19 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2019 On Korea South

Staff & contributors
Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2019. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.
Many things clash in this beautifully layered, semi-autobiographical film of American director Lulu Wang: cultures, morals, and emotions. The result is a type of comedy that is complex and bittersweet⁠—and based on a true lie: this is the story of a Chinese grandma whose family won't tell her that she is fatally ill. Instead, they organize a fake wedding in China, where everyone gets together to bid a farewell to the unwitting matriarch (played by Zhao Shuzhen). The fake wedding is, in fact, a premature funeral for a person unaware that she is going to die. Played by rapper and comedian Awkwafina, Billi, a New-York-based Chinese-American with a complicated relationship to China, embodies the cultural and moral question at the heart of this story: is it right or wrong not tell grandma? It is thanks to Wang's deft writing and Awkwafina's outstanding performance that The Farewell homes in on answers without ever being melodramatic. Warm, honest, and beautiful.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aoi Mizuhara, Awkwafina, Chen Han, Diana Lin, Gil Perez-Abraham, Hong Lu, Ines Laimins, Jiang Yongbo, Jim Liu, Lu Hong, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma, X Mayo, Yang Xuejian, Zhang Jing, Zhao Shuzhen

Director: Lulu Wang

Rating: PG

In this powerful documentary, Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa intertwines her own family history with the democratic journey of her home country. As she says herself, Costa and her country's democracy are of the same age. This is not the only reason why she was uniquely positioned to make a film like this: her parents were left-wing activists in the 1970s, who went to jail for their beliefs, while her grandparents were part of the ruling class have made Brazil's strong-man politics and right-wing backlash possible. Her mother was held at the same prison that ex-president Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) was sent to. Costa tells the story of Rousseff's demise as well as that of Luiz Inácio da Silva (2003-2011) aka Lula, whose future remains up in the air. The Edge of Democracy is thus a gripping and urgent warning that democracy in the world's sixth most populous country is under attack. In content and form, Costa is obviously opinionated, but she makes a strong point.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aécio Neves, Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff, Eduardo Cunha, Elena Andrade, Jair Bolsonaro, Jean Wyllys, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva, Michel Temer, Nelson Mandela, Paulo Maluf, Petra Costa, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Sérgio Moro

Director: Petra Costa

Rating: TV-14

Do you keep re-watching Superbad when you're hungover? Next time you are, try the film that has been praised as 'the female Superbad”: the amazing Booksmart. Yes, it's coming-of-age comedy, but, like Superbad, it tried something a little different. Like its two main characters, one could say it's a bit smarter than Greg Mottola's seminal bromedy. Molly (Beanie Feldstein, incidentally, Jonah Hill's younger sister) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends, class presidents, and academic overachievers. Nice girls, too. With excellent grades in their pockets, they head off to college only to find that the same in-crowd from high school that was doing nothing but partying, now goes to the same college as them. Why, oh why, did they choose academic success over partying, when, clearly, they could have had both? On their last day in high school, now here's a trope, they decide to make up for all the years of lost partying on one night. This sets off a raucous, raunchy, and wildly entertaining ride. And with a feminist twist!

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Adam Krist, Austin Crute, Beanie Feldstein, Ben Harris, Billie Lourd, Billie Lourde, Christopher Avila, David Horton, Deb Hiett, Diana Silvers, Eduardo Franco, Ellen Doyle, Jason Sudeikis, Jessica Williams, John Hartman, Kaitlyn Dever, Kyle Samples, Lisa Kudrow, Mason Gooding, Maya Rudolph, Michael Patrick O'Brien, Mike O'Brien, Molly Gordon, Nico Hiraga, Noah Galvin, Skyler Gisondo, Stephanie Styles, Victoria Ruesga, Will Forte

Director: Olivia Wilde

Rating: R

, 2019

Shot by Sergio Pablos, a weathered animation film creator, here's a future holiday classic to be reckoned with. Klaus is a beautifully old-school-looking, 90s Disney-style animation movie about the origin story of the world's most beloved toymaker, Santa Klaus. Dispatched to a bleak arctic town, because he really wasn't very good at his job at all, mailman Jesper stumbles upon the now-famous Klaus, making an acquaintance that will change the town forever, and, with it, the way Christmas is celebrated around the world. In addition to its homely warmth, funny moments, and nostalgic hand-drawn animation style, you will recognize many famous voice-overs in this festive family film, including the always amazing J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, and Jason Schwartzman, to name a few.

