50 Korean Movies You Should Add To Your Watchlist
First, there was Parasite, and then there was Squid Game, and you've suddenly found yourself hooked on Korean filmmaking and the distinctive style of its creations. You've probably stumbled upon some Korean dramas, too, but those might've been too easy a watch for you. Then, you found the works of the legendary director Kim Ki-duk, and now you probably want to explore more and more of the movies that the Korean film industry has spawned. If so, you are absolutely in the right place as we've prepared a thorough list of the best Korean movies up to date!
You wouldn't believe how many Korean films hold a 100% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes - it seems that the directors have found some secret formula to make exceptionally good movies! And, even though their formula usually consists of a slow pace, deep character studies, and mesmerizing visuals - very unlike the formula the Hollywood counterparts use - their unique stories enthrall even a hardened prêt-à-porter movie fan. And if you are a real cinephile, these Korean movies will definitely live up to your high standards.
So, scroll down below and check out our collection of the best Korean movies made up to this day. From the creations of the master of arts, Kim Ki-duk, to earlier works of Bong Joon Ho, you will definitely find some very, very interesting movies here. Oh, right, and don't forget to share this article with your friends!
2019 | 2 hours 12 minutes | Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Cho
Parasite is a black comedy thriller film following the story of a poor family as they try to get hired by a wealthy one posing as unrelated, highly qualified individuals. Then, of course, greed and class divide threatens this newly forged symbiotic relationship, and everyone's lives turn even sourer than they were before. Parasite blew away the audiences and the critics and became the first-ever foreign-language film to win an Academy Award in the Best Picture category. It's a truly enthralling piece that will leave you thinking about the stark social commentary it has voiced for days after watching.
2010 | 2 hours 19 minutes | Directed by Lee Chang-dong
Starring Yun Jeon-hie, Lee Da-wit, Kim Hee-ra
Poetry is a drama film that follows the story of an older woman who discovers the joy of poetry while battling early Alzheimer's symptoms and taking care of her irresponsible grandson. It's a slow-moving film that's nevertheless haunting and positively breathtaking for its harrowing topics juxtaposed with serene sceneries. Poetry is also one of those unicorn-like movies to hold a 100% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes. This means, of course, that Poetry truly speaks a universal cinematic language that knows no barriers and is deeply touching no matter where you're from.
The Age Of Shadows
2016 | 2 hours 20 minutes | Directed by Jee-woon Kim
Starring Lee Byung-hun, Kang-ho Song, Gong Yoo
The Age Of Shadows is a period action thriller set in Shanghai and Seoul in the 1920s. It follows a relentless chase between a Korean resistance group trying to smuggle explosives to Seoul to destroy Japanese facilities and the Japanese agents trying to stop them. In the middle of it is a Korean-born Japanese police officer faced with the dilemma of duty and working for a greater cause. The Age Of Shadows is a very stylish and no less exciting thriller, one that an action movie fan should never miss.
2009 | 2 hours 9 minutes | Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Starring Hye-ja Kim, Won Bin, Jin Goo
Mother is a thriller film centering around a mother who finds herself in dire straits after her intellectually disabled son is accused of a horrific murder. Now it is up to her to find out who has framed her son and who is responsible for this killing. Saturated with eerie visuals and harrowing family drama, Mother is surely one dazzling watch.
2016 | 2 hours 36 minutes | Directed by Na Hong-jin
Starring Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Kwak Do-won
The Wailing is a horror film following mysterious events that happen in a remote village called Gokseong. Upon the arrival of a stranger, the settlement is plagued by a mysterious illness and bizarre killings. A policeman steps up to solve these mysteries in the hope of saving his daughter and the population of the village. The Wailing shows just how powerful masterful storytelling can be - even though you're terrified from the first minute, there's no way you won't finish watching this chilling story.
Hotel By The River
2018 | 1 hour 36 minutes | Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Starring Ju-bong Gi, Hae-hyo Kwon, Kim Min-hee
Hotel By The River is a drama film about intersecting fates, creating a metaphor for modern living. In the dead of winter, a poet invites his sons for a reunion. A newly divorced woman and some young ladies are staying there too, and the gentlemen cannot resist learning more about them. Hotel By The River is a mesmerizingly slow movie with black-and-white visuals that are as stunning as art masterpieces.
2016 | 2hours 25 minutes | Directed by Park Chan-wook
Starring Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong
The Handmaiden is an erotic psychological thriller inspired by Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith. The events in The Handmaiden are set in the times of Japanese rule over Korea and follow a young girl hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. However, she's not some inconspicuous girl as she's in on a conspiracy to defraud the heiress. While The Handmaiden uses numerous sexually explicit scenes to tell the story, they do make the movie more sumptuous rather than distasteful and, in turn, give the viewer a thoroughly entertaining thriller to watch.
2018 | 2 hours 28 minutes | Directed by Lee Chang-dong
Starring Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo
Burning is a psychological thriller film based on the short story Barn Burning from The Elephant Vanished by Haruki Murakami. A young and poor delivery man, Jong-su, runs into his childhood friend, Hae-mi, who then asks him to care for her cat while she goes to visit Africa. Once she's back, she introduces a new friend, Ben, who's filthy rich and terribly mysterious. Soon enough, his secret floats to the surface, and now Jong-su is worried about Hae-mi's safety. The events in Burning happen at an anxiously slow pace, but if you bear with it, the rewards are insurmountable.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring
2003 | 1 hour 43 minutes | Directed by Kim Ki-duk
Starring Kim Ki-duk, Oh Yeong-su, Jong-ho Kim
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring is a drama romance film where the epicenter of the events is a Buddhist monastery floating in a pristine lake. We follow one of the monks residing there as he goes through the seasons of his life - from childhood to adult life to old age. If you think this movie is likely too sentimental for your taste, then you definitely haven't got the slightest idea of Kim Ki-duk's mastery - this movie's tranquility will immerse you into a sort of meditation, out of which you'll probably come as a new person entirely. A true Korean modern cinema classic!
Train To Busan
2006 | 2 hours | Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Starring Kang-ho Song, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il
The Host is a monster film inspired by an article about a deformed fish caught in the Han River. So, basically, a real story! Here, the monster kidnaps a man's daughter, and now it is up to him to free her and bring her to safety, which isn't exactly an easy task when the kidnapper is a humongous river monster. And don't let the genre "monster film" deter you from watching The Host! It's a marvelous combination of amusement, thrills, intellectual writing, and satire, making this movie into a genre-defying masterpiece.