1. Tota Ramudu – Patala Bhairavi (1951)
In this 1951 fantasy film N.T.R played the role of Tota Ramudu the son of a gardener who falls in love with Indumati, the princess of Ujjaini and faces resistance from the king, he goes off into the world and returns as a successful man defeating an sorcerer Nepala Mantrikudu played by S.V.R and marries the queen.
This film is based on the famous “Kasi Majilee Kathalu”. It was also remade in Tamil. It was screened successfully in 28 centers for more than 100 days and got critical acclaim at the first India International Film Festival held in Mumbai on 24 January 1952 and also listed among CNN-IBN’s list of hundred greatest Indian films of all time. This marks the first time he collaborated with Kamalakara Kameswara Rao as director starting a legendary Hero-Director team that would last for the next 15 years and 20 films.
2. Sri Krishna Deyaraya – Tenali Ramakrishna (1956)
This film was simultaneously made in Tamil and is named as Tenali Raman. N. T. Rama Rao appeared as Srikrishna Devaraya in both films. Tenali Ramakrishna was played by A. Nageswara Rao in Telugu version while Sivaji Ganesan portrayed the role in Tamil. The Telugu version of the film has garnered the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film at 4th National Film Awards.
3. Lord Krishna – Mayabazaar (1957)
This 1957 film marks the first time in his career that Rama Rao played the role of Krishna. The film was the eighth in the series of the adaptations of the folk tale Sasirekha Parinayam produced under Vijaya and Vahini studios banner.The film received the Filmfare Award for Best Film in Telugu and was also featured at the 1957 International Film Festival of India and Indonesian Film Festival. A poll conducted by CNN-IBN in May 2013 listed it as the greatest Indian film of all time.
4. Lord Krishna – Vinayaka Chaviti (1957)
With the success of Mayabazar In 1957 N.T.R reprised the role as Lord Krishna 3 months after the Mayabazar on the request on one of his mentors the legendary Samudrala Raghavacharya.
With 24 songs and poems and music scored by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao and Lyrics penned by Samudrala Raghavacharya himself the movie earned itself a permanent place Telugu culture. Decades later you can still here these songs in telugu homes during the festival of Vinayaka Chavithi.
5. Pundarikudu – Panduranga Mahatyam (1957)
He played the role of Pundarikudu/Pundarika a legendary Vishnu Devotee in this 1957 film directed by Kamalakara Kameswara Rao written by Samudrala Ramanujacharya the son of Samudrala Raghavacharya. This film earned NTR a fourth successive Filmfare Best Actor Award for his role as Pundarika.
6. Ravana Brahma – Bhookailas (1958)
Bhookailas is a 1958 mythological Telugu film directed by K. Shankar and written by Samudrala Raghavacharya starring N.T.R in the lead role of Ravana Brahma based on the Sthala Purana story of Gokarna Kshetram in Karnataka. This marks one of his finest performances as Raavana the devotee of Lord Shiva. This is one of the two films in the history of india cinema showing Ravana in a positive light and depicts story from his point of view. After watching this movie you’ll end up wondering with one question in your mind.
“Is Raavana really that evil?? or is it just an opinion of our forefathers passed on to us?”
7. Lord Rama – Sampoorna Ramayanam (1958)
1958 will be remembered as the year two of the top stars from neighboring industries worked together in a film. Sampoorna Ramayanam had NTR and Sivaji Ganesan in lead roles as Rama and his brother Baratha
8. Lord Venkateswara – Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960)
NTR potrayed Lord venkateswara in this movie. It is a considered to be one of the most unique films in the history of Telugu film industry for 3 reasons. It is the first time NTR potrayed this character , it is the only movie to be filmed in the real Lord Venkateswara Temple of Tirupathi and the only movie in which the Legendary Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao appeared on screen.
9. Ravana Brahma – Seetarama Kalyanam (1961)
Perceiving things from a different perspective was one if his notable traits. This can be observed from his opinion on Ravana Brahma. While the whole world looked at Ravana as the evil villain of Ramayana, N.T.R looked at him as a good man who was molded into something else by his circumstances and lost his way by the situations. This can be seen in Bhookailas and Seetarama Kalyanam as he tells the story through Ravana’s point of view.
