Telugu Film Industry has been producing movies for over 8 decades now. After parting from Tamil industry, Telugu Film industry (TFI) struggled to survive in initial years and took a step by step progress to achieve international recognition. At present day Telugu Film Industry (also referred as Tollywood) is competing neck to neck with Hindi film industry.
After Bahubali, many Telugu movies are taking a Pan-India route and inturn raising the bars of Tollywood. To cherish this tremendous progress, let us go through some of the best films ever produced by Telugu Film industry.
Here is a list of 100 Best films produced by Telugu film industry in last 80 years.
1941 – 1950 (4 movies)
1942 – Bhakta Potana – This is the first film of Telugu Film industry’s pioneer director KV Reddy first.
1945 – Swarga Seema – This is the First telugu movie to be nominated for a foreign film festival. The movie also marks the debut of Ghantasala.
1946 – Tyagayya – The movie discusses the best of Saint Tyagaraja’s compositions.
1950 – Shavukaru – A wedding of lead actors is disrupted by a village feud. The movie is a realistic portrayal of that period. The movie made debutant Janaki an overnight star.
1951 – 1960 (10 movies)
1951 – Paatala Bhairavi – The movie is a Telugu version of Alladin and the magic lamp. SV Ranga Rao and NT Rama Rao played in lead roles.
1953 – Devadasu – This is one movie title which doesn’t need introduction to the present generation. ANR cements his position as a top hero in romance genre.
1955 – Missamma – The movie discusses the modern progressive men and women, inter-religion interactions and other such concepts. With Top actors like NTR, ANR, SVR, Savitri and Jamuna, the movie is a complete package.
1955 – Donga Ramudu – Another great KV Reddy movie. The movie introduced new phrases into Telugu lexicon – “Sambarala Rambabu”, “Gas kottadam”, “Babul debba, golconda abba”. The song “Chiguraakulalo Chilakamma” lives forever.
1955 – Anarkali – the story of Saleem and Anarkali. Much earlier than Mughal-e-Azam. SV Ranga Rao as Akbar is Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s match. P. Adinaraya Rao is Naushad’s disciple. His “Rajasekhara Nee Pai Moju Teeraledu raa…” is a haunting classic.
1955 – Kanyasulkam – This film adaptation of G.V.Apparow’s (Gurazada Appa Rao) play is a masterpiece in acting and screenplay adaptation. Veteran actors like Vinnakota Ramanna Pantulu, Vangara Venkata Subbayya and CS Rao give NTR a run for money.
1956 – Tenali Ramakrishna – The casting cannot get any better. ANR as the wise-cracking witty poet, NTR as Krishna Deva, Chittoor Nagayya as Minister Thimmarusu and Bhanumati as the spy. Great poetry from the Vijayanagara court. Sivaji Ganesan plays the poet in the Tamil version, and I have to say ANR shines better.
1957 – Thodi Kodallu – One of the first joint family problem fixing movies.
1957 – Maaya Bazaar – Perhaps the greatest Telugu cinema ever! The movie takes characters from Mahabharatha and cooks its own delightful recipe making them telugu instead of Aryan. Pingali Nagendra Rao concocts new telugu words for the movie. Ghantasala and S.Rajeswara Rao(uncredited) composed ever lasting melodies. NTR defines Krishna for a whole culture. SVR and Savitri play their roles interchangeably transitioning into each other seamlessly. Widely acclaimed and wildly popular.
1960 – Mahakavi Kalidasu – Akkineni Nageswara Rao is outstanding as the great poet. Sivaji Ganesan played the part in Tamil and Rajkumar in Kannada. But ANR displays a particular unmatched angst of illiterate man being bestowed by Saraswathi herself.
1961 – 1970 (14 movies)
1961 – Jagadekaveeruni Katha – Another KV Reddy classic and a blockbuster hit for its time. The movie features one of Ghanatasala/Pendyala’s all time great song – Siva Sankari. The lead role’s name Pratap, perhaps comes from 1951 MGR hit – Sarvadhikari.
