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Top 10 Korean Action Movies

Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenwriter and author.

Love Korean media? Here are some Korean action movies to get into, especially if you're a new or longtime fan.

Love Korean media? Here are some Korean action movies to get into, especially if you're a new or longtime fan.

Korean Action Movies

My top 10 Korean action movies also includes suspense, thriller and mystery. I will not be including Old Boy since this is already one of the most written-about Korean movies, and I feel it has already gotten enough attention.


1. Confessions of a Murder

Fifteen years after failing to catch a serial killer, Choi Hyeong-goo (Jung Jae-young) wakes up to the news that the serial killer has resurfaced and wrote a book about his killings. Although some doubt the authenticity of the story, the supposed serial killer produced the bullet that Choi buried on his shoulder the day Choi almost caught him.

Why You Should Watch It

Although the movie sounds like a predictable cop-culprit story, it is far from that. There’s a lot of scheming, betrayal, and surprises. It is almost as if the director is playing mind games with the audience as he urges the audience to guess his next move.


2. No Mercy

Sol Kyung-Gu is a forensic investigator who encounters a case of a serial killer. However, his involvement in the case becomes a bit more than a professional one when the serial killer starts to personally hunt him down.

Why You Should You Watch It

It’s intelligent. That’s what the movie is. It was intelligently written and the progress of the narrative totally justified the character movement. Unlike other stories, the exploration of the story is more “historical” because the events of the past dictated their action in the present. The narrative was timed perfectly so that the audience is simultaneously eager to find the truth and develop empathy towards the character.


3. The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Inspired by the movie The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; The Good, The Bad, and The Weird has three main characters. The Bad (Lee Byung-hun), The Good (Jung Woo-sung), and The Weird (Song Kang-ho) have one goal, to get a map that is carried by a Japanese man. As they try and find the traveller and get hold of the map, they get into several high-action scenes that display the mastery of Koreans in the genre.

Why You Should Watch It

Like many other films on this list, the movie succeeds in depicting the gritty feeling of the 1930s. Moreover, it succeeds in creating a very Korean kind of cowboy without looking pathetic. It was able to make the genre its own and included different cinematic elements that are unique to Korea.


4. The Man From Nowhere

Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin) has lived alone and secluded since his wife died. However, his neighbour, So-mi, a seven-year-old kid, continues to pester him. Things take a turn when a group of gangsters take So-mi as a hostage.

Why Should You Watch It

It’s just a badass Asian action film. The story is pretty simple. They kidnap a girl and a former highly-trained military man is forced to use his skills to save her. You have to watch it for the action sequences. Unlike many Asian action films, this doesn’t feel forced. It also does not employ gravity-defying stunts. It actually remained faithful to a military-style form of fighting. The moves are very calculated do that it gives you the feeling that the people fighting are schooled martial arts.

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5. Memories of a Murder

Local detective Park Doo-man finds himself overwhelmed when a girl is found dead and mutilated. The crime scene was handled badly. He gets help from Seoul when Detective Seo Tae-yoon arrives to lend his expertise. Seo becomes convinced it is the work of a serial killer. However, he finds a police force that is unwilling to admit that such abhorrent crimes are happening in their district.

Now, Seo must try to collect physical evidence, follow leads, and control police officers who are hell bent on producing a suspect by any means.

Why You Should Watch It

Unlike most police movies, this accurately portrays both sides of the police force in countries with unsophisticated equipment: obsession towards solving a case regardless of the means and those who are obsessed with the truth regardless of the end.


6. Psychometry

The police force ignored a report of a mother about her missing child. Several days after, the child was found dead. Yang Choon Dong (Kim Kang-Woo) takes on the case and realizes that the crime scene was spray-painted on a wall. He hunts down the graffiti artist, a guy named Kim Joon (Kim Beom) who claims to have a special ability that lets him see a person’s memory just by holding their hand.