Genre: Animation

Actor: J.K. Simmons, Jason Schwartzman, Joan Cusack, Neda Margrethe Labba, Norm Macdonald, Rashida Jones, Sergio Pablos, Will Sasso

Director: Sergio Pablos

Rating: PG

, 2019

In The Sun, a family of four is dealt with tragedy after tragedy, beginning with the younger sun A-ho's sudden incarceration. The mother is sympathetic but the father all but shuns him as he chooses to throw all his affection to A-hao, the older brother, and his med school pursuits instead. Themes of crime, punishment, family, and redemption are then explored in gorgeous frames and mesmerizing colors with director Chung Mong-hong doubling as the film's cinematographer. 

Despite itself, The Sun never falls into cliche melodrama territory. Its heavy themes are undercut by naturalistic acting and poetic shots, resulting in a deeply emotional but balanced film. Rich in meaning and beauty, The Sun will surely stay with you long after your first watch.

 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Family

Actor: Apple Wu, Chang Han, Chen Yi-wen, Chen Yiwen, Chen-Ling Wen, Chien-Ho Wu, Chih-ju Lin, Greg Hsu, Guan-Ting Liu, Han Chang, Huang Hsin-Yao, Ivy Yin, Kuan-Ting Liu, Li-Tung Chang, Liao Hui-Jen, Lin Chih-ju, Liu Kuan-ting, Lung Shao-Hua, Ming-Shuai Shih, Samantha Ko, Samantha Shu-Chin Ko, Shao-Huai Chang, Shu-Chin Ko, Shu-qin Ke, Siu Wa Lung, Wang Ko-Yuan, Wen Chen-ling, Wu Chien-ho, Wu Tai-ling, Yi-Wen Chen, Yin Shin

Director: Chung Mong-hong, Mong-Hong Chung

Rating: N/A

There is so much power to this story based actor Shia Laboeuf’s life. As a kid, he lived with his father on the road during the filming of Even Stevens and other star-making roles. His dad was a war veteran who goes to bikers’ AA meetings and who had a brief acting career himself.  He was full of anger that made Laboeuf later suffer from PTSD, but which he was able to perceive in a fascinating way. 

Putting Laboeuf’s fame aside, this is an incredible movie on emotionally abusive parent-child relationships. It’s a universal story. With Shia Laboeuf as his father and Lucas Hedges as current-day Laboeuf. 

 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Al Burke, Ben Maccabee, Byron Bowers, Clifton Collins Jr., Craig Stark, Dorian Brown Pham, Eli Santana, FKA Twigs, Giovanni Lopes, Graham Clarke, Greta Jung, Kara C. Roberts, Kingston Vernes, Laura San Giacomo, Leana Chavez, Lucas Hedges, Ludwig Manukian, Maika Monroe, Martin Starr, Natasha Lyonne, Noah Jupe, Paulina Lule, Sandra Rosko, Shia LaBeouf

Director: Alma Har'el, Alma Har'el

Rating: R

This documentary starts with Alex Lewis, who gets into a motorcycle accident and wakes up in the hospital not knowing who he is. He doesn’t remember anything (not even what a bicycle or a TV is, or who his mother or father are), but he remembers his twin brother, Marcus. When Alex gets back into his childhood home, he’s full of questions, and Marcus is full of answers. However, slowly, Marcus realizes his power to reshape Alex’s version of their past. Marcus leaves one important detail from Alex’s life that makes this documentary (as if it wasn’t already) such an insane story. I know I said it’s a sad movie, but it’s also fascinating and, ultimately, humanizing of the brothers’ experience.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alex Lewis, Andrew Caley, Evan Milton, Kathleen Rainey, Laura Obiols, Marcus Lewis |, Thomas Mulhurn

Director: Ed Perkins

Rating: TV-MA

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

Two storylines take place in this Parisian animation: one of a Moroccan immigrant who works as a pizza delivery guy, and the other of his hand, somehow no longer part of his body, but also going on a trip around Paris.

The hand storyline is not gory by the way, except for one or two very quick scenes. Mostly, this is a film about loneliness and not being able to find your way back, both as an immigrant who misses how they were raised and as a hand who misses its body.

Sporting some of the most beautiful animation work this year, this movie premiered at Cannes where it became the first-ever animated film (and Netflix film) to win the Nespresso Grand Prize.

Genre: Animation

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Dev Patel, George Wendt, Hakim Faris, Jérémy Clapin, Jérémy Clapin, Patrick d'Assumçao, Patrick d'Assumçao, Patrick d'Assumcao, Victoire Du Bois

Director: Jérémy Clapin, Jérémy Clapin

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

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.

It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.

In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.

The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.

