The 25 Best South Korean Movies to Watch Online

The 25 Best South Korean Movies to Watch Online

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With hallyu, or the Korean pop culture wave, taking the world by storm thanks to global media phenomena like Parasite and Squid Game, South Korea has become an even greater premier destination for art and entertainment. Korean cinema and television has always been a popular export from the country, but now the trademarks of its movies and shows have become eminently recognizable. Be it their emotionally powerful romances and melodramas, their oddball comedies, or their vicious and violent thrillers, Korean filmmakers have found their own expressive language that resonates across all demographics.

And with the sea of Korean content available to us today, some of their great films might be buried under the algorithms. So here we’ve selected 10 movies to help keep your hallyu fixation fresh.

15. Han Gong-ju (2013)

7.7

Country

South Korea

Director

Lee Su-jin, Su-jin Lee

Actors

Baek Ji-won, Baik Ji-won, Beom-taek Kwon, Chun Woo-hee

Moods

Character-driven, Dark

This South Korean coming-of-age story, an award-winning debut from Lee Su-jin, is centered around a high school student named Han Gong-ju. There’s a dark aura surrounding our teenage protagonist, as she avoids making new friends and closes herself off from the world. More than anything, she is afraid that people will discover the secret behind her shy persona, and the past events that changed her life forever. This is an intricate and truly devastating tale, sensitively told, and is likely to leave even the most hardened viewers filled with rage at those who have wronged Han Gong-ju.

14. Right Now, Wrong Then (2016)

7.7

Country

South Korea

Director

Hong Sang-soo, Sang-soo Hong

Actors

Choi Hwa-jeong, Go Ah-sung, Jae-yeong Jeong, Ju-bong Gi

Moods

Lighthearted, Lovely, Slice-of-Life

In the West, South Korean film is largely defined by the ingenious (oft violent) bombast of directors like Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), but there is a quieter tradition championed by director Hong Sang-soo that is just as imaginative and worthy of your time. This fascinating film serves as a perfect entry point to a director whose filmography is full of similar riches.

A film director arrives in town to deliver a lecture, and having some time to kill, ends up sharing a day with a stranger. This simple set-up recalling Before Sunrise leads down a charming and quietly romantic route that would be delightful on its own, but Right Now, Wrong Then is about much more than just a chance encounter. It’s a film more concerned with how little moments here and there can change everything, and how much our lives are governed as much by chance and timing as the choices we make.

13. Burning (2018)

7.7

Country

Japan, Korea, South Korea

Director

Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Actors

Ah-in Yoo, Ban Hye-ra, Cha Mi-Kyung, ChoI Seung-ho

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Intense

Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience.

Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story.

Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.)

This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against.

Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one – a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.

12. Snowpiercer (2014)

7.9

Country

Czech Republic, Korea, South Korea

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Actors

Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton

Moods

Action-packed, Depressing, Dramatic

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

11. House of Hummingbird (2018)

best

8.0

Country

South Korea

Director

Female director, Kim Bora

Actors

In-gi Jeong, Jeong In-gi, Jung In-gi, Kil Hae-yeon

Moods

Lovely, Slice-of-Life, Slow

It’s 1994, and Seoul is facing massive, rapid changes. The unrest is reflected by a lot of its residents, including Eun-hee, a disaffected teen with a less-than-stellar home and school life. She manages to get by with the help of friends and lovers, that is until they change too, and Eun-hee is forced to grapple with the volatility of it all. 

Sensitively told and genuinely captivating, House of Hummingbird is a stellar debut by writer-director Kim Bo-ra. Her command shines in how young actress Park Ji-hoo dynamically portrays Eun-hee, in how the story meanders but never loses footing, and in how each frame displays a quiet gorgeousness as the primary colors of her youth pop against the faded backdrop of urbanized Seoul. The delicate balance of all these elements is sure to evoke a sincere, profound feeling in every viewer. 

10. Train to Busan (2016)

best

8.0

Country

Korea, South Korea

Director

Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Actors

Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Thrilling

A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.

The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.

9. Okja (2017)

best

8.0

Country

Korea, South Korea, United States of America

Director

Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Actors

Ahn Seo-hyun, Ahn Seong-bong, Amber Snow, An Seo Hyun

Moods

Action-packed, Sunday, Thought-provoking

Director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) does something quite amazing with the $50 million budget Netflix gave him: he makes a simplistic movie. But man, is it good. Okja tells the story of a “super pig” experiment that sends genetically modified pigs to top farmers around the world. In Korea, a farmer’s granddaughter forms a special relationship with one of these super pigs (Okja). When the company who originally ran the experiment want their pig back (performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton) – the two find an ally in an animal advocacy group led by Jay (Paul Dano). This is a straightforward movie, but nevertheless it is entertaining and full of thought-provoking themes and performances from an excellent cast.

8. Decision to Leave (2022)

best

8.1

Country

South Korea

Director

Park Chan-wook

Actors

Ahn Seong-bong, Cha Seo-won, Choi Dae-hoon, Choi Sun-ja

Moods

Gripping, Thought-provoking, Weird

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.

7. Lady Vengeance (2005)

best

8.1

Country

South Korea

Director

Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Actors

Anne Cordiner, Bu-seon Kim, Byeong-ok Kim, Choi Hee-jin

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Mind-blowing

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.

6. Poetry (2011)

best

8.8

Country

France, South Korea

Director

Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Actors

Ahn Nae-sang, Chang Hyae-jin, Hee-ra Kim, Jang Hye-jin

Moods

Challenging, Dramatic, Long

Poetry is a masterpiece from one of South Korea’s most cherished movie directors, Lee Chang-dong. The simple story follows the everyday life of a grandmother, Mija, who works as a caretaker for a living. To fill her inner emptiness, she decides to join a poetry club with other grandmothers in her neighborhood. Meanwhile, as Mija deals with her own financial and health problems, she struggles to connect with her teenage grandson — only to find out that he is keeping a dark secret. If you are familiar with Lee Chang-dong works, then you know that the movie will tug at your heartstrings. But if you aren’t, prepare to be moved.

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