5 Movies Like The Handmaiden (2016) On Mubi Canada

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching The Handmaiden ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

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.

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, Hwang Jae-won, Jeong Ha-dam, Jeong So-ri, Jin Yong-uk, Joo In-young, Jun Sung-ae, Jung Yi-seo, Jung Young-sook, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Mi-hwa, Kim Shin-young, Kwak Eun-jin, Kwon Hyuk, Lee Hak-joo, Lee Hak-ju, Lee Ji-ha, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Yong-nyeo, Moon Jung-dae, Park Hae-il, Park Jeong-min, Park Yong-woo, Seo Hyun-woo, Shin An-jin, Tang Wei, Teo Yoo, Yoo In-hye, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Teo

Director: Park Chan-wook

Before the late 2010s push for more Asian American and lesbian cinema, there were movies already making strides toward better representation. One of the first to achieve this was Saving Face. Despite this film being the first feature for writer-director Alice Wu and actress Lynn Chen, and the first lead role for Michelle Krusiec, the three women lead the film with ease. Wu’s clear mastery of rom-com and family drama tropes directs us through some predictable moves, but with unpredictable twists. Krusiec and Chen’s Wil and Vivian are easy to root for with their striking chemistry, but at the heart of this film is Wil’s relationship with her mom Hwei-Lan (Joan Chen). Their dynamic—expressed through passive-aggression, bilingual bickering, and their need for the other’s honesty—turns this easygoing rom-com into a light yet cathartic family drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ato Essandoh, Brian Yang, Brittany Perrineau, David Shih, Hoon Lee, Jessica Hecht, Jin Wang, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen, Mao Zhao, Michelle Krusiec, Pamela Payton-Wright, Ruth Zhang, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Twinkle Burke

Director: Alice Wu

Rating: R

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.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ah-in Yoo, Ban Hye-ra, Cha Mi-Kyung, ChoI Seung-ho, Jang Won-hyung, Jeon Jong-seo, Jeon Seok-chan, Jeong Da-yi, Jong-seo Jun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Shin-rock, Kim Shin-rok, Kim Sin-rock, Kim Soo-kyung, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Joong-ok, Lee Soo-jeong, Min Bok-gi, Moon Sung-keun, Ok Ja-yeon, Song Duk-ho, Soo-Kyung Kim, Steven Yeun, Yoo Ah-in

Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Rating: Not Rated

Great Freedom is not an easy watch. Apart from the quiet stretches of time and the claustrophobic confines of its prison setting, it also has its lead, Hans Hoffman (played with delicate force by Franz Rogowski) imprisoned again and again and again, unjustly treated like dirt by both his warden and fellow inmates.

But as a Jewish gay man who has lived through the war, Hans is no stranger to these trappings. As such, he takes each day as it comes, open to love, pleasure, and friendship, or at least the potential of these, despite the circumstances. And so Great Freedom is also hopeful and romantic, glimmering with the human tendency to not just survive but to live. Slow but compelling, subdued but powerful, Great Freedom is an affecting balancing act that's well worth watching. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Andreas Patton, Anton von Lucke, Fabian Stumm, Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Thomas Prenn, Thomas Stecher

Director: Sebastian Meise

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it's also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aisling Franciosi, Alan Faulkner, Anthony Phelan, Baykali Ganambarr, Ben McIvor, Charlie Jampijinpa Brown, Charlie Shotwell, Christopher Stollery, Damon Herriman, Eloise Winestock, Ewen Leslie, Harry Greenwood, Huw Higginson, James O'Connell, Luke Carroll, Maggie Blinco, Magnolia Maymuru, Matthew Sunderland, Michael Sheasby, Nathaniel Dean, Sam Claflin, Sam Smith

Director: Jennifer Kent

Rating: R