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This article is written by Yash Kapadia. This article enlists the best Bollywood legal thrillers you can watch of the 21st century. 


Jumping from what the top Hollywood legal thrillers had for us, we now dive into knowing some of the best homegrown Indian legal thrillers to have been made in the 21st Century. 

The 21st century has evidently been a period where nations like India have moved forward towards realising the various legal rights one has and the same are put on the big screen through movies to educate more people of their pre-existing rights as Indian citizens. 

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The sensitive topics of rape, act of god, false rape claims, discrimination faced on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth and many other rights were depicted through a foray of films in the last 20 years. Moreover, these topics were presented on the big screen by brilliant method actors and even superstars who held us gripping to our seats while watching each one of them. 

Through this article, a string of the top legal courtroom dramas and thrillers are listed with a brief on them to make our readers’ choice easier on which one to watch on your day off or a weekend. 

Aitraaz (2004)

This Bollywood movie is one of the most gripping courtroom dramas to date. Aitraaz is based on the concept of how false claims of rape and sexual harassment were used by a woman to frame an innocent man. Aitraaz depicts through a brilliant story how the antagonist, Priyanka Chopra misused the very law made to protect women to frame a man (Akshay Kumar) who was innocent. The accused is further defended by his own wife (Kareena Kapoor) of the charges levied against him. Was his wife successful in defending the charges against can be known only after watching this movie displaying excellent direction, dialogues and screenplay.  

Through this movie, we learn what are the repercussions a man as well as the woman has to face when he is faced with allegations of rape i.e. Section 375 of Indian Penal Code and what is the fate of a woman when she is guilty of false claims of rape, one of them being Section 182 of Indian Penal Code. 

This movie is a must-watch for all fans of Priyanka Chopra all over the world. It is widely regarded as one of her best negative performances to date even though it was released way back in 2004. For the ones, who would have already watched Aitraaz, the movie “Section 3751” released in 2019 is a similar one with an extra-ordinary fictional story about a false rape claim by an artist of the hindi film industry.

Pink (2016)

This courtroom drama was released back in 2016 lead by the most distinguished actor of Bollywood Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. With Mr. Bachchan on-screen comes intensity, heaviness and moments of tension for viewers. 

Pink tells us the story of how three women were harassed by three men and how one of them injured a man by breaking a bottle on his face as self defence. This movie showcases how with the use of political power the men were able to discourage the women from filing any complaint and even after filing one how the police do not lend their full support after knowing one of the accused is the son of a politician. The entry of Mr. Bachchan is shown when he watches one of the women running in tension in a garden and decides to represent them as he is a senior celebrated lawyer. The entire movie has an abundant screen time of the courtroom drama between both the counsels arguing for their clients. The accused mens’ lawyer presents a turn of events as per their convenience by burying various facts and evidence. However, Mr. Bachchan’s entire case is based on the strong foundation of what “consent” really means in context of the law. His monologue of “No means No” is sure to give viewers goosebumps. Mr. Bachchan reveals chilling opinions of how women are considered to be not stereotypical if they come home late or wear short clothes.

Regardless of being an Amitabh Bachchan fan, if there is one courtroom drama recommended to be watched, it would be Pink. 

Rustom (2016)

Rustom is a legal thriller based on the real-life story of the celebrated naval officer K.M. Nanavati who had charges of murder of one businessman Mr. Prem Ahuja levied against him. 

Rustom is played by Mr. Akshay Kumar who has dived deep into the character of Rustom and has shown exemplary acting skills by portraying the role of a naval officer. This movie is filled with courtroom drama when Rustom is arrested for the murder of a businessman and he decides to defend himself of his actions in the case against the legendary lawyer Ram Jethmalani’s first high profile case2. This movie too is based on how one makes use of self defence in order to protect oneself which is more particularly stated in Section 97 of the Indian Penal Code. 

Whether Rustom was successful in defending himself builds up with revelations of bitter secrets in the rest of the film. 

This film in all probability would be one of the best courtroom trials to be showcased in Bollywood. A not-to-be-missed film for legal thriller fans.  

Badla (2019)

Badla is the remake of a legal suspense thriller Spanish film, The Invisible Guest3 which marks the second collaboration of the trio of Director Sujoy Ghosh and actors Amitabh Bachchan and Tapsee Pannu. 

Badla revolves around the life of a woman entrepreneur played by Tapsee Pannu who has a perfect life and family until she is arrested for the murder of her secret lover. Her business lawyer then hires a defence attorney (Mr. Bachchan) to defend and acquit her of all the charges. Mr. Bachchan one fine evening comes to Tapsee’s place and they have a long conversation about the turn of events that led to the murder of her secret lover. There have been instances in the movie where different scenarios have been shown as per Mr. Bachchan’s point of view as well as what Tapsee speaks. What is intriguing is how evidence had been tampered with in various scenarios by Tapsee in order to get away with the crime she had committed or was supposed to have committed. As per Section 204 Indian Penal Code, evidence tampering is an offence punishable with up to two years of imprisonment and a fine. 

