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11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand India’s Military History!

11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand India’s Military History!

As a country with a longstanding tradition in the art of strategy and combat, the history of India has inspired many tales of war and consequently Indian war movies. Myths and legends of mighty characters have been written in ink, drawn in pencil, or shot in a film.

Indian culture is ancient. The place we now know as India has been inhabited by developed and complex civilizations for thousands of years, with some of the oldest going as far back as 1500 BC. Those were the times when Hinduism was born. A religion that would flourish through the years, becoming today one of the largest in the world. The country has seen leaders, kings, and emperors rise and fall. It has witnessed many stories that would become myths and fables. And it has, of course, been the site of many wars and conflicts.

11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand Indias Military History!

From battles of old to battles of the modern days, from their three centuries-long struggle to gain their Independence from the British to the many wars they fought as an independent nation, India is a country that has a long tradition of war.

If one considers that Indian people are very proud of their country and heritage, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that many of these conflicts have been put to film. Nor would it be a surprise to see how they did it: many Indian films that touch on the subject of war are meant to inspire patriotism and nationalism.

There are very few Indian war films that constitute a critique of war. There are even fewer Indian anti-war films. That’s an important thing to consider when watching the films in this list: take them with a grain of salt and never forget that war is a tragedy, not something to be proud of.

The war films set in India exhibit a profound interplay between their narratives and the evocative settings, providing viewers with an immersive glimpse of this iconic country through the discerning eyes of the directors. These films masterfully weave together the essence of the Indian backdrop with the intricate stories of their main protagonists, yielding an enriched cinematic experience. In our pursuit to honor the art of cinematic travel, we have meticulously curated a collection of exceptional war films, encompassing Russian war movies, Iraqi War movies, and Afghan war movies. By delving into these diverse cinematic portrayals, we gain a deeper understanding of past and present conflicts, the individuals involved, and the profoundly human aspects intrinsic to the ravages of war.

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand Indias Military History!
11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand Indias Military History!
11 Best Indian War Movies To Better Understand Indias Military History!

Border (1997)

Border, by J. P. Dutta, tells a real-life story of the Battle of Longewala, during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, where 120 Indian soldiers led by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri successfully defended their post every night against a tank regiment of the Pakistan Army. Not your typical war film, Border won many awards due to its thoughtful portrayal of war and the people in it. Most notably, it won four of the eleven Filmfare Awards it was nominated for.

Before the declaration of the Indo-Pakistani War, Anand Bajwa (Jackie Shroff), a commander of the Indian Air Force, received an order to relocate his troops to a base located in Rajasthan, a desert area in the north of India. As the air siren sounds, he reunites his team and leaves the base.

He takes Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (Sunny Deol), one of his best men, with him, as well as a battalion of a hundred and twenty soldiers. As they arrive at the base, they wonder why have so few troops been sent to this big outpost if the higher-ups supposedly know that it’ll be attacked shortly. 

While patrolling the area, they find a group of Pakistani soldiers who have been scouting the area to attack the base. They kill most of them and when the last one is escaping, one of the younger Indian soldiers hesitates and lets him live. An act of compassion for which he’s thoroughly criticized. Having learned that only 120 men are holding the base, the Pakistanis decide to attack it with all their might.

Tango Charlie (2003)

Tango Charlie, by Mani Shankar, is a film about the many fighting fronts that emerged in India due to several separatist movements. The film begins in the snow-clad valleys of Kashmir. Vikram Rathore (Sanjay Dutt) and Shezad Khan (Suniel Shetty) are the pilots of an Indian Air Force search helicopter on a mission to investigate a terrorist encounter.

As they arrive there, they find lots of corpses of terrorists and find a wounded Indian man (Bobby Deol). They get him onto the helicopter and, while taking him to a medical camp, find that he holds a diary that identifies him as Tarun Chauhan (Bobby Deol). The audience then learns that it’s his film that we’re watching.

