30 best Korean movies of all time for the lovers of all genres

30 best Korean movies of all time for the lovers of all genres

South and North Korea have become contenders in debates about countries that produce the best films. The best Korean movies bring a fresh factor and a different form of cultural appeal. Today, people from all over the world appreciate K-films because of their intriguing plots.

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The 2020 Oscar Awards ceremony that was held in February proved that Hallyu, or the K-wave, is felt across the globe. During the event, one of the best Korean movies dubbed Parasite won the Best Picture Academy Award. The prize marked the start of a new era, and the world can anticipate the release of more K-films in the future.

Best Korean movies to watch

So far, numerous Korean movies ranging from action to thriller, romantic, and comedy have been released. The increased viewership of these films is because they are more readily accessible in various streaming platforms, and people are now embracing other cultures.

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Why are Korean movies so good? They are good because most story-lines are hard to predict. They also educate the world about K-culture, music, food, and style of dressing.

We have compiled a list of the 30 top Korean movies that you should watch.

30. The Kites Flying in the Sky

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  • Original title: Hanurul nanun yondul
  • Release: 2008
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes
  • Directors: Hyon-Chol Kim and Phyo Kwang

The Kites Flying in the Sky is a film is based on the true story of a former marathon champion who devotes her life to caring for orphans.

29. A Traffic Controller on Crossroads

  • Original title: Nekoli chopyong
  • Release: 1986
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 59 minutes
  • Director: Che Phun Ki

A Traffic Controller on Crossroads is about a driver who learns the importance of adhering to traffic regulations.

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28. Boy Partisans

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  • Original title: So nyun bbal jjin san
  • Release: 1951
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes
  • Director: Yong-Gyu Yoon

In Boy Partisans, young boys decide to form a guerrilla unit after Americans temporarily take over one of the cities conquered by communists. They spy and sabotage the enemy.

27. A Broad Bellflower

  • Original title: Torajikkot
  • Release: 1987
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Directors: Eun-hie Choi, Kyun Soon Jo

A Broad Bellflower is one of the must watch Korean movies. It is set in a humble rural village, where a man desires to leave his home behind and move to the prosperous city.

On the other hand, his lover wishes to stay and transform the town into an ideal and harmonious community.

26. The Story of a Blooming Flower

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  • Orginal title: Kkoche kittun sayon
  • Release: 1992
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Director: Sang Gyu Ri

What Korean movies should I watch? The Story of a Blooming Flower is one of the best Korean movies of all time for you to enjoy. It is about a Japanese florist who creates a masterpiece.

In this work, the red begonia hybrids will represent the Juche ideology and stand as a symbol of love, peace and justice. In honor of the beloved leader, he calls her Kimjongilia.

25. On the Railway

  • Original title: Supun solleinda
  • Release: 1960
  • Genre: War
  • Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Director: Kim Song Gyo

On the Railway is about an engineer who has been arrested by the American forces. He attempts to to save a North-Korean engine from being possessed by the enemy by pretending he is working for them.

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24. A Forest Is Swaying

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  • Original title: Supun solleinda
  • Release: 1982
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Director: Yong-bok Jang

A Forest Is Swaying is about former soldier named Pak Sŏng-ryong who struggles to plant a pine forest and bring up an orphan in an area devastated by American bombs during the war.

A young agricultural expert visits to judge the work Pak has been doing. She finds that it is impossible to have a pine forest in the area, and recommends that he should plant other trees instead, but Pak does not listen.

23. Pyongyang nalpharam

  • Release: 2006
  • Genre: Action/ Drama/ Romance
  • Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes
  • Directors: Phyo Kwang and Chil-min Maeng

Pyongyang nalpharam is one of the best Korean action movies that you should watch. It is about Taek and Kyon, who are children of the two Masters.

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The two establish a school of martial arts, but they have to keep the school manual away to avoid an encounter with the Japanese occupiers. They entrust the manual with Priest Jiham as advised by their fathers.

The students have to assist their teachers in the plan. Do they manage to keep the manual away from the occupiers?

22. Hong Kil-dong

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  • Release: 1986
  • Genre: Adventure/ War
  • Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
  • Directors: Kil-in Kim and Sang-ok Shin

Hong Kil-dong is about the illegitimate son of a nobleman who defends peasants from greedy rulers. He confounds local bandits and fights for permission to marry his high-maintenance sweetheart despite their notable social differences.

Then ninjas arrive and there is a twist in the story.

