18 Movies Like The Handmaiden (2016) On Korea South

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.

Echoing Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesmen, Oscar-winning writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly) tells the story of a loving middle-class couple who live in Tehran, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), who are forced to move out of their apartment. After arriving at their new place, violence erupts, upending their life and straining their previously happy relationship. Farhadi does what he does best here, delivering simmering tension, complex realism, and unaltered emotion. Originally titled Forushande, every scene of The Salesman is a privileged look for Western viewers into Iran's collective consciousness. And even with all that aside, the film still stands out as an extraordinary drama with a tense plot and outstanding performances across the board. Another incredible addition to Farhadi's first-class filmography.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Babak Karimi, Ehteram Boroumand, Emad Emami, Erfan Barzin, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, Maral Bani Adam, Mehdi Koushki, Mina Sadati, Mojtaba Pirzadeh, Sahra Asadollahe, Sam Valipour, Shahab Hosseini, Shirin Aghakashi, Tarane Alidousti, Taraneh Alidoosti

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: PG-13

The title of this 2018 Palme D'or winner is not to be taken metaphorically: Shoplifters is about a marginalized family of day workers, crooks, and small-time outlaws, who live on the fringes of Japanese society. Osamu (Lily Franky) and Nobuyo (Sakura Andô) both have jobs but spruce up their low-wage income by committing petty crimes. One day in winter, Osamu takes in a bruised girl he finds outside in the cold and introduces her to the family in his ramshackle house. But when the second-youngest member of the family, Shota (Kairi Jyo), finds himself teaching her how to shoplift, he faces a moral dilemma that threatens to unravel the family's fabric. If you were hitherto unfamiliar with the unique storytelling and social realism of Hirokazu Koreeda, we really recommend checking it out—as well as his other movies, namely, Still Walking, Like Father, Like Son, I Wish, and After the Storm. His 2018 outing features the last ever performance of Kirin Kiki, who plays the elderly matriarch and passed away that same year. Like many of Koreeda's works, Shoplifters is an understated, beautiful, and mysterious study of the effects of poverty and trauma and a delicate portrait of a family in Japan's urban underbelly.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Family, Thriller

Actor: Aju Makita, Akira Emoto, Chizuru Ikewaki, Hajime Inoue, Haruna Hori, Jyo Kairi, Kairi Jo, Kairi Jyo, Kengo Kora, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Mayu Matsuoka, Miyu Sasaki, Moemi Katayama, Nana Mizoguchi, Naoto Ogata, Sakura Andô, Sosuke Ikematsu, Yoko Moriguchi, Yuki Yamada, 山田裕貴, 松冈茉优, 蒔田 彩珠

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: R

Koreeda is a master of the tender gaze. He deals so softly, elegantly, and emphatically with the characters in his films, it will make you feel like you're watching life itself in all its complex, emotional splendor. Maybe this is particularly true for this movie because it has been inspired by Koreeda's memories of his own childhood and the passing of his mother. Still Walking is a quietly toned movie spanning a period of 24 hours in the life of the Yokoyama family, as they gather to commemorate the passing of their eldest son. At the center of the story is the father, an emotionally distant man who commands respect both from his family and community. Opposite from him sits the other son, the black sheep, who seeks his father's validation. Directed, written, and edited by Koreeda, this dynamic is one of many in this slice-of-life movie about how families deal with loss. And, however distant the culture or setting in Japan may seem to the outsider, you're bound to recognize either yourself or your family among the tender scenes of this masterful drama.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Haruko Kato, Hiroshi Abe, Hotaru Nomoto, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Ryoga Hayashi, Shohei Tanaka, Susumu Terajima, Yoshio Harada, You, Yui Natsukawa

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: Not Rated

, 2009

A thirst for love, a thirst for recognition, a thirst for sympathy, a thirst for meaning, a thirst for life, and a thirst for blood. Director Park Chan-wook and actor Song Kang-ho, two of the biggest names in South Korean cinema, join forces for the first time in a modern take on the supernatural. In present day South Korea, Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Song) volunteers himself as a human experiment during the formulation of a vaccine against a deadly virus. When the experiment fails and he is thought to be dead, he resurrects as a conflicted vampire, one whose moral code continually goes against his intrinsic desires. Along with Song and long-time collaborator cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, Park creates a riveting atmosphere that is both very scary and sad. By blending elements of horror and drama, he also achieves putting a fresh and unique spin on the time-honored vampire film.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Choi Jong-ryul, Ériq Ebouaney, Hwang Woo-seul-hye, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Moon-ee, Kang-ho Song, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Hae-suk, Kim Ok-vin, Lee Hwa-ryong, Mercedes Cabral, Natallia Bulynia, Oh Dal-su, Park In-hwan, Ra Mi-ran, Seo Dong-soo, Shin Ha-gyun, Shin Ha-kyun, Son Jong-hak, Song Kang-ho, Song Young-chang

