top 30 korean movies to watch

1. Peppermint

Bakha satang

  • South Korea, 1999
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 129 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.7.

The story is built backwards: the film begins with the suicide of a man named Kim. After that, the plot turns back, and the audience gets acquainted with the difficult life of the protagonist, taking place against the backdrop of significant events in Korean politics.

The second picture of the outstanding classic Lee Chang-don (concurrently the former Minister of Culture of South Korea, writer and screenwriter, winner of the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals) tells the story of an absolutely unhappy person. The pessimistic thought about the possibility of finding peace only through death becomes the leitmotif.

2. Island

seom

  • South Korea, 2000
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 93 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.0.
Shot from the movie “The Island”

The mysterious and silent caretaker of the fishing floating shacks, Hwi Jin, dutifully serves the guests, including with her own body, until a former policeman with a difficult fate settles in one of the houses. Between the characters there is a strange attraction that defies rational explanation.

The sadomasochistic arthouse directed by Kim Ki-duk is famous for its shocking violence scenes. Critics, including the famous Roger Ebert, note that The Island is one of the most naturalistic and cruel films in the history of cinema. Nevertheless, the Korean director cannot be reproached for insensitivity: the story turned out to be so deep and poignant.

3. Joint security zone

Gongdonggyeongbiguyeok JSA

  • South Korea, 2000
  • Drama, thriller, action.
  • Duration: 110 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.
Shot from the film “Joint Security Area”

This film is about the lives of ordinary soldiers who were divided by the Korean War. A chamber detective story will appeal to even those who are not familiar with the situation in Korea and do not know all the nuances of the conflict.

4. Bad guy

Nappeun namja

  • South Korea, 2001
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 100 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6.8.

The seventh picture of Kim Ki-duk tells about a guy who falls in love at first sight, but is rejected. The young man develops a cunning plan for revenge and kidnaps the girl.

A contrasting, controversial story about hypertrophied love from the master of silent cinema leaves behind a bitter aftertaste and a desire to get acquainted with the director’s work in its entirety.

5. Sympathy for Mr. Revenge

Boksuneun naui geot

  • South Korea, 2002
  • Crime drama.
  • Duration: 129 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.6.

Ryu, a deaf and mute steel mill worker, needs money for an operation on his sick sister. He sells the kidney to organ dealers, but the scammers get away with the money. Then Ryu decides, together with his girlfriend, to steal the daughter of the former boss in order to get a ransom.

The first film in Park Chan-wook’s Revenge Trilogy. “Sympathy for Mr. Revenge” is not as dynamic as “Oldboy”, but the operator chooses such angles that it is impossible to take your eyes off the screen. And in general, the measured is only good for the picture.

6. Road to the house

Jeepuro…

  • South Korea, 2002
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 88 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.

A moralizing story about a mute grandmother and her spoiled grandson. An elderly woman humbly accepts all the antics of the boy, educates and teaches him.

The film is as good as it is heavy for the viewer. Guaranteed several hours of sobs and rethinking of life after viewing. The cinema shows not only childish cruelty, but also senile wisdom, which not everyone can afford to acquire.

7. The story of two sisters

Janghwa, Hongryeon

  • South Korea, 2003
  • Horror, mystical thriller.
  • Duration: 115 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.2.

Two sisters return to their father and stepmother’s home after an extended stay in a psychiatric hospital. Gradually, the girls begin to notice that strange and inexplicable things are happening everywhere.

The psychological thriller directed by Kim Ji Woon has garnered numerous awards in Korea and film festivals around the world. The film was so loved by the audience that a few years after the release it was even re-shot in the United States. However, the remake of The Uninvited failed to surpass the unique Korean original.

8. Spring, summer, autumn, winter … and again spring

Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom

  • South Korea, 2003
  • Drama, melodrama.
  • Duration: 103 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.0.

The film tells the story of an old monk and his pupil living in a floating hut on a lake far from civilization. The measured pace of their lives is disrupted when a young student meets a girl.