21. The Tale of Chun Hyang

  • Original title: Chunhyangjeon
  • Release: 1990
  • Genre: Drama/ Music/ Romance
  • Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
  • Directors: Yong-Gyu Yoon and Won Jun Yu

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The Tale of Chun Hyang is one of the best Korean romantic movies of all time. It is about a tender-hearted young man called Mong Ryong who falls in love with the famous Chun Hyang.

Chun is the most beautiful girl in the village. She is a pure-hearted artist from a humble family. This forbidden love yields a secret marriage which is doomed when Mong Ryong departs for Seoul for his state exams.

He goes away for three years, and in his absence, an infamous new sheriff puts Chun Hyang in great danger when she refuses to break her marriage.

20. No Mercy

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  • Original title: Yongseoneun eupda
  • Release: 2010
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 3 minutes
  • Director: Hyeong-Joon Kim

In No Mercy, which is one of the best Korean thriller movies, a serial killer threatens to kill the daughter of a forensic pathologist if he does not get him bailed out.

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Sol Kyung-Gu works for the National Institute of Scientific Investigation (NISI) and is tasked with the responsibility of finding a serial killer who decapitates his victims. However, things turn against him when the serial killer decides that she should be bailed out.

19. Train to Busan

  • Original title: Busanhaeng
  • Release: 2016
  • Genre: Action/ Horror/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
  • Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Train to Busan is one of the must watch Korean horror movies. It is about Sok-woo, who is a dad with limited time for his daughter, Soo-ahn. The father and daughter board a train to Busan from Seoul.

During their journey, the apocalypse starts, and most of the humans on earth become flesh-eating zombies. The passengers fight with the zombies. Do Sok-woo and Soo-ahn survive the apocalypse?

18. The Wailing

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  • Original title: Gok-seong
  • Release: 2016
  • Genre: Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 36 minutes
  • Director: Hong-jin Na
  • Rating: TV-MA

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In The Wailing, a stranger arrives in a little village, and a mysterious illness starts spreading. A policeman becomes involved, and he has to solve the mystery to save his child. Does he succeed?

17. The Other Side of the Mountain

  • Release: 2012
  • Genre: Drama/ Romance/ War
  • Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes
  • Director: In Hak Jang

The Other Side of the Mountain is about a nurse from the north and a soldier from the south who fall in love during a tumultuous time of the Korean War. They experience a lifetime of consequences, separation and pain, with the hope of reuniting some day.

16. New World

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  • Original title: Sinsegye
  • Release: 2013
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama
  • Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Director: Hoon-jung Park

In New World, the biggest crime organization dubbed Goldmoon expands its powers. Kang, the head of the police investigation planning department, orders undercover cop Ja-Seoung to participate in project New World.

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The project will take down Goldmoon. Ja-seong must choose either to follow Kang's orders as a cop or to keep his loyalty with Jeong Cheong.

15. A Bittersweet Life

  • Original title: Dalkomhan insaeng
  • Release: 2005
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama
  • Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes
  • Director: Jee-woon Kim

A Bittersweet Life is about a high ranking mobster who refuses to proceed with his superior's orders. This marks the beginning of horrible things.

14. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

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  • Original title: Boksuneun naui geot
  • Release: 2002
  • Genre: Action/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes
  • Director: Chan-wook Park

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is about a recently laid off factory worker who kidnaps his former boss' friend's daughter. His sister needs a kidney transplant, so he kidnaps the lady hoping to use the ransom money to pay for his sister's treatment.

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Unfortunately, a tragedy happens and this generates revenge and a series of violent activities.

13. Lady Vengeance

  • Original title: Chinjeolhan geumjassi
  • Release: 2005
  • Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
  • Director: Chan-wook Park
  • Rating: R

Lady Vengeance is one of the top Korean thriller movies. Lee Geum-ja is a single mother who is wrongfully incarcerated for 13 years for child kidnapping and murder.

She becomes hell-bent on revenging against the true criminal. She hatches a plan with the help of other inmates, and also tries to make up with her daughter who was taken away from her.

12. Sea of Blood

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  • Original title: Pibada
  • Release: 1969
  • Genre: War
  • Runtime: 4 hours 20 minutes
  • Director: Ik-gyu Choe

Sea of Blood is about the mass killings during the long period of the Japanese occupation of Korea.

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11. Joint Security Area

  • Original title: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
  • Release: 2000
  • Genre: Action/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Director: Chan-wook Park

Joint Security Area is about the events that occur after a shooting incident at the North/South Korean border/DMZ. The incident leaves two North Korean soldiers dead.

A neutral Swiss/Swedish team investigates what actually transpired.

