Best Korean Movies of All Time to Watch Right Now - Top 10

These are the Best Korean Movies of All Time, which every movie lover should watch, if you haven't watched yet, start with the no.1 movie in our list of the Top 10 Best Korean Movies of All Time

by Maivizhi A

Updated Mar 31, 2023

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Best Korean Movies of All Time to Watch Right Now - Top 10

Best Korean Movies of All Time

Korean cinema has made a significant impact on the world, and it is commonly referred to as the K-wave or "Hallyu." The industry has been thriving for decades, with a rich history shaped by the country's economic, cultural, and social context. This compilation of the best Korean movies comprises both classic and contemporary releases, spanning various genres like psychological thrillers, horror movies, romantic comedies, and dramas that are distinctively Korean.

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If you're new to Korean cinema, it's recommended to watch the films chronologically, starting with The Housemaid (1960), and Bong Joon Ho's Memories of Murder (2003). Then, move on to contemporary releases.

South Korea has established itself as a leading player in the global film industry, a fact that has become increasingly evident with the country's recent achievements. The historic Best Picture win of "Parasite" at the 2019 Oscars and the unprecedented success of Netflix's "Squid Game" have solidified Korea's position as an industry trailblazer. However, Korea's excellence in filmmaking did not emerge suddenly in the last decade. For decades, the country has been producing boundary-pushing, genre-defying films that cover a wide range of themes beyond ultraviolence and sociopolitical commentary. Korean cinema boasts an impressive array of gut-wrenching melodramas, witty comedies, spine-chilling horror, and gripping action flicks comparable to those from Hong Kong. If you're new to Korean cinema, this guide will help you explore the best Korean movies ever made.

Top 10 Korean Movies of All Time

South Korean cinema offers a unique perspective, reflecting the country's history of rapid economic growth, technological advancements, and the impact of colonialism and war. Furthermore, it provides excellent storytelling, which guarantees top-notch entertainment. Whether you're a seasoned Korean cinema enthusiast or a newcomer, this list of remarkable Korean movies is sure to please you.

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S.No

Korean Movies

Year of Release

1

The Housemaid

1960

2

The Wailing

2016

3

Parasite

2019

4

A Tale of Two Sisters

2003

5

Memories of Murder

2003

6

Peppermint Candy 

2000

7

Save the Green Planet

2003

8

Whispering Corridors

1998

9

Joint Security Area

2000

10

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

2019

Let us see each movie in detail.

1. The Housemaid (1960)

Considered by many as Korea's best film ever made, The Housemaid (1960) directed by Kim Ki-young, is a favorite of Bong Joon-ho. The film was inspired by a newspaper article about a family whose lives were turned upside down by their domestic helper. In Ki-young's version, Lee Eun-shim's portrayal of the housemaid is both cool and fiery, bringing chaos into the household. The movie delves into class, family dynamics, and sexual allure, themes that are also explored in Parasite. Im Sang-soo's 2010 remake was decent, but the original is a must-see for anyone looking to explore the world of Korean cinema.

2. The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing is a horror film released in 2016, directed by Na Hong-jin. It has been hailed as a masterpiece of atmospheric horror that successfully manages to maintain a sense of intensity and ambition throughout its runtime without ever becoming tedious or boring. The movie draws inspiration from various horror sub-genres, such as zombies, demons, and creepy children, but it never feels like a jumbled mess. The story revolves around a police officer's desperate attempt to save a village from a mysterious virus that threatens to claim the life of his daughter. The plot unfolds gradually, creating a natural flow that slowly builds up an intense sense of dread, engulfing the viewer like a thick fog. Overall, The Wailing is a haunting cinematic experience that will leave horror enthusiasts on the edge of their seats.

