Article: Top 10 Must-Watch Vintage Korean Films

One of the fantastic experiences Hallyu Wave has given us is Korean cinema. The films show a variety of stories with such uniqueness and details that can be fascinating for audiences interested in exploring the South Korean entertainment industry. Korean cinema has undergone notable transformations over the years, reflecting the changes in society, culture and trends. Vintage Korean films became successful in gaining international recognition. Some are even considered classics. Here are ten vintage Korean films that are worth watching at least once.

1. A Hometown Of The Heart

A Hometown Of The Heart is a true masterpiece from Shin Sang-ok. Released in 1949, the story is set in post-war Korea. The film takes us on an emotional journey of the characters. A Hometown Of The Heart is not just a film; it’s a powerful description of human emotions. The cinematography conveys the mood of the film effectively. For those interested in knowing about early Korean society and culture, "A Hometown Of The Heart" is a must-watch.

2. The Coachman

The Coachman, released in 1961, has received critical acclaim for its solid performances and for showing social changes in Korea. Directed by Kang Dae-jin, the film talks about a man who works as a coachman with his horse. Earning a meagre living, he is known for his honesty. His life takes a turn when he is asked to transport a group of high school students. The story is filled with moments that impact audiences across generations.

3. Aimless Bullet

Set in Seoul in the early 1960s, the story follows the struggles of a family as they try to find a way out of the harsh realities of the aftermath of the Korean War. The main character is Cheolho, a war veteran who is the head of his family. Despite his efforts, he cannot find a job and be financially stable. The film explores the impact of the war on an individual's mental health. The film is so engaging that you can't resist watching it once.

4. A Day Off

Set in Seoul in the 1960s, the story follows the lives of different characters during a single day. The characters include a poor factory worker, a couple facing economic challenges and a student engaged in political activism. Directed by Lee Man-hee, the film is a unique take on showcasing the everyday challenges faced by an individual. A Day Off is an outstanding example of movies that show themes of social realism.

5. The Surrogate Woman

The Surrogate Woman is based on a novel by Kim Seung-ok. Released in 1986 and directed by Im Kwon-taek, the film takes place in a rural Korean village during the late Joseon Dynasty. Desperate for an heir, an infertile noblewoman hires a woman to become a surrogate mother. The film explores the themes of patriarchy and societal pressure on a woman. The Surrogate Woman won many awards, including the Best Director award for Im Kwon-taek at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. If you love watching a thought-provoking film, then The Surrogate Woman is worth checking out.

6. Woman Of Fire

Woman Of Fire is a 1971 film directed by Kim Ki-young. A mentally challenged piano teacher and a housemaid get into a relationship which leads to a series of exploring the psychological sides of the characters. The narrative of the film is bold and engaging. It challenges the then society. It was a standout film in the Korean cinema. Viewers will love the strong performances given by the cast.

7. Declaration Of Fools 

Declaration of Fools, also known as Declaration of Idiots, was a satirical comedy-drama directed by Im Kwon-taek. Set in a village, the story follows a group of villagers who decide to declare their community an independent nation. The USP of the film was its entertaining storyline. For those interested in watching political satires, Declaration of Fools is worth giving a shot.

8. The Age Of Success 

Released in 1988, The Age of Success follows a story about a salesman working in a sweetener-making company. To become successful in his career, he devises a plan to defeat his company's competitor. With a good performance from the lead character, the film tells the viewers about the economic conditions of Korea in the 1980s. Overall, the film is an entertaining watch.

9. North Korean Partisan In South Korea

North Korean Partisan In South Korea (Nambugun) is a war drama film based on the experiences of Lee Tae, a war reporter during the Korean War. The film was released in 1990 and was directed by Chung Ji-young. The film succeeded in showing every detail of the war in the most realistic way possible. Throughout the duration, the viewers will be captivated by the fight and strategy planning scenes. It is a must-watch for those who are interested in war drama films.

10. Why Has Bodhi-dharma Left For The East?

"Why Has Bodhi-dharma Left For The East?" is a philosophical film which was directed by Bae Yong-kyun in 1989. The film explores Buddhism, nature, and the concept of time most stunningly and engagingly possible. The story is about a Zen master, a monk, a young monk, and an orphaned boy. Each character represents a different stage in life. The film follows the characters' daily lives and how they interact with each other. It is a visually breathtaking masterpiece. So, if you are interested in visual poetry as well as spirituality, then "Why Has Bodhi-dharma Left For The East?" should definitely be on your watchlist.