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Imtiaz Ali Movies, Ranked from Least Good to Best

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Travel, meet, fall in love! If you think that this is all what Imtiaz Ali movies are about, then maybe you ever haven’t tried deciphering the underlying essence of his movies, which only can be understood if one lets himself loose and set off on the journey his movies are in disguise. Right from his first ‘Socha Na Tha’ (2005) to his last ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ (2017), his movies have a modern take on the idea of love and life in general, with his signature touch of sufism.

In his stories, these above elements get blended seamlessly with picturesque locations captured charmingly amidst the momentous music of maestro AR Rahman or the superstar Pritam. What gets delivered as an experience on screen henceforth, tends to appeal straight to my soul. After revisiting Imtiaz Ali’s filmography just another time, I rank his movies from least good to best :

7. Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)

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“What you seek is seeking you!”

The first dud. The tagline above of this anticipated SRK – Imtiaz – Anushka collaboration can actually hold fit for every Imtiaz Ali movie. A girl sets off with her tour guide across the cobbled streets of Eastern Europe in search of her wedding ring. Intriguing enough? On paper, it is. But nothing could save its narrative from plunging deep down into its own dug pit of futility. It eventually splashed all over the place to my dismay.

The Imtiaz and Anushka fan in me was disappointed first time. The soulful music by Pritam was probably the only savior here, with ‘Ghar’ still being my go to song in times of vanity. Whenever I still wonder Why Harry met Sejal, my discontented expression goes Phurr once I hum these soulful lines the movie gave us, penned by Irshad Kamil :

 “Teri hazrat ho, ya ibaadat ho..
   Tujhko paana hai, jo bhi soorat ho.

6. Love Aaj Kal (2009)

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After his breakthrough success with ‘Jab We Met’, the third directorial of Imtiaz was quite Saifzoned (pun intended). Taking the scale up this time with the exoticism of San Francisco and getting Saif – Deepika – Giselli on board as the cast, he blended an urban and a period love story into his narrative. Bridging the gap between the commitment phobic urban romantics is what it intended and successfully delivered. The heavy lifting to meet the expectations of his last ‘Jab We Met’ was done by the dialogues feat. some trendy lingos, with the story taking a breezy window seat.

Besides the chartbuster album by Pritam that I still love to listen, this one’s memorable also for treating us with one of the better performances by Deepika in her initial days, which paved way for her being the revelation in her next movie ‘Cocktail’.

5. Socha Na Tha (2005)

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..And a star was born. Yes, this was Abhay Deol sincere debut too, opposite the lovely Ayesha Takia; but the takeaway star for me from this romantic comedy is the director Imtiaz himself. In the times of those blingy NRI romances, he made a sweet movie that pampers the unadulterated romantic in me.

Prior to being the Imtiaz Ali known for his sufism, ‘Socha Na Tha’ makes him come across a simple guy who can smoothly dissect and portray the complexities of a relationship.  This movie has all those quintessential Imtiaz bits feat. the lovers refusing to commit, getting over their exes by mutual talking, falling in love on a road trip; but this was all before he took this idea to the next level. After all, a first time is a first time.

4. Rockstar (2011)

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A proud musical rage in disguise. The seeds of sufism the initial Imtiaz directorials had sown, bloomed into a fledged tree in ‘Rockstar’. The non – linear narrative, the constant anger, the poles apart performances by the leads Ranbir and Nargis (why her!?), the unforgettable characters Khatana Bhai and Ustad Jameel Khan, and Mohit Chauhan singing to the heavenly tunes of AR Rahman across the backdrop of scenic Delhi, Kashmir, and Prague. Rockstar had it all, but it was all raw.

When I watched it the first time back in the days, it blew my mind with its intensity. But as the feel sinks in and I see better stories told by Imtiaz Ali himself, this one does drop in this ranklist. Talking of Rockstar, I cannot resist but mention these impeccable lines said by Jordan to Heer:

“Pata hai, yahaan se bohot door, galat aur sahi ke paar..
Ek maidaan hai, main wahaan milunga tujhe.”

3. Jab We Met (2007)

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The breakthrough. While ‘Socha Na Tha’ earned Imtiaz a deserving credibility as a director, this one got him the popular recognition. The credibility as an artist was rather received by Kareena who delivered her best her act as Geet. Her chemistry with Shahid, her dialogues and those little but significant gestures, have attained the iconic status off late.

While DDLJ started the trend of blossoming romance with the one you found during your train journey, JWM scaled this idea several notches up. Every character, their dialogues, the songs by Pritam and Sandesh Shandilya – I remember them all by heart. Despite having it all seen before, what makes it stand out from the likes of it is Imtiaz’s unique treatment. After all this time, it indeed has emerged as a cinematic milestone.

2. Tamasha (2015)

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“All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players”.

This popular Shakespearean quote gets justified by Ved when he exclaims back to Tara (in Delhi) about their Corsica meet, “Wo toh hum role play kar rahe the na!”. Awakening an entire generation to find their true calling, this one is inspirational and pure heartening a watch. Ranbir – Deepika being my favorite pair are always a treat to watch, but their individual acts here as Ved and Tara respectively are pure gold, much better than their lasts with Imtiaz (read: ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Love Aaj Kal’).

The movie has a joyous vibe to it initially, which turns to lovey, and finally ends up haunting our souls. The Corsica is shot as a dream by cinematographer Ravi Varman, who again brilliantly captures the several moods of Ved and Tara. My favorite sequence from the movie is the one prior to the song “Agar Tum Saath Ho”, with this song itself being one of the gems from the captivating album by AR Rahman. This line sums up the movie beautifully :

“Heer liye dil mein aur heer khoje veerane me!”

1. Highway (2014)

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Well, this one’s special! This 2014 release changed the way I looked at the idea of home and traveling, and kindled in me the love for the routes more than the destination they lead to. Even if I put aside my tremendous love for it, I find this Imtiaz’s best storytelling. There’s so much to this movie that makes it the eventual experience that it indeed is. After all this time, the movie still charms me more with its silences that develop during the tender moments of our leads.

Highlighting precisely just two sequences as notably “loud”, the initial kidnapping and the climax confrontation, Imtiaz Ali chose to convey his vision here much subtly as well as serenely through the lens of Anil Mehta; letting silences do more talking than the words. The breakthrough act by Alia Bhatt, the less talked act by Randeep Hooda, complimented by the blissful tunes of AR Rahman and never ending roads of North India. Dreamlike!

Also Read : Highway (2014) : My 5 Favorite Scenes
Also Read: Tamasha (2015): My 5 Favourite Scenes
Also Read : My 5 Favorite Albums of Pritam | World Music Day
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Also Read : Avengers: Endgame (2019) Review | Traversing the memory lane of emotions



About the author

Siddhartha Singh

Siddhartha is an avid reader and a cinephile who loves to write about movies. Being fascinated by the spell of cinema on and around us, he is always in for experiencing gripping stories told from the lens of different storytellers.


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  • I fully agree with the ranking you have given to Imtiaz’s movies.
    So far, my favourites are – Highway, Rockstar, Tamasha, Jab we met. Certainly, these are amazing creations by him.

  • So accurately rated. I believe that not even the most minute detail can escape your eyes! Looking forward to your Kabir Singh review on 21st! 😁