Tamil Films Flashback

Tamil cinema has an even longer history than Bollywood cinema, and unlike Bollywood, it shows real life through emotional stories. Tamil films are known for showing the life of common man, or the problems they face. The emphasis is placed on good storylines and talented actors rather than fanfare. In these films you’ll see a more authentic portrayal of South Indian culture and people, with them not being too focused on the fair and conventional beauty of Hollywood. While there is still the much loved action and musical numbers that characterise Indian films, you will find that there is also a large emphasis on raw emotion, making these films both captivating and exciting to watch.

Check out CulturalPulse’s shortlist of the best Tamil films over the past 70 years below.

50's

Parasakthi (1952)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: R. Krishnan
Stars: Shivaji Ganesan, Pandharibai, S.S. Rajendran, S.V. Sahasranamam
Synopsis: “Parasakthi” narrates the misfortunes that befall the members of a Tamil family. The youngest sister gets widowed and becomes the victim of an attempted rape by a temple priest … See full summary »

Ratha Kanneer (1954)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: R. Krishnan
Stars: M.R. Radha, S.S. Rajendran, M.N. Rajam, J.P. Chandrababu
Synopsis: The story revolves around Mohanasundaram, a returned-from-abroad, westernized, rich man who shows arrogance and contempt towards anything part of Indian culture and anyone below his social standards … See full summary »

Malaikallan (1954)

Genre: Action, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Director: Sriramulu Naidu S.M.
Stars: M.G. Ramachandran, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna
Synopsis: A young man saves the daughter of a zamindar when she is kidnapped and then they both fall in love with each other … See full summary »

Nadodi Mannan (1958)

Genre: Action, Adventure
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: M.G. Ramachandran
Stars: M.G. Ramachandran, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, M.N. Nambiar, M.N. Rajam
Synopsis: A wanderer/revolutionary is a dead ringer for a monarch, and takes his place … See full summary »

Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1959)

Genre: Biography, Drama, History
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Director: B. Ramakrishnaiah Panthulu
Stars: Shivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Padmini, Varalakshmi S.
Synopsis: When the British East India Company forces polygar Kattabomman to pay taxes, levies and be their subsidiary ruler, he openly defies their policy and battles them until his arrest and hanging … See full summary »

60's

Kadalikka Neramillai (1964)

Genre: Comedy, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8
Director: C.V. Sridhar
Stars: T.S. Balaiah, Kanchana, R. Muthuraman, Nagesh
Synopsis: Poor Ashok loves Nirmala, daughter of industrialist Vishwanathan who is determined to get his daughters married off to a rich groom. Ashok seeks his affluent friend Vasu’s help, who disguises as Ashok’s father … See full summary »

Karnan (1964)

Genre: Action, Drama, History
IMDB Rating: 7.9
Director: B. Ramakrishnaiah Panthulu
Stars: Shivaji Ganesan, Taraka Rama Rao Nandamuri, S.A. Ashokan, R. Muthuraman
Synopsis: Brave Karna proves his bravery and loyalty but endures humiliation … See full summary »

Server Sundaram (1964)

Genre: Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: R. Krishnan
Stars: Sennalkudi Lakshmi, R. Muthuraman, Nagesh, Major Sundarrajan
Synopsis: A poor server at a restaurant goes on to become a film actor so that he can afford to marry the woman he loves. However, when he comes to know that the woman he loves does not love him … See full summary »

Thiruvilayadal (1965)

Genre: Drama, Family, Musical
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: A.P. Nagarajan
Stars: Shivaji Ganesan, Savitri, Nagesh, Balaiya
Synopsis: Devarishi Narada visits Bhagawan Shri Shiva, Devi Maa Parvati, and their sons, Bhagwan Shri Ganesan, and Bhagwan Shri Kartikeyan,and presents Shiva with a fruit. He decides to give it to … See full summary »

