Introduction to Korean Cinema: Another List of Best Korean Movies

December 8, 2010

There’s something about Korean movies I just find irresistibly compelling. Sometimes it’s the crude handling of language and humour, or the stylised violence and sex that might have been considered excessive in other films, or biting social commentary that many Koreans are still too conservative and afraid to speak openly about. These uncomfortable and melodramatic elements of Korean cinema come in a form of ‘한 (han)’, a unique concept of painful regret that materialise itself as ravaging maelstrom of violence and melodrama in these movies.

But most importantly, I love Korean movies because they have what we Koreans call ‘멋 (mot)’, or ‘style’ in English. They are not always accessible, you may not like them, but almost always memorable and fascinating to watch. When I watch a good Korean film, I find uniquely stylish taste of cinematic experience that I can’t find in hollywood movies (and that’s all I get on big screens where I live).

I have compiled a list of my favourite Korean movies into groups of different directors and genres, so that it is easier to find related recommendations. Please note that I have only included the movies I’ve watched. I hope you find it useful as introduction to the magic that is contemporary Korean cinema.

~~

BONG JOON-HO’S MURDER MYSTERY THRILLERS

Bong Joon-ho is one of Korea’s most wonderfully twisted directors, and his signature work Memories of Murder demonstrates just how suspenseful his mystery thrillers can be. His writing is phenomenal- we are compelled to connect the dots as one clue leads from one suspect to another, but never fully grasping this chilling serial rape and murder of 10 women in small Korean province (which is based on real murder case). What makes his movies truly briliant however is human drama that provides powerful motivations behind these detectives’ frustration, desperation, and despair. Unforgettable masterpiece of murder mystery. [trailer]

Mother is Bong’s most recent work that has all the mystery intrigues and social critiques of Memories of Murder, but with even more human drama. I especially enoyed the fascinating counter-casting of Kim Hye-ja, who is known to playing many kind motherly figures, but portrayed here as a fanatic mother out to prove his son’s innocence behind the murder of a young girl. Her performance is unbelievable, and all those who watches will soon learn what it truly means to mother. [trailer]

If you still can’t get enough of Bong’s thrillers, I recommend the movie Host. Although closer to a monster movie (like Godzilla) than a murder mystery, this intense roller-coaster ride has lost none of Bong’s tension, puzzle-solving, and drama. The ending is an enormous let down, nevertheless the film is still highly recommended for its dry wit, biting political jab, and realistic portrayal of absurdly unlikely scenario of a monster terrorising the Seoul River. [trailer]

PARK CHAN-WOOK’S REVENGE TRILOGY

For those who can stomach stylised violence and raw sex scenes as long as they can appreciate superbly directed thrillers, then Park Chan-wook’s Revenge Trilogy is a must see. I recommend starting off with the phenomenal Oldboy, utterly unforgettable revenge tale that is guaranteed a place in modern classics of cinema. It’s got everything: innovative action sequences, engaging ‘why dun it’ mystery plot, packed with memorable quotes, the list goes on…though something needs to be said about the mind-blowing twist at the end, which leaves no mercy for the main character as well as us the petrified audience, who can only pity his tragic fate. [trailer]

If you liked Oldboy then don’t hesitate in trying the remaining two excellent instalments of the trilogy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. One of the fascinating facets of Lady Vengeance is how Park kept deliberately juxtaposing the main character’s past as gentle and caring woman, to her present manipulative and relentless goddess of vengeance; female incarnation of Edmond Dantes. As for Mr. Vengeance, it’s considerably slower and less visceral, nevertheless it is another truly excellent story that evokes our sympathy for those innocent souls transformed to become avatars of vengeance.

NUTTY BLACK COMEDY

Korean comedies can be strange and none is more bizarre than the inventively demented Save the Green Planet. It’s completely out of this world, so prepare to expect the unexpected as this crazy mixture of comedy, sci-fi and psychological thriller turns your mind inside out. But hidden underneath this storm of hilarious insanity is a sincere plea to save our green planet. Watch this…if anything, you probably haven’t seen anything like this before, and you won’t forget it. [trailer].