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3. Parasite (2019)

Parasite (2019), directed by Bong Joon-ho, is a film that has made its mark on world cinema. It has garnered several accolades, including being the highest-grossing Korean movie in various countries, the first non-English production to win a Best Picture Oscar, and universally recognized as one of the finest films of the 21st century. However, its true accomplishment lies in its presentation of a biting critique of capitalism to a global audience. The story revolves around a destitute family living in the slums of Seoul, who attach themselves to a wealthy family, eventually clandestinely living in their house, until the social order inevitably corrects itself. Though the message is quite clear, the film remains thrilling, funny, and often disturbing, leaving audiences with no option but to cheer. Bong Joon-ho's projects were already hotly anticipated by film enthusiasts, but now, the world waits in anticipation for his next work.

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4. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Released in 2003, which proved to be a turning point for Korean cinema, A Tale of Two Sisters is a horror film that draws inspiration from a traditional folktale. The film's intricate setting, which features a gothic mansion with looming corridors and William Morris wallpaper, bears resemblance to The Shining. However, what sets A Tale of Two Sisters apart is Kim Jee-woon's skillful direction and Lee Byung-woo's score that creates a Hitchcockian vibe, resulting in a chilling and psychologically unsettling cinematic masterpiece. It is an exceptional work of horror from one of the most talented Korean directors.

5. Memories of Murder (2003)

The Bong Joon-ho filmography boasts many excellent movies, but until Parasite came out, this thriller was considered the pinnacle of his work. Even now, there are still many fans, including Quentin Tarantino, who argue that it’s still his best work. Based on a true story about a series of murders that shocked a small town in the 1980s, Memories of Murder morphs the police procedural genre into a compelling condemnation of a society that was ill-prepared to cope with such brutality and loss. As is typical of Bong’s style, he injects black humor into the mix, as two ill-prepared rural policemen partner with a big-city detective (Kim Sang-kyung) to catch the murderer. However, as the death toll increases and the clues become increasingly nebulous, the melancholic atmosphere of the film becomes increasingly grim and intense. Every twist and turn is delivered with a masterful touch, which would take the world a few more years to appreciate fully.

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6. Peppermint Candy (2000)

Revolving around a man who throws himself in front of a train, Peppermint Candy is a poignant drama that skillfully weaves together 20 years of Korean political history. Director Lee Chang-dong's debut feature is an emotional journey that takes the audience backward through the protagonist's life, shedding light on the events that led him to his tragic end. From the Asian financial crisis of the late '90s to the Gwangju Massacre in 1980, the film explores the social and political landscape of Korea with a melancholic and elegiac tone. Peppermint Candy is a powerful and heartbreaking work of cinema.

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7. Save the Green Planet (2003)

Jang Joon-hwan's Save The Green Planet is a wacky and unconventional comedy-fantasy film that defies genres. The story follows a paranoid beekeeper (played by Shin Ha-kyun of Sympathy for Mr Vengeance) who abducts the CEO of a pharmaceuticals company (Baek Yoon-sik from The President's Last Bang), convinced that he is an extraterrestrial from the Andromeda galaxy. The movie draws inspiration from Rob Reiner's Misery (1990) and features visually stunning sci-fi elements reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's works. A US adaptation was announced in 2020, but it remains to be seen whether it can capture the same level of delirious excitement and whimsy as the original.

8. Whispering Corridors (1998)

Park Ki-hyung’s Whispering Corridors, the first installment in the five-part series of loosely connected movies, is a South Korean horror film that reflects the newfound creative freedom of filmmakers after the fall of the authoritarian regime in the country. The film is a scathing critique of the education system and features supernatural retribution against abusive teachers, a concept that would have been previously censored.

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9. Joint Security Area (2000)

Director Park Chan-wook's breakthrough film, the intriguing DMZ mystery Joint Security Area, portrays North Korean characters in a sympathetic light and was the highest-grossing film in South Korea upon its release. The movie's gripping procedural narrative bears similarities to The Silence of the Lambs, with Lee Young-ae from Lady Vengeance playing an army major investigating a deadly incident involving opposing guards on the border. The roles of the militant guards are brought to life by Hallyu heavyweights Song Kang-ho (the father in Parasite), Lee Byung-hun from I Saw The Devil, and Shin Ha-kyun, who infuse the characters with a profound sense of depth and humanity.

