(Photo by Next Entertainment World/ courtesy Everett Collection)

30 Certified Fresh South Korean Movies To Watch Now

With Parasite‘s historic Best Picture win at the 2020 Oscars, South Korea has now become an intractable contender in the argument for which countries are producing the best movies today. Whether Parasite is your gateway into an international film scene or you’re a seasoned viewer looking to tick off every last classic, we present 30 Certified Fresh South Korean movies to watch now!

Parasite is a great introduction to the South Korean aesthetic, as director Bong Joon-ho has been playing with tone since the early 2000s. His spectacular crime thrillers Mother and Memories of Murder and his acclaimed monster movie The Host helped establish him as one of the country’s most promising filmmakers. Parasite‘s Song Kang-ho, one of Korea’s most versatile and prolific leading men, also starred in the latter two films and serves as the connective tissue between Bong and many of his celebrated colleagues. He’s worked with Oldboy director Park Chan-wook (Thirst, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Kim Jee-woon (The Age of Shadows, The Good, the Bad, the Weird), and Poetry and Burning director Lee Chang-dong multiple times.

Once you’ve devoured all of those films, there’s also the quiet, subdued work of Hong Sang-soo (Hotel by the River, On the Beach at Night Alone, Right Now, Wrong Then), whose frequent leading lady Kim Min-hee also starred in Park Chan-wook’s endlessly talked-about 2016 romantic mystery The Handmaiden. And if you’re looking for genre thrills, recent hits Train to Busan and The Wailing, as well as Kim Jee-woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw the Devil, will help scratch that horror itch.

Since the turn of the century, South Korea has been a rising force in critic-applauded and genre-friendly moviemaking, with no signs of slowing down after Parasite‘s big wins. Take a look back with 30 Certified Fresh South Korean movies to watch now!

#30

The Housemaid (2011)
69%

#30
Adjusted Score: 70.483%
Critics Consensus: Im Sang-soo's remake of The Housemaid struggles to escape the shadow of the original, but offers its own unique -- and decidedly sensual -- pleasures.
Synopsis: Eun-yi is an innocent young woman who is hired as an upper class family housemaid, and is tasked to take... [More]
Directed By: Im Sang-soo

#29

Pieta (2013)
72%

#29
Adjusted Score: 73.261%
Critics Consensus: It lacks subtlety and depth of character, but Pieta gets by with committed performances and a darkly ambitious, deceptively simple message.
Synopsis: Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, Pieta is the acclaimed film from the celebrated and... [More]
Directed By: Kim Ki-duk

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 75.86%
Critics Consensus: A simple story told with much warmth and compassion.
Synopsis: Seven-year-old Sang-woo is left with his grandmother in a remote village while his mother looks for work. Born and raised... [More]
Directed By: Lee Jeong-hyang

#27
Adjusted Score: 78.297%
Critics Consensus: Stylistically flashy and gruesomely violent, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance fits in nicely with the other two films of Park's revenge trilogy.
Synopsis: A woman looks for both revenge and redemption after spending 13 years in prison in this offbeat thriller from South... [More]
Directed By: Park Chan-wook

#26

I Saw the Devil (2011)
81%

#26
Adjusted Score: 82.937%
Critics Consensus: Never flinching during its descent into depravity, I Saw the Devil is a pulverizing thriller that will give bloody satisfaction to audiences who like their revenge served with fiery rage.
Synopsis: I SAW THE DEVIL is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge from Korean genre master... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#25
Adjusted Score: 80.442%
Critics Consensus: Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War sends viewers to the front lines of the Korean War, with grim yet rewarding results.
Synopsis: Korea's leading filmmaker, Kang Je-gyu, directed this epic-scale drama focusing on two brothers caught up in the madness of the... [More]
Directed By: Kang Je-kyu