Foul King is another wonderful black comedy that is, although not as stylish, but just as witty as Save the Green Planet. Not only is it really funny, it also skilfully mixes well-timed slapstick comedy with excellent character development to raise relevant societal issues for working men. Special mention must be made to the veteran actor Song Kang-ho for giving life to the confused, but always enthusiastic character of Dae-ho, who is more relatable than laughable as the challenges he faces are much like ours; struggling to find purpose, self-confidence and identity in a working life of endless stress. [trailer]

Park Chan-wook’s oddly charming surrealist comedy I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok is also recommended main ly for its style. It’s not as funny as previously recommended titles, nor does it possess much social commentary, but you can always trust Park to make his motion picture addictive. As an extra, my favourite actress Im Soo-jung is starring as the psychopathic android *squee~ [trailer]

HORROR/PSYCHOLOGICAL

Korean horror don’t exactly possess the kind of terror that drives one senseless like Japanese horror (i.e. Ringu, Ju-on). They are often driven by drama, which I find jarring most of the time. A Tale of Two Sisters is a wonderful exception in that the strong chemistry between the characters serve to instill strangely beautiful sense of horror deep inside us. Horror not of the unknown but of the disturbing consequence of the girl’s love for her sister, and grief for their once beautiful relationship that will only exist in her wishful memories and imagination. Horrifying, but beautiful. [ost]

I also strongly recommend Paradise Murdered, which is less of horror and more of psychological mystery thriller. The premise of people dying one by one in a closed island may seem like another variation on Agatha Christie, but it’s much more interesting than that. There is a considerable amount of humour and joy in the film, especially in the beginning to establish the light-hearted atmosphere of the remote island village community of 17 people. The movie would not have been as immensely suspenseful were it not for such light-hearted beginning, as we are forced to ask  who out of these village people would do something like this and why. This is a hugely thrilling puzzle of murder mystery with a spice of humour and supernatural horror, and a real treat for those who can appreciate a delicious final revelation just as much as its compelling journey. [trailer]

Thirst is not a very polished work so it’s somewhat difficult for me to recommend. Nevertheless, it’s a refreshing modern take on vampire tale, and Park Chan-wook’s graphical approach does not disappoint in providing visceral cinematic experience. Everything looks and sounds amazing, especially those very wet and creepy noises that made for one scary as hell hallucination sequence. It’s enough to give one a nightmare. As an icing on the cake, the incredibly sexy female character makes us thirsting for some action, and the movie delivers o so satisfyingly *drools [trailer]

PAINS OF KOREAN MILITARY AFFAIR

Korea is the only divided country in the world today, and many painful memories have been brought to surface via films in recent years. If you are searching for an epic war film similar to Saving Private Ryan, then look no further than Taeguki. Not only is the realism of cruel Korean war reality portrayed really well, the character development involving two brothers is immensely endearing and makes for several tear-jerking moments. [trailer]

Silmido is another intriguing film, which is actually based on an even more intriguing historical event. South Korean government once trained a group of lowlife to elite killing machines in order to assassinate Kim Il-sung (former president of North Korea), but later ordered their elimination due to South’s need to protect its international reputation as a civilised and diplomatic country. When the troops learned of the betrayal, they massacred their trainers and marched towards the South’s capital instead. So the film deserves credit for having the balls to expose the event to public, but it’s also a very entertaining action film with good script and emotionally charged acting. [trailer]

Unforgiven on the other hand is an art film, and its lack of entertainment value will no doubt bore many viewers. Nevertheless, it’s an honest and mature take on very sensitive issues regarding male adults living in Korea, who are still legally required to complete 2 years of ruthless military training. If you don’t mind the sluggish pacing, lots of dialogues, and slightly homoerotic undertone, then this movie will prove insightful and deeply moving. [trailer]


GANGS OF KOREA

It’s no secret that Mafia films make for some of the greatest cinematic experience, and what an experience it is to watch Kim Ji-woon’s (director of A Tale of Two Sisters and Foul King) Korean neo-noir gangster movie, A Bittersweet Life. This movie can be downright ugly, its gritty violence and imagery almost as unbearable as the tragically cruel fate handed out to the main character. Yet it is utterly beautiful when it wants to, because underneath all that anger and despair you will find profound sense of love and compassion. One mob says with hideous laugh, “Life is suffering, didn’t you know?”. No, life is bittersweet. No more, no less. [trailer]