Ethir Neechal (1968)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: K. Balachander
Stars: Nagesh, Showkar Janaki, Jayanthi, R. Muthuraman
Synopsis: An orphan who lives by doing odd jobs in a building complex falls in love with one of the residents … See full summary »

70's

Kurathi Magan (1972)

Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.3
Director: K.S. Gopalakrishnan
Stars: Gemini Ganesan, K.R. Vijaya, V. Gopalakrishnan, Kamal Haasan
Synopsis: Malaikottai ostracises his wife and blames her for not being chaste. After she gets thrown out of the village, she takes her son and decides to give him a good education. See full summary »

Kasethan Kadavulada (1972)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Director: Chitralaya Gopu
Stars: Lakshmi, Aachi Manorama, Venniradai Moorthy, R. Muthuraman
Synopsis: Parvathi dominates her husband Sivaswamy, while having control on all his money. However, when Sivaswamy’s son Ramu needs some money for his sister’s husband, Parvathi refuses bluntly. See full summary »

Gauravam (1973)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Vietnam Veetu Sundaram
Stars: Chendamarai, Shivaji Ganesan, Jayakumari, Y.G. Mahendran
Synopsis: Emotional drama of two lawyers – uncle and nephew – Shivaji Ganesan in dual role. Uncle obsessed with legalities alone whereas the nephew intent on looking at the moralities too. See full summary »

Pathinaru Vayathinile (1977)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Bharathiraja
Stars: Sridevi, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Gandhimathi
Synopsis: The movie revolves around the struggle and vulnerability of 16-year old Mayil (Sridevi) when in love. See full summary »

Ninaithale Inikkum (1979)

Genre: Musical, Romance
IMDB Rating: 7.0
Director: K. Balachander
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Jaya Prada, Rajinikanth, Sarath Babu
Synopsis: The movie revolves around a music troop who travel to Singapore for a performance and how their life takes a turn when they meet their love partner. See full summary »

80's

Thillu Mullu (1981)

Genre: Comedy
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: K. Balachander
Stars: Rajinikanth, Madhavi, Thengai Srinivasan, Showkar Janaki
Synopsis: Chandran , a young man fools his boss and attempts to woo his boss’ daughter. See full summary »

Moondram Pirai (1982)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: Balu Mahendra
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Sridevi, Poornam Vishwanathan, Silk Smitha
Synopsis: A young woman regresses to childhood after suffering a head injury in a car crash. Lost, she ends up trapped at a brothel before being rescued by a lonely school teacher who falls in love with her… See full summary »

Mouna Ragam (1986)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: Mani Ratnam
Stars: Karthik, Mohan, V.K. Ramasamy, Revathy
Synopsis: Divya, a woman grieving over the death of her lover, is convinced into an arranged marriage with Chandra Kumar. Over a year the couple attempt to adjust to each other’s presence and live with each other… See full summary »

Nayakan (1987)

Genre: Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: Mani Ratnam
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Saranya Ponvannan, Delhi Ganesh, Janagaraj
Synopsis: A common man’s struggles against a corrupt police force put him on the wrong side of the law. He becomes a don, who is loved and respected by many, but his growing power and influence exact a heavy toll.. See full summary »

Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Nagesh, Srividya, Gautami
Synopsis: Two brothers separated at birth meet as adults and settle old scores with the killers of their father … See full summary »

90's

Thalapathi (1991)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: Mani Ratnam
Stars: Rajinikanth, Mammootty, Shobana, Arvind Swamy
Synopsis: An orphan named Surya raised in a slum befriends a good crime boss named Devaraj and works for him. Their existence is threatened when a new honest district collector arrives… See full summary »

Thevar Magan (1992)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: Bharathan
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Shivaji Ganesan, Nassar, Revathy
Synopsis: The urban son of a village chieftain struggles between his personal aspirations and those of his family… See full summary »

Mahanadi (1993)

