These Korean Action Movies Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

From intense revenge stories to badass women warriors.

Lee Yeon as Kim Young-ji, Jeon Do-yeon as Gil Boksoon in Kill Boksoon
(Image credit: No Ju-han/Netflix)

South Korean cinema has become a global powerhouse over the past two decades, with countless U.S. and international viewers discovering that the country is home to some of the most inventive modern filmmakers of our time. While some movie fans may think of a heart-racing zombie flick or a dramatic social satire when asked to name a Korean movie, the country is also known for its inventive action films, which take influences from throughout the world and genre to build cutting-edge, brutal fight scenes, and engrossing plots where viewers just can't look away. Read on for the best Korean action movies of all time to find on streaming, from noir-tinged crime dramas to uproarious action-comedies (and yes, a few zombies too).


still from oldboy korean action movie

(Image credit: Tartan Releasing / Everett)

Park Chan-wook's brutal action thriller is a must-watch for anyone getting into Korean cinema. Choi Min-sik plays Oh Dae-su, a businessman who finally escapes from a clandestine prison after 15 years of torture. As he works to discover the truth behind his kidnapping and imprisonment, as well as the fate of his family, director Park weaves in several truly shocking plot twists. In addition to its iconic story, the propulsive (which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year) also boasts one of the best hallway fight scenes ever put on film.

Watch on Prime Video

'The Roundup'

still from the roundup korean action movie

(Image credit: BA Entertainment/Big Punch Pictures)

This is the second movie from a series of beloved comedy thrillers, all starring Ma Dong-seok (a.k.a. Don Lee) as renegade detective Ma Seok-do. Set four years after its predecessor The Outlaws, The Roundup saw the cop travel to Vietnam to take down a sadistic killer who targets rick Korean travelers. Half the fun of watching this flick's intricate fist fights and chase scenes is knowing more action-packed sequels are on the horizon, with No Way Out soon to arrive on streaming and Punishment set to release in theaters next year.

Watch on Prime Video

'Kill Bok-soon'

Lee Yeon as Kim Young-ji, Jeon Do-yeon as Gil Boksoon in Kill Boksoon

(Image credit: No Ju-han/Netflix)

This stylish, female-led thriller takes place in an underworld of Seoul where assassins are contracted out by killing agencies that keep each their agents in check through a stringent set of rules. Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) leads a double life as a killer with a 100 percent success rate and the mother of an observant teenage daughter. When she refuses to complete an assigned mission, she has to deal with the industry-wide repercussions (via several inventively-shot brawls).

Watch on Netflix

'The Man from Nowhere'

still from the man from nowhere korean action movie

(Image credit: Rakuten Viki)

Is there any better setup for an action thriller than an ex-intelligence agent who comes out of retirement when his only friend is threatened? In this neo-noir thriller, Won Bin plays the titular mystery man Cha Tae-sik, who lives a quiet life running a pawn shop and befriending his neighbor So-mi (Kim Sae-ron). When So-mi is kidnapped after her mom steals opium from a drug lord, Tae-sik is determined to save her, brutally taking down anyone who stands in his way.

Watch on Netflix


Jun Jong-seo as Jang Ok-ju in Ballerina

(Image credit: Yoo Eun Mi/Netflix)

This slick, kinetic thriller follows Ok-ju (Jeon Jong-seo), a badass private security contractor who only has one friend in the world, ballerina Min-hee (Park Yu-rim). After discovering Min-hee's dead body, Ok-ju embarks on a revenge mission to take down the person responsible for her death, monstrous sex-trafficking boss Choi Pro (Kim Ji-hoon). Fans of classic single-minded vengeance tales like John Wick should definitely give this one a watch.

Watch on Netflix


still from veteran korean action movie

(Image credit: TIFF)

If you're in the mood for laughs along with your heart-racing action fix, this action-comedy is one to add to the list. The crime flick sees unrelenting detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) go up against Jo Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), an arrogant chaebol (a.k.a. family-owned conglomerate) heir who also runs a secret crime syndicate. It's a classic underdog story laced with social satire courtesy of Tae-oh being a rich spoiled brat. (It's also getting a U.S. remake, because of course it is.)

Watch on Netflix

'Steel Rain'

still from steel rain korean action movie

(Image credit: Netflix)

This action thriller throws a political odd couple together in the middle of an attempted coup, as a North Korean secret service agent (Jung Woo-sung) and a South Korean presidential secretary (Kwak Do-won) have to join forces to avert the destruction of the entire Korean peninsula. In addition to the standout action sequences, this flick provides plenty of plot twists and betrayals for fans of espionage drama.

Watch on Netflix

'The Host'

still from the host korean action movie

(Image credit: Allstar/Magnolia/Sportsphoto Ltd)

This engrossing film from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho does double duty as a terrifying creature flick and a searing satire on governmental corruption and toxic pollution. (The film's inciting incident is even based on a real-life occurrence.) Years after a U.S. morgue official dumped hazardous chemicals into Seoul's Han River, a giant mutated creature emerges in the middle of the city and wreaks havoc on the packed riverside. When the monster swallows teenager Hyun-seo, her dysfunctional family—including her bumbling father (Song Kang-ho) and archery champion aunt (Bae Doona)—have to work together to rescue her after the government refuses to believe Hyun-seo is alive.

Watch on Paramount Plus

'Train to Busan'

still from train to busan korean action movie

(Image credit: Next Entertainment World)

Even casual fans of Korean entertainment have likely already heard of Train to Busan. If for some reason you're still on the fence, let this be the latest sign that this superb zombie movie is a must-watch, whether you tune in for the terrifying, unsettlingly quick zombies or the nail-biting battles as the film's human survivors fight for their lives. Also, don't be surprised if one or two of the film's death scenes leave you sobbing.

Watch on Amazon Prime

'The Villainess'

still from the villainess korean action movie

(Image credit: Next Entertainment World)

This intense revenge flick, which was inspired by the 1990 thriller La Femme Nikita, depicts the life of skilled assassin Sook-hee (Kim Ok-vin), flashing back and forth between her past as a highly skilled assassin and her present as a member of South Korea's intelligence agency. Each of the action sequences are on another level, including a motorcycle sword fight that inspired a scene in John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.

Watch on Prime Video

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.