Dirty Carnival is another excellent addition to this potent genre. Although lacking that noir feel of A Bittersweet Life, it tells a Scarface-like story of a mob who loses his ways in ambition, with gritty crudeness. This film was a godsend for the actor Jo In-sung (who has often been criticised as a pretty boy who can’t act for his life), for his tendency to act in highly exaggerated manner injects just enough menacing energy and emotions into the main character who is so central to the story. Jo presents us with the performance of his career in painting a man with good conscience and heart, but forced to survive in a cruel world of beasts, where no mercy is spared to those who walk the dirty road of carnage. [trailer]

If you are looking for something lighter in tone, City of Violence is your answer. It’s essentially an action flick where half the screen time is devoted to kicking ass in style, and with great choreography. There is enough story and character interaction to chew on, but the movie never takes itself completely seriously, and for me that was a good thing in this particular movie. Overall, a great action movie with lots of humour and badassery with just enough story and emotions to not insult your intelligence. [trailer]

ANIMATION FOR ADULTS

Unfortunately many Koreans still treat animations as cartoons for kiddies and do not produce many adult-oriented animations of great artistry and story-telling like Japan. That is not to say no mature and creative works are coming out from Korea. My Beautiful Girl, Mari is a gentle slice-of-life story of loss and nostalgia, as well as an artistic experiment of highest distinction. The fantastic world the main character is transported to is an absolutely stunning surrealist dreamscape…coral-like plants start growing, you feel the clouds hovering twenty feet above ground supported only by thin strings as if it’s weightless. A mesmerising spectacle, a work of mature sensibility and immense imagination. [amv]

If you are looking for more adrelaine-fueled B-grade flick, don’t forget to check out Aachi wa Ssipak, because this is one mindless entertainment that no action junkies should miss. The story goes like this: in a futuristic world where human shits have replaced fuels for energy, mutiple factions are now searching for the thieves who stole the ultimate anus capable of producing endless amount of shits. So it goes without saying, be mindful of its highly sexual, crude, and violent content and language. Otherwise, the writing is surprisingly smart and the way different factions (from police, mafia, terrorists, hoodlums) interweave like a web of intrigue will hook you from start to finish. The visuals are also deliciously stylish with some very skilfully choreographed action sequences with sweeping camera angles that leaves one drooling for more. [trailer]

For more down to earth story, Life is Cool is a completely rotoscoped movie about relationships between the three best friends, and their common romantic interest. The character interactions here always feel genuine because each characters are so carefully crafted with substantial back story and delicate characterisation. The dialogues and characters’ movements flow so naturally, and its writing so witty and intelligent, there is not a moment that feels mundane in this movie. [trailer]

KIM KI-DUK’S ART FILMS

Kim Ki-duk. My all time favourite director. A man who makes silence sing. Once a painter, now a filmmaker, using his former skills to infuse each frame with magic. To watch his movies not to be entertained or thrilled, but to be disgusted, and find beauty within. His intimidating graphic content and highly sensitive issues that no one feels comfortable talking about will no doubt turn many people off. But for those select few, Kim Ki-duk’s films can be orgasmic.

3-Iron is what I’d recommend first, as it is arguably his most popular and critically acclaimed work. Like most Kim Ki-duk films, hardly any dialogue is spoken in the movie, but each carefully composed frames speak so much words that Kim really makes silence sing. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring is another silent work of Kim that focuses on Buddhism, and I have to say no movie has ever portrayed Buddhist ideals better before. The structure of the movie is wonderful: the story is divided into 5 acts, each represented by different seasons, an enchanting meditation on the cycle of human life in its innocence, desire, anger, and contentment. [scene]

If you are brave enough to dig deeper into the unforgiving style of Kim Ki-duk, you should try his The Isle. Let me just quote Roger Ebert’s review because I simply love how he put it:

“The audiences at Sundance are hardened and sophisticated, but when the South Korean film The Isle played there in 2001, there were gasps and walk-outs. People covered their eyes, peeked out, and slammed their palms back again. I report that because I want you to know: This is the most gruesome and quease-inducing film you are likely to have seen. You may not even want to read the descriptions in this review. Yet it is also beautiful, angry and sad, with a curious sick poetry, as if the Marquis de Sade had gone in for pastel landscapes.[...]The way I read The Isle is not about fishhooks and sex at all. It is a cry of pain.”

