6 Best Movies to Watch by Lee Yong-nyeo

Staff & contributors

The 2016 outing of South-Korean auteur director Park Chan-wook (maker of Oldboy and Stoker) once again shifts attention to the dark side of what makes us human: betrayal, violence, and transgression. Based on the 2002 novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden revolves around the love of two women and the greedy men around them. Park shifts the novel's plot from Victorian London to 1930s Korea, where an orphaned pickpocket is used by a con man to defraud an old Japanese woman. Routinely called a masterpiece with comparisons made to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, this is a stylish and meticulous psychological thriller that packs enough erotic tension to put a crack in your screen. If you love cinema, you can't miss this movie. You might even have to watch it twice.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Cho Jin-woong, Choi Byung-mo, Choi Jong-ryul, Eun-hyung Jo, Ha Jung-woo, Ha Si-yeon, Hae-suk Kim, Han Ha-na, In-woo Kim, Jeong Ha-dam, Jin-woong Jo, Jo Eun-Hyung, Jung In-gyeom, Jung-woo Ha, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Hae-suk, Kim In-woo, Kim Min-hee, Kim Si-eun, Kim Tae-ri, Kwak Eun-jin, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Ji-ha, Lee Kyu-jung, Lee Yong-nyeo, Lim Han-bin, Min-hee Kim, Moon So-ri, O Man-seok, Oh Man-seok, Rina Takagi, So-ri Moon, Tae-ri Kim, Tomomitsu Adachi

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: Not Rated

Riceboy Sleeps looks like a fairy tale. Taken in 16mm and colored to pastel-grain perfection, it’s a captivating picture that moves like a happy memory. And occasionally, the action matches the air. Mother So-young (Choi Seung-yoon) and son Dong-hyun (Ethan Hwang) share a fierce, us-against-the-world bond as they strive to make it in a Canadian suburb without a lick of help. 

The film is beautiful that way, but it also importantly doesn't spare us from the harsh-edged realities of immigrant life. There are assimilation attempts, cultural divides, and on Dong-hyun’s part, a perpetual longing to know about an unknowable past. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but it’s also a tear-jerker, as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. 

Coupled with writing and performances that are resonant but restrained (they never verge on melodrama), Riceboy Sleeps makes for a powerful debut and a truly unforgettable watch.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aiden Finn, Anthony Shim, Bryce Hodgson, Choi Jong-ryul, Eric Keenleyside, Ethan Hwang, Hunter Dillon, John Cassini, Kendra Anderson, Lee Yong-nyeo, Ryan Robbins, Sean Poague, Vanessa Przada

Director: Anthony Shim

This Park Chan-Wook classic is the third part of a trilogy of films around the theme of revenge, following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy. While ultimately unique, Lady Vengeance is a thriller set in a prison, in the vein of films such as the Japanese action drama Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion. After being framed and wrongly convicted for murder, our protagonist seeks out the true perpetrator of the crime –– but more than anything else, she seeks vengeance. 

This film’s run time is 115 minutes and every second is essential. There is often gratuitous violence perpetrated by men against women in film, however Lady Vengeance takes back control and for that reason it remains one of my favorite revenge films.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anne Cordiner, Bu-seon Kim, Byeong-ok Kim, Choe Hui-jin, Choi Hee-jin, Choi Jung-woo, Choi Min-sik, Go Su-hee, Ha-kyun Shin, Han Jae-duk, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Jun Sung-ae, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bu-seon, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Jin-goo, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Shi-hoo, Kim Yoo-jung, Kim You-jung, Ko Chang-seok, Ko Su-hee, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Yea-young, Lee Byung-joon, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Yong-nyeo, Lee Young-ae, Lim Su-gyeong, Min-sik Choi, Nam Il-woo, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Park Myung-shin, Ra Mi-ran, Ryoo Seung-wan, Seo Ji-hee, Seo Young-ju, Seung-Shin Lee, Seung-wan Ryoo, Shi-hoo Kim, Shin Ha-gyun, Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho, Su-hee Go, Toni Barry, Tony Barry, Won Mi-won, Yea-young Kwon, Yeong-ae Lee, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoon Jin-seo

