitra played the leads opposite Sobhan Babu.
- Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977)
N.T. Rama Rao once described Daana Veera Soora Karna as “the” film of his entire film career. Loosely adapted from the 1964 Sivaji Ganesan hit Karnan, NTR played the triple role of Karna, Lord Krishna and the Kuru emperor Duryodhana, in Daana Veera Soora Karna. His baritone, combined with his imperial personality, made this movie an all time classic in Telugu cinema. No one can replicate the scale, stature and the manner in which this N.T. Rama Rao directorial presented a mythological tale.
- Sankarabharanam (1980)
This K. Viswanath classic redefined Telugu cinema as it gave rise to a pre and a post Sankarabharanam era. It reiterated the fact of the story being the king at any given time. Sankarabharanam made glittering careers, subsequently, to the lead pair of J.V. Somayajulu and Manju Bhargavi.
Sankarabharam is rated as an all time classic of Indian cinema till date.
- Shiva (1990)
This movie gave a new meaning to a mass drama, with a gripping screenplay by Ram Gopal Varma. It rejuvenated Nagarjuna’s career and gave Varma a permanent place as one of the top directors of Tollywood.
The iconic college fight scene with a cycle chain remains etched in the history of Tollywood.
- Gang Leader (1991)
This Vijaya Bapineedu film created an unprecedented history in Telugu by becoming a cult classic for its lead, Chiranjeevi. Megastar Chiranjeevi defined the modern age mass hero with this movie. His powerful screen presence and dances made this movie an all time classic and the title Gang Leader became a veritable part of Telugu vernacular literature.
- Narasimha Naidu (2001)
Directed by B. Gopal, this faction drama featuring Balakrishna initiated a spurt of films in Telugu based on the Rayalaseema faction tales. The mass dialogues by Balakrishna are still remembered by all as classics.
- Kushi (2001)
This S.J. Surya directorial led to Pawan Kalyan being deemed a mass icon and gave a new definition to the genre of romantic comedy. Bhumika Chawla and Pawan Kalyan gave superb performances in this movie which is liked by one and all till date.
- Nuvvu Naaku Nachav (2001)
Venkatesh is generally noted for his terrific comic timing and hilarious dialogue delivery. Nuvvu Naaku Nachav, produced by Ravi Kishore, was a new beginning for the actor to explore comedy. Trivikram Srinivas’ dialogues are remembered till date by cinegoers as they combined comedy and were filled with word play.
- Okkadu (2003)
Gunasekhar created a huge superstar with this film—Mahesh Babu. Mahesh redefined the character of a mass hero with subtle acting rather than being overly loud. Okkadu established his superstardom, which he still preserves with dedicated efforts to the craft.
- Simhadri (2003)
This movie established a great actor-director combination of Junior NTR and S.S. Rajamouli. The action drama showed the powerful dialogue delivery of Junior NTR and the great directorial skills of Rajamouli. Simhadri spurred many filmmakers to portray Junior NTR in similar angry young man roles.
- Pokiri (2006)
Mahesh Babu became the Prince of Tollywood with this movie directed by Puri Jagannadh, who is currently the master of mass masala movies in Tollywood. The character of Pandu and his mannerisms are still copied by millions of Mahesh Babu’s fans. Remade into several indian languages, this film showcased the commercial power of Tollywood.
- Bommarillu (2006)
This directorial debut of Bhaskar gave Siddharth, its hero and Genelia D’Souza, its heroine, long careers in Tollywood. Considered by many as the best film of producer Dil Raju, Bommarillu remains a classic family drama.
- Happy Days (2007)
If there is any film which launched the careers of many future superstars in Telugu, it was Happy Days. The engineering college drama, which narrated the story of five friends in a moving way, gave Telugu cinema a new genre of middle of the road film making.
Many artists, including Tamannaah Bhatia, Nikhil Siddhartha, Vamsee Chaganti and Varun Sandesh, rose to fame with this movie and went on to rule the roost in the coming years as actors of promise in Tollywood.
- Kick (2009)
This comedy film by Surender Reddy established Mass Maharaja Ravi Teja as the undisputed king of situational comedy in Tollywood. The movie also became a cult comedy and was remade in many languages across India.
- Magadheera (2009)
S.S. Rajamouli made a name for himself as the master of the socio fantasy genre with this movie. The film was noted for its tight screenplay, the Rajamouli mark interval bang and a great musical score by M.M. Keeravani. Ram Charan became a household name in India with Magadheera.
- The Bahubali series—Bahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Bahubali: The Conclusion (2017)
This phenomenal series by S.S. Rajamouli wiped out the North-South divide in Indian cinema. This historical fantasy became the biggest commercial blockbuster of Indian cinema and is considered a benchmark for Indian cinema in the modern age. The movie established Prabhas as a pan Indian star and also brought the team international recognition.
- Arjun Reddy (2017)
If there is any movie which put Tollywood on the national map after the Bahubali series, it is Arjun Reddy. A modern take on the story of Devdas, this movie established its lead, Vijay Deverakonda, as one of the greatest actors of Indian cinema. What is more, Bollywood also called Vijay Deverakonda for a much needed Hindi debut.
The film became a benchmark for love stories of the modern era and was remade in Hindi as Kabir Singh and as Adithya Varma in Tamil.
So, these are some of the classics of Telugu cinema. What do you feel about these films?
Let us know which of these movies are your favourites!
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