So Kim’s movies can be as contemplative as 3-Iron and SsfwS, or extremely violent and unbearable like The Isle. For those wanting to explore him further, I recommend The Bow, Samaria, Bad Guy, Birdcage Inn and Breathe. [trailer]

LEE CHANG-DONG’S ART FILMS

Lee Chang-dong is another giant responsible for some of Korea’s most poignant and powerful art house films. His works have much more restraint and refinement than Kim’s wild and untamed energy, and hence he is generally considered a better director by many. He possesses uncanny ability to convincingly create scenes that replicate ordinary Korean life, and using sympathetic characters of that life to appeal to our emotions, and through them he conveys simple messages poetically and sincerely without any pretensions.

Take his amazing Secret Sunshine for example. The main character (played by the ‘queen of Cannes’ actress, Jeon Do-yeon) claims, “where’s god in this sunlight? I don’t see any god here. There’s nothing.” This reflects the kind of person Jeon is, and how her attitude materialises as envy, anger, and despair in her life, all because she can not see what’s really important and dear to her. Many of us, like the main character, won’t realise this until the end when that very simple concept hits us like a ton of brick. The ending is powerful not because it’s a gimmicky symbolism thrown at the last minute, but because everything we’ve seen before that point, including Jeon’s award-winning performance and the script that leaves no minor detail left. [trailer]

I personally found his Oasis more beautiful and affecting, but that movie about two retarded people in love may prove too slow and uncomfortable for most people. If you can tolerate that, it will likely be one of the most beautiful piece of poetry you will witness on silver screen. His Peppermint Candy and debut film Green Fish are also must-watch for all fans of art house film, and I can’t wait to see his latest Poetry.

MISCELLANEOUS RECOMMENDATIONS

My Sassy Girl- There is little denying its mainstream nature, but there is also little denying its almost universal appeal. The female lead played by Jun Ji-hyun (from Blood: The Last Vampire) is just so damn adorably sassy, and the delicious master-slave chemistry between her and the lucky (or unlucky?) loser plays out well. Fantastically paced and always full of wit and humour, there is never a dull moment in this film. Although the overall structure remains pretty much the same as any other romantic comedies you have watched, there has never been a romantic comedy I’ve enjoyed even half as much as My Sassy Girl, and I very much doubt there ever will be.

No mercy for the Rude – What can I say? It’s got brutal sex, almost comical knife-stabbings, but also plenty of dark humour and visceral melodrama. Essentially a character study of an eccentric man living an eccentric life in an eccentric environment, this is one of rare occasions where action and melodrama goes well together, providing both style and substance in spades.

Woman on the Beach – I am ashamed to say I have seen only one film of Hong Sang-soo, even though he is considered as one of the greatest Korean art-house directors. But after seeing his Woman on the Beach, I have no reason not to try his other movies. Unlike Kim Ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong, Hong displays surprising level of humour, along with light-hearted atmosphere and leisurely pacing. So ultimately this artsy film exploring very serious issues of adult relationship and insecurities actually makes for a mildly relaxing entertainment. The movie also feels a little like Haruki Murakami novel in that transient Mono no aware way, which can only be good.

My Wife got Married - The female character of Joo In-ah is NUTS, I can tell you that much. And hot. And funny. And enigmatic. Just like the character of In-ah, the movie can be so crazy and absurd it’ll drive you up the wall, yet displaying enough charm to fall in love with it. This is one sexy, funny and intelligent entertainment once you open your mind to twisted values and perspectives of some people. Also, a must watch for soccer fans. You’ll see why when you watch it, trust me.

Tale of Nights – Now this is everything I wanted from erotic movie. Sex, sex, and sex. Starring hot, naked women moaning in ecstasy. Note that the movie is divided into two separate segments with different characters. The first segment is an intensely arousing sexual fantasy of a young married woman, while the other is more like a light-hearted comedy of a young spoiled brat getting to bang a real girl that just came out of video game. Great thing about these two segments is that they both have a sensible story, but just short enough to not drag the movie too long, and the dramatic shift in tone from heavy to light makes for a refreshing transition. 

