Over the past twenty years, there have been many voices that have called the cinema from South Korea with teeth and claws one of the most stimulating and high-quality on the international stage . An exciting story factory with a unique narrative treatment and a surprising opportunity to nail the respectable person to the seat with unpredictable scripts.
The overwhelming victory of Parasites at the last Oscar ceremony has finally put the South Korean industry in the eyes of locals and foreigners around the world, inviting newcomers to try some of the many delicacies it offered us. the Asian country.
For all those who want to expand their film library, here I bring you this selection with my 21 favorite films from South Korea that have been released in the last two decades . Titles like the Berliner Archiv, Das Gelbe Meer , Dos Hermanas, One day, Mother may be missing the list would be endless, but I kept the ones I liked the most. Shaped by everything I could appreciate. Let’s go!
1. Memories of Murder (2003)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-Kyung, Kim Roe – ha, Song Jae-ho
Seventeen years after its release, there are many voices that continue to call Bong Joon-ho’s feature film the best in his entire filmography. No wonder, because this thriller with a neo-noir essence captures the whole essence that catapulted the director, mixing a social aspect with a construction of characters, intrigues and tones that are almost impossible in the hands of others.
2. I Saw the Devil (2010)
Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-Hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook – hwan, Oh San-ha, Kim Yun-seo
My first contact with South Korean cinema was in 2010, as part of the Sitges Festival, with this wild revenge thriller by Kim Jee-woon – of which you can see some titles on this list —. It may remain my favorite film in the filmography of the Asian country to this day, and few works manage to turn their eyes to the screen while mercilessly hitting it. Impressive, no matter where you look at it.
3. 3-Iron (2004)
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk
Cast: Seung-yeon Lee, Hee Jae, Kwon Hyuk-ho, Joo Jin-mo, Choi Jeong-ho, Lee Joo-suk
Although it is understandable that he has a legion of followers, I am not particularly devoted to the cinema of Kim Ki-duk. But about Caesar, which belongs to Caesar, because this romantic drama, which helped the South Korean to win the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival in 2004, is shot with an extraordinary sensitivity that hardly needs words to make us feel a whirlwind of emotions on the surface. Tremendous.
4. Silenced (2011)
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Starring: Gong Yoo, Jeong Yu-mi, Kim Hyeon – soo, Kim Ji-yeong, Jeong In-seo
Of course, South Koreans are good, no matter what gender they grow up in. A good example of this is Hwang Dong-hyuk’s work in ‘silenced’, which turns a standard court drama into a moving, dark and disturbing story with an enviable style and a unique impact. If you have a bad feeling while watching ‘Spotlight’, be careful with it.
5. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-Hun, Hwang Jung-min, Jin Schmiere, Shin Min-ah, Kim Roe-ha, Kim Yeong-cheol
Perhaps watching a trailer or a fragment of ‘a bittersweet life’ will make you feel like you are in front of some kind of production that you have seen before. This would not be unreasonable, because Kim Jee-woon is limited to signing a typical action thriller; but the director manages to give it a narrative cadence and a visual style that turns everyday life into a small work of art.
6. The Chaser (2008)
Director: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Kim Yoon-Seok, Ha Jung-woo, Seo Young – hee, Park Hyo – ju, Seong-kwang Ha, Jung In-gi
In a list of Korean film recommendations formulated by you, thrillers and action will be the order of the day, and what better example of what the South Korean industry can offer us than with the feature film debut of Na Hong – jin. ‘The Chaser’ concentrates in just under two hours an exemplary story about serial killers, calculated with millimetre accuracy, but with immense room for surprises.
7. Joint Security Area (2000)
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Song Kang-ho, Lee Young – ae, Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Tae-Woo, Shin Ha-kyun
It was only a matter of time before Maestro Park Chan-wook appeared in this selection, although my first choice of his filmography is not among the most popular. It is a common security zone, an exciting and in some ways simple war thriller that focuses on the security zone that separates North and South Korea. The manual intrigue succeeded wonderfully, restraint and an intoxicating cadence for a title among well-known films.
8. The Man Without a Past (2002)
Directed by Lee Jeong-beom
Cast: Won Bin, Kim Sae-ron, Kim Tae-hoon, Won Bin, Kim Tae – hoon, Won Bin, Kim Sung-oh
If you are looking for orgies of blood, gunpowder and broken bones in South Korea, you will also be satisfied with products that are tangentially separated from their foreign counterparts. In the case of ‘the man without a past’, Lee Jeong-beom opens the cake box to offer us a spectacle of death and destruction, which he spices with a part of this poetic vision so typical of the Asian country. The result is indispensable for action movie lovers.
9. A Hard Day (2014)
Directed by Kim Seong-hun
Starring: Lee Seon-gyun, cho Jin-woong, Jeong Man-shik, Shin Jung-geun, Dong Mi Shin
If there is something that has made the South Korean thriller a kind of cult subgenre, it is the management of its dramatic twists and the tricks that are usually done with the structure of the stories. ‘A Hard Day’ is a perfect example to illustrate all this and make Agent Gun-Su’s Dog Day a festival of surprises and twists that will keep him in his seat without forgetting to have a few laughs, thanks to a much brighter tone than you would expect.
10. The Wailing (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Hwang Jung-min, Kwak do-won, Chun Woo – hee, Jo Han-Cheol, Jun Kunimura
Sitges 2016 has left us, in addition to ‘ Train to Busan’, the other great jewel of the Korean fantasy of the end of the decade. a ‘The Stranger’ that won the award for the best Asian film of the edition with an overwhelming fusion of genres bordering on excellence in its formal and narrative aspects. With a unique atmosphere, a gripping script and a hair-raising image, na Hong-jin’s third film is worth the effort to overcome its suffocating 156 minutes of pure horror.