Amritesh Mukherjee curates a list of the 20 best Indian Sci-fi movies
Over the years, the Indian film industry has evolved, showcasing a diverse range of genres and narratives. While the Hindi film industry is often considered to be synonymous with romantic dramas and action-packed blockbusters, science fiction has also found its place on the silver screen. Indian filmmakers have often ventured into uncharted territories, weaving stories that blend futuristic concepts, technological marvels, and thought-provoking ideas into captivating cinema.
In this article, we delve into the best Indian sci-fi movies, exploring some amazing ones that have pushed the boundaries of imagination and captivated audiences. Many of these films have carved a niche for themselves, showcasing the potential of Indian cinema in the science fiction genre.
The article also charts the evolution of sci-fi in India over the years. All that being said, let’s begin!
List of Best Indian Sci-fi Movies
1. Kaadu (1952)
The movie that tops our list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies is Kaadu or The Jungle. It is a captivating Indian-American adventure film. Directed by William Berke, it showcases a unique blend of Indian and American cinema. The film was a collaborative effort between Mr. T. R. Sundaram from The Modern Theatres Ltd and William Berke Productions.
It revolves around a skilled white hunter and an Indian princess embarking on a thrilling journey into the heart of the Indian jungle to investigate a series of wild animal stampedes that have caused numerous deaths. As they delve deeper into the dense wilderness, they stumble upon a herd of prehistoric woolly mammoths behind this. While the plot may not be the most impressive aspect, Kaadu captivates you with its breathtaking scenery and captivating glimpses of Indian wildlife and rich biodiversity.
2. Kalai Arasi (1963)
A close second on the list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies is Kalai Arasi. Directed by A. Kasilingam and featuring M. G. Ramachandran and Bhanumathi, this is a 1963 Indian Tamil-language sci-fi comedy that weaves the themes of love, music, and interplanetary travel. The story follows Mohan, a diligent farmer, who falls for Vani, the daughter of a wealthy landlord.
Meanwhile, a spacecraft with human-like aliens approaches Earth from a scientifically advanced but artistically deficient planet and seek a talented artist to teach their people music and dance. Kalai Arasi is the first Indian film to introduce the concept of aliens visiting our world and presents a fun blend of science fiction and comedy.
3. Mr. X in Bombay (1964)
If you are wondering what is this movie doing on the list of best Indian Sci-fi movies, read on!
Have you heard the classic track, Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi? This was the movie that had this Kishore Kumar hit. Combining sci-fi with romance and comedy, the film is directed by Shantilal Soni and showcases the creative brilliance of Indian cinema from the 1960s. Set in Bombay, the story follows Shobha, the daughter of a scientist whose experiments accidentally kill one employee.
Rajan removes the body and uses it to blackmail the scientist to get Shobha to marry him. Meanwhile, Shobha falls in love with Sudharshan, who proposes one day. When Shobha refuses, he threatens to kill himself and sends her a note mentioning his suicide. From that day on, she starts hearing his voice, only for it to be revealed that he was invisible and alive all along. Funny and endearing, the story explores the aftermath of invisibility in an individual wonderfully.
4. Karutha Rathrikal (1967)
Number four on our list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies is the first sci-fi film in the history of Malayalam cinema. It’s an adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the movie, Santhan, a lovesick medical practitioner, devises a potion that turns people into terrifying monsters. With a hidden agenda, he seeks vengeance against the suspicious bank directors responsible for his uncle’s demise.
Mohan, entangled in a love affair with dancer Vilasini, unwittingly aids the deceitful directors. However, as Vilasini encounters the nightmarish creature, she realizes Santhan’s true identity. Featuring notable performances by Madhu as Santhan, T. K. Balachandran as Mohan, and Vaikkom Mani as Kochammavan, Karutha Rathrikal is vital for its role in paving the way for future sci-fi narratives.
5. Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980)
A captivating Indian Bengali dystopian fantasy musical film and the sequel to the beloved 1969 anti-war fantasy musical, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne was directed by Satyajit Ray. Considered to be one of the best Indian Sci-fi movies, this film transports into a world where rhyming slogans are used to brainwash the kingdom’s subjects. Hirak Rajar Deshe is a thought-provoking film that delves into themes of power, manipulation, and the triumph of truth over tyranny.
Satyajit Ray’s direction, combined with some charming musical numbers, brings this dystopian fantasy to life. The performances of the talented cast, including Utpal Dutt, Soumitra Chatterjee, and the magical duo of Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne, leave a lasting impression. It continues to be a beloved film that stands the test of time, reminding us of the importance of freedom, justice, and the power of music to unite and inspire change.
6. Mr. India (1987)
Next on our list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies is a very popular and much-loved Hindi movie. At its core, Mr. India tells the story of Arun Verma, a kind-hearted and compassionate man who discovers a wristwatch-like device that grants him the power of invisibility. With this newfound ability, Arun becomes the titular Mr. India, a hero determined to fight against injustice and protect the innocent.