Attack the Gas Station – I am bit hesitant to recommend this comedy title because it hasn’t aged well (from 1999), and the humour can be little lame, especially for foreigners not familiar with Korean sensibilities. Still, I am recommending it because it’s one of my favourite comedies. I just adore the characters, the slapstick comedy is acted out well, the running gag is more funny than annoying, and as icing on the cake the movie has a hint of social commentary on the detrimental effects our ridiculously conservative Korean society’s value system has on younger generation. We are at first dismayed when they randomly attack the Gas station and cause senseless havoc, but as we get to learn more and more of their upbringing and what the adults have done to their innocence and dreams, we begin to cheer for their rebellious rampage and laugh at the adults who must now kneel before these free and energetic spirits of youth.

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Since the post is already over 3500 words, I will stop here and list some more worthwhile movies: Friend, Show Must Go On, The Customer is Always Right, JSA, Chiwaseon, Happy End, Welcome to Dong Maek Gol, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Sex is Zero, Tazza, The Chaser, etc.

There are, needless to say, many other great films that deserve honourable mentions (including the ones I haven’t watched) but this list should be enough as an introduction to Korean cinema. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions to any movies mentioned in this post. Also, feel free to talk about any other Korean movies that you have watched, or actors and directors that you liked.

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30 Responses to “Introduction to Korean Cinema: Another List of Best Korean Movies”


  1. Thank you for this post. I’ll now have something to consult when I need to scratch that itch to watch Korean cinema.

    I’ve only seen Oldboy, My Sassy Girl, and The Host… and this lulzy sex comedy called Sex = Zero (It was terrible and I loved it to bits), and oh yeah my GF is a Gangster or something like that.

    I’ll probably try to complete the revenge trilogy first.

  2. Andrew Says:

    This is an amazing list, thanks for putting so much work into it. I’ve seen quite a few in the initial categories, but there’s plenty more I’ve yet to see or even heard of. This is going to be a very useful companion!

  3. Sasa Says:

    I am crying manly tears for “Welcome to Dongmakgol” and “JSA”, possibly my two favorite Korean movies of all times (they are somewhat similar though, ugh). I’d also call no.3 a film you have not mentioned either, “Take Care of my Cat”.

  4. MushroomSamba Says:

    This list is a friggin’ boon and pretty timely as well…I usually like to spend a little time devoted to catching up on foreign films at the end of year. I’ve currently got Blades of Blood and The Man from Nowhere lined up on my queue as far as Korean movies go (any thoughts on those?). I’ve only seen about a quarter of your recommendations, so I guess now I’ll have plenty more to work on. :)

    I especially love movies out of that “Gangs of Korea” genre you put together…City of Violence and A Bittersweet Life are two of my faves. Never heard of Dirty Carnival, but I’ll surely tack it on to the to-do list now. Any more recommendations out of that field?

  5. Shadowmage Says:

    Well, time to see what bounty the native land has to offer…

  6. Celeste Says:

    You, good sir, tickle my urge for good cinema. Great post from someone in-the-know.

  7. bluemist Says:

    Good stuff. Beyond My Sassy Girl and Windstruck I basically know jack about Korean movies. There was also this one about the military border, I think it was JSA, can’t remember anything about that movie except “awesome”.

  8. lvlln Says:

    I have definitely not seen enough of these movies. Loved Old Boy, one of my favorite psychological thrillers of all time. Need to check out the others of his revenge trilogy.

    The Host also holds a place in my heart as a truly unique movie. I’ve never laughed so hard and felt so sad in the same movie. And I loved the ending, too.

    I think the recent The Good, The Bad, The Weird deserves mention. An awesome take on the Western genre that just hits all its spots. The action cinematography and direction are absolutely sublime.

    Changdong Lee’s modern classics Green Fish and Peppermint Candy are worth seeing as well. A pair of extremely powerful character studies. Peppermint Candy’s execution of reverse chronology (a la Memento) is something to marvel at.


