Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Updated on May 14, 2019
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Diana is a huge fan of Korean culture. Korean movies are some of her favorite movies to watch.

Do you like Korean movies? This top 10 must-see Korean movies list includes some of the most popular and successful ones! You will find your next favorite movie for sure: action, thriller or horror genre, with original and twisted plots. There's so much to choose from!

Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

The Top 10 Korean Movies

  1. Oldboy
  2. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War
  3. The Host
  4. The Good, the Bad, the Weird
  5. Memories of Murder
  6. I Saw the Devil
  7. The Man From Nowhere
  8. Joint Security Area
  9. Nowhere to Hide
  10. A Bittersweet Life

10. A Bittersweet Life

A Bittersweet Life | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
A Bittersweet Life | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

A Bittersweet Life is a South Korean action movie which is basically a mixture of all those American action movies and Korean feelings. It’s a cinematically great movie that will definitely entertain you!

It tells the story of a hitman who is sent to kill the girlfriend of his boss. The gangland boss questions his girlfriend’s faithfulness, so he decides to send Sun Woo, his right hand, to put the end to this problem. However, taken in by girl’s humanity, “the killer” falls for her and fails at completing his task. Obviously, such behavior infuriates the boss, so he sends his thugs after the guy. Beaten almost to death, Sun Woo wishes for revenge at any cost.

9. Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Nowhere to Hide | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Set in Incheon, South Korea, Nowhere to Hide is a police-comedy action movie that revolves around a search for a killer led by the super obsessive Detective Woo. He and his partner search the city for the killer of a known drug boss, but there are no witnesses and no leads. It seems like the underground drug world is really at war! With no personal life, Woo is a true workaholic. He’s a cop, he can’t do anything else in his life.

If you think you like jaw-dropping scenes of stylized violence and prefer style over substance, this is definitely your cup of tea. However, it may not be that good for those of you who want to see meaningful dialogue, character development, and drama.

8. Joint Security Area

Joint Security Area | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Joint Security Area | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Adapted from the novel DMZ by Park Sang Yeon, Joint Security Area is a Korean mystery thriller movie that will evoke the strongest emotions in your heart. As the title of the novel suggests, it is set in the DMZ, the border that divides North and South Korea. The story starts with the murder of a border guard. Now, both sides accuse each other: North Korea accuses South of a terrorist attack, while South accuses the North of an abduction attempt. The incident must be investigated, so a Swiss army captain of Korean descent is sent to help with the task.

If you want to feel a roller coaster ride of emotions, laughing one moment and wiping tears from your face in another, give it a shot! If you want to dive into a story about Korean geopolitics, it’s also for you. It doesn’t even matter where you are from, as the movie raises questions that interest anyone. It’s about ideological differences. It will make you think more about what it means to be a person.

7. The Man From Nowhere

The Man From Nowhere | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
The Man From Nowhere | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

The Man from Nowhere is a Korean action thriller film telling you the story about a strong and invincible character. This movie is great for those of you who love action scenes and are not afraid to see blood, gore, and violence on the screen. Most of the time you know what to expect and how the movie will progress, but it’s still engaging and interesting to watch.

Our main character, Cha Tae Sik, mostly keeps to himself and has only one friend, a young girl who used to hang out with him at his shop in a sketchy neighborhood while her drug-addicted mother was entertaining men. One day, her mom steals heroin from one serious crime organization, so the crime lord and his gangsters start to look for her everywhere. Obviously, they find this shop and take Cha Tae and his friend captive! However, it turns out they messed with the wrong guy, as Tae Sik is a former covert operative for the Korean Army Intelligence!

6. I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
I Saw the Devil | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

I Saw the Devil is a South Korean action horror thriller movie telling you about how pain and grief can push a person to the edge of humanity. It follows a top secret agent who is seeking revenge after his fiancée is cruelly murdered by a psychopath who kills for pleasure. The killer commits many serial murders, but the police seem to be unable to catch him! So, our main hero promises himself he will do everything in his might to not just find a murderer but to take bloody vengeance against him.

Even though it is quite a brutal and painful movie to watch (obviously it’ the ultimate revenge movie), every (even violent) action has a purpose and a consequence. The fact that the righteous main character becomes the monster himself in the process for the sake of revenge makes us weep for him! The movie explores his mind, it makes you think what you would have done if you were in his shoes.

5. Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Memories of Murder | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Memories of Murder falls into a crime-drama movie genre. The interesting fact is that it’s based on the real story of Korea’s first serial murder in history! What’s more, in reality, the killer was never found! Talking about facts, it was happening in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, in the period between 1986 and 1991. As in the previous movie from this list, here we also deal with a serial killer who brutally murders women. This time, the story starts with a woman found raped and murdered in a brutal way. However, gruesome events don’t stop here. Several months later, many similar rapes and murders happen again. The whispers about strange events rise in the country, as it had never known such crimes! The movie follows two local detectives trying to solve the crimes.