The film’s music composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal remains an evergreen favorite. This movie is a Bollywood classic that continues to exert a significant cultural impact and enchant viewers even decades after its release. Shekhar Kapur’s visionary direction, coupled with outstanding performances and a captivating storyline, make it an essential watch for any film enthusiast.
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7. Aditya 369 (1991)
Aditya 369 is notable for its usage of time travel and for being one of the early Telugu films to explore the science fiction genre. It incorporates elements of historical fiction and successfully blends them with futuristic technology. The story revolves around a professor named Ramdas who invents a time machine called Aditya 369.
However, when Ramdas’ daughter Mohini and her lover, Krishna Kumar, accidentally travel back in time to the era of King Srikrishnadevaraya, they’ll encounter a series of challenges and must find a way to return to their own time. This thrilling adventure combines historical characters, divine prophecies, and unexpected twists as they navigate through time itself. While it may not have gained widespread recognition beyond Telugu cinema, the movie holds a special place among fans of the genre and is often appreciated for its ambitious storytelling and entertaining narrative.
8. Koi… Mil Gaya (2003)
A childhood favorite, a list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies would be incomplete without this! The movie revolves around Rohit, a mentally disabled person who encounters an alien. The rest of the story is about Rohit gaining physical powers while trying to send the alien back home with the help of his friends. Tied to it all is a love story with his friend, Nisha, who he tries to woo through the course of the film.
One of the most popular sci-fi Indian films to date, Koi… Mil Gaya was both critically and commercially successful and spawned the blockbuster Krrish franchise. Directed and written by Rakesh Roshan, it’s one of the first Indian films featuring aliens and deserves a watch for its entertaining and captivating acting performances.
9. Dasavathaaram (2008)
The story here revolves around the concept of ten different avatars, each portrayed flawlessly by Kamal Haasan. From a devout Vaishnavite priest to a fierce CIA agent, Kamal Haasan effortlessly brings each character to life with dedication and the primary reason why it’s considered to be a modern classic. The film explores the intricacies of karma, destiny, and the eternal battle between good and evil.
It’s a must-watch for any cinema lover and is a true testament to Kamal Haasan’s brilliance as an actor. It blends elements of science fiction, mythology, and suspense into a compelling narrative that keeps you hooked from start to finish.
10. Enthiran (2010)
Another milestone in the commercial sci-fi circle, Enthiran stars Rajinikanth along with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The film is one of the most commercially successful Indian movies ever and was positively received in all quarters. It’s based on the premise of what would happen if a robot were to feel like humans. K. Vaseegaran creates the humanoid robot, Chitti, and tries to upgrade it to deploy it into the army.
All of it gets ruined when the robot catches feelings for Vaseegaran’s girlfriend and is later turned murderous by a rival scientist. The movie is noteworthy for its set designs, action sequences, visual effects, storytelling, and Rajinikanth’s performance as the scientist and the titular character. The film was also followed by a sequel in 2018 titled 2.0.
11. 7aum Arivu (2011)
7aum Arivu features Suriya in a dual role, portraying the characters of Bodhidharma, a legendary Buddhist monk, and Aravind, a contemporary circus artist. The plot revolves around the historical and scientific aspects of Bodhidharma’s life. It also explores the concept of genetic memory and how Bodhidharma’s lineage influences the present-day protagonist, Aravind.
The film delves into the ancient martial arts techniques developed by Bodhidharma and his contributions to medicine and spirituality. It also highlights the importance of preserving cultural heritage and the significance of scientific advancements in society. One of the notable aspects here is its well-executed action sequences, choreographed by Peter Hein. The visual effects are pretty impressive too, especially in depicting the historical backdrop and the martial arts sequences, overall making it an engaging watch.
12. Ra.One (2011)
Directed by Anubhav Sinha, starring Shah Rukh Khan in dual roles, and Arjun Rampal portraying the titular antagonist, the movie was the most expensive Indian Sci-fi film at the time of its release. I remember being hyped prior months before its release. Combining elements of the epic Ramayana with sci-fi, the movie brings the virtual to the real world.
At his son’s request, a game designer, Shekhar Subramanium, creates a game where the antagonist is much more potent than the protagonist. But what happens when the antagonist, Ra.One, escapes the virtual world? With some incredible visual effects, it’s a treat to watch. Commercially successful and critically a mixed bag, Ra.One is undoubtedly a stepping stone in the world of Indian sci-fi cinema.
13. PK (2014)
A comedy-drama with a humanoid alien that challenges societal norms and religious dogmas with humor: doesn’t seem like the regular Bollywood affair, eh? And it’s not one, either. PK is one of the highest-grossing Indian movies of all time while also being mired in controversies for hurting religious sentiments. The film revolves around the central character, PK (or Peekey, meaning drunk), an innocent and curious alien who finds himself stranded on Earth.