  9. My cousin/roommate Funeral owns at least half of these films. I’m ever-so-slowly making my way through. Loved Oldboy and Host, wasn’t a big fan of City of Violence but it was alright.

  10. gaguri Says:

    Thank you to those who expressed such enthusiams for these kind of films. It’s wonderful to see how great Korean films are appreciated by anime fans too.

    @ghostlightning

    No problem. I’ve included Sex is Zero in the list too, I don’t think it’s that terrible, it’s a lulzy B-grade flick, but what I admire the most is that it is the first mainstream sexcomedy to really get into Korean young adult sex culture like American Pie.

    @Andrew

    Thank you, I think it’s amazing list too :D

    @Sasa

    lol I just had a mental image of a girl shedding ‘manly tears’. I think Welcome to Dong is bit more charming than the more sombre tone of JSA, but yea they are both great works, and just because I didn’t write more about them, that shouldn’t put people off from trying them…I hope!

    I actually haven’t even heard of no.3 so thank you for mentioning it! Take Care of My Cat has been on my watch list though… and so continues my road to appreciating Korean Cinema.

    @MushroomSamba

    I wish I lived in Korea to watch those movies as they hit the big screen, but like you I have to find other um, routes to watch them.

    But I watched the Korean film award not too long ago on Korean cable channel, and ‘the man from no where’ completely sweeped the awards, so I’ll be expecting a lot too. The lead actor Won-bin is insanely popular in Korea, mostly because he’s a pretty boy, but also because he has the acting skills to support his stardom. He was stellar in Taeguki, and his acting as a retarded son in Mother shows he is capable of handling wide range of characters.

    As for the Blades of Blood, I have mixed expectation. I have no problem with the director, who did ‘King and the Clown’, a great film that I forgot to add in this post. But I’m not sure how good he can do action. And I don’t really like the actors. They’re very mainstream, popular not because of their acting but other things they do, so it feels like a very commercialised film. The way trailer and poster looks also support this gut feeling of mine. But we’ll see how it goes.

    @Shadowmage

    stop watching only anime mang D:

    @Celeste

    Thank you! Man, when I was in Korea just several months ago I was watching so much latest movies as they came out in theatres. In Australia here I’m not really the most updated ‘in-the-know’, but Korean movies will always have special place with me.

    @bluemist

    I didn’t like Windstruck much, I enjoyed the beginning but it just spiraled down so hard. My Sassy Girl is awesome, and yes that movie sounds like JSA which is also awesome. I am sure you will find something interesting to watch in this list.

    @lvlln

    Please do check out the rest of his trilogy, you won’t regret it. Oldboy is my favourite thriller too.

    I didn’t find Host as sad, but boy is it really funny, and of course, tense.

    Kim Ji-woon’s Good, Bad, Weird is quite good, I was considering whether to put it in the list or not but perhaps I should. I think my response to the film could have been stronger had I not watched the original Good, Bad, and Ugly, which was much better film. Still, Kim Ji-woon proves that he can do just about any genre, whether it’s horror, comedy, film noir, or western. Just genius.

    And what can I say, I agree with you, Lee Chang-dong’s movies are masterpieces that you just can’t help but marvel at.

    @digiboy

    City of Violence can be awesome if stylish combat scenes is what you’re looking for only. But if you want more serious story, and perhaps little less action scenes (City of Violence actions can be LONNG), then it may be lacking a bit for some people.


  11. American Pie was exactly what I compared Sex=Zero to! My favorite bit in that is when the hapless protagonist was doing physical comedy to cheer up the ill and depressed gymnast.

    My brothers and I were crying so hard with laughter in that montage.

  12. gaguri Says:

    My favourite bit was when the actress Jin Jae-young was having hot steamy, er I mean yea I liked that montage too ^_^b

  13. jpmeyer Says:

    This is pretty impeccable list.

    The only other movie that I can think of that I thought was amazing that you didn’t already list was The President’s Last Bang, for how that film frames its historical events in a way that mystifies more than it answers. I like to think about it as the best example of that kind of mini genre in Korean film of historical films where they kind of need to make up the history because of all the secrecy and repression in that period.

