Korean drama addicts know that the only way to satiate one's appetite for more content is to either pull out the plugs of the TV and/or disconnect the Internet so one can't stream shows anymore. (This seems drastic, I know, but as someone who has watched over seven K-dramas in just the span of one month, the need for consumption is real.) And I wholeheartedly support your addiction.
When you've finished making your way through all the Korean shows, or perhaps just need a break, tune into some good ol' fashion Korean movies. (Most movies come in right under that two-hour mark, too.) From classics like Train to Busan to newer pieces like Tune in For Love, Korean films, similar to shows, offer an escape into worlds with insanely intense plot twists and sometimes cheesy scenes, which we still love. Browse the list of our top Netflix Korean movie recs below, then sit back with some snacks and hit the play button.
Train to Busan
The story focuses on a work-obsessed and divorced father, Seok-woo, whose daughter's birthday wish is to spend the day with her mother in Busan. The two board a train to Busan, not knowing that an ill woman also managed to get on. She turns out to be a zombie who starts attacking, and thus infecting, everyone else on board. (Yes, that took a drastic turn, but that's South Korean shows/films for you.) The movie largely takes place on the train, though you'll be enthralled for the full 117 minutes as father and daughter try to survive along with fellow passengers. Will they ever make it to Busan? This is one of the most iconic South Korean films to have been made and received rave reviews upon release in 2016.
This 2017 movie is directed by Bong Joon-ho, so you know it's worth a watch. (His other film Parasite won an Oscar for Best Picture, in addition to five other Academy Awards, in 2020.) Without revealing too much, here's the plot line: The Mirando Corporation is obsessed with breeding super pigs and sends them to farmers around the world to be raised. For 10 years, Mija has been raising Okja in the mountains of South Korea; one day, Okja is crowned the "best super pig" by the corporation and is scheduled to be taken to New York City. Devastated, Mija sets out on a journey to save her friend and in the process exposes the evildoings of The Mirando Corporation. This movie boosts a powerful ensemble cast with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
If you like movies like Inception, give this 2017 South Korean film a watch. The story centers around investigative journalist Dae-ho whose son is kidnapped with little chance of rescue. Three years passes, and Dae-ho learns of a new form of therapy that allows people to relive important memories through lucid dreams. His friend conducts the therapy on him, allowing Dae-ho to go back to the day his son was kidnapped. Dae-ho finds a new trail of evidence and together with Detective Song, who was on the case three years ago, they set out on a journey to uncover the truth.
Tune in for Love
Nurse the emotional void left on your soul by Crash Landing on You by tuning into another love story. This 2019 movie begins in the '90s during the Asian financial crisis. Writer Mi-su and Hyeon-woo meet as teenagers while working in a bakery over Christmas. As time passes, obstacles in adulthood separates them from each other though the pair always look for ways to reunite. However, one of them holds a secret that might completely destroy their relationship. The film spans across a decade and has a nostalgic tone, plus a beautiful soundtrack. By the end of the film, you're guaranteed to shed a few happy and sad tears.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho (who also directed Train to Busan), Psychokinesis is a superhero movie that centers on bank security guard Suk-Hun. After drinking water from a mountain spring that was affected by a meteor, Suk-Hun finds himself with telekinetic superpowers. His estranged daughter, Roo-Mi, runs a fried chicken restaurant which is under threat of being taken over by a construction company—which is controlled by the mafia. The mafia also wants to kick the neighbors out of the area. A confrontation takes place between the thugs, Roo-Mi, and her mother. Suk-Hun attempts to use his newfound powers to rescue his daughter from the mafia as well as the neighborhood. Will he succeed?
The 2017 thriller received a 8.2 out of 10 rating from my drama list and stars Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won. It's described as "equal parts Bad Boys" and "The Raid" with a "Tom Clancy adaptation." How the story unfolds: a military coup in the near future takes place in North Korea where Eom Chul-Woo, a former agent of the North Korean Special Forces, has orders to execute two leaders who are planning a coup d'état on Victory Day. The leader of North Korea and Eom Chul-Woo escape to South Korea. Eom Chul-Woo and a South Korean government official Kwak Chul Woo now have carry out a secret operation to prevent a Korean war.
Described by Netflix as "offbeat, raunchy, and romantic," this 2015 movie is about Korean teens raised in other countries who travel to Seoul to learn about their cultural heritage at a summer camp set up by the government. The film is set in 1986 and explores the coming-of-age of these children as well as them grappling with issues such as race and identity. It's based on a true story of what the director Benson Lee experienced as a teen when he participated in one of these government-sponsored programs.