If you are a sucker for everything related to serial murders, for a creepy, dark and eerie atmosphere, it’s definitely for you! The movie also shows believable development of characters, so that’s one more thing to like about it! It’s really interesting to watch how two local detectives work and how a guy from Seoul comes to help them with resolving this case. He is the exact opposite of these local bumpkins! He knows other ways to work effectively, other than forcing a testimony out of suspects! Thrilling action, some humor, and awesome acting make this Korean movie a must-watch!

4. The Good, the Bad, the Weird

The Good, the Bad, the Weird | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
The Good, the Bad, the Weird | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Here’s a good Korean action western film that has a good enough plot to grab you and keep you watching all the way till the end! But again, if you can’t stand gory and shooting scenes, maybe it’s not for you. Although this movie is not that gory to turn you off if you are not a fan of such things, it still may be uncomfortable to you. In all other aspects, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is definitely worth watching to any Korean movie lover!

It’s inspired by Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and takes place in the 1930s. The Korean Peninsula becomes controlled by Japanese Imperialists, so the majority of Koreans move to Manchuria, the wild vast terrain of horses that divides their homeland and China. Some of these Koreans turn into bandits to be able to earn their living in such a wasteland. Tae Gu (The Weird) is a thief who robs the train with Japanese military officers and finds a mysterious map leading to some treasure buried in the lands of Manchuria! However, Chang Yi (The Bad, a hitman) and Do Won (The Good, a bounty hunter) are also looking for this ancient treasure! These three will soon discover that their map is a real magnet for many others! There’s more than one battle to come…

3. The Host

The Host | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
The Host | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

The Host is a Korean horror movie inspired by a local article about a deformed fish found in the Han River. Even though it is about a monster, it’s not your conventional horror movie, so don’t be put off by the genre if you aren’t a fan of this genre. It doesn’t show much gore, there are even moments of humor present to distance you from what is being shown on the screen. It makes you remember that it’s just a movie, not reality. It also addresses many issues such as people’s attachment to phones and technology in general, politics, family relationships.

One day, because of an unfortunate incident, a terrible creature conceals in the Han River, at the very center of the capital city Seoul. As time passes, the creature grows deep down in the river, waiting for the moment to appear. Obviously, no one suspects that such a gruesome creature can inhibit the river! Then one day, in front of many citizens spending their weekend on the banks of the Han River, the beast shows itself. In an instant, a real mass slaughter begins…

2. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is a fictional story about two brothers forcibly drafted into the South Korean army during the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The strongest of thee two brothers, Jin Tae wants to keep his younger brother safe, as far from the war as possible. He understands that the only sure way to do that is to win a medal of honor. Our hero does everything he can, fights as fearlessly as he can to make this happen.

It’s a South Korean wartime action drama movie that is really worth your time! As you already know, it’s the foretelling of the Korean War between the South and North. It dives deep into understanding between the brothers who have lost ties to one another. You can almost feel the whole spectrum of emotions, passionate and tragic stories of all the Korean people during the war. However, be warned that it includes violent scenes and many heart-wrenching scenes that may be painfully sad for many, as it’s a war movie.

1. Oldboy

Oldboy |  Top 10 Must See Korean Movies
Oldboy | Top 10 Must See Korean Movies

Oldboy is a Korean action thriller movie adapted from the Japanese manga of the same title by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. The story tells about Oh Dae Su, who has been imprisoned in a cell resembling a hotel room for 15 years! He knows neither his captor nor his captor’s motives. When he finally gets out of prison, he realizes he is still trapped in strange conspiracy and violence. Oh Dae is seeking vengeance but feels in love with a young girl along the way!

The idea of this movie is pretty original, even bit bizarre! It will surely get your attention with its twisted turn of events; you won’t be able to get it out of your mind! Oldboy became well-known for a reason; even the American remake was released! There are so many emotions packed into this movie, that you will experience a wide range of emotions during 2 hours: sadness, confusion, even will be bittersweet.

What Korean Movie Do You Like the Most?

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    • Larinna profile image

      Larinna 

      6 months ago

      Lady Vengeance is also good. It's part of a movie trilogy, of the same theme, from the same director, along with Old boy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. I like Oldboy for the action scenes, but I think Lady Vengeance has the better storyline. The Sympathy movie is too depressing for me, though.

    • The Reminder profile image

      The Reminder 

      6 months ago from Canada

      Great list! I haven't seen them all but if you like the zombie genre you should check out Train to Busan it's one hell of a ride!

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