Perhaps the most important picture in the filmography of Korean director Kim Ki-duk. A beautiful philosophical parable about the inexorability of time, humility and the nature of being.

9. Oldboy

oldeuboi

  • South Korea, 2003
  • Detective thriller, drama.
  • Duration: 120 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.4.

An unremarkable businessman is kidnapped by unknown people and imprisoned for many years. After he is released, he goes in search of his offenders, obsessed with a thirst for revenge.

The cult film by Park Chan-wook collected many awards and nominations, and critics and viewers gave extremely positive ratings. The picture is included in the “Trilogy of Revenge”, and if you might not know about the other two works, then “Oldboy” has certainly always been on the lips.

10. Memories of Murder

salinui chueok

  • South Korea, 2003
  • Detective thriller, drama.
  • Duration: 131 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.1.

Several brutal murders take place in the Korean outback. The police want to catch the criminal at all costs, but the true motives of the officers are to find and punish the culprit, and not solve the case, so sometimes they go beyond what is permitted.

This is a painting by Bong Joon Ho about how the justice system works. The film convinces the viewer that anyone who gets in her way is a potential enemy.

11. Empty house

Bin‑jip

  • South Korea, 2004
  • Drama, melodrama.
  • Duration: 88 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.0.

The meeting of a guy named Tae Suk and a girl Sunwa was predetermined by fate. For many years the heroine suffers from the beatings of her husband. When Tae-suk appears on the doorstep, the girl runs away with him and accepts his lifestyle of an eternal wanderer.

The quintessence of Kim Ki-duk’s silent cinema. The director masterfully uses visual images and the right angles to tell an amazing love story without words.

12. 38th parallel

Taegeukgi hwinalrimyeo

  • South Korea, 2004
  • Military drama.
  • Duration: 140 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.1.

The film tells about the tragic fate of two brothers who are forced to fight in a bloody war between South and North Korea against their will.

A solid budget was allocated for the filming of the picture, and the authors were able to roam. Gorgeous sets, thousands of extras, and meticulous attention to detail have created a breathtaking movie worthy of standing on a par with such films as ” Saving Private Ryan ” and “Band of Brothers”.

13. Bitterness and sweetness

Dalkomhan insaeng

  • South Korea, 2005
  • Drama, action.
  • Duration: 119 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.6.

The protagonist Seong Wu works for the mafia boss Mr. Kang, carries out his orders and looks after the restaurant. One day, the owner asks Song Wu to follow a friend whom he suspects of cheating. The hero finds the girl in the arms of her lover, but does not follow the order and lets them go. Mr. Kahn learns about the betrayal and decides to take revenge.

14. Dinosaur Invasion

Gwoemul

  • South Korea, 2006
  • Fantasy drama.
  • Duration: 120 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.0.

Because of the release of toxic substances in the Han River, a terrible monster started up. An eyewitness to a monster attack on people is the family of the owner of a small coastal diner. The creature drags away 14-year-old Hyun-seo with him, but a text message received from the girl gives relatives hope that she is alive.

In his third film, 2020 Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho satirically portrays both the American and South Korean governments. By the way, the prologue is based on real events: in February 2000, the US military stationed in Seoul really poured formaldehyde into the Korean sewer.

Unfortunately, the Russian distributors called the tape rather ridiculous , and this can mislead the viewer. The original version sounds much simpler and translates as “monster” or “monster”.

15. Chaser

Chugyeokja

  • South Korea, 2008
  • Thriller, Action.
  • Duration: 120 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.9.

In Seoul, call girls began to disappear. The owner of the adult service, Chun Ho, became worried when another worker went to the client and did not return. Remembering the police past, Chun Ho conducts a personal investigation and quickly finds a maniac.

Director Na Hong Jin’s tense and fast-paced feature-length debut breaks all the mold that Hollywood has built up over the years.

16. The good, the bad, the fucked up

Joheunnom nappeunnom isanghannom

  • South Korea, 2008
  • Comedy western.
  • Duration: 135 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.3.