Make some popcorn and get ready to settle in with this mystery thriller from 2017. The story follows Jin-seok who witnesses his brother Yoo-seok's abduction. After 19 days, Yoo-seok returns home one night with no memory of what happened, which leads the family to believe he repressed those horrid memories. Soon after, Jin-seok realizes that both his parents and brother are acting very strange and attempts to seek help but ends up getting kidnapped by his "brother." Jin-seok is then thrown into a confusing murder plot and attempts to clear his name while battling the new family of his. Creepy AF? We think so.
The Drug King
This true-story drama centers around a small-time narcotics dealer Lee Doo-sam (played by Song Kang-ho), who eventually becomes the infamous king of narcotics in Korea in the '70s. In addition to selling drugs in Korea, he also exported to Japan and also smuggled other items like diamonds. In the movie, Jo Jung-suk plays a Seoul prosecutor who wants to bring Lee down and Bae Doona plays a lobbyist who helps Lee climb the drug dealing rungs to become the top dog.
"The Korean thirst for movies about government and corporate malfeasance continues unabated in Pandora," wrote The Hollywood Reporter. Sounds like something you'll be into? Read ahead for the plot summary. When an earthquake strikes a small Korean town that houses a run-down nuclear power plant, it causes an explosion that quickly affects Jae-hyeok, who lives in the town, and his lover Yeon-joo, who works at the plant. The situation spirals out of control and it's up to Jae-hyeok and his coworkers to return to the nuclear power plant in order to save everyone.
This movie tells the story of a married, middle class couple. The husband, Jang Tae-ju, is a respect college professor while his wife, Oh Su-yeon, is an esteemed curator of a famous art gallery. The story follows the pair as they aim to achieve their upper echelon goals: Jang Tae-ju wants to have a political career while Oh Su-yeo wants to become the director of her gallery. Together, the two hope to gain acceptance into high society and both are prepared to do everything it'll take to get there.
This movie is based on the short story Barn Burning from The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami, a world-renowned Japanese writer. The South Korean psychological mystery drama follows a guy named Jong-soo who runs into Hae-mi, a girl who used to live in his neighborhood. She asks him to watch her cat while she's in Africa and when she returns, Hae-mi introduces Jong-soo to a guy named Ben who she met here. Ben then tells Jong-soo about his hobby: every two months, he burns an abandoned greenhouse and there are plenty in Jong-soo's town. When Hae-mi seemingly disappears, Jong-soo, who has always liked her, starts to suspect foul play and everything that follows will leave you clutching your couch blanket in suspense.
Illang: The Wolf Brigade
Sci-fi lovers will dive right into this 2018 film. The movie is set in 2029 where North and South Korea are getting ready for a unification after years of preparation due to political and economic pressure. South Korea creates a special unit force known as the "Wolf Brigade," (those cyborg-looking people in uniform) who tries to stop an anti-reunification terrorist group called "The Sect." For some historical context, according to Variety, this movie is "based on Mamoru Oshii's Kerberos Panzer Cop manga, whose 1999 anime adaptation, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, serves as a direct blueprint for this film’s stunning opening and climax."
For another Bong Joon-ho masterpiece, check out this 2013 sci-fi movie. The year is 2031 and Earth is covered in snow and ice thanks to a disastrous plan to combat global warming. A train called Snowpiercer perpetually circles the world while carrying passengers, who are divided into first class and coach. To free the coach passengers from the awful conditions they suffer on this train, Curtis Everett (played by Chris Evans), who also resides in the lower-class section, plots a revolt against the first class passengers. Meanwhile, a Korean man named Namgoong Min-Soo has insider knowledge of how to bypass the security systems of the train. You won't have to keep the subtitles on throughout the entire film, since 85 percent of the dialogue is in English. (This movie marked Bong Joon-ho's first foray into producing an English-language film.)
It feels appropriate to top off this list with yet another zombie movie. (And for you Kingdom fans, you'll definitely want to tune in.) Rampant is a 2018 period film set in the Joseon dynasty where exiled Prince Lee Chung (played by Crash Landing on You's Hyun Bin) and his countrymen band together to battle zombies also known as night demons. It all starts when soldiers try to raid a European ship and one of the guys is bitten by zombies who are on board. He brings the infection back to his village, where it quickly spreads. The zombies in this movie "crave human meat and blood, are attracted by sounds, repelled by sunlight, and are stopped by decapitation or piercing of the heart."
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