Korean cinema has produced some of the most enthralling, bizarre, and entertaining films ever made. If you’re interested in the Korean culture and language, there’s no better way to get started than by watching the best Korean movies of all time! We’ve compiled this collection, which contains war, horror, action, comedy, romance, and more genres, so have a look and start watching!
Best Korean Movies of All Time
Parasite, starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, and Yeo-jeong Jo, is the world’s hottest new thriller/drama/comedy. The plot is set in South Korea and follows the Kims, a slum family, as they trick their way into working for an affluent family, the Parks. Their luck runs out when a threat to expose them surfaces in the form of the family’s ex-maid.
The story of Oh Dae-Su, a belligerent drunk who spends his time in and out of prison, is told in the dramatic action mystery film Oldboy, starring Min-sik Choi, Ji-Tae Yoo, and Hye-jeong Kang. Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped in South Korea and wakes up in a windowless cell where he is confined for 15 years. When Oh Dae-Su is unexpectedly released, he has five days to hunt and murder his captor.
3. The Handmaiden
The Handmaiden, starring Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, and Jin-woong Cho, is set during the Japanese colonization of Korea in the 1930s. The film tells the story of Sookee, who is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. Sookee is secretly part of a plot to dupe the heiress and steal her riches, but her preparations are derailed when her emotions get in the way.
4. Memories of Murder
Two detectives strive to unravel the mystery of many rapes and murders in a small Korean province in 1986 in this action-packed crime thriller starring Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, and Roe-ha Kim. A detective from another nation is brought in to assist with the investigations, and following the third murder, the investigators begin to uncover leads that will take them to the culprit.
Mother is a dramatic crime thriller set in Korea starring Hye-ja Kim, Won Bin, and Goo Jin. The story follows a widow and her mentally challenged 28-year-old son as they live a tranquil life in a small town. When a terrible murder occurs and the widow’s son is suspected, his mother will take the law into her own hands to defend his innocence.
Best Korean Horror Films
1. Train to Busan
Train to Busan, starring Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, and Dong-seok Ma, is a South Korean action thriller/horror film. The film follows Sok-woo and his daughter as they board a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan. The world is taken over by a zombie apocalypse during their flight, compelling the passengers to battle for their life and protect their families.
2. The Wailing
Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, and Do-won Kwak star in The Wailing, a mystery horror/thriller film. The plot is set in a tiny South Korean village where an uncommon ailment has begun to spread among the locals following the appearance of a mystery visitor suspected of being an evil ghost. In order to save his daughter, a local cop is required to investigate the mystery of the stranger.
Sang-hyun, a priest working at a South Korean hospital, volunteers for a covert vaccination study meant to curb the spread of a deadly virus in the dramatic fantasy horror film Thirst, starring Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, and Hee-jin Choi. The project goes catastrophically wrong, and the priest receives an emergency transfusion that mistakenly transforms him into a vampire, giving him a desire for blood.
4. The Host
Kang-ho Song, Hee-Bong Byun, and Hae-il Park feature in The Host, a dramatic action horror thriller set in Seoul, South Korea. The plot revolves around the Park Hee-bong family, an ordinary family living and working in Seoul. When a monster is discovered residing in Han River, one family must do everything they can to free their daughter from the monster’s clutches.
Best Korean War Movies
1. Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War
Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War is an action war drama set during the Korean War starring Dong-Gun Jang, Won Bin, and Eun-ju Lee. The plot revolves around the Lee brothers, who volunteer to fight in the war. Jin-tae, the eldest of the two brothers, muster all of his power and bravery in order to incur risks for the sake of his younger brother’s safety.
2. Battle Ground 625
Battle Ground 625, a comical war drama starring Jae-yeong Jeong, Ha-kyun Shin, and Hye-jeong Kang, takes place along the Korean border, which divides the country into North and South Korea. The story follows troops from both sides as they try to make a life for themselves in a community where no one knows there is a war going on.
3. 71: Into the Fire
71: Into the Fire is an action-packed war drama starring Seung-Won Cha, Sang-Woo Kwon, and Seung-Hyun Choi set in the early days of the Korean War. A gang of 71 South Korean students-turned-soldiers attempt to defend a middle school from hundreds of North Korean soldiers in the film. The plot follows the pupils as they fight against seemingly insurmountable circumstances.
