The Top 50 Movies of actor Mohanlal

by - May 21, 2018

Cop. Rowdy. Lover. Cad. Don. Common man. Bullock-cart Driver. Casino owner. Killer. Dancer. Doctor. Mental patient. Awaiting the death penalty. Alzheimers. Bed-ridden. Carnatic singer.

In real life : Actor. Singer. Producer. Padma Shri. Superstar. Icon. Lieutanant Colonel. Six Kerala State Film Awards for Best Actor. Four National Film Awards. Over 300 films. 

Mohanlal Vishwanathan Nair. 

The Top 50 Movies of Malayalam actor Mohanlal

Unlike a Bollywood superstar's 'Top movies' list, making a list for actors of Malayalam cinema (especially one from the golden era of storytelling), is tougher. If I were to make a list of the Top 10 Mohanlal movies worth watching, invariably movies showcasing his acting talent would be overshadowed by movies which provided great comic relief or 'just' entertainment. 

So, keeping that in mind, I will attempt to combine both worlds - giving you a list that showcases both Mohanlal's acting abilities as well as some of his most loved movies. I'm thus limiting the total list to a meagre 50 movies ("BLASPHEMY !" I know.) 

Here goes.

Fun Entertainers

  • Chandralekha
  • Rajavinte Makan
  • Udayan Aanu Taaram
  • Irupatham Noottandu
  • Thenmavin Kombathu
  • Aram + Aram Kinnaram
  • Poochakkoru Mookkuthi
  • His Highness Abdullah
  • T.P.Balagopalan M.A. ( State Award - Best Actor )
  • Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam
  • Vietnam Colony
  • Ulladakkam ( State Award - Best Actor )
  • 20-20
  • Minnaram
  • Devasuram
  • Narasimham

Keeps you hooked 

  • Thalavattam -     Loosely adapted from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Mohanlal plays a patient in a mental hospital who slowly starts to recover and finds himself falling in love with his doctor, much to her father's chagrin.
  • Kilukkam -     Kilukkam works because of the overall dynamics - comedy, storyline and a spirited Revathy. The story of a young woman who comes to Ooty and convinces a tourist guide ( Mohanlal ) albeit briefly that she is a Princess, while she searches for her father, was a huge hit, not just because of the comic timing of the lead and supporting actors ( Jagathy, Innocent, Thilakan ) but because the director, Priyadarshan had the ability to make you smile at one minute and tug at your heart the next.

  • The Nadodikkaattu trilogy -     You ask me why this movie appears in this section of the list... I ask you why are you smiling as soon as you read the name. Unemployment has never been as funny as this movie where two 'friends' Ramdas ( Mohanlal ) and Vijayan ( Sreenivasan ) try to get to Dubai in search of a job but instead land up in Tamil Nadu. There are so many iconic moments of absolute comic timing, I wouldn't know where to start. The Managing director incident. The cow. Mammukoya as Gafur. Anganne Pavanayi Shavamayi. Srinivasan meeting actress Seema. Thilakan as Ananthan Nambiar.
Two more sequels of this duo ( now CIDs Ramdas and Vijayan ) - Pattanapravesham and Akkare Akkare Akkare - were equally hilarious. To a true Malayali, if someone says the word 'trilogy', he won't think of Star Wars or Avengers, he knows you mean these three films.

  • Sadayam -     This was a darker role, of a convict awaiting the gallows, who narrates the chain of events culminating in him killing two men and two small children to the prison doctor. This thriller was a deserved winner of the National Award for Screenplay ( M.T. Vasudevan Nair )
  • Boeing Boeing -     Nothing to do with acting. Nothing to do with originality ( it is a copy of a 1960 play, remade in English in '65, in Malayalam 20 years later and a further 20 years later in Hindi as Garam Masala. ) Mohanlal plays a 'rascally scoundrel' who's dating one air-hostess too many and trying to get away with it. It doesn't helps when your equally 'rascally' friend ( Mukesh ) wants a share of the 'metaphorical' pie and you have a aging chef ( Sukumari ) who's struggling to remember which girl is which. The real hero here is the script which combines slapstick with situational comedy to great effect. 
  • Yodha -     Inspite of bordering on the fantastical, Yodha was a major hit when it released. A small-village lad ( Mohanlal ) is packed off to his uncle's place in Nepal when an astrologer claims he will commit a murder very soon. Unknown to him however, he is to be the saviour of a young monk, destined to be the Rimpoche ( Tibetian for 'Precious One' )... that is, if he doesn't end up killing his annoying cousin, Appukuttan ( a hilarious Jagathy ) first. Fun fact: This was A R Rahman's only musical score for a Malayalam film.
  • Manichitrathazhu -     This film is not famous for Mohanlal, but for Shobana and deservedly so. A true psychological thriller, it focuses on the sequence of unnatural events that occur when a married couple arrive at their ancestral house. The heady mix of tradition, beliefs, history, psychology and a thrilling script would have made it a hit at any rate - but it is the performance of Shobana that elevates this movie towards excellence.
  • Kaalapani - Based on the lives of Indian prisoners during British rule, this National Award winning film features an iconic performance from Mohanlal who plays a doctor wrongly accused of terrorism and taken to the legendary jail on the day of his wedding. This movie featured all-round excellent performances from Prabhu, Tabu and Amirsh Puri and features some truly haunting moments.

  • Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu -     This one is not here for anyone's acting skills. One of Malayalam cinema's most hilarious comedies, it works off a star cast of comedy genuises together. Mohanlal is the driver of USA returned snob M.A.Dhawan ( who else but Srinivasan ) who comes up with the 'brilliant' idea of studying his future fiance by reversing roles with Mohanlal and pretending to be the driver. All hell breaks loose when the girl starts getting attracted to Mohanlal who is now not ready to give up the ruse either. What better example of the two's comic timing exists than this iconic scene - "How many kilometres from Washington DC to Miami beach ?"  

Essential viewing

Includes some of his most iconic roles which truly showcased his acting talent

  • Kireedam -     The iconic role of Sethu Madhavan, who wants to be a honest police officer like his father, but is not just let down by society but eventually converted into the very thing he despised, is more relevant in today's India than ever before. Watching the character being broken down by the system - his life destroyed for standing up for honesty - is heartbreaking. It is easily one of the best acting roles of Mohanlal.Warning : Do not watch either this or it's sequel, Chenkol, while you are depressed. Trust me.
  • Bharatham -     The significance of the title ( Ramayana from Bharat's eyes ) dawned on me years later. Set to a carnatic music background, this film tells the tale of a younger brother (Mohanlal) who is forced to take up responsibilty when his more famous brother's ( Nedumudi Venu ) musical talents are overshadowed by first personal issues (alcoholism), and then his own disappearance. Why he has disappeared and how Mohanlal has to cope with what he knows form the crux of this film. National Awards for Mohanlal ( Actor ), Yesudas ( Male Playback ) and Raveendran Master ( Jury Award for composition ).
  • Thoovanathumbikal - A cult classic today, this P Padmarajan movie is considered to be ahead of its time. To say it is a love story between a man and two women (one, a head strong distant relative and the other a woman he helped bring into the escort industry) would be doing this movie a horrible injustice. The concepts, the imagery, the use of rain, the songs and haunting background score and even Trissur, the place itself, gets a life of its own. Mohanlal and actress Sumalatha's performances stand out here.

  • Kamaladalam -     Taking a turn from Bharatham, here Mohanlal stars as a renowned dance teacher of temple arts who, following a personal tragedy, starts to lose his way in life. He attempts to redeem himself by taking on an ambitious dance project and training a young girl. Another excellent soundtrack from the Raveendran Master- Yesudas combination, along with great supporting roles from Nedumudi Venu, Monisha and Vineet.
  • Thanmatra -     In the last decade he has played too many superhuman 'heroes of the masses' for my liking. Yet, in between that, came this gem that reminded us that talent can never be extinguished. Mohanlal played a government employee whose dreams and aspirations for his family are dealt a blow  when he finds himself diagnosed with Alzheimer's. While he received State and Filmfare awards for this role, he lost out on the National Award to Amitabh Bachchan who also suffered from memory loss that year in Black. Another performance a few years later as a bedridden old philosophy professor in Pranayam also stands out in particular.
  • Drishyam - One of the biggest hits of 2013, this mystery about a middle class family who find themselves on the wrong side of the law after an intruder enters their house was a superb showcase of just how well Mohanlal can emote without having to resort to glorifying action sequences. A brilliant script and featuring one of the most memorable twists of this decade in Indian cinema, the movie has been remade in multiple languages but the consensus remains that Mohanlal did it best.
  • Spadikam -     Again, a power-packed performance by two megastars, Mohanlal and Thilakan. This movie told the story of how by being a strict disciplinarian, Thilakan crushes his son's aspirations as a student and how it shapes their lives as the young man grows up.
  • Iruvar - I left this one out when I first published this post because I was predominantly concentrating on Malayalam movies. But that's not fair, I realise. Based on the relationship between real-life Tamil Nadu ministers MGR and Karunanidhi, this movie showcases the best of many worlds - direction ( Mani Rathnam ), music ( A R Rahman ) and above all else acting ( Mohanlal and Prakash Raj ). 
  • Chithram -     Remember what I said about Priyadarshan, in his prime, having the ability to make you laugh and cry simultaneously ? Nowhere is it better seen than in this movie, where a girl and her dad's friend hire a man ( Mohanlal ) to pretend to be her husband for a fortnight so as to appease her aging father who believes she is happily married. If the first half of the movie is a laugh riot, the second half changes tone dramatically as you realise who Mohanlal really is and why he agreed to this charade. The movie was an enormous hit, running for over a year in some parts of Kerala. As a kid, I remember it playing for months in Dubai itself. Fun fact : The story is written by one of Malayalam's most versatile and unsung stars - Srinivasan.
  • Vanaprastham -     Astounding is the word to describe his acting in this movie. A Kathakali dancer of a lower caste, his performance as Arjuna on stage promises to change his fortune when a higher caste woman falls in loves with him. But it slowly becomes clear that the woman was in love with the man on stage, Arjuna and not the man behind the paint. This final rejection destroys the artist and his roles on stage take on a darker, more demonic tone. A Truckload of National,State and Filmfare awards are attached to this movie, in addition to critical acclaim at international film festivals like AFI.