As he was stationed in Manipur, Tarun was a loyal soldier who had enlisted only for patriotism and service to the country. While patrolling, he falls into a trap set by Havaldar Ali (Ajay Devgn), his Sergeant, who calls him out on being so careless. They get along, however, and end up becoming friends. They give each other their nicknames: “Tango Charlie” and “Mike Alpha”.

The film follows Tarun and Havaldar as they are sent to several positions in India that are to be defended against the many groups against which the country is fighting. Tango Charlie will see Tarun having to deal with Havaldar’s death and his relationship with Lachchi Narayan (Tanisha), the woman he’s supposed to marry.

LOC: Kargil (2003)

LOC: Kargil, also by J. P. Dutta, is a historical film based on the Kargil War, fought between India and Pakistan during the first half of 1999. As you’ll see in this list, India and Pakistan have had a long-standing enmity.

This film is one of the densest and most complex war films made by Dutta: it told a detailed story of a short war through the eyes of its soldiers. Despite having an ensemble cast composed of Bollywood stars, the film didn’t perform very well at the box office.

This war was sparked when Islamists supported by soldiers from the Pakistani army crossed the Line of Control (LOC), which separates India from Pakistan, seizing the heights overlooking Kargil. The Indian army sent several units there to reconquer the lost territory, but the Pakistani fighters resisted and then engaged in a war that was made all the more dangerous because it took place between 4,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level.

LOC: Kargil tells the story of the Kargil War from the Indian point of view. As such, its main focus is on the Indian soldiers who fought in this war: the many protagonists were inspired when not based on real-life people. Among this list, this may be the saddest of films, portraying war in the worst light.

Lakshya (2004)

Lakshya (which translates to “Aim”), by Farhan Akhtar, is a cult film that is both a coming-of-age and a war drama. Like LOC: Kargil, this movie tells the story of the Kargil War, but it does so in a very different and innovative way: following a lazy youngster who enlists in the army to spite his parents.

Karan Sheirgill (Hrithik Roshan) is a young man with no plans for the future. His girlfriend Romila, on the other hand, is very ambitious and committed. One day, Karan decides to do something with his life and joins the military against his parents’ wishes.

However, he does not take the situation in the military seriously and breaks off the training after a few days. His family is disappointed in him, and his girlfriend Romila wants nothing more to do with him. Karan then decides to rejoin the military and try harder this time.

After a long training, he becomes an officer and is sent to the front in the mountains of Kashmir. During this time, Romila got her dream job as a journalist on television. Karan’s task, under the command of Colonel Sunil Damles (Colonel Sunil Damle), is to capture a strategically important mountain peak occupied by Pakistani troops.

Romila, who is now engaged, is also there to do television reports. Karan will try to prove herself to his superiors and his former girlfriend, once and for all.

Mission Kashmir (2000)

Mission Kashmir, by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is a popular epic that deals with the wars within a country: those between the police and the terrorists. As such, it tackles themes that are even more tragic than your typical war movie. Upon its release, it became one of the most-watched films of the year, and it even went on to win Best Action at the Filmfare Awards.

The movie begins as Kashmiri pro-independence terrorist Malik (Puru Rajkumar) has announced that all doctors treating Indians must die. Inayat Khan (Sanjay Dutt) is the head of the police department of Srinagar, a big city in Kashmir. One day, his younger son Irfan (Yogin Soni) has an accident and is taken to the hospital.

But the doctors refuse to treat Irfan, who dies from his injuries. After finding out that Malik and his men are taking shelter in a village, Inayat and his men manage to attack and kill all the terrorists. Unfortunately, a family is caught in the crossfire and killed. A small boy named Altaaf (Mohsin Memon) is the only family member who survives the shootout.

Inayat’s wife, Neelima (Sonali Kulkarni), feels sorry for Altaf and tries to persuade Inayat to adopt him. He reluctantly agrees as he is remorseful for killing Altaf’s family. Altaf settles into his new house and accepts Inayat and Neelima as his new parents. Only then does he learn that Inayat was one of the policemen who killed his family. He tries to kill him and fails and runs away.