#24

Bakjwi (Thirst) (2009)
81%

#24
Adjusted Score: 84.134%
Critics Consensus: The stylish Thirst packs plenty of bloody thrills to satisfy fans of both vampire films and director Chan Wook Park.
Synopsis: Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyun, and Kim Ok-bin star in Oldboy director Park Chan-wook's frightener concerning a priest whose life takes... [More]
Directed By: Park Chan-wook

#23

Oldboy (2005)
82%

#23
Adjusted Score: 86.635%
Critics Consensus: Violent and definitely not for the squeamish, Park Chan-Wook's visceral Oldboy is a strange, powerful tale of revenge.
Synopsis: South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook directed this violent and offbeat story of punishment and vengeance. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is... [More]
Directed By: Park Chan-wook

#22
Adjusted Score: 83.238%
Critics Consensus: Whilst never taking itself too seriously, this riotous and rollicking Sergio Leone-inspired Korean Western is serious fun.
Synopsis: As the Korean peninsula falls into the hands of Japanese imperialists and countless Koreans seek refuge in the vast wilderness... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 86.933%
Critics Consensus: The Villainess offers enough pure kinetic thrills to satisfy genre enthusiasts -- and carve out a bloody niche for itself in modern Korean action cinema.
Synopsis: Since she was a little girl, Sook-hee was raised to be a deadly assassin. She gladly accepts the chance to... [More]
Directed By: Jung Byung-gil

#20

Chihwaseon (2003)
83%

#20
Adjusted Score: 83.374%
Critics Consensus: A fittingly artful biopic about the life of a brilliant painter, Chihwaseon offers an uncommonly compelling look at a singularly creative life.
Synopsis: Renowned Korean director Im Kwon-Taek (Chunhyang) tells the story of legendary iconoclastic Chosun Dynasty artist Oh-won (Choi Min-Sik). With little... [More]
Directed By: Im Kwon-taek

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 86.01%
Critics Consensus: Restrained but disturbing, A Tale of Two Sisters is a creepily effective, if at times confusing, horror movie.
Synopsis: This supernatural horror film from Kim Jee-woon is inspired by the ancient Korean folktale "Jangha and Hongryun." Set in an... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#18

Chunhyangdyun (2000)
86%

#18
Adjusted Score: 86.759%
Critics Consensus: Chunhyang brings a classic love story to life with a period romance whose savory visuals are enhanced by a sincerity that transcends folktale formula.
Synopsis: Renowned Korean filmmaker Im Kwon Taek offers his own unique take on a classic romantic fable with this 13th century... [More]
Directed By: Im Kwon-taek

#17

3-Iron (2004)
87%

#17
Adjusted Score: 89.015%
Critics Consensus: A tender and moving romance from Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring's director Kim Ki-Duk.
Synopsis: A battered woman finds her soul mate in a most unusual manner in this drama from Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk.... [More]
Directed By: Kim Ki-duk

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 88.248%
Critics Consensus: Intermittently wondrous and harsh, this sensitive drama about two abandoned sisters gives time and space to the intimate and beautiful moments of childhood.
Synopsis: A portrait of a young girl coming to terms with loss and abandonment, Six-year-old Jin and her younger sister Bin... [More]
Directed By: So Yong Kim

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 90.407%
Critics Consensus: Memories of Murder blends the familiar crime genre with social satire and comedy, capturing the all-too human desperation of its key characters.
Synopsis: South Korea in 1986 under the military dictatorship: Two rural cops and a special detective from the capital investigate a... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 90.344%
Critics Consensus: A funny and wildly inventive hybrid of various genres, Save the Green Planet! is definitely a unique viewing experience.
Synopsis: The genre-bending black comedy sci-fi thriller Save the Green Planet! marks the feature debut of writer/director Jang Jun-hwan. Shin Ha-kyun... [More]
Directed By: Jang Joon-hwan

