25 very best Korean movies you must see.

by KimchiDaniel | created - 09 Apr 2013 | updated - 07 Aug 2017 | Public
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1. Oldeuboi (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

74 Metascore

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Chan-wook Park | Stars: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang, Dae-han Ji

Votes: 448,724 | Gross: $0.71M

2. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

R | 140 min | Action, Drama, War

64 Metascore

When two brothers are forced to fight in the Korean War, the elder decides to take the riskiest missions if it will help shield the younger from battle.

Director: Je-kyu Kang | Stars: Dong-Gun Jang, Won Bin, Eun-ju Lee, Hyeong-jin Kong

Votes: 35,369 | Gross: $1.11M

I was in awe in my 1st viewing of this movie by its sheer production level as I was equally taken away by its dramatic turn of events that were impressively told. Two brothers lives are gravely disturbed by the Korean war, and as the war proceeds, our insight into how truly atrocious wars are to mankind becomes evident, as it is poetically depicted through the family of two brothers. The battle scenes are reminiscent of "Saving Private O'Ryan" as well as "Band of Brothers," but in my opinion you will relate to this movie more due to its focus on a family which we can all identify with.

3. The Host (2006)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Horror

85 Metascore

A monster emerges from Seoul's Han River and begins attacking people. One victim's loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches.

Director: Joon-ho Bong | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Hee-Bong Byun, Hae-il Park, Doona Bae

Votes: 83,269 | Gross: $2.20M

A monstrous lizard domiciled in the Han River terrorizing its residents didn't do much to stimulate my curiosity, but boy was I glad I saw this movie. It's just a damn well made movie on all levels, must viewing if you fancy giant lizards smashing, eating everything in sight.

4. Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom (2008)

R | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Western

69 Metascore

The story of two outlaws and a bounty hunter in 1940s Manchuria and their rivalry to possess a treasure map while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Byung-Hun Lee, Woo-sung Jung, Je-mun Yun

Votes: 30,265 | Gross: $0.13M

5. Memories of Murder (2003)

Not Rated | 132 min | Action, Crime, Drama

82 Metascore

In a small Korean province in 1986, three detectives struggle with the case of multiple young women being found raped and murdered by an unknown culprit.

Director: Joon-ho Bong | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, Roe-ha Kim, Jae-ho Song

Votes: 97,543 | Gross: $0.01M

Based on a true story of unsolved serial murders from the mid 80's. This movie is as much about incompetency of police officers as it is about the murders. Two aspects of this movie will fuel you with anger, 1st being the cops that are devoid of intelligence, integrity, and moral scruples, 2nd the psychotic killer was never captured. Success of this movie is greatly owed to two very acclaimed actors in Korea, Kang Ho Song does bring some levity in this intense movie, his comedic genius does not disappoint; his counterpart Kwang Rim Kim also does an excellent job as a frustrated city cop doing his best to cope with unorthodox, corrupt countryside cops. The residues of horrific thoughts lingered as I walked out of the theater as I was thinking about the killer never being caught!

6. I Saw the Devil (2010)

Not Rated | 142 min | Action, Drama, Horror

67 Metascore

A secret agent exacts revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Byung-Hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Joon-Hyuk Lee, In-seo Kim

Votes: 91,855 | Gross: $0.13M

This movie was a comeback vehicle for Min-Shik Choi(held in high esteem as one of the best actors in Korea), after 5 yrs of hiatus which he pulled off brilliantly as the unrelenting psychopathic serial killer. The principal driving force behind the killer Kyung Suk's motive for killing(Min-Sik Choi) is merely to satiate his innate desire to kill, there is no act of sublimation with this guy, he just kills, he is the embodiment of pure evil, the film does not delve into the psychological makeup of this killer to explain why he kills, viewers naturally have to draw their own conclusions, one thing is clear, and that is he is a misogynist. One of the most sadistic characters in recent modern cinema, his killing spree is forced into retirement when the Protagonist Soo-hyeon Kim played by Lee Byung Hyun better known to the western fans as storm shadow(GI Joe) exerts equal level of maniacal zeal to hunt down the Kyung Suk to pay retribution for killing his fiancee. Ironically his occupation is a secret service agent, Soo-hyeon captures Kyung-suk with relative ease, rather than turning him over to authorities he let's him loose with intent to capture him again which is made possible by implanting a tracking device in his body without him knowing. As Kyung-Suk invariably acts on his desires to kill another helpless victim Soo-Hyeon conveniently shows up, and tortures Kyung-Suk, and then once again he let's him free with intent of capturing him again for yet another session of torture. I must admit there is an element of guilty pleasure in witnessing this, the good torturing the evil; of course Soo-hyeon's actions are not without repercussions, and this adds another dynamic to the film that will keep you glued to the screen. Your face will turn pallor, lips crimson, you will squirm, quiver and curse, and will have urges to stop watching, I almost did, and had to cover my eyes on few scenes. I think what the director is trying to infer is that even the seemingly sane, innocuous person is capable of most horrendous acts if triggered, that evil lurks in all of us. Do not watch this film with your girlfriends!