Why You Should Watch It

The movie could have easily exploited the “special powers” angle. Instead, it was able to make the specials powers an integral part of the story rather than the be-all and end-all of the narrative. It became a tool that pushed the story forward and a device that made the film unique.


7. Once Upon a Time in Seoul

Once Upon a Time in Seoul is a heist movie set in the 1940s starring Park Young Woo as Kanemura and Lee Bo Young as Heruko. Kanemura and Heruko find themselves chasing the same diamond and entangled in a bigger and more complicated web of thievery and gangs.

Why You Should Watch It

Historical comedy is always hard to pull off but this film did it right. There was a balance between the effort to depict the 1940s and make people live through funny situations and ridiculously soap-operatic characters.


8. Gangster High

The movie delves into how a simple soccer club got entangled into a case of murder and ganster life. Sang-ho becomes the leader of Tigers and got his friends Jae-gu and Chang-bae are members. As school rivalry starts, bullying becomes worse until it spins out of control.

Why You Should Watch It

There’s a point in a violent film where you will question just why all the violence is shown. In this movie, you will question the violence from beginning to end. You will question every character, every motivation because nothing will seem to make sense… until the end. Then you will realize the whole film did exactly what it wanted to do, question the violence around us and make us all realize just how juvenile these causes are.


9. Rough Cut

Gang-pae (So Ji-sub) is a gangster who dreams of being an action star. Soo-ta (Kang Ji-hwan) is an action star but has a short temper and often hurts his co-stars. When the two men meet unexpectedly, Soo-ta asks Gang-pae to join his cast. Gang-pae agrees but only if the action sequences are real. As the two men shoot the film, reel becomes real and neither refuses to allow the other to win.

Why You Should Watch It

The movie presents a unique take on how the “reality” of a movie is done. The film even showed the script reading and the crew of the film that adds to the grit and rawness that is needed to make the film more convincing. More importantly, the action director and the actors were able to carry out believable action sequences unparalleled even by Hollywood.


10. The Show Must Go On

In-gu is a gangster who struggles to provide for his wife and daughter who both detest him for his work. He insists on pursuing his “career” but things become chaotic when his group betrays him and sets him up.

Why Should You Watch It

The balance between heart, evil, and action was perfect. There are so many ways the movie could have gone wrong. There were so many elements and opportunities for the director to stir the whole movie into a place where it will all be emotional and beautiful but predictable. Instead, the director kept on turning until he turned the movie into a dizzying adventure of nerves and heart.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


rassikk on January 10, 2019:

the man from nowhere is superb. hope to see the hollywood version. SOON

Onome on December 28, 2018:

Well interesting movies but.....!

vijay on May 04, 2018:

Highly recommended movies

man from nowhere

the suspect

i saw the devil

no tears for the dead

the company man

jjongwol on November 13, 2017:

if you love confession of a murderer, maybe you'll find SECRETLY GREATLY. it's about a north korean soldier who was placed in south korea for the d-day war but that d-day never comes. so all he do is just wait in south korea, be a part of the society and eventually find that not all south koreans are bad. it's really great movie with a plot twist ending and a lot of bromance between forgotten soldiers.

I would rate this movie 9/10

Yeah-Yeah-Yeah on June 25, 2017:

Most of these films aren't action at all, but thrillers.

So, where are City of Violence, No Mercy for the Rude, Arahan, Bar Legend (AKA "Three Fellas"), 2009, Yesterday, Volcano High... (I could go on and on)?