1961 – Seetarama Kalyanam – Ravana playing Rudraveena is pretty fantastic.
1962 – Gundamma Katha – Gundamma tries to get her daughters married off. A timeless classic. NTR, ANR, SVR, Savitri and Jamuna. The standard package along with Suryakantam as termagant Gundamma. A whole culture refused to name their daughters Suryakantham after this movie.
1962 – Dakshayagnam – A very stage play reproduction of Siva vs Dakshya, excellently portrayed by NTR and SVR. The film features a lot of stage artists like Kanchu Kantam P Suri Babu.
1963 – Mooga Manasulu – Eloquently picturized muted love. ANR, Savitri and Jamuna give some timeless performances.
1963 – Lava Kusa – It is common to see multiple film depictions of chapters from Ramayana and Mahabharatha. But no body else dared to do Uththara Kanda after the wild success of this one. NT Rama Rao plays Sree Rama in viyoga. Ghantasala and Samudrala simplify Ramayana into spoken word set to hummable music. HUGE hit for its time.
1963 – Narthanasaala – Classic adaptation of “Virata Parva” chapter from the great epic Mahabharatha. SV Ranga Rao adds a master stroke of genius to the villainy of Keechaka. NT Rama Rao excels playing the trans-gender dance teacher – Brihannala. Mangalampalli Bala Murali Krishna lends his voice to an exceptionally beautiful song – ‘Salalitha Raaga Sudha Raasa Saaram’. The movie uses a lot of original poetry written by Tikkana Somayaji from Andhra Mahabharatham..
1964 – Ramudu Bheemudu – Although ANR did the first double action in Telugu cinema, this NTR starrer spawned off popular double action movies in Tamil and Hindi.
1965 – Pandava Vanavaasam – Another excellent adaptation of a chapter, Aranyaka Parva, from the Mahabharata. Savitri and NT Rama Rao play Draupadi and Bheema sena hyper imaginatively. Ghantasala provides anachronistic music with guitars. NTR performs an forceful rendition of “Dharuni Rajya Sampada”, in an extra-ordinary reaction scene to that performance, SVR says “Ha, Baaniselu”. This made every one dread working with SVR’s fierce reactions.
1966 – Sri Krishna Tulabharam – Jamuna immortalizes Satyabhama. Narada (T Kanta Rao) auctioning off Krishna (NTR) and Yadavas protesting against it – is genius.
1966 – Gudachari 116 – The first spy genre movie in Telugu. Krishna himself made numerous spy films through out his career, but this movie also triggered the spy genre in hindi with the super hit remake Farz.
1967 – Sudigundalu – Great court drama from 60s questioning law and justice. Directed by Adurti Subba Rao and written by K.Viswanth. Akkineni Nagarjuna also makes a debut.
1967 – Sri Krishnavataram – Film adaptation of Krishna’s story includes the wildly popular Tirupati Venkata Kavula version of Udyoga Parvam. Cant stop listening to those padyamulu.
1967 – Bhaktha Prahlada – SV Ranga Raa’s performance and S. Rajeswara Rao’s music are the stars of this movie. Pothana’s poetry brings extra ordinary authenticity to the devotion.
1971 – 1980 (15 movies)
1971 – Dasara Bullodu – The smashest of hits. Becomes a phrase in Telugu lexicon.
1971 – Mosagallaki Mosagadu – One of the first and most successful Westerns made for Telugu cinema.
1971 – Sampoorna Ramayanam – Poetic, poetic and poetic. Poetic written all over it, this is probably the best film depiction of Ramayana ever, riddled with mellifluous poems and songs. SV Ranga Rao gives a stellar performance as Ravana.
1972 – Bala Bharatam – Young Kauravas and Paandavas compete to make a white elephant. Sparks child imagination and curiosity with a whole bag of tricks.
1974 – Alluri Seetarama Raju – Krishna’s attempt to portray the life of the great local patriotic hero. Won kudos from the great NTR.