Best Korean Romance Movies
1. My Sassy Girl
My Sassy Girl, a dramatic romantic comedy starring Tae-Hyun Cha, Ji-Hyun Jun, and In-mun Kim, is set in Seoul, South Korea. The film is based on a collection of genuine stories that were published as a best-selling book. When a young man saves a drunken female who is standing dangerously close to a train in a metro station, he feels responsible for her even though she continues to get him into problems.
Always is a South Korean action-packed love drama starring Ji-seob So, Hyo-joo Han, and Shin-il Kang. The plot revolves around Chul-min, an ex-boxer turned parking lot attendant, and Jung-hwa, a telemarketing who is gradually losing her vision. When their pasts are revealed to each other, their fate is sealed, and their bond continues to strengthen.
3. The Beauty Inside
The Beauty Inside, starring Hyo-joo Han, Seo-joon Park, and Juri Ueno, tells the story of Woo-jin, a man who wakes up every day in a different body. Woo-condition jin’s is not confined to age, gender, or nationality in this romance drama. Though he stays the same person on the inside, the image he displays to the rest of the world is always changing.
1. The Chaser
Yoon-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, and Yeong-hie Seo feature in the action crime thriller The Chaser. The film tells the narrative of Joong-ho, an ex-police officer turned pimp who operates a prostitute ring in Korea. When numerous girls go missing without paying him back, Joong-ho thinks they’ve been kidnapped by a deranged serial killer. Joong-ho must seek them down before it’s too late in a desperate attempt to save them.
Best Korean Action Movies
2. I Saw the Devil
Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, and Gook-hwan Jeon feature in the action crime drama I Saw the Devil. Kim Soo-hyeon, a highly trained secret agent, pledges to exact brutal vengeance on a psychopathic serial killer who has attacked women and young children, including the agent’s own betrothed, in the film. Once Kim Soo-hyeon has apprehended the serial killer, he embarks on a macabre game of catch and release with little regard for his own humanity.
Best Korean Comedy Movie
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
The Good, the Bad, and the Weird is an Action Adventure Western set in 1940s Manchuria starring Kang-ho Song, Byung-hun Lee, and Woo-sung Jung. In the film, a bounty hunter and two outlaws vie for a buried treasure map against Chinese criminals and the Japanese army. On their quest for the map, the three rival parties cross paths repeatedly, leaving a trail of casualties in their wake.
Best Korean Gangster Movie
A Bittersweet Life
Kim Sun-woo, a high ranking gangster and enforcer at a hotel, is assigned a task by his criminal boss in the action crime drama A Bittersweet Life, starring Byung-hun Lee, Min-a Shin, and Yeong-cheol Kim. Kim Sun-woo is to follow his boss’ mistress to discover if she is cheating on him with another man. When things don’t go as planned, he finds himself in a world of problems.
Best Korean Drama Movie
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
Ki-duk Kim, Yeong-su Oh, and Jong-ho Kim star in the love drama Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, which is set in the Korean countryside. The story is told through the eyes of a Buddhist monk who raises a young kid on a floating temple and teaches him the ideals of wisdom and compassion. When a young girl arrives at the temple seeking medical assistance, the kid falls in love with her and follows her back into a modern world for which he is entirely unprepared.
Best Korean Thriller Movie
Bedevilled is a dramatic horror/thriller film starring Yeong-hie Seo, Seong-won Ji, and Min-ho Hwang. Hae-won is a single lady who works at a bank in Seoul, South Korea, in the film. When she chooses to take a vacation to a small island she once visited with her grandparents, she discovers Bok-nam, an old childhood friend, is being treated as a slave on the island and begs Hae-won to assist her in leaving.
Korean cinema has produced some of the most fascinating films in the world. Prepare to get deeply immersed in the twists and turns of these films as you explore further into Korean culture through film. We hope this list of the Best Korean Films of All Time has given you an excellent starting point for delving into Korean cinema!