The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Aissa Maiga, Bruno Chitsulo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Eddie Mbugua, Edwin Chonde, Felix Lemburo, Fredrick Lukhere, Grace Msiska, Hope Chisano, Joseph Marcell, Kelvin Chimpokoser, Khalani Makunje, Latifa Tambala, Lemogang Tsipa, Lily Banda, Lomuthi Jere, Maxwell Simba, Noma Dumezweni, Owen Chikanken, Philbert Falakeza, Raymond Ofula

Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Rating: TV-PG

, 2019

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexia Depicker, Alice de Broqueville, Angelo Tijssens, Arieh Worthalter, Chris Thys, Daniel Nicodème, Els Olaerts, Hélène Theunissen, Ingrid Heiderscheidt, Katelijne Damen, Lukas Dhont, Magali Elali, Naomi Velissariou, Nele Hardiman, Oliver Bodart, Pieter Piron, Rilke Eyckermans, Steve Driesen, Tijmen Govaerts, Valentijn Dhaenens, Victor Polster

Director: Chad Faust, Lukas Dhont

Rating: N/A, R

, 2019

This drama is about two friends attempting to rave in 1994 Scotland, after a recent Thatcher-era law banned the act and all music “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.

Johnno and Spanner, one living in fear of his older brother and the other of his stepfather, want to turn things around by joining their first and probably last rave. They’re introduced to the world of illegal parties, a movement as influential as punk, that in the 1990s was born in reaction to the U.K.’s oppressive policies.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Music

Actor: Amy Manson, Anthony Anderson, Ashley Jackson, Brian Ferguson, Chris Robinson, Christian Ortega, Dave East, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Gemma McElhinney, Kevin Mains, Khalil Everage, Laura Fraser, Lorn Macdonald, Martin Donaghy, Megan Sousa, Neil Leiper, Paul Walter Hauser, Rachel Jackson, Ryan Fletcher, Seandrea Sledge, Stephen McCole, Uzo Aduba

Director: Brian Welsh, Chris Robinson

Rating: N/A

A Korean police comedy built on a premise so dumb it's brilliant: a group of bumbling cops who are so bad at their job that they accidentally start an amazing fried chicken restaurant while undercover. All of the suspense and excitement that should be going into their actual mission is spent on this new job that actually begins to give them coordination and a greater sense of purpose. There may not be much of a deeper meaning to be found here, but the characters are lovable enough—and the filmmaking sharp enough—to get you invested in their personal happiness, and to get you to appreciate how strong editing and performances can make even the smallest throwaway line spit-take hilarious.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Family

Actor: Gong Myeong, Gong Myoung, Han Jun-woo, Heo Joon-seok, Honey Lee, Jang Jin-hee, Jeong Jae-kwang, Ji Chan, Jin Sun-kyu, Jung Won-chang, Kim Eui-sung, Kim Ji-young, Kim Jong-soo, Kim Kang-hyun, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Ha-nee, Lee Joong-ok, Na Chul, Oh Jung-se, Ryu Seung-ryong, Shin Ha-kyun, Shin Shin-ae, Song Young-gyu, Tae Won-seok, Yang Hyun-min, Yoo Je-yoon

Director: Lee Byeong-heon, Lee Byoung-heon

Rating: Not Rated

This Eddie Murphy comedy had all the ingredients to be both a famous movie and an award-winner, but neither happened. It tells the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who became famous for creating a character called Dolemite, a pimp, and who later attempted to make his own movie based on the same character. Murphy plays Rudy, but there are also other recognizable faces in supporting roles: Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It's above all a funny movie, but being Eddie Murphy's first R-rated movie since 1999, it's also a realistic portrayal of both 1970s L.A. and the struggles of being a black filmmaker at the time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: A.J. Tannen, Aaron Craven, Akono Dixon, Aleksandar Filimonović, Amy Keys, Baker Chase Powell, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bob Odenkirk, Brandon Stewart, Bubba Ganter, Chelsea Gilson, Cheryl Francis Harrington, Chris Rock, Claude Phillips, Cole S. McKay, Craig Brewer, Craig Robinson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dale Gibson, David B. Lyons, Demetrius Hodges, Denise Milfort, Eddie Murphy, Erik Kilpatrick, Garland Whitt, Gerald Downey, Henry Monfries, Ivo Nandi, Jamaal Lewis, Jernard Burks, Jill Savel, John Michael Herndon, Joshua Weinstein, Kazy Tauginas, Keegan-Michael Key, Kezii Curtis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lamar Usher, Leonel Claude, Li Eubanks, Luenell, Michael Peter Bolus, Mike Epps, Milan Carter, Monique StaTeena, Phil Abrams, Quartay Denaya, Ron Cephas Jones, Sade E. Moore, Saudia Rashed, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Tasha Smith, Tituss Burgess, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Toni Duclottni, Wesley Snipes

Director: Craig Brewer

Rating: R