Badla is a film that keeps you guessing right until the end till the real suspense is revealed which is going to make plunge out of your seats. All in all, this movie is a mixture of thrill, agony, guesswork and suspense. A must-watch just like their earlier collaboration, Pink. 

Article 15 (2019)

Article 15 is based on the fundamental right of every citizen of India which prohibits any sort of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. This movie displays an unfiltered version of how the less fortunate, backward, poor people in villages are discriminated against on the basis of their caste. This movie depicts how fundamental rights are violated in villages and nobody is even aware of it until one has access to such information probably by the means of such movies shown to a large audience. In fact, this movie is based on multiple true-life events4. 

The movie is led by Ayushmann Khurrana who plays a police officer who has been transferred to a small remote village in India. On his arrival, his first case comes up as three Dalit girls who are missing for a few days. However, after a few days, the two girls are found to be hanging from a tree and it is told to the police that it was a case of honour killings in India as both the girls were lesbians and such an act is a disgrace for their family name. It is pertinent to mention that there are no laws or reforms. On learning of various events, it is concluded that the two girls were gang-raped by one wealthy politician’s son and one police officer and then brutally murdered. However, despite pressure from superior officers to drop the case, the character played by Ayushmann was hellbent on performing his duty and abiding by the law to find the third girl who was still missing. By the end of the movie, the third girl is found hiding inside a pipe displaying the fear in her of being punished by the superior castes as well as her parents. The entire plot revolves around how a truthful police officer faces the gambit of political power to provide justice to the parents of the girls murdered. 

Article 15 showcases the ugly side of varied discriminations faced by the economically backward castes in India who mostly reside in remote villages which people living in metro cities have no idea about. This movie is quite the eye-opener of the atrocities faced by Indian citizens whose very basic fundamental rights are being violated. 

Azhar (2016)

Azhar is a movie based on the controversial life of India’s ex-captain Mohammed Azharuddin. His life ranged from cricket to an extra-marital affair with a Bollywood actress and to end it all he received a lifetime ban from the Cricket Board for match fixing. The film begins with the Indian cricketer played by Emraan Hashmi who successfully scores a century in his 99th professional test match but is very soon faced with allegations of fixing a match as his name was attached with a bookie named M.K. Sharma also known to be called Shaun who was based in London. The powerful Indian Cricket Board after such grave allegations announced that they had taken a decision to ban Azhar for life. The movie revolves around how Azhar decides to challenge the ban in the court of law with the help of friend Reddy who is a qualified lawyer and decides to embark on this journey with him. 

In the winter years of his career, Azhar, who was extremely famous for sporting a flouting larger-than-life lifestyle, came into the eyes of match-fixers and bookies. The movie showcases how he was approached by a London based bookie M.K Sharma, who sailed under the false colours of being a diamond merchant who later offered him Rs. 1 Crore to play a game as instructed by them in a match against Sri Lanka, which was accepted by Azhar with bad grace.

On the other side of his life’s dimension, he also has an extramarital affair with a Bollywood actress and makes it public due to which his then-wife files for a divorce. After the controversial match-fixing scandal, Azhar then faced nationwide criticism and a prosecutor played by Lara Dutta builds up a strong case against him with the aid of certain sting operations done by one of the cricket team’s members on several other cricketers. Heavy reliance is placed by the prosecutor on a report of the inquiry commission set up by the Cricket Board and she then discreetly meets the bookie M. K. Sharma to gather more evidence. The prosecutor even goes to the extent of approaching Azhar’s ex-wife to testify against him based on certain evidence but she refuses. However, Azhar and his lawyer struggled to find any proof of innocence as none of his ex-teammates were ready to help him out by involving themselves in such a controversy.

This movie has a great ending and would answer the question about the authenticity of the report of the inquiry commission as well as the question of whether Azhar was really liable for match-fixing and deserved a lifetime ban. 

This movie is for those cricket enthusiasts who want to learn about the darker side of it which was in play decades before the IPL match and spot-fixing scandal took place. It further displays how intolerant the cricket board is towards match-fixing or betting of any sort which still does have any stringent laws in place for such acts. Only certain sections of the Indian Penal Code which are ready with the word “dishonesty” can ascertain similar cases like that of Azhar. 


India is home to a plethora of legal controversies that could be put up on the screen. However, when directors and writers decide to tell us the stories of the atrocities and pain faced by the downtrodden like Article 15, it is more appealing to the audience. 

Turning controversies into movies is now a new sector for producers in Bollywood to make money. We would not be perplexed if there is an announcement that very soon there would be movies linked to Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death, Raj Kundra’s recent porn/ erotic videos controversy or even Salman Khan’s case. 

All in all, for viewers and fans of Bollywood, legal thrillers have always been a treat to watch because especially due to sensitive issues like rape, caste discrimination movies released in the 21st century display the course of law adopted and the power of our judiciary. This statement can be correlated if one watches any of the movies mentioned in this article. 


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