1975 – Muthyala Muggu – Bapu-Ramana actually never shook off the Ramayana intoxication. Rao Gopala Rao gives an amazing debut performance. Only self-plug: my grandmother’s brother acted as the Pujari in the movie.
1976 – Siri Siri Muvva – K Viswanath’s aarangetram into the musical genre of films.
1976 – Bhakta Kannappa – Bapu/Ramana shift their focus to a non-Ramayana/Mahabharata story for once. Memorable music by Sathyam.
1977 – Dana Veera Soora Karna – NTR ups his own game by directing the movie as well as playing three pivotal roles in the movie – Krishna, Duryodhana and Karna himself. Sivaji Ganesan’s portrayal of Karna in 1963 Karnan may be the only match to this performance of Karna.
1977 – Yama Gola – Another endearing Telugu genre – human tryst with the Lord of death – Yama Dharma Raja. NTR preaches democracy and socialism to the netherworlds of Yama. DV Narasa Raju writes *the* finest satire in Telugu cinema, on Hindu mythology and the contemporary politics of the ’77 emergency era in the NTR-visits-Naraka episode.
1977 – Adavi Ramudu – Bell bottoms, wigs, young heroines and heavy dialog gives NT Rama Rao a new lease on his acting life. The movie also introduced Veturi Sundarama Murthy to a wider audience.
1978 – Vetagadu – The movie catapults NT Rama Rao from mega super star to mega bumper super star or whatever.
1978 – Maro Charitra – A tamil boy and telugu girl fall in love and their story ends in a terrible tragedy. Launches the Telugu career of the great Kamal Hassan. Was later re-made as Ek Duje Ke Liye in Hindi which launched his Hindi career. Love story across languages was an innovation for its time.
1978 – Manavoori Pandavulu – Bapu-Mullapudi change gears to Mahabharatha and rehash Saakshi with more characters.
1979 – Sankarabharanam – The movie starts with an adage: “Animals, babies and humans. All of them enjoy music”. The movie sets out to demonstrate that adage with out any big stars except of course soulful music. Somayajulu gets type casted for life.
1981 – 1990 (17 movies)
1981 – Aakali Rajyam – Srirangam Srinivasa Rao’s vast body of blood-boiling literary work gives voice to Kamal’s starving hunger. Scathing satire on the unemployment problems of 70s and 80s.
1982 – Bobbili Puli – NT Rama Rao is catapulted into Andhra Pradesh politics with this movie.
1982 – Subhalekha – One of the non-preachy and yet impactful movies that wage a war against dowry, a phenomenally evil social menace in the 80s. Young Chiranjeevi is still malleable and ductile.
1983 – Khaidi – Chiranjeevi, yet another hero is now called the supreme hero.
1983 – Saagara Sangamam – Talented dancer who seem to have everything under the sun loses all of it. Heart-wrenching performances, soulful dance and music sequences, out of world background score, good dialog and movie ending with ‘No End’. Too many great things to mention in a paragraph!
1985 – Vijetha – The movie starts with Chiranjeevi’s plead to his fans to let him experiment outside his standard fare. If only his fans agreed to the plead! Great supporting cast from Urvasi Sarada and Somayajulu and dialogues by Jandhyala. One of Chiranjeevi’s finest movies.
1986 – Swathi Muthyam – The Forrest Gump of Telugu Cinema. Kamal Hassan nailed his role as a innocent young man who makes things happen.
1986 – Chantabbai – Chiranjeevi plays a bumbling crime detective with no macho what-so-ever. Many classic comedy scenes. Chiranjeevi’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in a song is a classic and has inspired Kamal Hassan’s similar portrayal in a Tamil movie “Punnagai Mannan”.
1986 – Sirivennela – A deaf and dumb photographer falls in love with a blind flutist. But the audience get an absolute sensory overload with never-before written music and words.
1987 – Padamati Sandhya Raagam – The movie has a unique and bold plot where a Telugu women marries a western man. This is the first women-centric movie of Vijay Shanthi.
