20 Greatest Indian Actresses of All Time
While Hollywood always gets the most attention, other countries around the world are producing their own incredible films, including South Korea, Japan, and France. In the last few years, Indian cinema has gained massive popularity worldwide.
Better known as Bollywood, the industry produces thousands of movies each year starring the biggest names in the industry. The most popular form of Bollywood movies is the masala film. These movies combine romance, action, comedy, and extravagant musical numbers. Bollywood films would be nothing without talented actresses. Bollywood actresses are quickly becoming known around the globe. They can make audiences laugh, cry, and copy their dance moves, with our favorites below.
20 Greatest Indian Actresses of All Time
1. Aishwarya Rai
Often considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, Aishwarya Rai is one of India’s most recognizable stars globally. Rai began her career as a model. After placing second in Miss India, her career took off when she won Miss World 1994. Rai starred in a series of Tamil films before making her Bollywood debut in Jeans in 1998.
In 2002, she won a Filmfare Award for Best Actress for her critically acclaimed performance in Devdas. She gained wider fame with her roles in Mohabbatein, Guru, and Provoked. Rai’s personal life and marriage to actor Abhishek Bachchan often garner a lot of media attention.
Rai has gained worldwide fame appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and The Tyra Banks Show. Furthermore, she co-starred in The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin. Rai has won several significant awards, including the Padma Shri from the Government of India and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Government of France.
2. Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra is one of the most famous Indian actresses in the world. She’s been a dominant force in both Bollywood and Hollywood. She first gained worldwide recognition when she won the Miss World pageant in 2000. After her win, Bollywood’s top filmmakers were throwing offers at her. In 2003, Chopra made her Bollywood debut in Hero: A Love Story of a Spy. She established herself as a bankable star with roles in Krrish and Don.
With a knack for playing a wide range of roles, Chopra won numerous Filmfare awards. Chopra received universal praise for her critically acclaimed performances in Fashion, Mary Kom, and Bajirao Mastani. While many Bollywood stars transitioned to Hollywood, few had the success of Chopra.
She made history as the first Indian actress to lead an American series as the star of ABC’s Quantico from 2015 to 2018. Chopra’s career reached new heights with roles in Baywatch, The White Tiger, and Matrix Resurrections. Considered one of the most influential Indian stars, Chopra’s high-profile marriage to singer Nick Jonas gained her even more widespread attention.
3. Madhuri Dixit
Iconic actress Madhuri Dixit made her feature film debut in the early 1980s. From then on she steadily rose to Bollywood fame thanks to her dancing skills, acting abilities, and screen presence. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, Dixit dominated Bollywood with stellar performances, often stealing the spotlight from her male co-stars.
Dixit had great success with roles in Tezaab, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, and Dil To Pagal Hai. She went on to star in a string of hugely successful movies earning six Filmfare awards. This established her as one of the highest-paid stars in Bollywood.
In 2002, she received universal praise for her memorable performance in Devdas. That same year, Dixit married and relocated to the United States. She took a hiatus from acting but returned in 2007. She continues to act with critics and fans praising her performance in 2019s Total Dhamaal. Madhuri Dixit remains one of Bollywood’s most beloved movie stars.
4. Deepika Padukone
As one of the highest-paid Bollywood stars, few actresses compare with Deepika Padukone. Raised in Bangalore, Padukone is the daughter of badminton star Prakash Padukone. She followed in her father’s footsteps and became an accomplished badminton star in her own right. After pursuing a career in modeling, Padukone set her sights on the big screen.
In 2006, she made her Bollywood debut to rave reviews in Aishwarya. Later, her career took off with roles in Cocktail, Chennai Express, and Bajirao. After a brief career slump, Padukone received praise for her roles in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and Piku. The multiple Filmfare award-winner traveled to America to take on Hollywood. Her most notable role came in 2017s XXX: Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel.
5. Shilpa Shetty
World-famous actress Shilpa Shetty debuted in the 1993 thriller Baazigar along with stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. She remained a significant star throughout the 90s but had a career resurgence in the 2000s. Additionally, she’s best known for her roles in Phir Milenge, Dus, and Life in a Metro. Shetty shifted her career focus to reality television, where she thrived.
In 2007, Shetty joined the cast of the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother season five. She faced intense racism and hateful comments from cast members. The racism and hate that Shetty endured became an international story. Despite the hatred from certain cast members, Shetty overcame the obstacles to win the series that season.