7. The Man from Nowhere (2010)

R | 119 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug-and-organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend.

Director: Jeong-beom Lee | Stars: Won Bin, Sae-ron Kim, Tae-hoon Kim, Hee-won Kim

Votes: 54,136 | Gross: $0.01M

Yes, the theme of this movie is very cliche, but this will not even minutely detract the movie viewing experience. You are immediately in sync with the emotions and the minds of the characters as we vicariously partake in the explosive retribution campaign launched by Tae-Sik's character as he annihilates the evil doers to rescue a motherless girl; whom he bonded whilst leading an isolated life as a pawn shop owner. This movie has many parallels to Denzel Washington's "Man on fire".

8. Joint Security Area (2000)

Not Rated | 110 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

58 Metascore

In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 ... See full summary »

Director: Chan-wook Park | Stars: Yeong-ae Lee, Byung-Hun Lee, Kang-ho Song, Tae-woo Kim

Votes: 23,078

Before "OldBoy" there was JSA(Joint Security Area) by Chan-Woo Park. A movie about friendship that was nurtured among North Korean Soldiers, and South Korean Soldiers at the border. There is a great element of melancholy beauty as we observe the friendship that commences between them, for viewers can only anticipate the invariable outcome of such prohibited relationships. For me this movie was a commentary on the beauty, purity, and how kindred spirited we are with one another, but despite our inborn nature, our actions are drawn from the duties we hold, and the dogmas that are subconsciously embedded in our minds. A great movie about about human intellect vs emotions vs innate nature.

9. Nowhere to Hide (1999)

R | 112 min | Action, Drama

55 Metascore

A team of police hunt down a villain.

Director: Myung-se Lee | Stars: Joong-Hoon Park, Sung-Ki Ahn, Dong-Gun Jang, Ji-Woo Choi

Votes: 1,697 | Gross: $0.02M

Fighting scenes should be duly noted, the slow motion scenes are nicely complimented by the music as well. Movie is about the hunter, and the hunted. This is the very movie that transcended the Korean heartthrob Jang Dong Gun as a serious actor.

10. A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Not Rated | 120 min | Action, Drama

Things go wrong for a high ranking mobster when he doesn't proceed by his boss's orders.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Byung-Hun Lee, Min-a Shin, Yeong-cheol Kim, Jung-min Hwang

Votes: 31,030

A gang leader assigns his most trusted henchman(Sun Woo) to keep vigil on his girlfriend while he is gone. During Sun Woo's watch, he discovers that the girlfriend has an auxiliary boyfriend on the side. Sun Woo reports back with discretion to protect the girl, this very decision unleashes what seems to Sun Woo a cascade of unwarranted, irrational behavior towards him by his boss. The whole movie is established on the premise of SunWoo seeking his boss to uncover the dark truth...this truth which reveals itself at the very end of the movie is quite shocking, and disturbing as it highlights the infinitely complex makeup of human psychology.

11. Pido nunmuldo eobshi (2002)

116 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

She drives a cab on the night shift and meets every scum there is. Gyung-sun lives a scant life day by day, but she used to be a professional safecracker that earned her the nickname, "... See full summary »

Director: Seung-wan Ryoo | Stars: Do-yeon Jeon, Hye-yeong Lee, Jae-yeong Jeong, Goo Shin

Votes: 586

12. Jigureul jikyeora! (2003)

Unrated | 118 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

70 Metascore

Byeong-gu believes that the world is on the verge of an alien invasion, and sets out to save the world.

Director: Joon-Hwan Jang | Stars: Ha-kyun Shin, Yun-shik Baek, Jung-min Hwang, Jae-yong Lee

Votes: 7,075 | Gross: $0.01M

13. Gonggongui jeog (2002)

Not Rated | 138 min | Action

A detective plays cat-and-mouse with a banker who brutally murdered his own parents.

Director: Woo-Suk Kang | Stars: Kyung-gu Sol, Sung-Jae Lee, Shin-il Kang, Jeong-hak Kim

Votes: 1,966

14. Friend (I) (2009)

155 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

Add a Plot

Director: Satabdi Roy | Stars: Tapas Pal, Satabdi Roy, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty

Votes: 18

15. Gwanghae: Wangyidoen namja (2012)

Not Rated | 131 min | Drama

A look-alike commoner is secretly hired to take the place of a poisoned king to save his country from falling into chaos.