He is found by a terrorist group led by their Pathan leader Hilal Kohtistan (Jackie Shroff), and trained to become a terrorist. Ten years later, Hilal and an adult Altaf (Hrithik Roshan) are assigned the task of carrying out “Mission Kashmir” which involves the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister. 


Shershaah (which translates to Lion King), by Vishnuvardhan, tells the real-life story of Vikram Batra, a soldier who became famous after being posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, one of the biggest decorations in the Indian military. He became known internationally thanks to a Ted Talk given by his twin brother, Vishal. It won seven of the nineteen Filmfare Awards it was nominated for, including Best Film and Best Director.

The film opens with Vishal Batra (Sidharth Malhotra) delivering a lecture about his twin brother’s life (based on the real-life Ted Talk). From then on, the film narrates Vikram’s life from a young boy to a Lieutenant. One day, while at the base, Batra receives a letter from his girlfriend, Dimple Cheema (Kiara Advani).

The film then flashes back to 1995 when Batra and Dimple started dating. They decide to get married, but Dimple’s father refuses to accept Batra because they are of different castes. To please his father, Batra gave up his Army dream and joined the Merchant Navy for a higher salary. However, his friend Sunny (Sahil Vaid) convinces him not to give up his dream. As a result, Batra and Lesung got into a fight.

Vikram’s story ended when he returned from being retired to fight in the Kargil War. There he was promoted to Captain and managed to turn the tide, granting victory to his allies but dying in the process.

Paltan (2018)

Paltan (which translates to Platoon), by J.P. Dutta (director of Border and LOC: Kargil), is a movie based on the Sino-Indian War of 1967. Unlike the previous war of the same name (the 1962 Sino-Indian War), this conflict saw India and China fighting for the border of the Himalayas for three days. As such, it wasn’t so much a war as it was a series of clashes that took the world, and the soldiers, by surprise.

The film begins in September of 1967, when the Indian generals realize that the Chinese are preparing an attack on the regions of Nathu La and Cho La, right by the seat of the Himalayas. To protect the region, they deployed a single platoon led by Major General Sagat Singh (Jackie Shroff).

An expert on mountainous combat, Singh quickly learns that his enemies have planned several tactics to locate any squad that may try to stop their advance. One of the things they did was use loudspeakers to threaten them and make them nervous. Instead of relenting, the Indians did the same.

Trying to find a way to quickly solve the conflict, Singh proposes building a wall in the key entrance points so that the Chinese can’t enter, but he quickly finds himself unable to do so, for the Chinese rain fire over his troops. This quickly escalated the conflict, which turned into a fire-off between the troops. The platoon held until the Indian artillery arrived, and the attackers were repelled.

Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019)

Uri: The Surgical Strike, by Aditya Dhar, tells a fictionalized story of the Uri attack. This event happened when a group of terrorists from Pakistan surprised a brigade of the Indian Army and managed to kill and injure many of them. The attack took place in 2016, when violence in the zone of Kashmir, which is at the border of India and Pakistan, was at an all-time high.

The film begins in 2015, when an Indian Army unit stationed in Manipur was attacked, resulting in multiple casualties. In retaliation, the Indian government dispatches a para-commando led by Major Vihaan (Vicky Kaushal) and his brother-in-law Major Karan (Mohit Raina), to wipe out the terrorists.

After the operation, the members are invited to an official dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of India. Commander Vihaan wishes to retire early to care for his mother, who suffers from severe Alzheimer’s disease. At the discretion of the Prime Minister, Vihan was transferred to the Indian Joint Chiefs of Staff in New Delhi, where he was able to take care of his mother while serving in the military.

One day, his mother goes missing while her carer takes her eyes off her. Afterward, she is found and taken to her home, where the carer leaves as she passes by. Her true identity is that of a RAW officer, dispatched to protect Vihaan from terrorist retaliation. But when the attack in the headquarters at Uri takes place, Vihaan is thrown back into the fray.

