Beyond compelling narratives, chartbuster music and engaging emotions, Indian cinema has always served movie buffs with exhilarating action scenes, that are high on thrills and are topped with a good dose of drama. Over the years, action in Indian cinema has graduated from simple maar-dhaad and roaring chases to adrenaline rushing stunts and VFX induced encounters. Also, a hat tip to the stunt choreographers, who have managed to marry action with romance and comedy.
What’s more, brawls are now stylised with spectacular stunt choreography and the boon of the new age cinema, CGI, brings to life beyond belief stunts. From raw action of the yesteryears and contemporary stunts of newer times, here’s celebrating the most iconic action films of Indian cinema.
SS Rajamouli proved his magnificence behind the camera with this award winning movie, giving buffs action that will be remembered over generations. RRR is packed with stand out action but the crowning glory was NTR Jr and Ram Charan’s Tiger fight scene. Several long days of hard work culminated in creating this visual experience, which deserves a top spot in Indian cinema’s action handbook.
This cult classic is remembered most for its engaging storyline and heart-felt performances, especially Amitabh Bachchan’s loyal act of friendship. But director Ramesh Sippy expertly intertwined action into the progressive narrative of Sholay, giving ample moments of thrill. From the chaotic, but well choreographed Holi raid scene to Amitabh and Dharmendra’s thrilling shower of bullets and the dacoit attack sequence – Sholay provided Indian cinema some illustrious action moments.
Action was expected from this war drama and it was served to satisfaction. Director JP Dutta amplified the talents of heavyweights like Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Sunil Shetty in the many war scenes. However, the gold standard of action was the climax which stretched over 10 minutes and still left the audience wanting for more. Emotions of rage, vengeance, patriotism and bravery were demonstrated in the most epic manner, making Border a historic action film.
Director Lokesh Kanagaraj demonstrated cinematic excellence with well designed action scenes in this Tamil entertainer from 2022. Stalwarts Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil cracked the screen with their bullet blowouts, hand-to-hand fights and unexpected kicks and punches.
Baahubali 1 and 2
SS Rajamouli should be crowned the king of action! He has crafted some epic action sequences in his movies and Baahubali 1 and 2, which should be made into a case study for those who aspire to study action in Indian cinema. The visionary filmmaker created war sequences which were not yet imagined and in a way dawned an era of technology that brings to life imagination. Mahendra Baahubali and his Herculean strength owes a lot to SS Rajamouli’s creativity of action.
KGF Chapter 1 and 2
Steeped in a bygone era, this movie chronicled around the theme of gold mafia, power struggles and deep rooted action. Both the movies, directed by Prashanth Neel, established Yash as an action star. Brutal combats, raw fights and extreme emotions made this franchise a blockbuster with fans.
The Burning Train
The thrill and action in this movie was so unique, that it forced you to imagine that stars like Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh were mere passengers caught in a realistic situation. Director Ravi Chopra deserves an ode for the panic-filled, nerve-wrecking action onboard the blazing train.
This Malayalam movie deserves a mention for its sweeping stunt scenes, hurtful encounters and sequences that have action written all over! Directed by Khalid Rahman, Thallumaala literally translates Ballad of Brawls and the narrative does complete justice to its title. Audiences thronged theatres to enjoy Tovino Thomas and Shine Tom Chakcko’s combats.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota
Contrary to the title, this action drama was all about ‘Dard’ and made the audience go ROFL. Who said action can only be serious? This Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan and Gulshan Devaiah gave a twisted treatment to action, which is one for the books! Directed by Vasan Balan, this movie proved that the pain is real and gave the audience a chance to laugh over it!
Back in the day, this movie gave the audience a lesson in stylised action. If Nagarjuna’s cycle chase didn’t perk you, his run under the stars will surely make you sit up and notice. In 1989, Ram Gopal Varma delivered an ace lesson in action with this crime drama and despite the decades, the stunts stand a chance to charm even today.
Vaastav: The Reality
For those who have lived in the city of dreams, this movie provided an insight of the operations of the underworld in Mumbai, for others, Vaastav served as a shock of reality. Mahesh Manjrekar skilfully crafted a crime narrative with Sanjay Dutt delivering an act which will be remembered for decades. Street fights, revenge, shootouts and bloody encounters… Vaastav truly served ‘the reality’.
Uri: The Surgical Fight
Set against the backdrop of the Indian Army, this action-thriller fulfilled expectations set by its predecessor, ‘Border’. Vicky Kaushal as the ambitious Major Vihaan Shergill made the audience believe in the courage of Indian soldiers and hearts reached out to the bravehearts. Director Aditya Dhar provided slick action amid an emotional narrative.
Suspended Inspector Boro
This Assamese action comedy delivered the most epic climax sequence. With the leads engaging in a Bruce Lee inspired, martial arts combat, you are sure to come back for a rewatch. Director Kenny Basumatary provides ample moments of skilled martial arts in the movie, which featured Utkal Hazowary, Eepsita Hazarika, Kenny Basumatary and Sarmistha Chakravorty.
Angamaly Diaries
Here’s yet another Malayalam movie which gives a memorable lesson in action cinema. Director Tinu Pappachan attempts to narrate the simple story of two mahouts – Lali and Ambi, who find themselves in the middle of action due to certain circumstances. Their unpredictable encounters and chaotic brawls deliver a good dose of action.
Carrying forward his father’s He-man-esque legacy is Sunny Deol, who established his action hero image back in the 80s. Much before his ‘dhai-kilo’ ka haath became famous, the actor had conquered the macho image with ‘Arjun’ in 1985. His dynamic energy was diverted in the right dimensions in this Rahul Rawail directorial.
Gadar 1 and 2
Sunny Deol furthered his expertise in the action arena with these blockbusters. From uprooting the hand pump in the first part to propelling a huge wheel in the second, Sunny Deol proved that his action can be borderline hilarious but is majorly a show of power. However unrealistic it may be, fans are loving it and Sunny Deol doesn’t mind it!
Ek Tha Tiger
While Parkour has been around for a while now, it was Salman Khan starrer ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ which set a benchmark for these heavy-duty stunts. As a spy, he displayed spectacular daredevilry with edgy chase scenes and hand-to-hand combats. He was jumping off buildings and parapets, convincing the audience that action can be aggressive and stylish! Equally precise and impressive was Katrina Kaif in the action sequences.
Kaalam Vellum
Who said action can only be intense and serious? For those who’ve seen the 1970 Tamil romp Kaalam Vellum, have experienced a vision seldom seen or even imagined. Popular actor Jaishankar was in top form in this (quiet literally) over-the-top action comedy. Most iconic of its scenes features Jaishankar squaring off with bad guy Yusuf Khan (who made Zebisko a house hold name after Amar Akbar Anthony). That action needs choreography assumes a new meaning once you’ve watched Kaalam Vellum.
Kaala Patthar
Amitabh Bachchan, as a coal miner, put to use his angry-young man energy in this 1979 disaster-movie. Yash Chopra delivered a gem with the climax, wherein water floods the mines. Big B’s potential as an action star was utilized to the maximum with special effects expertise provided by Glen Robinson, who had worked on Hollywood disaster films.
This movie came with the most unexpected plot and delivered live action that was never witnessed before in mainstream cinema. SS Rajamouli’s hero was an animated fly, whose antics left the audience surprised and easily sidelined the not-so-impressive special effects. Kudos to SS Rajamouli for his originality and inventive action.

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