Shetty remains a significant Indian celebrity around the globe. Shetty took over as host of the popular series Bigg Boss during season two. She also serves as a judge on the reality series Nach Baliye and Super Dancer.
6. Kareena Kapoor
Kareena Kapoor is undoubtedly one of Bollywood’s most famous stars. She made her film debut in 2000 in the movie Refugee. As the daughter of actors Babita and Randhir Kapoor, she was born to be a Bollywood star. She had an early taste of the industry as she often accompanied her sister Karisma Kapoor on set.
Kareena became a household name with her breakthrough role in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. After a brief slump, Kapoor elevated her career to the next level with her role in Chameli. She went on to star in several popular movies, including Dev, 3 Idiots, and Bajrangi Bhaijaan. However, Kareena’s personal life, body image, and relationships garner more attention than her career, notably her marriage to actor Saif Ali Khan. Kapoor remains one of Bollywood’s most famous stars.
7. Kangana Ranaut
In 2006, Kangana Ranaut made her debut in Gangster to rave reviews. She quickly established herself by playing strong-willed female characters that never back down. The Filmfare award-winning actress cemented her legacy with roles in Fashion, Raaz: The Mystery Continues, and Once Upon a Time In Mumbai.
She starred in one of India’s highest-grossing films, Krrish 3 along with box office hits Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and Panga. Ranaut is seen as a fashion icon and trendsetter ahead of the curve. Also known for her outspoken right-wing personality, Ranaut often stirs up controversy with her opinions and views.
8. Alia Bhatt
As a member of the famous Bhatt family, Alia Bhatt has lived up to her family’s reputation. Bhatt debuted as a child in the thriller Sangharsh, written by her father, Mahesh Bhatt. She slowly made a name for herself with roles in Student of the Year, Highway, and Dear Zindagi.
The three-time Filmfare Award-winning actress elevated her career with roles in Gully Boy, Raazi, and Udta Punjab. She eventually became one of the highest-paid Indian actresses, recently starring in Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva.
9. Sara Ali Khan
Sara Ali Khan is a proud member of the iconic Pataudi family. She’s the daughter of actor Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh. Khan had pressure on her from the start thanks to her name but has managed to step out of her famous parent’s shadows. Khan made her film debut in 2018 in the movies Kedarnath and Simmba.
The Filmfare award-winning actress gained widespread fame for her role in Atrangi Re. Khan is still a rising star in Bollywood who is sure to win more accolades and land significant roles.
10. Amy Jackson
British actress Amy Jackson began pursuing a career in modeling while living in the United Kingdom. Jackson had her first break by winning the Miss Teen pageant in 2009. She went into modeling and worked with all the top brands, such as Hugo Boss, Herrera, and Cartier.
Despite lacking formal acting training, Jackson landed a role in the Tamil-language film Madrasapattinam. That took her to India where she found success in Tamil and Hindi films. Her best-known roles are in Singh is Bliing and 2.0. She continued landing significant roles in India that led to success in Hollywood where she played Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl in season 3 of Supergirl.
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11. Radhika Apte
Debuting in 2005, Radhika Apte ascended through the ranks of Bollywood film to become a bankable star. In addition to Hindi films, Apte has appeared in English, Bengali, Marathi, and Tamil movies. In 2009, Apte got that chance to prove herself in a leading role in Antaheen. Apte continued to make her mark in Bollywood with critically acclaimed performances.
She appeared in several Netflix series and films, such as Ghoul, Sacred Games, and Lust Stories. In 2019, she portrayed real-life spy Noor Inayat Khan in the American production A Call to Spy. Apte remains one of Bollywood’s most influential stars, having made a name for herself globally.
12. Samantha Ruth Prabhu
Samantha Ruth Prabhu established herself as a leading Telugu and Tamil actress. She made her debut in the 2010 South Indian film Ye Maaya Chesave to rave reviews. The Filmfare award-winning actress often portrays strong female leads in such films as Dookudu, Kaththi, Super Deluxe, and Oh Baby. She has won several accolades and awards for her stellar performances. Prabhu is easily one of India’s most famous and influential South Indian actresses.
