In recent years, South Korean cinema has captivated the global film industry with a remarkable surge in creativity and storytelling. Parasite is the first non-English film to win Best Picture with three more Oscars in the 2020 Academy Awards. If Parasite got your attention, then there are many Korean films that deserve to get that attention, too. Some are classics worth watching. Here are ten such Oscar-worthy movies that you should watch at least once.
1. The Chaser
Most Korean movie lovers must have heard of The Chaser. It is a certified classic. With heart-pounding action and especially the chase scenes, you will remain at the edge of your seat till the end. The Chaser is an action thriller film released in 2008 and directed by Na Hong-jin. Joong-ho, a former detective turned pimp, investigates the case of missing girls. He later finds that a serial killer is behind all this, which leads to the chasing game of capturing the real culprit. This film was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival.
2. Memories Of Murder
Memories of Murder is a 2003 crime drama film directed by Bong Joon-ho. It is based on the true story of the serial murders in Hwaseong province of South Korea, the film has received critical acclaim for its captivating storytelling. One of Bong Joon-ho's early masterpieces revolves around two detectives, Park Doo-man and Cho Yong-koo, who investigate a series of brutal murders in a small town. It is a must-watch for fans of crime thrillers and real-life adaptations.
3. The Handmaiden
This movie is nothing less than an art piece. An erotic psychological thriller directed by Park Chan-wook; The Handmaiden became famous for its mesmerizing depiction of small details throughout the film. The on-screen chemistry between Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee is palpable, making their complex relationship the heart of the story. Set in a Japanese colonial era, the story revolves around a con artist who is hired to serve as the handmaiden to a Lady. The film is a beautiful piece from a visionary director.
4. Peppermint Candy
Released in 1999, Peppermint Candy is a drama filled with different aspects of human psychology. The film starts with the suicide of its protagonist, Yongho, and then moves backward through moments in his life, ultimately exposing the events that led to his tragic end. The storytelling is thought-provoking. If you enjoy emotionally charged cinema, Peppermint Candy is a must-watch.
5. Whispering Corridors
Released in 1998, Whispering Corridors is the first installment in the iconic "Whispering Corridors" series. Directed by Park Ki-hyung, this movie is perfect for horror lovers. The film is a genius combo of supernatural and scary elements with social issues. The story is set in an all-girls high school and follows a group of students and their teachers as they become trapped in a dark mystery surrounding the school's history. The movie combines themes such as the oppressive nature of the educational system, the strict relationship between students and teachers, and the challenges faced by young women in Korean society.
6. New World
New World is a critically acclaimed crime drama directed by Park Hoon-jung. The film is about the Goldmoon crime syndicate. The chairman of the syndicate dies in a car accident, and his right-hand man, Ja-sung (Lee Jung-Jae), is a spy working for the police, and he is expected to become the next chief. The film is an action-packed dark drama. New World questions what is the price of being in power.
7. Joint Security Area
Directed by Park Chan-wook, the Joint Security Area is about the political conflict at the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone). The film starts with the ongoing investigation of a shooting at the conflict zone. The mystery build-up throughout the film will keep you glued. The cast includes Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, and Kim Tae-woo. The cinematography is remarkable. The movie is recommended for those interested in knowing the geopolitical situation between South Korea and North Korea.
8. Right Now, Wrong Then
Right Now, Wrong Then is a cinematic masterpiece that has won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival, the highest award given at the festival. The film talks about having second chances. The narration of the film is unique. It tells the same story twice but with little changes. The film is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. Right Now, Wrong Then can be an ideal movie to watch on weekends if you are looking for something light.
Silenced is a movie that talks about sensitive subjects. Based on real-life incidents, the film explores child abuse and systemic corruption within a school for hearing-impaired children. The story follows Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo), a young teacher who takes a job at a school for deaf and mute children in a small town. Upon arriving at the school, he begins to discover a scary truth. The film is a gut-wrenching experience with a social message.
10. A Bittersweet Life
A Bittersweet Life is a neo-noir action film directed by Kim Jee-woon. Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is a hitman tasked to look after the mistress of his boss, Kang. He soon discovers that she is cheating on Kang with another man. The cast understood the assignment and gave an applaudable performance. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and was given a thumbs-up by the critics. The film is for the fans of both crime dramas and action movies.