Most of us know of Korean movies from their love for romance and comedy. But, there’s more to them than that. From romance, of course, to action, drama, and downright mindfucks, Korean movies have a style of storytelling that’s unique to their own.
Here’s a list of 20 Korean movies we felt you should have on your foreign movies bucket list:
Remember the epic corridor fight scene from the movie that redefined action sequences for good? Oldboy is the story of a man locked up for 15 years without any explanation and his captors unknown. Released one fine day with all his questions unanswered and his need for revenge fuelled, the protagonist is then granted five days to figure it all out. You might remember Bollywood’s attempt at remaking the film with Zinda .
2. The Man From Nowhere (2010)
This action-thriller directed by Lee Jeong-beom was the highest grossing movie of 2010. The plot follows the story a quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past, who takes on a drug and organ trafficking racket in an attempt to save the child caught up in it.
3. War Of The Arrows (2011)
One of the few period/action films on the list, War of the Arrows is set in the 17th century during the Second Manchu Invasion of Korea. The story revolves around a Korean, Robin Hood-esque archer, who sets out to save his sister from being enslaved under Prince Dorgon’s rule.
4. Mother (2009)
Now, moving on to drama. This movie follows the story of a mother out on the search for the killer responsible for the horrific murder of a young woman, for which her son has been wrongly convicted. Them feels!
5. Poetry (2010)
Directed by Lee Chang-dong, the story follows a suburban woman in her 60s who begins to develop an interest in poetry while struggling with Alzheimer’s and an irresponsible grandson. Curl up into a ball, try not to cry, cry!
6. Oasis (2002)
Directed by Lee Chang-dong, Oasis touches upon a more sensitive relationship between a convicted felon of a hit-an-run case and his victim’s daughter suffering from cerebral palsy. Get them tissues out for this one.
7. Bleak Night (2010)
Written and directed by Yoon Sung-hyun, Bleak Night is the story of the tiny cracks that appear in the relationship between a group of high school friends, reaching a point of no return, following the death of one of their friends. The movie follows the mystery surrounding the student’s death and its effect on his friends.
8. Peppermint Candy (1999)
A drama beginning with the suicide of the protagonist, Peppermint Candy follows the key events in the protagonist’s life in reverse chronology, revolving around the reason for the act. Directed by Yoon Sung-hyun, Peppermint Candy was chosen as the opening film for the Pusan International Film Festival in its first showing in 1999, winning multiple awards thereafter.
9. Pieta (2012)
Written and directed by Kim Ki-duk, Pieta depicts the mysterious relationship between a violent enforcer who works for loan sharks and a middle-aged woman who claims to be his mother. The movie has interesting Christian symbolism and highly sexual content. Sure to be a little unsettling.
10. More Than Blue (2009)
Moving on to romance because what list of Korean movies can be over without romance. One might recognize More Than Blue as the supposed remake of the Bollywood film Kal Ho Naa Ho. The film’s Korean title literally translates to “A story sadder than sad.” So, there you go.
11. My Scary Girl (2006)
A black/romantic comedy film written and directed by Son Jae-gon, My Scary Girl is the kind of movie that’ll leave you in splits. The story is about a young man who discovers a nasty little secret his girlfriend has been hiding from him, inside her refrigerator.
12. My Girl and I (2005)
Directed by Jeon Yun-su, My Girl and I is a remake of the Japanese film Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World, adapted from the novel, Socrates in Love, by Kyoichi Katayama. This one is for the hardcore romance fanatic.
13. A Man Who Was Superman (2008)
Korean movies are splendid and imaginative with comedy. Released in 2008, A Man Who Was Superman is the story of a snobbish producer directing a documentary about the intriguing behaviour of her neighbour who believes himself to be Superman. Lol!
14. Castaway On The Moon (2009)
Another romantic comedy for the folks with a fantasy twist. This 2009 romantic comedy follows a love story between a suicidal man turned castaway on Bamseom in the Han River and an agoraphobic woman who is addicted to Cyworld.
15. Miracle In Cell No. 7 (2013)
A heart-wrenching comedy drama directed by Lee Hwan-kyung, Miracle In Cell No. 7 is the story of a mentally ill man wrongfully imprisoned on the charges of murder who then creates a friendships with the hardened criminals in his cell, and they help him see his daughter again by breaking her in.
16. Welcome To Dongmakgol (2005)
Based on the stage play by filmmaker/playwright Jang Jin, and directed by Park Kwang-hyun, Welcome To Dongmakgol is a war situational comedy set during the Korean War in 1950, when soldiers from both the North and South Korea, as well as an American pilot, find themselves in a secluded village; its residents largely unaware of the outside world, including the war.
17. Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002)
Breaking the streak with an action thriller, Sympathy For Mr Vengeance is the first of the Vengeance trilogy, directed by Park Kwang-hyun. The story is of a recently laid off deaf and mute factory worker who kidnaps his former boss’ daughter, in an attempt to use the ransom money to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant.
18. I Saw The Devil (2010)
Among the first horror/crime thrillers on the list, I Saw The Devil has it all: blood, violence, and a little bit of gore. The plot follows a secret agent pursuing revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases.
19. Thirst (2009)
This one should get the horror and vampire freaks off. The story follows a priest who is infected with vampirism and is forced to abandon his ascetic ways. Thirst is a far cry from your average vampire movie and features some creepy and truly unsettling visuals.
20. A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)
A psychological horror-drama film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, A Tale Of Two Sisters is inspired by a Joseon Dynasty folktale entitled Janghwa Hongryeon jeon. The plot focuses on two sisters who, after returning home from a psychiatric hospital, experience increasingly disturbing events involving both, them and their stepmother. Yep, this one’s a creep fest.