We’re major fans of South Korean horror movies and thrillers – they’re not afraid of using a lot of blood, and often the acting is top-notch. Below you’ll find a list of South Korean movies, we recommend.
Just making this list, I’m feeling an overwhelming desire to do a South Korean horror marathon immediately. Yes, these movies really are that good. They can be slow-burners, but don’t let that fool you; They always deliver!
And the production quality is completely on level with any well-produced US movie. So, let’s get to it, shall we? For the record, these are listed in random order.
Original title: Salinjaui gieokbeob
Memoir of a Murderer is yet another absolutely brilliant movie to come out of South Korea. Intelligent, intense, heartbreaking, and bloody. Yet somehow equally full of life and death!
Original title: Gok-seong
The Wailing perfectly combines old superstitions and modern detective work – though mostly, it’s about fighting to protect the people you love.
Train to Busan
Original title: Busanhaeng
Train to Busan is a crazy train ride with zombies. It delivers on everything the trailer promised – and then some!
Original title: Gwoemul
The Host from 2006 is a fantastic movie with monsters, humor and action. This movie features the craziest family with characters that are flawed, selfish and realistic. In fact, the family members are as amazing as the special effects. Also, this movie has one of the most memorable funeral scenes I have ever seen along with the most reluctant – and often pretty unlikable – hero you’re likely to come across!
Original title: Chugyeogja
The Chaser is a Crime/Thriller from 2008 about a former cop turned pimp. Several of his girls are missing and it looks like they all had a last date with the same client.
Original title: Oldeuboi
Chan-wook Park is one of the big names in South Korean horror movies as well as being pretty well-known worldwide. He’s behind the trilogy Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – all of which has or will get American remakes (Oldboy was already remade in 2013, which was unnecessary).
Oldboy is ultra-violent, intelligent and has a twist ending, and you really don’t want to be spoiled in advance. The original movie shows a live octopus getting devoured by the leading man (the actor ended up eating 3-4 octopie before the scene was done, and he’s a Buddhist vegetarian!) – but the American remake would not put the viewer through such a thing, so the scene was changed.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Original title: Boksuneun naui geot
A young man and his girlfriend kidnap a small girl to make quick cash, but it doesn’t end up the way they planned… Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the first movie in Chan-wook Park’s trilogy, but I think it’s also the weakest of the three.
That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad movie in any way – so we can still recommend it. Kang-ho Song (The Host, Memories of Murders, Thirst) has a big role.
Original title: Chinjeolhan geumjassi
The last movie in the Chan-wook Park trilogy (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). It is certainly worth a watch – just be ready for an artistic movie, and you’re good to go. Charlize Theron has been in talks for the American remake.
I Saw the Devil
Original title: Akmareul boatda
Director Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) is behind this jewel about an agent who loses his pregnant fiancée to a crazed serial killer and decides to chase him on his own in search of revenge. Oh, and the villain is played by the leading man from Oldboy.
This movie delivers all the goods and is really one of the very best movies in South Korean horror! Hollywood has talked about a remake with Adam Wingard as director, but the project seems to be stalled.
Memories of Murders
Original title: Salinui chueok
Memories of Murders is based on a true story about a serial killer that ravaged South Korea in the 1980s. The movie follows the detectives that try to solve the case. They do everything they can to close the case – not concerned whether the imprisoned is guilty or innocent. Kang-ho Song (The Host, Memories of Murders, Thirst) has a big role.
Original title: Madeo
A mother desperately tries to find a killer who’s blaming her less fortunate son for the murder of a girl. From the same director, who gave us The Host and Snowpiercer.
The Yellow Sea
Original title: Hwanghae
The director of The Chaser has made another hit with The Yellow Sea about a taxi driver from Yanjo City (a region between North Korea, China, and Russia) whose wife goes to Korea to make some money. But he doesn’t hear from her in 6 months, so he starts to gamble, loses a lot of money and builds up a debt with the local gangster. He then meets a hitman who offers him to become debt free and reunited with his wife – all he has to do is help with a single murder…
Original title: Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal
A woman living on a small island is exposed daily to mental, psychological and sexual abuse from those closest to her. Then one day an old friend comes back to the island, and fortunately, she’s there with a plan to escape with her. It doesn’t exactly go as planned.
The movie is a bit of a slow starter, but hang in there, and you’ll get all the blood you want.
Original title: Ta-weo
This is The Towering Inferno on crack! It’s Christmas Eve and a fantastic Christmas party is planned in the brand new luxury building with 108 floors. But when a fire starts, all Hell breaks loose.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Original title: Janghwa, Hongryeon
This movie has already been remade under the title The Uninvited (2009), but we always watch the originals that are usually better movies. Director Kim Jee-Woon (I Saw the Devil) has both written and directed the movie about a family haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.
Original title: Hanyo
A man has an affair with the housemaid of the family with tragic consequences.
Original title: Bakjwi
Kang-ho Song (The Host, Memories of Murders, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) is once again the lead as the poor priest who after a failed medical experiment becomes a vampire. Naturally, this goes very much against his religion and his life changes in oh so many ways. Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) directed the movie.