Don_Henry on May 06, 2017:

Korean movie is my best movie ever... The most interested movie that make me to love Korean movie is JUMONG, CITY HUNTER and THE SEA GOD... Love Korean movie the most........... Is still me DON_HENRY

Aaron Hall on April 18, 2017:

LOL fikuri those movies you mentioned are nowhere near as good as the movies i mentioned but then I train MMA so I like good fight seens

Aaron on April 18, 2017:

What about the berlin file, company man and assasins

jk on April 04, 2017:

there are other movies too

blind (no body mentions this movie. this one is great)

no tear for the dead. i liked this more than "the man from nowhere"

avisek on December 25, 2016:

where can i find the show must go on (Uahan segye) movie ?

logan on September 09, 2016:

no mercy

fikuri on August 17, 2016:

Aaron Hall lol in regard of action those film might lose to man from no where, but the story, the plot of memories of murder, confession of murder, no mercy are on another whole level

vie2004 on August 13, 2016:

New World (2013) (Hangul: 신세계; RR: Sinsegye)

Everything is just simply perfect: Acting, Plot & Music

thi ha on July 26, 2016:

The man from nowhere

Memories of Murder

The Chaser

I saw the devil

The Berlin File

Aaron Hall on June 06, 2016:

best movie on this list is Man From Nowhere. I think that some of these movies are no good I think you should have included The Berlin File, The Suspect, No Tears For The Dead, A Company Man, The Divine Move, I Saw The Devil and last but not least Commitment

These are all very good movies

Zeynep on May 03, 2016:

Wow, I have to check out these...I haven't seen that much Korean stuff yet so thanks :D

Lara on December 12, 2015:

Dude you forgot a piece of art here : "the terror live"

Joseph Matthew Dobson on October 27, 2015:

Great list! I thoroughly enjoy Korean action/thrillers. You've listed quite a few on this list I haven't seen (I've only seen The Man from Nowhere (Ajeosshi) & Memories of Murder, both of which I thought were great films. JSA and The Chaser would make some great additions to your list as well! Great hub!

Finfrosk on October 07, 2015:

Why do people keep saying "The Man from Nowhere" is such a good action movie? It's boring. The choreography isn't good, the story is meh, and the action is just.. bland. Big disappointment.

Luke on October 04, 2015:

Have you not seen 'I saw the devil'?

StR1F3 on August 01, 2015:

Hey...nobody mentioned The Berlin File? twas even more gritty... I liked The Suspect, The Target, Cold Eyes, Secretly Greatly...

Miran Shuleta on February 16, 2015:

Confessions of a Murder is a good movie, but The Man from Nowhere is probably the best.

Great Hub!

dearsunggyu on December 20, 2014:

I was impressed by The Man From Nowhere that I searched for other Korean Action movies that could impress me but it's hard. That until I found The Suspect, it's another action movie worth watching.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on November 24, 2014:

i saw the good the bad and the weird, really funny, everyone should watch

hellhigh on November 07, 2014:

looking for a movie i seen ....but at the end the gangster and the cop had a standoff and one pulls out a big bazooka from is back and the other form a blue ball of energy in his hand. The america title was Do orDie

Kenneth Arellano from Philippines on October 23, 2014:

I love Korean movies, but I only watch love movies and series. Thanks for showing this list. I'll surely try watching them.

bino on September 16, 2014:

The Man from Nowhere is the best action movie I have seen.

amandajoyshapiro on September 09, 2014:

Memories of a Murder started me on watching Korean films. It's excellent. I couldn't have been more excited to finally see The Good, The Bad, and The Weird starring The Host's main actor. I just saw The Yellow Sea and it's truly a brutal bloody film. Now I want to see The Man from Nowhere. Cool list!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 09, 2014:

wow, lots of movies i have to download. voted up

limex on September 06, 2014:

Number 4 The Man From Nowhere is a total killer. Highly Recommended

Michael Kismet from Northern California on August 24, 2014:

So, another thing about "Old Boy", no I'm just playing. That movie was truly disturbing. This is a great list of movies, I've always been into Korean films. I'll have to look up some of these titles when I can and catch up on the latest Korean movies. Thanks for sharing, nice hub!

movie88 on June 10, 2014:

Korean action genre have been going down the tube lately.

Fairlane Raymundo (author) from Los Angeles, CA on August 15, 2013:

@hlwar and i love the ending.

hlwar on August 15, 2013:

Memories of Murder is one of my top 5 favorite films. Amazing movie!

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