Pather Panchali was followed by two films that continued the tale of Apu's life—Aparajito (The Unvanquished) in 1956 and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) in 1959. Together, the three films constitute the Apu trilogy. Aparajito portrays the adolescent Apu, his education in a rural school and a Calcutta college. Its central theme is the poignant relationship between a doting mother and her ambitious young son. Apur Sansar depicts Apu's adult life, his reaction to his wife's premature death, and his final bonding with his son whom he abandoned as an infant. The sequels also won many national and international awards. Ray did not initially plan to make a trilogy: he decided to make the third film only after being asked about the possibility of a trilogy at the 1957 Venice Film Festival, where Aparajito won the Golden Lion. Apur Panchali (2014) is a Bengali film directed by Kaushik Ganguly, which depicts the real-life story of Subir Bannerjee, the actor who portrayed Apu in Pather Panchali.
Pather Panchali was the first film made in independent India to receive major critical attention internationally, placing India on the world cinema map. It was one of the first examples of Parallel Cinema, a new tradition of Indian film-making in which authenticity and social realism were key themes, breaking the rule of the Indian film establishment. Although Pather Panchali was described as a turning point in Indian cinema, some commentators preferred the view that it refined a "realist textual principle" that was already there. In 1963 Time noted that thanks to Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray was one of the "hardy little band of inspired pioneers" of a new cinematic movement that was enjoying a good number of imitators worldwide. The film has since been considered as a "global landmark" and "among the essential moviegoing experiences". On 2 May 2013, commemorating Ray's birthday, the Indian version of the search engine Google displayed a doodle featuring the train sequence.
After Pather Panchali, Ray went on to make 36 more films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He worked on scripting, casting, scoring, cinematography, art direction and editing, as well as designing his own credit titles and publicity material. He developed a distinctive style of film-making based, as was the case with Pather Panchali, on visual lyricism and strongly humanistic themes. Thus, Ray established himself as an internationally recognized auteur of cinema.