Author's note: 

Malayalam film actor Mohanlal with his mother

Even as I see the list, I know I've left out some big hits and sterling performances ( Vellanakalude Nadu, Varavelupu ). But then again, that's the talent of the actor and the diversity of the roles he has undertaken over the last three decades.

This post was first published by me in one of my short lived sites, many a year ago. Back then, I had asked the public to add their opinion on which movies deserved to be in the list. Boy, did they oblige, helping me reach the magic number of 50 hits of Mohanlal worth watching!
  • Season
  • Spirit
  • Paradeshi
  • Vellanakalude Nadu
  • Varavelupu
  • Unnikale Oru Kadha Parayam
  • Pranayam
  • Bhramaram
  • Paadamudra
  • Dhanam
  • Lal Salaam
  • Kalipaatam
  • Guru
  • Pavithram
  • Pingami
  • Chenkol
  • Vandanam
  • Keerthichakra
  • Rasathantram
  • Hey Auto
  • Kanmadham
  • Aaram Thamburan
  • Midhunam
Have you had the chance to watch Mohanlal's movies? If so, which ones did you like best? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

A list of the top 50 Greatest hits of Malayalam actor Mohanlal

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  1. MoriartyMay 21, 2018

    I like his 80s movies mostly when he was taking on movies as the common man..but then again i like most of his movies except for that short stint where he was doing sterotypical one man show movies with lot of talk and less of anything else..

  2. MoriartyMay 21, 2018

    And yes..jayakarishnan and clara of thoovanathumbikal and solomon and sophia of namukku paarkaam munthiri thoppukal have to be mentioned together.

  3. My heavens! It is indeed a Herculean task to summarize his work or pick out his top 50! Going through the list made me re-live the many times I have watched all his movies. Such a fantastic actor and my Mom's ultimate favorite! Thanks for this list, Roshan. I will share this with Amma.

  4. Mom-in-law is a HUGE Mohanlal fan and she'd love this list :)

    I confess I have seen only a few but his 'Dhrishyam' blew me away. Such measured acting, such controlled emotions. Truly a legend.

  5. I didn't know much about the actor until i read this post. Malayalam cinema for me was limited to a few of Mani Ratnam's - latest being Kaatru Veliyidai.

    I have watched Drishyam the Hindi one.
    Now i have so many to try watching.

  6. Would you judge me if I said I haven't seen a single movie on this list? Or anything featuring him at all?

    That being said, your post has made me super curious. If I had to start watching him, which movie would you recommend I begin with?

  7. As a mallu, I'm ashamed that I couldn't even pronounce most of these movies here :(

    Apart from a couple, I haven't seen any other. But we do love watching regional movies these days so I'll bookmark this post and hope to watch some of them sometime soon.

  8. AnonymousMay 23, 2018

    I am not much of a mallu film person. try to catch a few lines here and there. Have watched kala paani though and yes he was brilliant in it. I also watched a recent tamil movie with him and VIjay, and felt he did play his age brilliantly

  9. Wow wow Roshan , this is such a lovely writeup about the legendary actor Mohanlal and such a beautiful dedication to Lalettan who turned a year younger in the true sense. Being a die hard fan of Lalettan from the time I remember,enjoyed reading every line as you have mentioned all the top movies of this wonderful actor. I am proud to say that I have watched all the movie that you have listed and enjoyed them so many times. Thanks for taking through the journey of some of his best movies. Yes, this list is not and there are more to it as there are so many good movies of his. Wishing dear Lalettan a very Happy birthday!!!

  10. Ok so I’m new here and don’t know about south at all except maybe Kamla Hassan!

  11. This is good to know.I need to catch up with yuour awesome lists.I had no idea you are a movie buff

  12. Wow....that's a huge list indeed....I am also a huge fan of the legend and have watched most of these movies...Dasa nd Vijaya are names my husband use to talk to our friends...I have another favourite. ...Dasharatam....i sooo wanted the end to be different.

  13. Thank you for sharing valuable information nice post,I enjoyed reading this post.


  14. Well, this sure does look like a great collection of Mohanlal movies. I will definitely refer this movie and watch some of the them :-)

  15. The list sounds great, indeed he's the finest actors. Would love to watch some from list

  16. I am a Tamilian. Once I had a chance to watch Kireedam. That started my love towards Lalettan. I am not exaggerating just because of him I learned the language and able to speak and read.

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