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

This unique romance is set during a time when a man would be sent the painting of the woman he was to marry before the wedding could take place. Héloïse, secluded with her mother and a maid on a remote island, doesn't approve of her upcoming wedding and refuses to be painted. Her mother sends for a new painter, Marianne, to try to paint her without her noticing. Marianne has to take on this near-impossible task when she starts having feelings for Héloïse. This makes for a riveting romance where Marianne has to choose between her heart and her art while keeping a huge secret from her love interest.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Adèle Haenel, Adèle Haenel, Armande Boulanger, Christel Baras, Clément Bouyssou, Clément Bouyssou, Guy Delamarche, Luàna Bajrami, Luàna Bajrami, Michèle Clément, Noémie Merlant, Noémie Merlant, Valeria Golino

Director: Céline Sciamma, Céline Sciamma

Rating: R

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 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.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa, Chang-hwan Kim, Choi Gwi-hwa, Choi Woo-shik, Choi Woo-sung, Dong-seok Ma, Eui-sung Kim, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-eun, Han Sung-soo, Jang Hyuk-jin, Jeon Ye-eun, Jeong Seok-yong, Jung Seok-yong, Jung Young-ki, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Chang-hwan, Kim Eui-sung, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Joo-heon, Kim Joo-hun, Kim Ju-hun, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Soo-ahn, Kim Soo-an, Kim Su-an, Kim Won-Jin, Lee Joo-sil, Lee Joong-ok, Ma Dong-seok, Park Myung-shin, Sang-ho Yeon, Seok-yong Jeong, Shim Eun-kyung, Sohee, Soo-an Kim, Soo-jung Ye, Terri Doty, Woo Do-im, Woo-sik Choi, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeon Sang-ho, Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jeong, Yu-mi Jung

Director: Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Rating: Not Rated

, 2017

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.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Adam Auslander, Ahn Seo-hyun, Ahn Seong-bong, Amber Snow, An Seo Hyun, Andreas Fronk, Ann Evans, Barbara Wallace, Bettina Skye, Boyd Ferguson, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Carl Montoya, Cho Wan-ki, Choi Hee-seo, Choi Woo-shik, Colm Hill, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Daniel Henshall, David Bloom, Devon Bostick, Eha Urbsalu, Erik De Boer, Faith Logan, Giancarlo Esposito, Han Yi-jin, J. C. Williams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamar Greene, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Kim Chul-moo, Kim Moon-hak, Kim Woo-hyeon, Kristoffe Brodeur, Kwak Jin-seok, Kyul Hwi, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Jung-eun, Lena Avgust, Lily Collins, Luis Javier, Lynn Marocola, Martin Lo Rimorin, Michael D. Joseph, Michael Mitton, Milo Shandel, Myles Humphus, Nancy Amelia Bell, Niall Cunningham, Park Jeong-gi, Park Ji-hoon, Park Keun-rok, Paul Dano, Pavla Tan, Phillip Garcia, Rebecca Husain, Rickland Powell, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Shirley Henderson, Steven Garr, Steven Yeun, Tilda Swinton, Waris Ahluwalia, Woo Shik Choi, Yoon Je Moon, Yoon Kyung-ho

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: TV-MA

An interior designer comes back from Sweden to her birthplace in Thailand where she tries to declutter her family home to make it a minimalist, Marie Kondo-type house. “Minimalism is like a Buddhist philosophy. It’s about letting go,” she tells her mother as she tries to convince her. “Are you nuts?” The woman replies.

Jean insists and she embarks on a journey of touching what hasn’t been touched in decades: traces of an absent father and a past lover among the old Nokias and VHS tape recorders.

Happy Old Year is a contemporary exploration of the age-old resistance to throwing things away. Decluttering is a costly act, one of rejecting and discarding memories. The film was Thailand’s official submission to the Oscars.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Apasiri Nitibhon, Bhumibhat Thavornsiri, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Natda Chawawanid, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Neennara Boonnithipaisit, Patcha Kitchaicharoen, Sarika Sartsilpsupa, Sarika Sathsilpsupa, Sunny Suwanmethanon, Sunny Suwanmethanont, Thirawat Ngosawang, Um Apasiri Nitibhon, Wasu Pluemsakulthai

Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit

Rating: N/A

Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise. 

The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.

