Horror films in Bollywood have always had a cult following. From the Ramsey brothers to Ram Gopal Varma & Vikram Bhatt, directors have often turned to horror to draw the audience. True, some movies were inspired by Hollywood; however, they were always brilliantly adapted to suit the taste of the desi audience.
Here is a list of the best-ever horror movies made in Bollywood, from classics to recent flicks. Some films on this list transcended the horror genre and became mainstream hits.
This list features the best movies in this genre.
1. Raat (1992)
The death of a cat under the wheels of the family car is the film’s main premise. Chills are not scarce in this supernatural thriller in which Tamil actress Revathi stars as a college-goer. You will never see cats the same way, thanks to the deft direction of Ram Gopal Varma, who would in years to come keep the genre burning in Bollywood.
2. Mahal (1949)
Starring Bollywood stars Sanjeev Kumar and Madhubala, this classic directed by Kamal Amrohi launched playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Madhubala too became a huge draw in her own right after this film’s success. It is credited as the first Indian reincarnation thriller. ‘Ayega Aanee Wala’ became a hit on All India Radio and made Mangeshkar a household name.
3. 13B (2009)
This is a Tamil-Hindi bilingual psychological horror film starring R Madhavan and Neetu Chandra in the lead roles. Directed by the national award-winner Vikram Kumar, the movie did well in both languages and was the director’s first bona fide hit. The film starts with Manohar’s (Madhavan) family move into apartment 13B on the 13th floor of a building. Strange incidents happen, including the milk going sour and the lift malfunctioning. A serial is telecasted on their TV alone and shows the fate of family members.
4. Bees Saal Baad (1962)
Loosely based on Sherlock Holmes’ thriller ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’, written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the film was the biggest Bollywood hit of 1962. It starred Bengali actor Biswajit and Waheeda Rehman and is directed by Biren Nag. Hemant Kumar produced the movie, which featured some of his songs. The horrifying incidents that take place in a village years after a Thakur rapes a girl constitute the plot.
5. Pizza (2014)
Based on the Tamil film of the same name made in 2012 by Kathick Subburaj, this Bollywood flick has Akshay Oberoi and Parvathy Omanakuttan in lead roles. The incidents surrounding the delivery of a pizza to a haunted house begin the film’s chilling ride. It is directed by Akshay Akkineni, son of well-known editor Sreekar Prasad.
6. Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972)
This Ramsay brothers’ movie featured a zombie for the first time in Indian cinema. A man is killed by his wife and uncle and returns as a zombie to take revenge. Thus began the series of movies that the brothers would make in the 1970s and 1980s, keeping the horror genre singlehandedly alive in Bollywood.
7. Raaz (2002)
This Vikram Bhatt film is loosely based on the successful Hollywood film ‘What Lies Beneath’ and stars Bipasha Basu in the first of the actor’s several roles in horror movies. She was dubbed by the media as India’s very own Scream Queen. A couple moves to Ooty in a desperate attempt to save their marriage, but strange events haunt them in their new home. This film was the first of three in the franchise. A fourth film Raaz: Reboot is in production. This film is credited with reviving the horror genre in Bollywood cinema.
8. Bhoot (2003)
This supernatural horror film starring Ajay Devgn and Urmila Matondkar helped revive the horror genre. Several horror pics made by RGV after Bhoot bombed at the box-office. A couple move into a high rise apartment, which they buy cheap, as a murder has happened there. Urmila won accolades for her role as a woman possessed by a ghost.
9. Veerana (1988)
This movie is directed and produced by the Ramsay brothers and features events taking place in a creepy forest. This became a critical and commercial success upon release.
10. 1920 (2008)
A couple move into a haunted house, where frightening events happen. Directed by the inimitable Vikram Bhatt, the film was a success leading to the making of a sequel.
11. Ragini MMS (2011)
This successful film with a catchy title is based on Hollywood sleeper hit ‘Paranormal Activity’. It was also inspired by the true story of a Delhi girl, Deepika. The film, modestly funded, was shot for only 25 days. It is directed by Pawan Kripalani.
12. Bandh Darwaza (1990)
This flick, again directed by the Ramsay brothers, is as pulpy and horrifying as films get. It involves a man who turns into a bat and haunts the neighborhood.
13. Kohraa (1964)
After the huge success of Bees Saal Baad, the team came together for another horror story. Based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca, the movie has a twist at the end, where it departs from the novel. Rebecca was earlier adapted by Hitchcock into an academy award winning film. But Kohraa won accolades for the way it was adapted.
14. Darna Mana Hai (2003)
Produced by Ram Gopal Varma, this innovative anthology film has six short stories, each with an unexpected ending. It featured an ensemble cast including Vivek Oberoi, Shilpa Shetty, Sameera Reddy, Saif Ali Khan, Nana Patekar and Isha Koppikar.
15. Bhoot Bangla (1965)
This film starring comedy star Mehmood places humour over horror. The music was scored by RD Burman. The film features actor Tanuja who falls in love with Mehmood’s character, Mohan. Will the couple be united? Watch the movie.
16. Naina (2005)
A young girl loses her parents and eyesight in a car crash. After she receives a corneal transplant, she has hallucinations, which forces her doctor to trace the donor. Urmila Matondkar was outstanding in the movie, which was screened at Cannes. The film is directed by Shripal Morakhia and was released to much praise from critics.
17. Bhayaanak (1979)
Featuring a young Mithun Chakraborty, the film has the heroine played by Ranjeeta getting lost in a creepy forest while pursuing her lover. Chakraborty plays a cop who investigates her disappearance and possible murder. The film is directed by SU Syed.
18. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Raj Khosla directs this horror-thriller starring Sadhana Shivdasani, Manoj Kumar and Prem Chopra. Madan Mohan’s music for this film was a big success. The movie also did well at the box office.
19. 404 (2011)
Praised as a new age thriller by critics, this movie was written and directed by Prawaal Raman. It features Nishikant Kamat as professor Anirudh, who has a strong scientific temperament. His sensibilities are challenged when strange events take place in a room in his medical institution. The film has an open ending.
20. Gumnaam (1965)
Based on the Agatha Christie novel, ‘And There Were None’, the movie directed by Raja Nawathe went on to become a hit. The picture has an ensemble cast including Manoj Kumar, Helen, Nanda, Pran, and Mehmood.
Are any of your favourite movies not on this list? Let us know in the comments section!