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 91.918%
Critics Consensus: Right Now, Wrong Then offers diverging perspectives on a chance meeting -- and thought-provoking observations on human interactions in general.
Synopsis: Quite by accident, a film director arrives in town a day early. With time to kill before his lecture the... [More]
Directed By: Hong Sang-soo

#12
Adjusted Score: 93.332%
Critics Consensus: On the Beach at Night Alone finds writer-director Sang-soo Hong working in a more personal vein -- without losing the singular sensibilities that have informed much of his acclaimed earlier work.
Synopsis: A foreign city. The actress Younghee, stressed by a relationship with a married man in Korea, has given up everything,... [More]
Directed By: Hong Sang-soo

#11
Adjusted Score: 97.86%
Critics Consensus: Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique -- and purely entertaining -- take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action.
Synopsis: TRAIN TO BUSAN is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a... [More]
Directed By: Yeon Sang-ho

#10

The Host (2007)
93%

#10
Adjusted Score: 97.946%
Critics Consensus: As populace pleasing as it is intellectually satisfying, The Host combines scares, laughs, and satire into a riveting, monster movie.
Synopsis: When a young girl is snatched away from her father by a horrifying giant monster that emerges from the River... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#9
Adjusted Score: 96.317%
Critics Consensus: A visually stunning and contemplative piece of work.
Synopsis: South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk directs the chamber drama Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. Made up of five segments (in... [More]
Directed By: Kim Ki-duk

#8
Adjusted Score: 102.867%
Critics Consensus: The Handmaiden uses a Victorian crime novel as the loose inspiration for another visually sumptuous and absorbingly idiosyncratic outing from director Park Chan-wook.
Synopsis: From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE, THIRST and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama inspired... [More]
Directed By: Park Chan-wook

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 102.909%
Critics Consensus: Burning patiently lures audiences into a slow-burning character study that ultimately rewards the viewer's patience -- and subverts many of their expectations.
Synopsis: BURNING tells the story of three individuals and a mysterious incident they experience. Jongsu bumps into an old friend, Haemi,... [More]
Directed By: Chang-dong Lee

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 95.968%
Critics Consensus: Hotel by the River finds writer-director Hong Sang-soo revisiting familiar themes from fresh perspectives -- and telling a story that potently distills his unique creative strengths.
Synopsis: The film tells the story of an aging poet, Younghwan (Ki Joobong), who summons his two estranged sons (Kwon Haehyo... [More]
Directed By: Hong Sang-soo

#5

Mother (Madeo) (2010)
96%

#5
Adjusted Score: 98.968%
Critics Consensus: As fleshy as it is funny, Bong Joon-Ho's Mother straddles family drama, horror and comedy with a deft grasp of tone and plenty of eerie visuals.
Synopsis: Hye-ja is a single mom to 27-year-old Do-joon. Her son is her raison d'être. Though an adult in years, Do-joon... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 101.496%
Critics Consensus: The Wailing delivers an atmospheric, cleverly constructed mystery whose supernatural thrills more than justify its imposing length.
Synopsis: The arrival of a mysterious stranger in a quiet rural village causes suspicion amongst the villagers- but as they begin... [More]
Directed By: Na Hong-jin

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 119.021%
Critics Consensus: An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.
Synopsis: Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale. Meet the Park Family: the picture... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#2

The Age of Shadows (2016)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100.961%
Critics Consensus: The Age of Shadows justifies its imposing length with a richly detailed period drama whose sprawling size is matched by strong acting, impressive craft, and narrative depth.
Synopsis: Lee Jung-chool (SONG Kang-ho), a Korean police captain in the Japanese police force, is given a special mission to infiltrate... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#1

Poetry (2011)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 101.518%
Critics Consensus: Poetry is an absorbing, poignant drama because it offers no easy answers to its complex central conflict.
Synopsis: A sixty-something woman, faced with a crippling medical diagnosis and the discovery of a heinous family crime, finds strength and... [More]
Directed By: Chang-dong Lee

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