Korean films: From must see to worth a look

by Andytaken | created - 29 Jul 2013 | updated - 04 Apr 2016 | Public

A list of films in order of must see to worth having a look at.

There are many popular titles missing because I am yet to watch them myself or am not personally interested in watching them.

I have a long list of films to catch up on and will update the list as and when I can

 Refine See titles to watch instantly, titles you haven't rated, etc
  • Instant Watch Options
  • Genres
  • Movies or TV
  • IMDb Rating
  • In Theaters
  • On TV
  • Release Year
  • Keywords

IMDb user rating (average) to
Number of votes to »


Release year or range to »

1. Oldboy (2003)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

77 Metascore

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

Director: Park Chan-Wook | Stars: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Kang Hye-jeong, Kim Byeong-Ok

Votes: 540,336 | Gross: $0.71M

One of greatest films ever made, soon to be butchered by hollywood. The film follows the story of one Oh Dae-su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor's motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls for an attractive sushi chef.

2. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

R | 140 min | Action, Drama, War

64 Metascore

When two brothers are forced to fight in the Korean War, the elder decides to take the riskiest missions if it will help shield the younger from battle.

Director: Je-kyu Kang | Stars: Jang Dong-Gun, Won Bin, Eun-ju Lee, Hyeong-jin Kong

Votes: 38,783 | Gross: $1.11M

The story of two brothers who are drafted in the South Korean army by force at the outbreak of the Korean War. This film shows the atrocities of war superb cinematography. This is the Koreans "saving private Ryan"

3. The Good the Bad the Weird (2008)

R | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

69 Metascore

The story of two outlaws and a bounty hunter in 1940s Manchuria and their rivalry to possess a treasure map while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Lee Byung-hun, Jung Woo-sung, Je-mun Yun

Votes: 34,697 | Gross: $0.13M

Fast action packed western type comedy. This has the good hunting the bad, hunting the weird in a hunt for hidden "treasure" great cinematography, great laughs and great action.

4. The Man from Nowhere (2010)

R | 119 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug-and-organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend.

Director: Jeong-beom Lee | Stars: Won Bin, Kim Sae-ron, Kim Tae-hoon, Kim Hee-won

Votes: 66,141 | Gross: $0.01M

The film follows the story of a pawn shop owner who embarks on a mission to find a little girl that befriended him after the two and her mother are caught up with a dug lord. Turns out he isn't just a moody pawn shop owner and the hunt for the little girl turns into bloody vengeance.

5. 71: Into the Fire (2010)

Not Rated | 120 min | Action, Drama, War

The story of student-soldiers trying to protect a middle school during the early days of the Korean War.

Director: John H. Lee | Stars: Seung-Won Cha, Sang-Woo Kwon, Seung-Hyun Choi, Seung-woo Kim

Votes: 5,304

The film is based on a true story of a group of 71 undertrained and underarmed, outgunned student-soldiers of South Korea during the Korean War, who were mostly killed on August 11, 1950, during the Battle of P'ohang-dong. For 11 hours, they defended P'ohang-dong girls' middle school, a strategic point for safeguarding the Nakdong River, from an attack by overwhelming North Korean forces.

6. The City of Violence (2006)

92 min | Action

After their childhood friend is murdered, a two-man martial arts army beats a path to the perp.

Director: Seung-wan Ryoo | Stars: Seung-wan Ryoo, Jae-mo Ahn, Kil-kang Ahn, Dong-hyeon Baek

Votes: 4,414

The story re-unites three former childhood friends for their friend's funeral, which prompts two vowing to find his murderer. A group of friends as kids have all grown and gone their separate ways as adults two discover the truth about a murdered friend and hunt down their once close friend. A martial arts epic with stylistic scenes reminiscent to kill bill. If your not a fan of kill bill like myself don't worry this is much better.

7. A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Not Rated | 119 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Things go wrong for a high ranking mobster when he doesn't proceed by his boss's orders.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Yeong-cheol Kim, Jung-min Hwang

Votes: 38,446

Ruthlessly violent, it illustrates the ethical codes in the Korean mob and how they clash with personal morality. When Kim Sun-woo fails to do what was asked of him he finds himself the one in trouble and betrayed by his own boss. explosive scenes of violence mixed with brutal scenes of torture both mental and physical.

