South Korean cinema is known for breaking stereotypes and superstitions, violence, and romantic movies. Opposite to what few people think, Korean cinema existed long before Squid Game or Parasite but because of the success of these movies, people started becoming aware of the Korean film industry. For over a decade, Korean directors are making thriller or fictional movies in a variety of genres. Straight from 2000, they are making movies on dirty politics but beneath the façade of politics lies different emotions which will be unfolded only when you watch those movies. Do not know where to start? Well, here is the list of a few Korean movies ever made.
1. Parasite (2019)
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho and starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-Kyun Lee, and Yeo- Jeong Jo, Parasite is a dark comedy, thriller movie which is based on true events. Based in South Korea, The Kim family- mother (Chung-sook), father (Ki-Taek), and their children son (Ki-Woo) and daughter (Ki-Jung) is very poor and live in a slummy basement apartment in Seoul. Mr. and Mrs. Kim do a few minor scams here and there and when they have jobs, they would do the bare minimum required. Despite all these difficulties, Ki-Woo has a dream to study at a university and come out of this poverty. Though he is not having an education at university, he was chosen by his friend Min who is leaving Seoul for further education, to tutor Park Da-Hye. The parks are very rich. This movie is all about how the whole Kim family started working for Parks through scams.
2. Oldboy (2003)
Directed by Park Chan-wook, Oldboy is an action thriller movie that stars Min-Sik Choi, Ji-Tae Yoo, and Hye-Jeong Kang. This movie revolves around Oh Dae-Su, a drunk man who spends his life coming in or going out of prison. One day Dae-Su was kidnapped and kept in a windowless cell for 15 years. This movie is about how after releasing Dae-Su has to find and kill his captor within 5 days.
3. Thirst (2009)
This horror movie is directed by Park Chan-Wook and is based on the novel Thérèse Raquin written by Émile Zola. This movie is about how a failed experiment turned a priest Sang-Hyun into a blood-sucking vampire who was forced to leave his ascetic ways. He attempted to kill himself but failed and later get addicted to human blood. Sang-Hyun does not want to kill humans so as a substitute he started stealing blood samples from hospitals. Park Chan-Wook broke the stereotypical image of vampires with long canines, red eyes, and hypnotic powers. He showed that vampires look just like us and are among us which makes them really difficult to identify.
4. New World (2013)
Directed by Park Hoon-Jung, this stylish gangster drama shows the inner activities of Korean crime which starts to break down when in a staged car accident, the chairman dies. Ja-sung (Lee Jung-Jae), an undercover cop who joined the syndicate 8 years ago is now at a constant risk to get exposed. He was stuck between playing the role of both cop and a goon. Just like Shakespearean writing, this drama unfolds various levels of betrayals and shifting loyalties. After all this, Ja-Sung finally decides to become a full criminal. This crime drama stars Choi Min- Sik, Hwang Jung-min, Song Ji-Hyo, and Lee Jung-Jae.
5. Dark Figure Of Crime (2019)
Dark Figure of Crime may be a gritty, visceral crime drama that works both as a fine character study, exploring the inimical side of attributes, and a drama about hope during a bleak and dejected world. This story circles around Kim, a widowed narcotics officer, and Kang, a psychotic murderer. The underrated and committed performance of Kim beautifies the character and breaks all the detective stereotypes. The confession of Kang at a restaurant changes the whole life of Kim. Then he investigates Kang and finds out he killed 6 people. This whole movie is about how Kim succeeded in putting Kang behind the bars and testifying against him for life imprisonment.
6. The Bow (2005)
This movie was directed by Kim Ki-Duk and was screened at the 2005 Cannes Festival under the Un Certain Regard section. This film revolves around a 16-year- old girl who spent a decade on the boat with a multi-purpose bow under the guidance of an old man who plans to marry her when she turns 17. She means everything to him: be it a kidnap victim, daughter, girlfriend, or fiancée. But the arrangements of the old man were falling apart when a student (Seo Ji-Seok) visited the boat and fell in love with the girl. This movie is about how the girl wanted to have freedom but still came back and marries the old man.
7. The World Of Us (2016)
This movie directed by Yoon Ga-Eun shows the internal and external pressure faced by a Korean child without any mind games or melodrama. An outcast Sun (Choi Soo-in) was constantly bullied in school until the newcomer Jia (Seol Hye-in) comes and they made friends during summer break. But their friendship takes a sour turn when Sun faced the bullying again and Jia became cold toward her and befriends someone else. Sun does not want to become alone again so she befriends Jia, knows her secret, and then exposed it. “The World of Us” will take you on a ride that you might have experienced during your childhood or may have seen it. The acting of both the child actors is so real and natural.
8. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
“A Bittersweet Life” by Kim Jee-Woon is known for two things: sharp and risky back-to-back action scenes and a concise narrative that does not let you relax till the end of the movie. Kim Sun-Woo is a manager of a hotel owned by his ruthless criminal boss who assigned him a task when he was away to keep an eye on her mistress (Hee-soo). Sun-Woo was a man who never fell in love and soon find himself slave to romantic feelings which he was unable to subside. The musical recitals of Hee-Soo made him realize how empty and shallow his life is which turned him to betray his boss resulting in a violent fight.
9. Oasis (2002)
Oasis by Lee Chang-Dong shows their lead characters who are least likable or heroic. Hong Jong-du (Sol Kyung-gu) was released from prison after three years. He is socially awkward and ignorant. But his life becomes interesting when he meets disabled Gong-Ju Han (So-ri Moon) who is suffering from cerebral palsy. Her brother and sister-in-law shift her to a shabbily built apartment meant only for disabled people. Both were left by their families so they both developed sympathy for each other. This movie shows their differently-abled love in a perfectly-abled society.
10. House Of Hummingbird (2019)
Directed by Bora Kim and her debut film, this is one of the best movies of 2019. This movie is about a lonely and kooky eighth-grader Eunhee (Ji-hu Park) during the mid-90s. The intentional glacial pacing of the narration allows nuanced observation of the Korean culture and marginally reduced the role of girls in society. Eunhee is trying to navigate life through her dysfunctional family, abusive brother, and her bullies in class while figuring out her place in society. Bora Kim presents an honest and poignant tackle on youth, crammed with warm cinematography from Gook-Hyun, and introduces a powerhouse performance from the young Ji-hu Park.