    What I’ve also REALLY wanted to do is somehow figure out how I can watch more old classic Korean films like Hanyeo or Obaltan. I actually got to watch Jayu Manse in film school, which was really exciting to get to see.

  14. gaguri Says:

    I believe there is a sub version of Hanyeo somewhere. I saw it, but personally, I prefer the modern remake starring Jeon Do-yeon. It’s more…sensual, per se.

  15. maomemao Says:

    thanks for your list! now i’ll have something to watch! Haven’t seen Korean animations, will try to watch it this weekend!

  16. Mesachie Says:

    Well, sadly Paradise Murdered is not going to be on my screen in the near future. The specialty shop HKFlix.com lists it as ‘out of print’ and the torrent sites don’t have any seeders. Oh well, on to the next one, Tale of Two Sisters, which is available from HKFlix in Korean, Thai and US versions at varying prices. And seeded torrents abound for it. So, the future looks bright. Or at least viewable. :)

  17. boredom Says:

    please add some more movies. into the genre of romance/drama/comedy. thanks!

    i think the list is great! plus i also loved sex is zero 2.

  18. gaguri Says:

    mm i don’t know too much romance/comedy but you might like “My Scary Girl”. It’s quite funny and twisted.


  19. [...] doing a good job at giving an overview on actual films and names, I think that gaguri has done an amazing introduction to Korean films, though I am a little less of a fan of Kim Ki-duk and mourn the omission of JSA and Take Care of My [...]

  20. UB Says:

    Great list and intro to Korean cinema. Thanks.

    Any Particular reason not to include ‘Failan’?

    Not really sure what you mean by “Thirst is not a very polished work…”? Definately worth a watch!

    ‘I Saw The Devil’ is good in a similar vein to ‘The Chaser’ i.e. psychological thrillers.

  21. gaguri Says:

    i haven’t watched failan…

    what i meant by ‘not very polished’ is that it’s still very rough on the edges. It’s very stylish, innovative take, emotionally charged, but lacks refinement, like the pacing is bit off for me especially towards late so it drags a bit, the way characters act (like the girl at the end) makes for inconsistent characterisation, etc.

    “Chaser” is pretty good, it’s obviously inspired a lot by vengeance theme in Oldboy (and obviously inferior), it was bit too melodramatic for me towards the end like most kr films. But no doubt, it’s good film, and did very innovative things for crime thriller.

  22. Tom Says:

    Sorry for the City is to Infernal Affairs/The Departed what The Host is to Godzilla or Jurassic Park, or what The Good The Bad and The Weird is to the original – taking something so sensible and traditional (if great) and twisting it with some trademark Korean quirkiness, adding boatloads of accessible humour and making for one of the strangest films you’ll see that year.

  23. Fuu Says:

    Should I be pleased that about 1/3 of movies you listed I’ve watched and another 1/3 I’ve heard of? :D

    I absolutely love Oldboy(and the rest of the trilogy), A Bittersweet Life, Save The Green Planet and A Dirty Carnival. Fantastic cinematography and acting. Korean cinema has truly made its mark on the elite section of the film industry. However, it’s a shame that at times, it gets overshadowed by its far inferior counterpart, soaps.

    By the way, have you watched the Quiet Family(Kim Jin Woo’s debut film)? It’s fantastic. Great black humour and an entourage of hilarious characters. Major props to Go Ho Kyung. She was just great as the brooding teen.

    Lastly, I’m gonna have to second the recommendation for Failan. A bit slow at times but I think it was quite a touching movie that expounded a topic not rarely brought up in other Asian movies.

  24. gaguri Says:

    I did watch Quiet Family and it’s hilarious. Great black comedy, great characters. Failan is considered very highly by many, so it should be great, I haven’t watched it myself.


  25. Great List! Many I’ve already seen and some new ones to check out!

    Thanks

  26. Rasik Says:

    Thanks so much for this!

  27. Rasik Says:

    I have seen the Vengeance Trilogy and two of Bong’s films and Kim Di Kuk’s 3 Iron. This post will be like ‘A Guide to Korean Cinema’ for me. Thanks again :)


  28. Thanks for this wonderful list. Got hold of quiet a few names which I am definitely going to view.


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