10. Lord Shiva – Dakshayagnam (1962)
Dakshayagnam is the only film which which saw NTR’s portrayal of Lord shiva and S.V.Ranga Rao as Daksha . This was one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies of that year and is remembered for the brilliant performances of the two legends. Despite the success, N.T.R vowed to never play the character again due to sentimental reasons.
11. Bheeshma Pitamaha – Bheeshma (1962)
Based on the life of the great Mahabharata character Bhishma portrayed by N.T.R this 1962 film stands as one of the very few films that narrate the story of Bheeshma. His flawless performance leaves you with a new found respect to the character and love to the actor.
12. Arjuna/Bruhannala – Nartanasala (1963)
When most of the lead actors of his generation were scared to do a performance wearing a saree fearing that it would do harm to their image and fame, N.T.R took up the task of playing the character of Bruhannala in this movie. Eventually it emerged as one of his finest performances to date and the movie being considered as one of the most iconic Telugu movies.
13. Lord Rama – Lava kusa (1963)
Lava-Kusa made in 1963 is considered as a landmark in Telugu Cinema history in many ways . The script went throug a lot of development hell and by the time the production started it was again delayed due to financial constraints and health issues of the director. Despite of all the hurdles It became the first Telugu film to gross 1 crore rupees when the average ticket price at that time was 25 paisa and is considered to be the biggest blockbuster of all time in the annals of Telugu film history.
14. Satyannarayana swami – Sri Satyanarayana Mahatyam (1964)
After doing a series of commercially hit social films in the year 1964, NTR finally played the role of Lord Satyanarayana in the movie Sri Satyanarayana Mahatyam.
15. Bheemudu – Pandava Vanavasam (1965)
Pandava Vanavasam released in 1965 is one special movie that will be remembered for many things. N.T.R gave a terrific performance as Bhima/Bheemudu. His perfomance was regarded as a pillar of the movie which helped it run for 175 days and celebrate a Silver Jubilee.
Hema Malini started her film career with this movie and went on to become the “Dreamy girl” of bollywood. Legendary director Kovelamudi Raghavendra Rao, started his career as an assistant director for this movie and went on to direct over a 100 films.
16. Duryodhana, Karna and Krishna – Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977)
It takes a man more than passion and love to write, direct, and produce a project along with taking up 3 different characters in it. Well, he did it and completed the movie in 43 working days and the result proved to be more than pleasing. DVS Karna was the second Telugu film after Lava Kusa to collect ₹1 Crores and first Telugu film to collect ₹2 Crores with an average ticket price being ₹1 in 1977 andin the first 15 years after its release, DVS Karna sold the highest number of tickets selling over 160 million tickets during a 15-year period
17. Yama – Sati Savitri (1978)
After the success of the famous yamagola movie, Kailala Satyanarayana stood as an epitome of Yama which was legendary actor late S.V.Ranga Rao was previously popular for. Then NTR played Yama the next year in Sati Savitri proving that he can fit into any role and challenge established actors and legends in their own game.
18. Brahmam garu – Sri Madvirat Veerabrahmendra Swami Charitra (1984)
In 1984 NTR directed and acted in Sri Madvirat Veerabrahmendra Swami Charitra while he was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. He portrayed the characters of Gautama Buddha, Vemana, Ramanuja and Adi Shankara in addition to the title role of Pothuluri Veerabrahmam. The film went on to become a huge success and also gained critical acclaim.
19. Brahmarshi visamitra (1991)
After doing the role of Brahmam gaaru in 1984 he took a break to concentrate on his entry into politics and didn’t returned to screen for 7 years till 1991. This year marked his return to movies when he essayed the role of Brahmarshi visamitra in a movie on the same name.
20. Srinatha kavi sravabhowma – Srinatha Kavi Sarvabhowmudu (1993)
NTR always wanted to portray the life of 15th century Telugu poet Srinatha on silver screen and he finally did it in the year 1993. This was the last film of NTR and it was directed by Bapu and opened for rave reviews.