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

A twitchy, uncomfortable noir film for the digital age, Decision to Leave blends the trappings of a restless police procedural with an obsessive forbidden romance. Here, director Park Chan-wook flips every interrogation and piece of evidence on its head, pulling us away from the whodunit and towards the inherently invasive nature of a criminal investigation. It's a movie that remains achingly romantic even if everything about the central relationship is wrong. For detective Hae-jun and suspect Seo-rae (played masterfully by Park Hae-il and Tang Wei, respectively), the attraction between them is built entirely on distrust and suspicion—illustrating the danger of falling for the idea of someone rather than the person themself.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Ahn Seong-bong, Cha Seo-won, Choi Dae-hoon, Choi Sun-ja, Go Kyung-pyo, Go Min-si, Jeong Ha-dam, Jin Yong-uk, Jung Yi-seo, Jung Young-sook, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Mi-hwa, Kim Shin-young, Kwak Eun-jin, Lee Hak-joo, Lee Hak-ju, Lee Ji-ha, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Hae-il, Park Jeong-min, Park Yong-woo, Seo Hyun-woo, Tang Wei, Teo Yoo, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Teo

Director: Park Chan-wook

In rural Korea a policeman starts to investigate peculiar and violent events that most of the people in his village attribute to the arrival of a new Japanese resident. As the occurrences keep multiplying, and different perspectives in the film are shown, you start to lose touch with reality in the face of what can only be described as genius film-making. As critic Jada Yuan puts it, the film operates on a level “that makes most American cinema seem clunky and unimaginative”. For this reason, and while The Wailing is a true horror flick with a great premise, it’s also more than just that: it boosts a mind-boggling, interesting plot that will have you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Protip: grab the person next to you and make them watch this movie with you so you can have someone to discuss it with after!

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Bae Yong-geun, Cho Han-cheul, Chun Woo-hee, Do-won Kwak, Han-Cheol Jo, Heo Jin, Hur Jin, Hwang Jung-min, Hwang Suk-jung, Jang So-yeon, Jeon Bae-soo, Jeong-min Hwang, Jo Han-chul, Jo Yeon-hee, Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Kim Do-yoon, Kim Hwan-hee, Kim Ki-chun, Kwak Do-won, Lee Jung-eun, Lee Seon-hee, Lee Yong-nyeo, Moon Chang-gil, Park Sung-yeon, So-yeon Jang, Son Kang-gook, Sung-yeon Park, Woo-hee Chun, Yoo Soon-woong, 赵汉哲

Director: Hong-jin Na, Na Hong-jin

Rating: Not Rated, TV-MA

Miso may be living day to day on her meager earnings as a cleaner, but she is decidedly content. She insists that all she needs to get by are cigarettes, whiskey, and time with her boyfriend, so when a spike in rent and prices invites her to reassess her priorities, she doesn’t budge. Instead of forgoing these luxuries, she gives up her tiny place and couch surfs with her old bandmates. What follows is a reunion of sorts, where darkly humorous epiphanies are had on both ends about adulthood, responsibilities, and what it really means to be happy in an increasingly indifferent, profit-oriented world.  

Microhabitat treads on very grave themes, and the images it conjures can be unsettling. But it is also surprisingly light on its feet, displaying sharp satire and sweet empathy for its unyielding protagonist. Miso is portrayed with a smartness and softness that evades rational judgment, and this endearment makes the story, especially the ending, all the more painfulul, poignant, and impactful.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, An Jae-hong, Cho Soo-hyang, Choi Deok-moon, Esom, Hwang Mi-young, Jang Sung-kyu, Kang Jin-ah, Kim Hee-won, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Kuk-hee, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Seong-wook, Lee Sung-wook, Lee Yo-sup, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Ji-young, Woo Moon-gi

Director: Jeon Go-woon

Rating: Not Rated