Genre: Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: Santhana Bharathi
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Sukanya, Poornam Vishwanathan, Mahanadhi Shobana
Synopsis: A man tries to get his family back in shape after a stint in jail … See full summary »

Kuruthipunal (1995)

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 8.5
Director: P.C. Sreeram
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Arjun, Nassar, Gautami
Synopsis: Two brave police officers infiltrate a terror group in order to bring it down … See full summary »

Iruvar (1997)

Genre: Biography, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.5
Director: Mani Ratnam
Stars: Mohanlal, Prakash Raj, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Gautami
Synopsis: The real-life rivalry between M.G. Ramachandran and Karunanidhi is given the Mani Ratnam treatment … See full summary »

00's

Kannathil Muthamittal (2002)

Genre: Action, Drama, War
IMDB Rating: 8.5
Director: Mani Ratnam
Stars: Madhavan, Simran, Keerthana Parthiepan, Nandita Das
Synopsis: A little girl is told by her parents that she is adopted. Determined to find her real mother, she begs to be taken to Sri Lanka, where her mother works with a militant group of activists … See full summary »

Anbe Sivam (2003)

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: Sundar C.
Stars: Kamal Haasan, Madhavan, Kiran Rathod, Nassar
Synopsis: Two men, one young and arrogant, the other damaged – physically but not spiritually – by life, are thrown together by circumstances, and find that they are in some ways bound together by fate… See full summary »

Pithamagan (2003)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Bala
Stars: Vikram, Suriya, Laila, Sangeetha
Synopsis: A boy raised in a cemetery grows up with no social skills, and leads a turbulent life readjusting once he moves out of the cemetery… See full summary »

Pudhu Pettai (2006)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: K. Selvaraghavan
Stars: Dhanush, Sneha, Sonia Agarwal, Azhagam Perumal
Synopsis: A high school kid joins a gang and becomes a drug dealer, then a politician … See full summary »

Kattradhu Thamizh (2007)

Genre: Drama, Mystery
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Ram
Stars: Jiiva, Anjali, Karunas, Azhagam Perumal
Synopsis: A young post-graduate faces difficulties with finding employment, and struggles against social inequalities … See full summary »

10's

Aruvi (2016)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: Arun Prabhu Purushothaman
Stars: Aditi Balan, Padmashri Mohammad Ali, Pradeep Anthony, Arnold
Synopsis: A gentle girl born and brought up amidst the ever growing eco-social-consumeristic environment finds it difficult to fit in the society. She decides to take it hard on the people. What she does is the rest of the story … See full summary »

Vikram Vedha (2017)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 8.7
Director: Gayatri
Stars: Vijay Sethupathi, Madhavan, Shraddha Srinath, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
Synopsis: Vikram, a no-nonsense police officer, accompanied by Simon, his partner, is on the hunt to capture Vedha, a smuggler and a murderer. Vedha tries to change Vikram’s life, which leads to a conflict … See full summary »

Pariyerum Perumal (2018)

Genre: Drama
IMDB Rating: 9
Director: Mari Selvaraj
Stars: Kathir, Anandhi, Yogi Babu, Lijeesh
Synopsis: A law student from a lower caste begins a friendship with his classmate, a girl who belongs to a higher caste, and the men in her family start giving him trouble over this … See full summary »

96 (2018)

Genre: Drama, Romance
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: C. Prem Kumar
Stars: Vijay Sethupathi, Trisha Krishnan, Varsha Bollamma, Adithya Bhaskar
Synopsis: Two high school sweethearts meet at a reunion after 22 years and reminisce about their past over the course of an evening … See full summary »

Ratsasan (2018)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Director: Ram Kumar
Stars: Radha Ravi, Sangili Murugan, Nizhalgal Ravi, Saravanan
Synopsis: Constant rejections in his attempts to become a filmmaker and family constraints force Arun to let go of his dream and take up the job of a Police officer … See full summary »