Ghazi (2017)

Ghazi, by Sankalp Reddy, is inspired by true events, and it explores the mysterious circumstances in which the Pakistani submarine Ghazi sank off the coast of Visakhapatnam in 1971.

The story follows an Indian Navy officer and his crew on board the submarine S21, who stay underwater for 18 days as they are searching for the Ghazi. The events described in the film would result in the beginning of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. At the 65th National Film Awards 2018, the film won Best Feature Film in Telugu.

In 1971, the Indian Navy transferred its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant to Visakhapatnam, under the Eastern Naval Command. As a result, the Pakistan Navy was forced to reorganize its submarine operations plan, since the navy in East Pakistan became very weak against the Indian forces. The Indian Navy was able to decode a secret code sent that a Pakistan Navy submarine named PNS Ghazi would be deployed in East Pakistan waters. The submarine S21 was dispatched to protect the Vikrant, with Captain Singh (Kay Kay Menon) at its head.

During their patrolling, the S21 witnesses the Ghazi blowing up an Indian merchant ship, so they race to rescue the survivors. Lieutenant Commander Arjun Varma (Rana Daggubati) jumps to the waters and manages to save a girl child and a woman (Taapsee Pannu), who are Bangladeshi refugees. Then a confrontation between the two submarines follows, during which they would fire at each other while avoiding the many mines in the area. Eventually, the Ghazi would be sunk.

Raazi (2018)

Raazi (which translates to Agree), by Meghna Gulzar, is an adaptation of a novel by Harinder Sikka. The original book, “Calling Sehmat”, published in 2008, tells the true story of Sehmat Khan, a young woman who became a spy for the Indian government upon her father’s request.

While the book was quite successful, the movie reached a whole other level: it became one of the best-selling films in the country, which was quite a feat considering that the main character is a woman, something usually not seen in Indian action films.

Like Ghazi, the movie takes place just before the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. It begins with Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur), a Pakistani family man with a secret: he’s an Indian agent who works as an informant for the Indian government.

When he learns that he has lung cancer and little time to live, he realizes that his last wish is for his daughter, Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), to keep going with the fight for India. He approaches her and asks her to also become a spy and marry a Pakistani military officer. Although she has her reservations, she accepts.

The film shows Sehmat as she trains to become a spy at the Indian Research and Analysis Wing and then goes off to marry a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Army. In the film’s story, Sehmat would go on to spot lots of valuable information. Thanks to her, the plan to attack the INS Vikrant, shown in Ghazi, was caught on time.

Kesari (2019)

Kesari (which translates to Saffron), by Anurag Singh, follows the events of the Battle of Saragarhi, fought in 1897 between 21 soldiers of the Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army and over ten thousand Afridi and Orakzai Pashtun tribesmen.

As a Sikh, Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) was a soldier in the British Indian Army stationed at Fort Gulistan on the border of British India and Afghanistan. When a Pashtun tribe attacked Fort Gulistan, the British managed to repulse the tribe due to Ishar’s efforts. But recent misdemeanors led him to be demoted to squad commander of the 36th Sikh Regiment stationed at Fort Saragari.

As he arrived at the Fort, Ishar was enraged at the lack of discipline in the soldiers stationed there and ordered everyone to fast for two weeks. At first, the soldiers dislike Ishar, but they come to respect him when they learn that Ishar himself has also been fasting. 

After being informed of the Tribal Alliance’s advance from Fort Lockhart, Ishar sees 10,000 Tribal Alliance troops marching to the fort. Ordered to abandon the fort, Ishar decides to stay and hold the fort to death, and his men agree with his idea.

When the battle begins, Ishar and the others attack the tribal alliance, but their subordinates are killed one after another due to the difference in military strength. Ishar alone mowed down many enemy soldiers, earning him a posthumous award for the British Order of Merit.