7 Best Movies to Watch In Punjabi

Staff & contributors

Find the best Punjabi-language movies to watch. These movies in Punjabi are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

Joyland is groundbreaking on nearly all accounts. It’s the first Pakistani film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and to be shortlisted for an Oscar. Its forthright depiction of trans life and gender identity provoked the ire of local authorities, but it also inspired a nationwide movement (#ReleaseJoyland) that fought against censorship. It’s understandable, then, if the film is remembered for these disruptive achievements alone, but it should be noted that Joyland, as it is, is simply a stunning piece of cinema. 

Every scene is beautifully blocked and vibrantly lit, like a painting come to life, and every one of them is rich with meaning; there’s not a second we’re not diving deeper into the wonderfully complex lives of these people, all of whom are exploring sexuality and independence as best they can in a restricted environment. And sure, Biba and Haider’s relationship takes center stage as it reveals the nuances of queer love, but Joyland just as deftly tackles toxic masculinity (and how it’s a specter that haunts Haider’s household), domestic labor (and how it largely goes unnoticed), and female solidarity (and how it can literally save a girl’s life). Heartbreaking and lovely, this a family saga in that it’s as much about Haider’s family as it is about him, and it’s a shame if it weren’t remembered as such. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alina Khan, Ramiz Law, Rasti Farooq, Salmaan Peerzada, Sania Saeed, Sarwat Gilani, Sohail Sameer

Director: Saim Sadiq

Four Lions is as black and as dark as a movie can ever get, mixing cultural relevancy with humor and ridiculousness. It is insensitive to Islam, insensitive to terrorism and insensitive to the viewer. But it is hilarious. The director spent three years talking to Imams, terrorism experts and basically everyone. The result? A legit 97 minutes that will dazzle even extremists with its knowledge of Islam and the accuracy of its lines. Needless to say that it will upset quite a few people, but that is always a good sign for black comedy movies, right?

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Adil Mohammed Javed, Alex MacQueen, Arsher Ali, Benedict Cumberbatch, Craig Parkinson, Darren Boyd, Jonathan Maitland, Julia Davis, Kayvan Novak, Kevin Eldon, Marcus Garvey, Nigel Lindsay, Preeya Kalidas, Riz Ahmed, Shameem Ahmad, Waleed Elgadi, Wasim Zakir, Will Adamsdale

Director: Chris Morris, Christopher Morris

Rating: R

The manic pixie dream girl unexpectedly entering a young man’s life is the subject of plenty of romance films, to the point that this plot has become somewhat overdone, stereotypical, and overly unrealistic. However, there are moments in cinema when this archetype is portrayed well– Jab We Met is one of them. It’s joyful without being unrealistic, it’s realistic without being too jaded, and as two lost souls share the same train, writer-director Imtiaz Ali creates a feeling of freedom every time then-lovers Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor save each other from the prisons of their different, day-to-day lives. And it all comes with the song numbers as fun as the film’s leading lady.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Asif Basra, Brijendra Kala, Dara Singh, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Kiran Juneja, Pavan Malhotra, Saumya Tandon, Shahid Kapoor, Tarun Arora, Wamiqa Gabbi

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Rating: PG-13

"California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas. You will fall in love with that song (if you haven't already) after watching this movie. Two stories, entangling into one; both about Hong Kong policemen falling in love with mysterious women. It was recommended by my friend after I said I loved Frances Ha. I don't know whether you can call this as offbeat romance.. but to me it was, and it's well worth the watch.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Brigitte Lin, Chen Jinquan, Faye Wong, Jimmy Wong Chi-ming, Kwan Lee-Na, Lee-na Kwan, Liang Zen, Lynne Langdon, Piggy Chan Kam-Chuen, Rico Chu, Rico Chu Tak-On, Songshen Zuo, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Valerie Chow, Vickie Eng, Wong Chi-Ming, Zhiming Huang

Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai

Rating: PG-13

At times of great societal turmoil, sometimes stars are born, not just to entertain the masses but to challenge the way things are done. Amar Singh Chamkila is one such star, and his music captivated all of Punjab in part due to his brash lyrics. His assassination remains unsolved, but director and co-writer Imtiaz Ali takes the event, and uses it to frame his life– the ways Punjab remembered him after death, the ways Chamkila showed his light as well as the ways he was limited by studio oversight and state censorship. The film isn’t a perfect contemplation of artistic freedom, nor is it the most comprehensive take on the singer’s life, but Ali’s direction challenges the way we view the artist and acutely recognizes the way stardom reveals the society's conflicting desires.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Anjum Batra, Anuraag Arora, Apindereep Singh, Diljit Dosanjh, Jasmeet Singh Bhatia, Kul Sidhu, Kumud Mishra, Mohit Chauhan, Nisha Bano, Parineeti Chopra, Sahiba Bali, Vipin Katyal

Director: Imtiaz Ali

When talking about resistance against colonial powers, nonviolent resistance, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, is oftentimes touted as the most righteous and morally correct path to take. However, most people forget that this violence is done in response to the violence enacted upon them, and that violent resistance has worked alongside the non-violent path, with a serious rationale behind their methods. The Legend of Bhagat Singh remembers one of the Indian revolutionaries that devoted their lives to the cause, though in a different way from Gandhi. The film has some inaccuracies, and it emphasized the romance he might have had with the unmarried woman later known as Bhagat’s widow, but the Legend of Bhagat Singh is an interesting portrait of a revolutionary that needs to be discussed more.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Ajay Devgan, Akhilendra Mishra, Amrita Rao, Bhaswar Chatterjee, D. Santosh, Farida Jalal, Mukesh Tiwari, Raj Babbar, Sitaram Panchal, Sushant Singh, Swaroop Kumar

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi