Yes, we can all watch Baby Yoda on loop but there’s a wealth of content on Disney+ Hotstar beyond its Marvel and Lucasfilm catalogue. Last year we listed our picks of 40 of the greatest films on the platform. But given the sheer size of the newest streaming giant’s library, that’s barely scratching the surface. So here’s our list of a further 20 great titles on Disney+ Hotstar (as of April 2021).
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool is Macbeth transposed to the Mumbai mafia. You’re in the middle of gang wars, corrupt cops and violence but Vishal uses them to give us this incredible meditation on love, lust, guilt and redemption. This film is like a masterclass in acting because there’s Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor, Tabu and, at the centre of it all, the amazing Irrfan playing Maqbool. This is a film that soaks you into its melancholy, atmospherics and textures. Beautifully written with wonderful music and certain scenes that are unforgettable.
A live recording of the 2015 Broadway musical, that went onto become a cultural sensation, Thomas Kail’s rousing ode to the life and legacy of American founding father Alexander Hamilton (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) recounts his story entirely through rap. And yes, it’s just as great as everyone says, if not more.
Bad Education tells the true story of Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) – a district superintendent of schools who got himself entangled in one of the largest thefts of school funds in history. The politics of education and misappropriation of public funds are hardly sexy subject matter, but here it’s just great storytelling that keeps you invested in every beat. That, and maybe a career-best performance from Hugh Jackman.
Ford Vs Ferrari
The Oscar-nominated underdog tale tells the true story of when the Ford Motor company took on reigning champion Ferrari during the 24 hours Le Mans race in 1966. But outside the exhilarating race sequences, James Mangold’s film is first a crackling human drama centred on the bromance between gifted engineer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and racing maestro Ken Miles (a wonderfully kinetic Christian Bale).
Ram Madhvani’s captivating hijack drama swallows you whole and keeps you in a state of constant panic and uncertainty, before packing an emotional final wallop that’s hard to shake off. Following the remarkable true story of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot (a career-best performance from Sonam Kapoor), who saved the lives of countless passengers in the face of a terrorist hijacking, Madhvani’s film launched the careers of many associated with it, such as Jim Sarbh and DOP Mitesh Mirchandani. Neerja is the rare Bollywood ‘biopic’ that focuses on the historic event itself without feeling the need to package it in a more palatable way.
Hidden Figures is a fine example of an inspiring true story made for the big screen. The feel-good drama follows the tale of 3 African American mathematicians who were instrumental in NASA’s success in the early 1960s despite battling segregation and sexism. Led by the formidable trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures is a well-conceived biopic that presses all the right buttons to tell a story that is as inspiring as it is uncomfortable.
The Shape Of Water
Guillermo del Toro has now become synonymous with bringing sensitivity to the typical creature feature, empathising with the unknown and treating monsters as misunderstood. Nowhere was that better captured than his Best Picture-winning The Shape Of Water. The unlikely love story between a mute cleaning woman and merman-monster-creature held captive in a government lab is both hopeful and fantastical. Powered by a fantastic Sally Hawkins, The Shape Of Water is one of the most touching romantic dramas in recent memory…and it also just happens to star a weird fish man.
It’s rare to find a film as introspective and existential as Ad Astra that’s also mounted on such a lavish scale. I’m not quite sure at which point Hollywood space movies became synonymous with daddy issues, but none have done it quite like Ad Astra. Brad Pitt is Clifford McBride, an astronaut who sets out into space to find answers regarding his father’s mysterious disappearance. Despite being set almost entirely in space, James Gray’s brave film values complex characters, loneliness and family over fancy set-pieces, and is all the better for it.
Sanjay’s Super Team
This delightful Oscar-nominated Pixar short follows a young boy who resents his father for interrupting his morning cartoons for prayers. That is until Sanjay uses his imagination to bring Vishnu, Durga and Hanuman to life and sets off on a sprawling adventure. It’s a wonderful story of connecting generations and learning to share who we are with those we love.
Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam is an espionage thriller with intelligent writing, huge action set pieces and characters that are far more than they appear to be.
Lootcase, directed by Rajesh Krishnan and written by Kapil Sawant, follows the story of a working-class man, Nandan, who finds a suitcase filled with 10 crore in cash. It is inspired comedy. From Nandan and his wife Lata using Chinese dishes as code for sex to Gajraj Rao as the hysterically oily MLA to Vijay Raaz as the suave don Bala who is a fan of National Geographic – Lootcase is consistently inventive and hilarious.
If Inside Out brought emotions to life and Coco imagined the afterlife, Pixar’s latest creation Soul examines what it means to be alive. Soul is yet another winning Pixar venture that hits you in all the right places with how it marries a whimsical animated adventure to humanity and meaning. It’s arguably Pixar’s most ambitious outing yet, exploring lofty themes like what it means to live and die. Ideas that director Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up, Monsters Inc.) navigates beautifully, creating an experience that’s comforting, enriching, wholesome and hopeful.
In Best Actor, Mohan (Mammootty) joins a gang of goondas to understand the work they do. What might have sounded silly on paper translates into an entertaining feature that highlights the struggles of actors who have talent, but no avenues to perform. Like Udayananu Tharam, another cult Malayalam comedy drama, Best Actor is a film that tells the tale of people who get swayed by the film industry.
Love, Simon is a touching teen rom-com that follows a closeted high school student who is afraid to come out to his friends and family. He finds love online when he connects with an anonymous classmate via email. Despite being the first teen movie from a major studio about a gay romance, the heart-warming film doesn’t make a point about being ground-breaking. Instead, it feels like it should: just another feel-good love story that is comfortable, endearing and accessible.
10 Things I Hate About You
A modern take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this 1999 film revolves around the romance between a fiery high school senior Kat (Julia Stiles) and brooding new arrival Patrick (Heath Ledger). Two decades on and 10 Things I Hate About You is just as funny, sharp and romantic. Who can forget Kat finally letting her guard down and breaking into tears while reading a poem in class or Patrick iconically breaking into song, performing ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ in front of the entire school to declare his love?
Anwar Rasheed’s Ustad Hotel is the story of Faizi, a boy born after four girls. But his mother dies and Faizi grows up with all his older sisters, mostly in the kitchen. His father sends him to Switzerland but he doesn’t know that Faizi is actually studying to be a chef. He returns to have a big fight with his father and goes to stay with his grandfather, who runs a modest eatery called Ustad Hotel on a beach, famous for its biryani. It’s a film that appears simple but it isn’t. Anjali Menon’s script is layered and the performances from Dulquer Salman, Nithya Menen and Thilakan are wonderful.
Anjali Menon’s 2014 Bangalore Days is a film that spreads joy and gives you hope. It’s young, it’s frothy, it’s instantly relatable and it stars the who’s-who of Malayalam cinema, including Fahadh Faasil, Dulquer Salman, Nivin Pauly, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Nazriya Nazim and Nithya Menen. This is the story of three cousins who move to Bangalore because of their respective situations. One has a job, one gets married, and they have to deal with the various things that life throws at them. You grow with these characters and experience their lives, and by the end, you feel like you’re part of this amazing gang.
Free Solo is one of the most panic-inducing films I have ever seen. It’s a documentary about those who enjoy the idea of climbing a mountain without any equipment or anything to secure them. The climber, Alex Honnold, is renowned all over the world for doing it. In June 2017 he climbed El Capitan which is one of the highest peaks in the Yosemite National Park in America. This is a mountain of 3200 feet of just granite and there’s Alex holding on with his fingers and toes, his entire body figuring out which way the wind is going. Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi follow him and record this climb.
Black Friday is more of a feeling – singularly shocking, stirring and cataclysmic, yet journalistic and depressingly objective – and one of the great achievements in Indian cinema. Walking the bloody line between realism and recreation, it demonstrated that the most compelling stories often lie within the investigative stillness of actual events – and that filmmaking can transcend mediums if it commits to being just a medium. The reflective effect of this movie, about the 1993 bomb blasts (based on Hussain Zaidi’s superbly researched novel), was so powerful that nothing less than a TADA verdict forced the courts to certify its “legality”. Perhaps it was destiny that a film about an explosion is what enabled the filmmaker to finally, at long last, burst onto a nation’s screens.
Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho featured one of the most memorable love stories of the last few years – that of a middle-aged couple who find themselves in a crisis because she gets pregnant. Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao as Mr and Mrs Kaushik gave us a tender and touching love story. And Surekha Sikri as the fierce and frank mother-in-law was unforgettable. Badhaai Ho seamlessly combined humour with rich emotions. The film isn’t visually flashy but it spoke to the heart.