1987 – Aha Naa Pellanta – Refined and perfected his concept of low budget full length comedy movies in TFI. Timeless comedy entertainer which introduced new analogies to Telugu lexicon.
1987 – Swayam Krushi – A rags-to-riches story of a man who has a unique way of venting out his frustration. The movie feels like a semi-autobiography of Chiranjeevi.
1988 – Rudra Veena – Chiranjeevi, Son of a Carnatic music legend challenges tradition and loses his inheritance. His definitive ideas about his village’s social progress take shape into reality bringing fame back to his legendary dad.
1988 – Swarna Kamalam – Movie witnesses the Lifetime best performances of Venkatesh and Bhanupriya.
1989 – Gitanjali – Two dying people discover and nurture each other in love. Though the plot doesn’t sound convincing, the movie mesmerizing Telugu audience back in those days.
1990 – Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari – The movie is as enjoyable as its name. The chiranjeevi and Sridevi starrer is a enjoyable ride throughout.
1990 – Shiva – This movie changed the course of film making in TFI. Even today, after 30 years of its release, people still watch it and call it a cult classic.
1991 – 2000 (12 movies)
1991 – Gang Leader – Chiranjeevi is seen as a angry young movie. Movie went on to become a huge hit, giving chiranjeevi an Action Hero status.
1991 – Kshana Kshanam – A heist movie with hilarious performances by Vekatesh, Sridevi, Paresh Rawal and Rami Reddy.
1991 – Aditya 369 – Balakrishna’s career best movie. A Science fiction movie where Modern day people goes to krishnadeveraya period.
1992 – Gharana Mogudu – Chiranjeevi cements his position as Box office King with this movie. The movie has some of the coolest dance movies ever.
1992 – Swathi Kiranam – This movie showcases the different faces of ‘Envy’ and ‘Ego’. Mammootty plays the role of a music maestro who envy a Child prodigy. In the end, the child takes his life to relieve Mammootty from all the pain he was feeling. Mammootty realises his mistake and spends rest of his life with a heavy heart.
1992 – Aapathbhandavudu – A innocent young boy helps a sexual abuse victim recover. Chiranjeevi gives another good performance in this movie.
1993 – Money – Two unemployed youth kidnap a rich industrialist to demand money. This RGV movie is a funny caper with songs in conversational style.
1993 – Gaayam – One of Ram Gopal Varma’s best movies in his golden period. Sirivennela plays a cameo role.
1994 – Yama Leela – SV Krishna Reddy reprises tryst with Yama in a full length comedy. Big boost to a host of comedy actors of Telugu cinema.
1995 – Pedarayudu – Mohan Babu nails the performance as a village head in this movie. And who can forget Rajinikanth’s electrifying 10 min performance which almost dominated Mohan Babu’s full length role as a lead actor.
1997 – Osey Ramulamma – This is n entirely women-centric film in which Vijay Shanti plays a rural woman raped by a landlord. The character rebels against the system and kills him. This was rather a bold film considering the year it was released.
1997 – Annamayya – This movie opened the doors of a genre which was kept untouched for a very long time by Telugu film makers.
2001 – 2010 (15 movies)
2001 – kushi – This movie cemented Pawan Kalyan as a Star Actor in TFI. The classic love story has a fresh narration and amazing songs.
2003 – Aithey – This movie proved the power of Screenplay and story telling. Inspite having fresh and unknown cast, the movie emerged as both critical and commercial hit.
2003 – okkadu – This movie is a blend of Sports and Violence, which is first of its kind in Telugu film industry. From Kondareddy Bhurj fight scene to the Kabaddi court fight scene, the movie has some amazing action sequences.
2005 – Athadu – More than Theatre audience, the TV audience made this movie a Blockbuster. Athadu holds the records for most number of reruns in a satellite channel.
2006 – Godavari – Sekhar kammula does something for the very first time in Telugu cinema – talks about and talks through dreams and ambitions of a modern woman.