The action takes place in the 1930s in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation. Bandit Yun Tae Gu robs a train carrying a confidant of the Emperor of Japan. Among his trophies is a rare treasure map of the Qing Dynasty. The problem is that the cold-blooded killer Pak Chan Yi is hunting for a valuable item, with whom the virtuoso shooter Pak To Won has long dreamed of dueling.

Director Kim Ji Un spent a record budget in the history of South Korean cinematography and shot a wonderful modern western with a huge number of quotes from the work of Sergio Leone. One of the duels is completely copied from the legendary final scene of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly “.

17. Mother

Madeo

  • South Korea, 2009
  • Detective drama, thriller.
  • Duration: 129 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.

An elderly woman lives in a provincial town with a 28-year-old gouging son who always gets into trouble. When he is accused of murder, the mother begins her own investigation.

Pong Joon Ho managed to combine in one film both a thriller and a drama of human relations, diluted with satire and farce. The result is a sad film about sincere maternal love – beautiful and frightening.

18. Robinson on the Moon

Kimssi pyoryugi

  • South Korea, 2009
  • Drama, melodrama.
  • Duration: 116 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.1.

After a failed suicide attempt, a guy named Kim is washed ashore on a deserted island near the bridge he jumped from. At this time, he is noticed by a reclusive girl who looks out the window for hours.

The ironic picture raises an important social issue – the place we occupy in society. If you associate Korean cinema only with violence and revenge, be sure to check out this touching melodramatic story about two people who, in different ways, came to the same thing – loneliness .

19. Poetry

Shi

  • South Korea, 2010
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 139 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.

An elderly Korean woman enrolls in poetry classes and learns to look for beauty even in ordinary things. However, unexpected events take her by surprise, and reality opens up from the other side.

The film turned out to be extremely heartfelt, and the lead actress Yoon Jung Hee created the image of a strong person who can withstand any difficulties when love lives in his soul.

20. Man from nowhere

Ajeossi

  • South Korea, 2010
  • Drama, action.
  • Duration: 119 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.

Cha Tae Sik is a pawnshop owner. His only friend is the little neighbor girl So Mi. Her mother works as a dancer in a bar and one day, having decided to earn extra money, she robs a drug courier and hides the booty in a pawnshop. The boss of the drug mafia takes the mother and the girl hostage, and sends thugs to Tae Sik.

21. I saw the devil

Akmareul boattda

  • South Korea, 2010
  • Drama, thriller.
  • Duration: 142 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.
Frame from the film “I saw the devil”

The maniac kills another victim, but does not realize that the girl is the bride of special agent Soo Hyun. Moreover, the detective is not going to transfer the criminal into the hands of the police, but to take revenge on him for a long time, painfully and subtly.

The thriller by Kim Ji Un is extremely brutal on the theme of revenge and says in plain text that murderers cannot be re-educated, because even under pain of death they will not change.

22. Always

Ojik geudaeman

  • South Korea, 2011
  • Drama, melodrama.
  • Duration: 108 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.8.

A sincere and kind picture directed by Song Il Gon tells the story of a former boxer and a blind girl who were brought together by a chance meeting. The debut screening took place at the Busan Film Festival, with all 2,000 seats in the outdoor cinema sold out in a matter of minutes.

23. Right now, not after

Jigeumeun makgo geuttaeneun tteulrida

  • South Korea, 2015.
  • Melodrama.
  • Duration: 121 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.2.

Whilst away the time before the next lecture, the successful director Ham Chung-soo meets a young abstract artist Yoon Hee-jong, who introduces him to her paintings. The drunken evening ends in embarrassment, but miraculously, the heroes get the opportunity to break out of the cycle of mistakes.

They say about director Hong Sang-soo that after seeing one of his films, you can assume that you have seen everything. Perhaps, a conversational melodrama, which touches on the topic of the fragility of human relations and the uncertainty of fate, is suitable for the role of this only film. Moreover, the tape is constructed in an extremely unusual way: it consists of two equal parts, in which the same actors play the same story a little differently.

