Korean cinema has produced some of the most fascinating, twisted, and delightful films ever made. If you’re intrigued by the Korean language and culture, there’s no better way to dive in than to watch the best Korean movies of all time! We’ve put together this list which includes the war, horror, action, comedy, romance, and more, so check it out to start watching!
Best Korean Movies of All Time
Starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, and Yeo-jeong Jo, Parasite is the hot new thriller/drama/comedy that is sweeping the world. Set in South Korea, the film follows the story of the Kims, a family from the slums, as they con their way into working for a wealthy family, the Parks. Their good fortune comes to an end when a threat to expose them emerges in the form of the family’s ex-maid.
IMDb 8.6 | 2h 12min | 2019 | Korean
The dramatic action mystery film Oldboy starring Min-sik Choi, Ji-Tae Yoo, and Hye-jeong Kang, follows the story of Oh Dae-Su, a belligerent drunk who spends his time in and out of prison. Set in South Korea, Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped and wakes up in a windowless cell where he is held for 15 years. When Oh Dae-Su is suddenly released, he must find and kill his captor within five days.
IMDb 8.4 | 2h | 2003 | Korean
3. The Handmaiden
The Handmaiden, starring Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, and Jin-woong Cho, is set in 1930s Korea during the Japanese occupation. The film recounts the story of Sookee who is contracted to be the handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. Sookee is secretly part of a plan to trick the heiress and run away with her fortune, but her plans take a turn when her emotions start to get in the way.
IMDb 8.1 | 2h 25min | 2016 | Korean; Japanese
4. Memories of Murder
In this action-packed crime drama starring Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, and Roe-ha Kim, two detectives struggle to solve the mystery of multiple rapes and murders in a small Korean province in 1986. A detective from another country is brought in to help solve the cases, and in the aftermath of the third murder, the detectives begin to find leads that will lead them to the killer.
IMDb 8.1 | 2h 12min | 2003 | Korean
Set in Korea, the dramatic crime thriller Mother stars Hye-ja Kim, Won Bin, and Goo Jin. The film follows the story of a widow and her mentally challenged 28-year-old son living a quiet life in a small town. When a brutal murder is committed and the widow’s son is blamed for the crime, his mother will take the law into her own hands to prove his innocence.
IMDb 7.8 | 2h 9min | 2009 | Korean
Best Korean Horror Movies
1. Train to Busan
Train to Busan starring Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, and Dong-seok Ma is an action-packed thriller/horror film set in South Korea. The film tells the story of Sok-woo and his daughter as they board a fast train from Seoul to Busan. During their journey, the world is taken over by a zombie apocalypse, forcing the passengers to fight for their lives and protect their families.
IMDb 7.5 | 1h 58min | 2016 | Korean; Hawaiian
2. The Wailing
The Wailing is a mystery horror/thriller film starring Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, and Do-won Kwak. The story takes place in a small South Korean village where an unusual illness has started to spread to the residents following the appearance of a mysterious stranger thought to be an evil spirit. A local policeman is forced to solve the mystery of the stranger in order to rescue his daughter.
IMDb 7.4 | 2h 36min | 2016 | Korean; Japanese
In the dramatic fantasy horror film Thirst starring Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, and Hee-jin Choi, Sang-hyun, a priest working at a South Korean hospital volunteers for a secret vaccination project intended to stop the spread of a deadly virus. The project goes horribly wrong, and the priest undergoes an emergency transfusion which accidentally turns him into a vampire, causing him to develop a taste for blood.
IMDb 7.1 | 2h 14min | 2009 | Korean; English; French
4. The Host
The Host is a dramatic action horror film that takes place in Seoul, South Korea and stars Kang-ho Song, Hee-Bong Byun, and Hae-il Park. The story follows the family of Park Hee-bong, an average family living and working in Seoul. When a monster is found living in Han River, one family must do what they can to release their daughter from the monster’s grip.
IMDb 7.1 | 2h | 2006 | Korean
Best Korean War Movies
1. Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War
The action war drama Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War stars Dong-Gun Jang, Won Bin, and Eun-ju Lee and takes place during the Korean War. The film follows the Lee brothers who get enlisted to fight in the war. The older of the two brothers, Jin-tae, harnesses his all strength and bravery in order to take risks to ensure the safety of his younger brother.
IMDb 8.1 | 2h 20min | 2004 | Korean
2. Battle Ground 625
The comedic war drama Battle Ground 625 starring Jae-yeong Jeong, Ha-kyun Shin, and Hye-jeong Kang takes place at the Korean border dividing the country into North and South. The story follows soldiers on both sides who build a life for themselves within a village whose people have no idea that there’s a war going on.