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10. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (2019)

In "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil" directed by Won-Tae Lee, a violent cop and a criminal boss, portrayed by Ma Dong-seok from Eternals, team up to track down a serial killer on the loose in Seoul. As with the finest examples of Korean genre cinema, Lee takes a conventional story and elevates it to such stunning heights that the clichés are transformed into something entirely different. Packed with thrilling car chases, intense brawls, and stylish suits, it's no surprise that Sylvester Stallone has acquired the rights for a potential American adaptation, a testament to the movie's quality.

Which is the Best Korean Movie of All Time?

The 1960 South Korean film "The Housemaid" was written, produced, and directed by Kim Ki-young, and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. Considered by Koreanfilm.org as one of the top three Korean films of all time, the movie is the first installment in Kim's Housemaid trilogy, which includes "Woman of Fire" and "Woman of Fire '82". In 2010, it was remade by Im Sang-soo.

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The movie tells the story of an upper-middle-class family whose lives are destroyed by the arrival of a sexually predatory housemaid. Set in the aftermath of the Korean War, the film follows the pianist Mr. Dong-sik Kim, who works at a factory with mostly female employees. He becomes popular among the women at the factory due to his good looks, which attracts Kyeung-Hee "Miss Cho" Cho. After Miss Cho pressures her friend to write a letter to Mr. Kim expressing her infatuation, the friend gets fired from the factory, leading Miss Cho to take piano lessons from Mr. Kim to get closer to him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kim's pregnant wife struggles to maintain their new, larger house and asks Miss Cho to find a housemaid. Miss Cho introduces Myung-Sook, a cleaner from the factory, who begins to exhibit odd behavior, such as catching rats with her hands, teasing the Kim children, and spying on Mr. Kim while he gives Miss Cho piano lessons in the family's home.

Top Rated Korean Movies IMDb

The below table represents the best Korean movies by IMDb 

S.No

IMDb Best Korean Movies

1

Oldboy

2

Memories of Murder

3

The Wailing 

4

The Handmaiden

5

Snowpiercer

6

Parasite

7

I saw the Devil

8

The Chaser

9

The Man from Nowhere

10

Mother

Conclusion

In conclusion, Korean cinema has gained global recognition and made a significant impact on the film industry, with a rich history of producing boundary-pushing, genre-defying films that reflect the country's history and culture. This compilation of the best Korean movies offers a diverse range of classic and contemporary releases, spanning various genres like horror, thriller, comedy, and drama. The top 10 Korean movies, including The Housemaid, The Wailing, Parasite, A Tale of Two Sisters, Memories of Murder, Peppermint Candy, Save the Green Planet, Whispering Corridors, Joint Security Area, and The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, are a testament to the excellent storytelling, unique perspectives, and high entertainment value of Korean cinema. Whether you're a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer, these movies are sure to please and leave a lasting impression.

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Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only. All information on the Site is provided in good faith, however we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information on the Site.

Best Korean Movies of All Time - FAQs

1. Which Korean movie is considered the best of all time?

The Housemaid (1960) directed by Kim Ki-young is often considered the best Korean film ever made.

2. What makes A Tale of Two Sisters unique?  

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) directed by Kim Jee-woon is a horror film that draws inspiration from traditional folktale, and it features a gothic mansion with looming corridors, which creates a chilling and psychologically unsettling cinematic masterpiece.

3. Which movie won the Best Picture Oscar, becoming the first non-English production to do so?

Parasite (2019) directed by Bong Joon-ho won the Best Picture Oscar, becoming the first non-English production to win this award.

4. Who directed the horror film The Wailing?

The Wailing was directed by Na Hong-jin.

5. What is the plot of the film Parasite?

Parasite (2019) directed by Bong Joon-ho revolves around a poor family who infiltrate a wealthy family's home, leading to unexpected consequences.

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