8. A Company Man (2012)

Not Rated | 96 min | Action, Crime, Drama

When a change of heart moves a well-trained hitman to tender his resignation to his employers, no good comes of it for anyone.

Director: Sang-yoon Lim | Stars: So Ji-seob, Mi-yeon Lee, Kwak Do-won, Dong-jun Kim

Votes: 5,635

Hyeong-do (So Ji-sub) wears a suit and tie like any other rank-and-file white collar worker... except his profession is murder. Seemingly a section chief in the sales division of a metal fabrication company that is actually a front for an organization of hit men, Hyeong-do is regarded as one of the best contract killers in the business and is up for promotion soon. One day, he meets a single mother named Su-yeon (Lee Mi-yeon) and instantly falls in love. Feeling guilty about his bloody past, Hyeong-do tries to quit the "manufacturer" to the surprise of his colleagues and his enemies. Seen as a loose end, he is immediately hunted down by his former employers

9. Fists of Legend (2013)

Not Rated | 154 min | Action

47 Metascore

Three old friends and rivals get set to face off on a TV program billed as "The Greatest Fight Show on Earth".

Director: Woo-Suk Kang | Stars: Cheol-woo Han, Jung-min Hwang, Seong-jin Kang, Jung-Hyuk Lee

Votes: 1,104

Action flick with a surprisingly deep and riveting background story. Great action, great score and leaves you on the edge of your seat.

"A moment of bad luck derailed Deok-kyu's Olympic dreams and led him and his friends to jail. Jin-ho got out of jail quickly because of his rich parents, but Deok-kyu, Jae-seok, and Sang-hoon were not so lucky.

Years later, while running a noodle shop to earn extra money following an accident involving his daughter, Deok-kyu accepts an invitation to join a televised mixed martial arts tournament, Fists of Legend. A group of middle-aged men who used to be called "legends" during their teenage high school days take part in the "real action fighting" reality show, and the winner gets a prize of ₩20 million every round, for a total of ₩200 million (US$183,823). Among the contestants are Deok-kyu's old friends Sang-hoon, currently a manager at a large company who lacks in self-respect after getting passed over for a promotion, and Jae-seok, now a good-for-nothing guy who dreams of becoming a somebody."

10. The Chaser (2008)

Not Rated | 125 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

64 Metascore

A disgraced ex-policeman who runs a small ring of prostitutes finds himself in a race against time when one of his women goes missing.

Director: Na Hong-jin | Stars: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Yeong-hie Seo, Kim Yoo-jeong

Votes: 62,030

A ex-cop now turned pimp is troubled when he has two of his "girls" go missing. Fearful that they may have left him he goes on search to discover the truth, though thruth maybe much worse. With another girl missing he hopes he can find her in time before its too late. Inspired by a story of a real serial killer

11. See You After School (2006)

103 min | Comedy

The new boy accidentally gets on the wrong side of the high school bully, and is challenged to a fight after school.

Director: Seok-hoon Lee | Stars: Soo-Jang Baek, Tae-gyu Bong, Seung-Yeol Cha, Eun-ju Choi

Votes: 448

Goong-dahl, a typical loser billed as the "unluckiest man alive" returned to the school after one year's intense training of reject student's treatments. Now he is up to the challenge of posing him self other than a typical loser. With the leads from his another old fellow mate he started with a new face by threatening and rescuing hot girl "Min-ah" from several oldies in the school. Everything went smoothly up to the plan until one of the bully is happened to be the schools notorious thug "Jae-koo" thus receiving invitation to a grand duel on the roof top after the school. This is a comedy that has the main character day dreaming often like JD from scrubs.

12. Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (2004)

Not Rated | 116 min | Action, Drama, History

By "Fist of Fury", Kim Hyun-Soo (Sang-Woo Kwone) addicted to Bruce Lee. Year 1978. Hyun-Soo moved to KangNam, Seoul. Hyun-Soo transferred to JungMoon High, Maljuk Street, Kangnam, Seoul. He... See full summary »

Director: Ha Yoo | Stars: Sang-Woo Kwon, Lee Jung-Jin, Ga-in Han, Hyo-jun Park

Votes: 2,534

Kwon transfers to a new school. He is sent to a bottom-rank class and experiences violence in classroom by a group of gangsters in his class, led by Jong-hoon, who is a stereotypical Korean bully in school. The teachers are also depicted as authoritarian to the students, using violence for the sake of discipline, as did most Korean teachers in the '70s. Hyun-soo, after a failed relationship with Eun-joo, Kwon decides that he will no longer put up with the conduct of Jong-hun and his boys as well as the harsh and violent disciplinary techniques being put up by the teachers, and so starts to train himself in Jeet Kune Do, inspired by his greatest hero Bruce Lee. His father, a master in Tae Kwon Do, frequently resorted to extreme violence to discipline his son.

13. Gangster High (2006)

100 min | Action, Crime

A group of friends form a soccer team and call themselves "Tigers". The group gets into a fight seniors at their school and other students begin to view them differently. One of the friends... See full summary »

Director: Ki-hyeong Park | Stars: Jung Kyung-ho, Go Gyu-pil, Jang Hie-jin, Cho Jin-woong

Votes: 730

The film revolves around a group of friends who clash with a gang, the rivalry boils over and clashes become more intense and brutal each time.

14. Secret Reunion (2010)

Not Rated | 117 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

A fired South Korean agent and a deserted North Korean spy meet by chance after six years and start a business partnership, each with the intention of stealing information from the other.

Director: Hun Jang | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Dong-won Gang, Seung-ik Baek, Yun-seo Choi

Votes: 3,841

The story follows Song Kang-ho as Agent Lee Han-gyoo of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) who falls from grace after failing to stop the assassination of a North Korean dissident. The sleeper cell responsible includes relative newcomer Ji-won played by Kang Dong-won, who gets marked as a traitor when the mission goes south. Six years later both men are working different jobs when they bump into each other the form an allegiance with one another knowing each other and thinking the other does not know who he really is. They have an intent to "deal" with one another at some point. A thriller with refreshing light humour injected into it.

15. Hindsight (2011)

Not Rated | 122 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A young assassin is sent to kill a retired mob boss. But things get complicated when she begins to like him.

Director: Hyun-seung Lee | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Shin Se-Kyung, Jeong-myeong Cheon, Min-Joon Kim

Votes: 1,293

The film is about a hitwoman who struggles with her feelings for the underworld boss who is her target. The film deals with issues of age difference in relationships, and the Korean underworld. The movie stars the ever popular Kang-ho Song (sympathy for Mr.vengeance, The host, The good the bad the weird)

16. Blades of Blood (2010)

R | 108 min | Action

During a turbulent time when politics, rebellion, and invasion come to a head. A clash stirs between two swordsmen in a violent struggle to seize control of the country they love.

Director: Joon-ik Lee | Stars: Jung-min Hwang, Seung-Won Cha, Ji-hye Han, Sung-Hyun Baek

Votes: 744

Clearly inspired by the great Zatoichi movies director Lee Joon-ik Creates his take on this legend. In the late 16th century, the Joseon kingdom is thrown into chaos by the threat of a Japanese invasion. Royal descendant Lee Mong-hak (Cha Seung-won) and legendary blind swordsman Hwang Jeong-hak (Hwang Jung-min) were once allies who dreamed of stamping out social inequality and corruption, and creating a better world. Persecuted by the court, Lee forms a rebel army in hopes of overthrowing the inept king and taking the throne himself. Lee is willing to kill recklessly and betray former comrades to forge his bloody path to the palace, but Hwang Jeong-hak and the vengeful young man Kyeon-ja stand in the way.

17. The Host (2006)

R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Horror

85 Metascore

A monster emerges from Seoul's Han River and begins attacking people. One victim's loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches.

Director: Bong Joon Ho | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona

Votes: 113,915 | Gross: $2.20M

An Award winning monster flick with plenty of action. A monster emerges from Seoul's Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people. One victim's loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches Starring Kang-Ho Song

18. Biyeolhan geori (2006)

Not Rated | 140 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A small time thug collecting debts for the local triad is torn between his criminal aspirations and his devotion to family.