IMDb 7.7 | 2h 13min | 2005 | Korean
3. 71: Into the Fire
71: Into the Fire is an action-filled war drama starring Seung-Won Cha, Sang-Woo Kwon, and Seung-Hyun Choi which takes place during the early days of the Korean War. In the film, a group of 71 South Korean students-turned-soldiers attempt to defend a middle school against hundreds of North Korean soldiers. The story follows the students in their fight against impossible odds.
IMDb 7.3 | 2h | 2010 | Korean
Best Korean Romance Movies
1. My Sassy Girl
The dramatic romantic comedy My Sassy Girl starring Tae-Hyun Cha, Ji-Hyun Jun, and In-mun Kim takes place in Seoul, South Korea. The film is based on a series of true stories which were turned into a best-selling book. When a young man saves an inebriated girl standing dangerously close to the train in a metro station, he develops a sense of responsibility for her while she continues to get him into trouble.
IMDb 8.0 | 2h 3min | 2001 | Korean
Always is an action-packed romantic drama set in South Korea starring Ji-seob So, Hyo-joo Han, and Shin-il Kang. The film follows the love story between Chul-min an ex-boxer turned parking lot attendant and Jung-hwa, a telemarketer who is slowly losing her vision. Their fate is sealed when their pasts are revealed to each other and their relationship continues to deepen.
IMDb 7.8 | 1h 48min | 2011 | Korean
3. The Beauty Inside
The Beauty Inside stars Hyo-joo Han, Seo-joon Park, and Juri Ueno and recounts the story of Woo-jin, a man who wakes up every day to inhabit a different body. In this romantic drama, Woo-jin’s condition is not limited to age, gender, or nationality. Though he remains the same person on the inside, the image he projects to the world is in a constant state of change.
IMDb 7.4 | 2h 7min | 2015 | Korean
Best Korean Action Movies
1. The Chaser
The action crime thriller The Chaser stars Yoon-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, and Yeong-hie Seo. The film recounts the story of Joong-ho, an ex-policeman-turned-pimp who runs a ring of prostitutes in Korea. When several girls disappear without paying what he’s owed, Joong-ho realizes that they’ve been taken by a psychopathic serial killer. In a desperate attempt to save them, Joong-ho must track them down before it’s too late.
IMDb 7.9 | 2h 5min | 2008 | Korean
2. I Saw the Devil
The action crime drama I Saw the Devil stars Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, and Gook-hwan Jeon. In the film, Kim Soo-hyeon, a highly trained secret agent, vows to take bloody revenge on a psychopathic serial killer who has targeted women and young children, including the agent’s own fiance. Once Kim Soo-hyeon finds the serial killer, he begins a twisted game of catch and release without regard for his own humanity.
IMDb 7.8 | 2h 24min | 2010 | Korean
Best Korean Comedy Movie
1. The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Set in 1940s Manchuria, The Good, The Bad, The Weird is an Action Adventure Western starring Kang-ho Song, Byung-hun Lee, and Woo-sung Jung. In the film, a bounty hunter and two outlaws compete against Chinese criminals and the Japanese army in search of a hidden treasure map. The three groups of rivals cross paths time and time again on their hunt for the map, leaving a trail of casualties in their wake.
IMDb 7.3 | 2h 10min | 2008 | Korean; Mandarin; Japanese
Best Korean Gangster Movie
1. A Bittersweet Life
In the action crime drama A Bittersweet Life starring Byung-hun Lee, Min-a Shin, and Yeong-cheol Kim, Kim Sun-woo, a high ranking gangster and enforcer at a hotel gets assigned a task by his crime boss. Kim Sun-woo is to follow his boss’ mistress to see if she is cheating on him with someone else. However, he finds himself in a world of trouble when things don’t go as planned.
IMDb 7.6 | 1h 59min | 2005 | Korean; Russian
Best Korean Drama Movie
1. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
The romantic drama Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring is set in the Korean wilderness and stars Ki-duk Kim, Yeong-su Oh, and Jong-ho Kim. The film tells the story of a Buddhist monk who raises a young boy on a floating temple and teaches him the principles of wisdom and compassion. When a young girl comes to the temple seeking help with her health, the boy falls in love with her and follows her back into a modern world he is completely unprepared for.
IMDb 8.0 | 1h 43min | 2003 | Korean
Best Korean Thriller Movie
The dramatic horror/thriller film Bedevilled stars Yeong-hie Seo, Seong-won Ji, and Min-ho Hwang. In the movie, Hae-won is a single woman working at a bank in Seoul, South Korea. When she decides to take a vacation to a small island she once visited with her grandparents, she finds Bok-nam, an old friend from her childhood, who is being treated as a slave on the island and begs Hae-won to help her leave.
IMDb 7.3 | 1h 55min | 2010 | Korean
Korean cinema has produced some of the world’s most fascinating films. Prepare to be emotionally invested in the twists and turns of these movies as you delve deeper into the Korean culture as it exists through film. We hope this list of the Best Korean Films of All Time has provided you with a good starting point to dive deep into Korean cinema!