Genre: Drama, Reality, Romance

Actor: Andrew Tiernan, Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Jack Roth, Jing Boran, Liu Di, Qu Zhe Ming, Qu Zheming, Rene Liu, Shi Yufei, Sophie Colquhoun, Su Xiaoming, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tim Bentinck, Zhang Zixian, Zheming Qu, Zhou Dongyu, Zhuangzhuang Tian

Director: Rene Liu

Rating: Not Rated

Your Name Engraved Herein is a melancholy and emotional film set in 1987 just as martial law ends in Taiwan. The film explores the relationship between Jia-han and Birdy, two boys in a Catholic school who are in a romantic relationship. The movie tackles homophobia and social stigma in society which evokes a bleak and rather depressing atmosphere, emphasised by the movie's earthy aesthetic. There is a rawness in the film’s narrative and dialogue, topped off by the lead actors’ successfully raw performances. Your Name Engraved Herein is tender as well as heartbreaking, occasionally depicting the joy of youth.

Genre: Drama, Family, History, Romance

Actor: Barry Qu, Cheng-Yang Wu, Chih-ju Lin, David Chiu, Edward Chen, Erek Lin, Fabio Grangeon, Honduras, Hui-Min Lin, Jason Wang, Jean-François Blanchard, Jing-Hua Tseng, Leon Dai, Lin Chih-ju, Lotus Wang, Lung Shao-Hua, Ma Nien-Hsien, Mimi Shao, Qu Youning, Siu Wa Lung, Soda Voyu, Stone Yang, Tseng Ching-hua, Waa Wei, Wang Shih Sian, Yi-Ruei Chen

Director: Kuang-Hui Liu, Liu Kuang-hui

Rating: N/A

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.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Baek Ji-won, Baik Ji-won, Beom-taek Kwon, Chun Woo-hee, Dong Hyun-bae, In-seon Jeong, In-sun Jung, Ji Soo, Jo Dae-hee, Jung In-sun, Kim Hyun-joon, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Jung-pal, Kim So-young, Kimchoi Yong-Joon, Kwon Beom-taek, Kwon Bum-taek, Lee Young-lan, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, So-young Kim, Woo-hee Chun, Yeong-ran Lee, Yim Dong-seok, Yoo Seung-mok, Young-lan Lee

Director: Lee Su-jin, Su-jin Lee

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

It looks like something you’ve already seen before: a student genius turns a simple high school cheating scheme into a full-blown, high-stakes heist. But layered with great acting, taut writing, and sharp observations about the ways in which education (and society in general) fails its students, Bad Genius turns a familiar premise into something genuinely exciting and impressively affecting. It’s everything you want a caper movie to be: smart and thrilling, with almost no moment to breathe, and of course, peppered with characters you can’t help but root and be nervous and excited for. 

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Chanon Santinatornkul, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Ego Mikitas, Eisaya Hosuwan, Kanjana Vinaipanid, Nopawat Likitwong, Pasin Kuansataporn, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Sarinrat Thomas, Suquan Bulakul, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Valerie Bentson, Vittawin Veeravidhayanant

Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya

Rating: PG-13, TV-MA

I Saw the Devil is a South Korean psychological thriller/horror film. IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!!! It has a lot of blood and gore that could make even the strongest stomachs turn. A young woman is kidnapped from her car while waiting for a tow truck and the kidnapper murders her far from her car and scatters her body parts around. Her fiancé, a secret service agent of the National Intelligence Service, sets out to track down her murders and exact his revenge. If you're looking for a thrill ride, look no further- but don't say we didn't warn you.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byung-hun Lee, Cheon Ho-jin, Choi Jin-ho, Choi Min-sik, Choi Moo-seong, Choi Moo-sung, Gook-hwan Jeon, Han Se-joo, Ho-jin Cheon, Ho-jin Chun, In-seo Kim, Jeon Kuk-hwan, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Myeong-yeon, Kim Dae-hye, Kim Gab-soo, Kim In-seo, Kim Jae-Geon, Kim Kang-il, Kim Kap-soo, Kim Yoon-seo, Lee Byung-hun, Lee Jun-hyuk, Lee Seol-gu, Lee Seol‑gu, Min-sik Choi, Moo-Seong Choi, Nam Bo-ra, Oh San-ha, Park Jeong-gi, Park Ji-yeon, Park Seo-Yeon, San-ha Oh, Seol Chang-hee, Son Young-soon, Uhm Tae-goo, Um Tae-goo, Yoon Byung-hee, Yoon Chae-yeong, Yoon-seo Kim

Director: Jee-Woon Kim, Kim Jee-woon

Rating: Not Rated