13. Tunisha Sharma
Born and raised in Chandigarh, Tunisha Sharma first made her name on television in Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap and Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat. She moved into film, playing the younger version of Katrina Kaif’s characters in Baar Baar Dekha and Fitoor. Since childhood, Sharma has struggled with severe depression and mental health. She continued to battle depression as she became a significant Indian star.
In August 2022, Sharma began starring in the hit series Ali Baba alongside her boyfriend, Sheezan Mohammed Khan. In December of that year, Sharma committed suicide in Khan’s make-up room. Authorities arrested Khan for Sharma’s death for abetment for suicide. She makes her final film appearance in the upcoming movie 3 Monkeys.
14. Katrina Kaif
Born in Hong Kong, British actress Katrina Kaif became one of the highest-paid Bollywood stars. She’s faced many ups and downs throughout her career. Since she wasn’t proficient in Hindi, Kaif struggled early on but excelled due to her dancing skills. Despite some early criticism, fans and critics praised her roles in New York and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.
She went on to star in some of Bollywood’s highest-grossing movies, including Ek Tha Tiger, Dhoom 3, and Bang Bang! Despite her success, she often goes through career slumps but always bounces back. Kaif received universal praise for her role in Zero and remains one of India’s most famous stars.
15. Janhvi Kapoor
Few actresses compare with Janhvi Kapoor. She has a rich family history as a member of the famous Kapoor family through her father, Boney Kapoor. She’s also the daughter of iconic Indian actress Sridevi. With those big shoes to fill, Kapoor has established herself as another rising star in Bollywood.
She made her feature film debut in 2018’s Dhadak. After a hot start, she struggled with several flops. She made a roaring comeback with her role in the biopic Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. Janhvi Kapoor is easily one of the most talked about new stars on the rise.
16. Kriti Sanon
As the daughter of a physics professor and a chartered accountant, Kriti Sanon pursued a different career initially. She obtained an engineering degree from the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology. With the degree as a backup, Sanon turned her attention to a career in modeling.
She parlayed her fame into roles in Telugu films Heropanti and 1:Nenokkadine. Next, Sanon was ready to conquer Bollywood. The Filmfare award-winning actress starred in Dilwale, Luka Chuppi, and Mimi. Since becoming one of Bollywood’s newest stars, Sanon has branched into several areas of business, getting into the fitness industry and starting a clothing company.
17. Anushka Sharma
Since debuting in 2008, Anushka Sharma has become one of Bollywood’s highest-paid actresses. Growing up in Bangalore, she moved to Mumbai to continue her modeling career. Her first role was in Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with Bollywood legend Shah Rukh Khan. In addition to breaking box office records, it launched Sharma’s career.
She landed major roles in Band Baaja Baaraat and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. She went on to win several Filmfare awards for performances in NH10, Sulton, and Sanju. As one of Bollywood’s most bankable stars, Sharma started her own production company, Clean Slate Filmz. After a short break, she returned to acting in 2020 and looks set to dominate for another decade.
18. Shraddha Kapoor
Shraddha Kapoor was born with acting in her blood. While her father, Shakti Kapoor, was best known for playing villains and comedic roles, Shraddha Kapoor is a leading lady. In fact, she’s one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry.
Kapoor had her big breakthrough in the 2013 Hindi remake of A Star is Born, Aashiqui 2. At times, Kapoor has starred in a string of box office bombs. However, she also starred in critically acclaimed movies Haider, Stree, and Chhichore. Kapoor is one of the most followed Indian celebrities on Instagram.
19. Kira Advani
Kiara Advani has quickly become Bollywood’s newest sensation. She debuted in 2018 and instantly made an impact with her role in Fugly. Born Alia Advani, actor Salman Khan convinced her to change her name since Alia Bhatt was an established star.
She’s best known for her roles in Netflix’s Lust Stories, Good Newwz, and Shershaah. She’s one of India’s most influential and brightest young stars who is continuing to rise up the ranks in the movie industry.
20. Shriya Saran
Born in Haridwar, Shriya Saran has starred in a wide variety of genres in different languages around the globe. She’s had enormous success in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu films. Initially, Saran had dreams of becoming a world-famous dancer. Those ambitions brought her to India’s film industry.
Saran debuted in 2001 and quickly established herself as a star. She had her big breakthrough with roles in Nuvve Nuvve, Awarapan, and Pokkiri Raja. In 2012, she starred in Deepa Metha’s Midnight Children.
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