2006 – Pokiri – This movie took Telugu cinema to a new phase. Puri Jagannath proved that filmmakers can score a blockbuster even if their hero has a shady character. It was the first time in Telugu cinema, where a star hero’s movie is named with a title like ‘Pokiri’
2006 – Bommarillu – one of best family entertainers ever produced by Telugu film industry. This movie gave star status to Siddharth, Genelia and Bhaskar.
2007 – Happy Days – A sweet college drama which flows like our college days.
2008 – Gamyam – A road trip movie about self discovery. The movie is an honest take on lives of general people.
2009 – Arundhati – The movie redefined the Horror genre movies in Indian cinema. With elements like Reincarnation, Ghosts, Aghoras and Royals, the Ghost revenge story is one of its kind.
2009 – Magadheera – This is the movie which introduced Rajamouli to the Indian audience. Inspite of having a new actor like Ram Charan, Rajamouli managed to score a Industry hit with the movie. With never seen before VFX in Telugu Cinema, the movie boosted the usage of VFX shots in Telugu movies.
2010 – Maryada Ramanna – A pretty good execution of a very simple strory line. After a film like Magadheera, Rajamouli surprised every one by selecting Sunil as the lead hero for his next movie. Inspite of no star cast, the movie became a blockbuster and was remade into several languages.
2010 – Leader – This is probably the best political drama in Indian cinema. The Sekhar Kammula’s masterpiece also marks the debut of Rana to Telugu film industry.
2010 – Vedham – An absolute modern day master piece. This movie marks the best performance of Allu Arjun’s career. The way Director Krish brings all the characters together is a life like experience.
2010 – Ye Maya chesave – This is the best modern day love story in Indian Cinema. With Gautham Menon’s story telling and Rahman’s music, the movie will give a beautiful experience to the audience.
2011 – 2020 (10 movies)
2012 – Eega – Another cinematic wonder from Rajamouli. The director proved that he doesn’t need a star actor to break the box office records. This movie showed the VFX capacities of Telugu film-makers to the whole world.
2015 – Kanche – In one word, this movie is an Art. A Masterpiece from Krish. The war background love story teaches many life lessons throughout the movie.
2015 – Baahubali (The Beginning) – This movie changed the graph of Telugu Film industry. Bahubali showed the box office potential of a good film to Telugu film makers. Many Tollywood filmmakers and actors started planning for Pan-India releases after Bahubali
2016 – Pellichoopulu – The movie marks the first hit of Vijay Deverakonda. It is an honest take discussing the mind sets of present day youth. The humour filled ride leaves audience with a beautiful experience.
2017 – Baahubali (The Conclusion) – The sequel of Bahubali Beginning conquered India box office like a storm. From the prime minister of India to Global stars, the movie recieved appreciation from everyone. Baahubali conclusion broke every Box office record in every film industry of India.
2017 – Fidaa – This is the first main stream movie which has complete Telangana dialect. Also, inspite of having a star hero like Varun Tej, the movie gives more priority to the lead actress who is a debutant. This movie made Sai Pallavi an overnight star in TFI.
2017 – Arjun Reddy – This a film of a modern day Devadas Arjun who suffers with anger management issues. Unlike Devdas, Arjun himself is responsible for every obstacle in his love life and career. The most controversial hit of the decade is referred as a cult movie which opened new doors in Tollywood film making.
2018 – Rangasthalam – This movie marks the career best performance of Ramcharan. The Sukumar movie is a richly made period drama in a village called Rangasthalam. With some amazing performances and surreal backdrops, the movie is a treat the audience.
2018 – Mahanati – One of the Masterpieces ever produced in Indian cinema. Mahanati is the biopic of late actor Savitri. The movie takes every small detail in the life of Savitri and relives her life once again in the silver screen.
2018 – Goodachari – This movie redefined and reintroduced Spy Thriller genre in Telugu Film industry. Written and started by Adivi Sesh, the movie gives international appeal inspite of a low budget.