Director: Ha Yoo | Stars: In-Sung Jo, Ho-jin Chun, Min Namkoong, Lee Bo-young

Votes: 8,386

Byung-du is a 29-year-old career criminal, working for the middle-rank enforcer Sang-chul. Burdened with a terminally ill mother and taking care of younger siblings, Byung-du is feeling financial pressure as a substitute patriarch. When the big boss President Hwang is cornered by a corrupt prosecutor, Byung-du volunteers for a whack job and wins the big man's trust. However, his real trouble begins when friend Min-ho, an aspiring movie director, asks him to be a consultant for the latter's debut film.

19. No Mercy for the Rude (2006)

121 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

A mute hit-man vows to kill only the rude, and save up enough money for tongue surgery.

Director: Cheol-hie Park | Stars: Shin Ha-kyun, Ji-hye Yun, Min-Joon Kim, Kim Byeong-Ok

Votes: 1,661

A mute hit-man vows to kill only the rude, and save up enough money for tongue surgery so he can reunite with his childhood friend and tell her he loves her. With typical hitman violence and hints of humour this film is easily lost amongst the heaps of Korean "hitman/gangster flicks" Although not the best film the inner monologue theme throughout the movie is entertaining.

20. Secretly Greatly (2013)

PG-13 | 124 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

A group of spies, the 5446 Corps were trained by North Korean special forces since their youth, with a goal of unifying Korea. They are ambitiously dispatched to South Korea, where each ... See full summary »

Director: Cheol-soo Jang | Stars: Kim Soo-hyun, Gi-woong Park, Hyun-Woo Lee, Son Hyeon-ju

Votes: 4,014

Three elite North Korean sleeper agents live under cover for so long that it's become a way of life. They are shocked when they are finally given their orders as they are not whats expected they soon find themselves torn between living or carrying out their duty. Great humor contrast with serious consequences and a violent ending.

21. I Saw the Devil (2010)

Not Rated | 144 min | Action, Crime, Drama

67 Metascore

A secret agent exacts revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases.

Director: Jee-woon Kim | Stars: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook-hwan, Ho-jin Chun

Votes: 119,351 | Gross: $0.13M

often compared to "Oldboy" this dark thriller about revenge is full of brutal physical and psychological torture. With Soo-hyun on the hunt of his fiancé and unborn childs killer he finds himself becoming more like the monster he hunts. In reference to the comparison to "oldboy" though I saw the devil has similar themes and is a good film, in my opinion its not anywhere near as good. Not for the squeamish and will leave you contemplating if Soo-hyun had gone too far to get revenge

22. New World (2013)

Not Rated | 135 min | Action, Crime, Drama

58 Metascore

An undercover cop finds it difficult to play both a cop and a goon.

Director: Park Hoon-jung | Stars: Jung-jae Lee, Choi Min-sik, Jung-min Hwang, Park Sung-woong

Votes: 21,843 | Gross: $0.46M

So many twist and turns in this ganster thriller, great acting by the legendary Min-sik Choi, Il-hwa Choi and the ever versitile Jeong-min Hwang (of whom I didn't even recognise until the last scene) This is a long winding story about police planting a mole in a mob a very "infernal affairs" type story arch, although I would not say it was as good as infernal affairs it was certainly a entertaining movie that will have you wondering what's going to happen next.

23. Arahan (2004)

Not Rated | 114 min | Action, Comedy

As a dorky cop falls in with five Tao masters who admire his c'hi, an ancient foe comes looking for them all.

Director: Seung-wan Ryoo | Stars: Ryoo Seung-bum, So-yi Yoon, Sung-Ki Ahn, Doo-hong Jung

Votes: 3,716

A fumbling comedy with added punch. Sang-hwan is a rookie cop that meets Eui-jin a cute woman with seemingly special powers she takes him home after injuring him to have the six Masters of Tao heal him, They believe him to be the "one" and he trains under them and is desperate to learn the powerful palm blast Eui-jin used on him. The fight scenes are good but the end is bit over the top.

Recently Viewed