10. The Man from Nowhere

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  • Original title: Ajeossi
  • Release: 2010
  • Genre: Action/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes
  • Director: Jeong-beom Lee

The Man from Nowhere is about a quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past. He takes on a drug-and-organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend. Does he succeed in his mission?

9. Repatriation

  • Original title: Songhwan
  • Release: 2003
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Runtime: 2 hours 29 minutes
  • Director: Dong-won Kim

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Repatriation is set in the spring of 1992 when the director met two long-term political prisoners who were charged with being communist spies from North Korea. During their 30-year term, the prisoners never gave up their allegiance to communism and their country.

The film documents their lives after their release as they return to mainstream society and their campaign for repatriation.

8. Mother

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  • Original title: Madeo
  • Release: 2009
  • Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes
  • Director: Bong Joon Ho
  • Rating: R

In this film, a mother lives a quiet life with her son. Her son is framed for the murder of a girl.

The mother has to decide whether to let her son rot in jail or prove that he is innocent. She decides to desperately search for the girl's killer.

7. I Saw the Devil

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  • Original title: Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da
  • Release: 2010
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama
  • Runtime: 2 hours 24 minutes
  • Director: Jee-woon Kim

I Saw the Devil is one of the top Korean action movies of all time. Jang Kyung-chul is a serial killer, and the police have been looking for him for a long time.

Joo-yeon, the daughter of a retired police chief, becomes his next victim. Soo-hyun, her fiancé and top secret agent, decides to track down her killer.

He swears to himself that he will go over and beyond to revenge against the killer. Does he become a monster in the process?

6. The Chaser

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  • Original title: Chugyeogja
  • Release: 2008
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Director: Hong-jin Na

The Chaser is about a disgraced ex-policeman who runs a small ring of prostitutes. He finds himself in a race against time when some of his women go missing.

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The former detective has financial troubles because the ladies disappear before they clear their debts. As he tries to track them down, he realizes that the girls are all dealing with the same client.

5. Sogum (Salt)

  • Release: 1985
  • Genre: Drama
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Director: Shin Sang-ok

The film is set in the 1930s in Kando, an area that is torn apart by ethnic conflicts as the Natives fight the Japanese occupiers, communist guerrillas and Chinese bandits. The local police are forced to protect the peasants, but they work in favor of the Japanese occupiers.

4. Memories of Murder

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  • Original title: Salinui chueok
  • Release: 2003
  • Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama
  • Runtime: 2 hours 12 minutes
  • Director: Bong Joon Ho

Memories of Murder is set in Gyunggi Province. A beautiful lady is found dead after being raped. Detectives Park Doo-Man and Cho Yong-koo use their power and influence to find the killer.

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They torture and brutalize all the suspects, but fail to track the murderer. Seo Tae-Yoon, a detective from Seoul, comes to assist with the investigations.

They find a lead after a third lady is killed. Do they find the assassin?

3. The Handmaiden

  • Original title: Ah-ga-ssi
  • Release: 2016
  • Genre: Drama/ Romance/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Director: Chan-wook Park

The Handmaiden is one of the top Korean romantic comedy movies that are a must-watch. It is about Sookee who lives in the era of Japanese occupation.

She finds employment as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress named Hideko, who lives in a large countryside estate with her bossy uncle, Kouzuki. The maid has a hidden agenda.

She is there to assist a swindler posing as a Japanese Count to win the heiress over, then rob all her fortune. The plan goes well until Sookee and Hideko unearth some hidden emotions.

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2. Oldboy

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  • Original title: Oldeuboi
  • Release: 2003
  • Genre: Action/ Drama/ Mystery
  • Runtime: 2 hours
  • Director: Chan-wook Park
  • Rating: R

Oldboy is one of the Korean action movies to watch with your friends and family. One rainy night in 1988, Dae-Su is abducted and locked up in a small and dilapidated hotel room without a window.

He is released after 13 years. He is expected to track down his kidnappers within five days. Who could have caused him such misery and why?

1. Parasite

  • Original title: Gisaengchung
  • Release: 2019
  • Genre: Comedy/ Drama/ Thriller
  • Runtime: 2 hours 12 minutes
  • Director: Bong Joon Ho
  • Rating: R

What is the best Korean movie of all time? Parasite is, and it won an Oscar Award in 2020. It is one of the must-watch Korean comedy movies.

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In the movie, the Kims, a low-income family, use deceptive means to be employed as servants in an affluent family. Their lives become complex when their deception is almost exposed.

From the collection of the best Korean movies 2020, you can expect to remain glued to your screens. The films are entertaining, educative, and even inspirational. Which are your best Korean movies from the ones listed above?

Source: Legit.ng

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