Director: Chang-min Choo | Stars: Byung-Hun Lee, Seung-ryong Ryu, Hyo-Joo Han, In-kwon Kim

Votes: 5,055 | Gross: $0.92M

16. Haebaragi (2006)

Not Rated | 116 min | Action, Drama

Released from prison, Taesik goes to live with an adopted mother. He takes a job and tries to live a quiet life with his new family. His efforts are threatened when a politician seeks to knock the family restaurant down to build a mall.

Director: Seok-beom Kang | Stars: Jeong-su Han, In-jae Heo, In-seong Hwang, Eun-pyo Jeong

Votes: 1,599

17. The Chaser (2008)

Not Rated | 125 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

64 Metascore

A disgraced ex-policeman who runs a small ring of prostitutes finds himself in a race against time when one of his women goes missing.

Director: Hong-jin Na | Stars: Yoon-Seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Yeong-hie Seo, Yoo-Jeong Kim

Votes: 48,448

18. Gukga daepyo (2009)

137 min | Drama, Sport

Five men go for the gold as members of Korea's national ski jumping team.

Director: Yong-hwa Kim | Stars: Jung-woo Ha, Dong-il Sung, Ji-seok Kim, Dong-wook Kim

Votes: 708

19. Haebaragi (2006)

Not Rated | 116 min | Action, Drama

Released from prison, Taesik goes to live with an adopted mother. He takes a job and tries to live a quiet life with his new family. His efforts are threatened when a politician seeks to knock the family restaurant down to build a mall.

Director: Seok-beom Kang | Stars: Jeong-su Han, In-jae Heo, In-seong Hwang, Eun-pyo Jeong

Votes: 1,599

20. The Thieves (2012)

Not Rated | 135 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

75 Metascore

After a heist in South Korea, a gang of 5+1 fly to Hong Kong to look into a heist, in a Macau casino, of a $30M diamond, planned by someone unreliable. He brings in HK thieves as well. Can anyone be trusted?

Director: Dong-hoon Choi | Stars: Yoon-Seok Kim, Jung-jae Lee, Hye-su Kim, Ji-hyun Jun

Votes: 7,886 | Gross: $0.69M

21. Silmido (2003)

Not Rated | 135 min | Action, Drama

Based on a true story of 1968 Korean Republic Army plan to assassinate North Korean president Kim Il-Sung. 31 criminals and death row inmates are recruited into secret training on the ... See full summary »

Director: Woo-Suk Kang | Stars: Sung-Ki Ahn, Kyung-gu Sol, Jun-ho Heo, Jae-yeong Jeong

Votes: 3,804

22. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

R | 115 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

65 Metascore

A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Soo-jung Lim, Geun-young Moon

Votes: 49,891

23. Bereullin (2013)

Not Rated | 120 min | Action, Thriller

54 Metascore

Jong-seong, a North Korean ghost agent, interrupts an illegal arms sale in Berlin. A notorious North Korean agent tests the loyalties of everyone involved as Jong-Seong prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Director: Seung-wan Ryoo | Stars: Jung-woo Ha, Suk-kyu Han, Seung-bum Ryoo, Ji-hyun Jun

Votes: 5,817 | Gross: $0.67M

The movie is worth watching for 1 reason, and 1 reason only, the fighting scenes. The director is up to par with what movie fighting should look like, the fighting scenes are reminiscent of "Bourne Identity", without the incoherent close ups, also it contains some never seen coolest moves that will leave an indelible impression on all action fans alike. You just have to overlook the obvious small budget, and bad English speaking acting. Hollywood really should get with the program, and incorporate some of these types of fighting scenes in their movies.

24. Pieta (2012)

Not Rated | 104 min | Crime, Drama

72 Metascore

A loan shark is forced to reconsider his violent lifestyle after the arrival of a mysterious woman claiming to be his long-lost mother.

Director: Ki-duk Kim | Stars: Min-soo Jo, Jung-Jin Lee, Ki-Hong Woo, Eunjin Kang

Votes: 11,305 | Gross: $0.02M

25. Nae anaeui modeun geot (2012)

121 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Doo Hyun cannot stand with his wife anymore, he wants to divorce but he cant. Instead of cheating on her, he hired a Casanova to seduce his wife to make his wife leave him. Will he succeed?

Director: Kyu-dong Min | Stars: Jeong-tae Kim, Kwang-soo Lee, Saeromi Lee, Sun-kyun Lee

Votes: 1,128

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