In his quest to return home, PK encounters various human idiosyncrasies and cultural norms, which he sees from an outsider’s perspective. Through his childlike innocence, PK questions religious beliefs, superstitions, and the role of godmen in society. It is not just a movie but a social commentary that challenges conventional norms and encourages you to question your beliefs and embrace humanity.
14. Indru Netru Naalai (2015)
The title translates to “Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow” in English, and fittingly so, for it revolves around the concept of time travel and follows the story of Elango and Pulivetti, two friends who accidentally discover a time machine. They use this extraordinary device to travel back in time and alter their past for personal gain. However, their actions have unintended consequences, leading to a series of comedic and adventurous situations.
Indru Netru Naalai is a refreshing addition to Tamil cinema’s sci-fi genre, offering a delightful blend of comedy and time travel elements. With its engaging narrative, enjoyable performances, and well-executed visuals, the film is an entertaining watch for fans of both science fiction and comedy genres.
15. 24 (2016)
24 revolves around the concept of time manipulation and follows the story of Sethuraman, a brilliant scientist who invents a time-traveling watch. However, an evil and powerful figure named Athreya (also played by Suriya) gets hold of the watch and misuses it for his personal gain. The protagonist, Mani (also played by Suriya), must now navigate through different timelines and fight against Athreya to reclaim the watch and protect his loved ones.
The cinematography, art direction, and music by A. R. Rahman are a treat to experience, and the visual effects are pretty impressive as well. Suriya delivers a commendable performance in the triple role, bringing distinct personalities to each character he plays. Watch it for its intriguing storyline, stellar performances by Suriya, and impressive technical execution!
16. Vinveli Payana Kurippugal (2018)
Vinveli Payana Kurippugal sets out with an intriguing premise, following the aspirations of Duraipandi, a village don who dreams of becoming a space tourist. Despite dabbling in genres such as black comedy and sci-fi while also containing a non-linear narrative, the execution of this concept falls short in the end. Watch it for the performances by the lead actors, and for the expertly animated climactic scenes.
17. Who (2018)
The first time travel film from Kerala, Who has been loved by critics and viewers alike since its release. One of the rare superhero sci-fi movies in India, it’s written and directed by Ajay Devaloka. The movie travels to places not explored by Indian or Malayalam cinema in the past, and it deserves mention just for that.
The people in the Mercada Valley experience strange dreams every day, and not without reason, for the valley is home to strange occurrences. The lines between reality and dreams blur as the narrative moves forward, and the neo-noir and psychological thriller elements begin to surface. A team of unlikely characters bands together to solve the puzzles of the valley.
18. Antariksham 9000 KMPH (2018)
A 2018 Indian Telugu-language science fiction adventure film, Antariksham 9000 KMPH, has been written and directed by Sankalp Reddy. The movie’s plot revolves around the Indian satellite, Mihira, on a dangerous collision course with an international space center. This collision could trigger a catastrophic chain reaction, resulting in a worldwide communications blackout.
To prevent this disaster, a team of brave Indian astronauts embarks on a mission to overcome numerous obstacles and challenges. The movie beautifully explores the characters’ struggles, determination, and ultimate triumph as they strive to save the world.
19. Short Circuit (2019)
The first Gujarati film to feature the concept of a time loop definitely needs a mention on this list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies. This movie blends sci-fi elements with an overall suspenseful and romantic plot. With exceptional direction, visual effects, and great acting performances, the film received critical and commercial positive reception. Samay, played by Dhvanit Thaker, falls in love with a news anchor, Seema, played by Kinjal Rajpriya.
In an interview with Dr. Parthsarthi, enacted by Utkarsh Mazumdar, Seema learns of experiments for creating a portable wormhole. Enraged by Seema’s questions, the scientist threatens to kill her if she dares stand against him. On the way out, she’s killed by a masked man. Struck by grief, Samay is taken by surprise when he starts re-living the same day over and over when he wakes up the next day. How he saves Seema and discovers the mystery behind this time loop forms the rest of this story.
20. Cargo (2019)
Last but not least on our list of the best Indian Sci-fi movies is this brilliant movie, directed and written by Arati Kadav. Cargo combines philosophical science fiction and black comedy elements. We delve into the life of Prahastha, a solitary astronaut working aboard a spaceship. Each day, the ship nears Earth, bringing cargos of recently deceased individuals preparing for reincarnation.
Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi take on the lead roles, portraying characters in a captivating story set on the spaceship named Pushpak 634A. Prahastha, a scientist, works diligently in the Post Death Transition services alongside Yuvishka. Inventive and very “out-of-the-box,” the film is as audacious as it is meticulous in what it wants to achieve. Science fiction is supposed to make us sit back and think. Cargo does all that and how!
How many of these best Indian Sci-fi movies have you watched? Any favourites that we missed? Drop a comment below and let us know !
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