24. Train to Busan

Busanhaeng

  • South Korea, 2016.
  • Action, thriller, horror.
  • Duration: 118 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.5.

An epidemic of a virus that can turn people into the living dead has broken out in the country, and a father and daughter are locked in a train bound for Busan.

The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics and audiences. A dynamic action movie in the entourage of a zombie apocalypse with social and political overtones turned out to be unpredictable and very realistic in Korean.

Watch on iTunes →

25. Network

Geumul

  • South Korea, 2016.
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 114 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.3.

Kim Ki-duk dedicated this film to the enmity between South and North Korea. According to the plot, a modest fisherman Nam Chhor U is fishing in the border zone. One day, the boat breaks down and is washed up on the South Korean coast. Chhor U ends up in the hands of the secret services, who either torture him or seduce him with the delights of life in the South.

26. Maid

Agassi

  • South Korea, 2016.
  • Drama, thriller.
  • Duration: 144 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.1.

Early 20th century Korea occupied by Japan. The swindler Fujiwara plans to charm the wealthy Japanese woman Hideko, marry her, and then declare her crazy and take over all the money. To put the plan into action, he persuades the poor girl Sook Hee to be hired as a servant to Hideko. However, Fujiwara’s plans are not destined to come true.

A very subtle and elegant work from the director of “Oldboy” received high marks and several awards, including the nomination “Golden Palm Branch”.

Watch on iTunes →

27. You and yours

Dangsin jasingwa dangsinui geot

  • South Korea, 2016.
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 86 minutes.
  • IMDb: 6.9.

The young couple does not get along well. The guy is unhappy that his girlfriend drinks a lot, the latter denies everything, although the facts say otherwise. The heroes decide not to communicate for some time, but the break does not do them any good.

Director Hong Sang-soo shows what the all-consuming desire to make another person your property leads to. Uncomplicated dialogues, genuine feelings of the characters and very simple camera work – all this vividly characterizes the work of this director.

28. Howl

Gokseong

  • South Korea, 2016.
  • Mystical thriller.
  • Duration: 156 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.4.

The remote forest village of Gokseong is engulfed in a series of brutal murders. Police officer Jung-gu takes his time investigating the case, but is forced to speed up when his daughter is in danger.

The thriller by Na Hong Jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea) can be safely called a tangled puzzle from Korean cinema. In addition, the director managed to create a sticky atmosphere of a real nightmare, and the finale will surely leave a lot of questions for any viewer.

29. Blazing

Beoning

  • South Korea, 2018.
  • Drama.
  • Duration: 148 minutes.
  • IMDb: 7.6.

A free-form adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s “Burn Down the Barn” tells the story of an impoverished provincial Jung-soo whose girlfriend Hae Mi starts an affair with a wealthy young man. The latter once tells the hero about his secret hobby, and from that moment on, Jung-soo begins to overcome a bad feeling.

Lee Chang Dong’s classic film has become one of the most important film events of 2018. Through the efforts of the director, the simple plot invented by Murakami turned into a grandiose canvas for 2.5 hours, where a whole abyss of interpretations is hidden behind seeming simplicity.

30. Parasites

Gisaengchung

  • South Korea, 2019.
  • Thriller, comedy drama.
  • Duration: 131 minutes.
  • IMDb: 8.6.

The low-income Key family lives very badly and is interrupted by unstable earnings. One day, the eldest son gets a chance to get a job as an English tutor in the house of a local rich man. His relatives, inspired by such good luck, decide to drive all the servants out of the dwelling by cunning and take the vacant places themselves. At first, the plan goes like clockwork. But one day something happens that no one expected.

The bizarre film directed by Bong Joon Ho blew up not only film festivals around the world, but even the Oscar 2020, taking all the major awards. Moreover, this is the first picture not in English, which won the award in the category “Best Film”.

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