The Korean film industry produced some excellent films that are critically acclaimed worldwide. South Korea has robust film industries to make movies with both commercial and artistic values.
Here is a list of top 10 best Korean movies of all time.
10. 3-Iron (2004)
3-Iron shows an affair between an abused housewife, Sun-hwa and Tae-suk, a young drifter who breaks into apartments while their owners are away.
On one such occasion, he comes across Sun-hwa and makes eye contact with her, but leaves the place. He returns later while she is being abused by her husband. After hitting the husband with a golf ball, he elopes with her.
Soon, the husband finds them and manages to send Tae-suk to prison where the latter masters the skills of concealment and stealth, his natural gifts.
Upon being released from the jail, Tae-suk keeps stealthily meeting his lover, and oddly enough, the husband couldn’t notice this.
9. Marriage Is a Crazy Thing (2002)
Kam Woo-sung plays a Korean professor leading a bachelor life. But, when he meets a charming woman, his bachelorhood seems to come to an end.
Due to the difference in their views on marriage, she marries another man.
The professor continues a secret physical relationship with her meeting her regularly on weekends.
This creates conflicts in their lives that leads to jealousy and fights.
8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003)
Simply put, this film is nothing short of a timeless piece of art. It portrays the life of a Buddhist monk living in a floating monastery over a lake in a pristine forest.
We get to see many incidents in the life of the monk as he passes from on childhood to old-age.
The five phases of his life are interpreted as five seasons during which he experiences life’s joys and sorrows.
Upon experiencing everything, he finally reaches the path of intense meditation for self-realization.
This movie is sure to give you a fresh outlook on the meaning of life.
7. The Man From Nowhere (2010)
This is an out-and-out action-thriller directed by Lee Jeong-beom and starring Won Bin.
The movie follows Cha Tae-sik, a vengeful man who sets out on a murderous rampage when a little girl, his dear friend, gets kidnapped by a drug lord.
Upon being blackmailed to act as a drug mule, Tae-sik is double-crossed and handed over to the people. However, he breaks free, and after some high-voltage action sequences, wipes off the organized crime group.
Finally, he frees the girl and surrenders to the police.
6. New World (2013)
Ja-sung is a cop who infiltrates Goldmoon, the largest crime syndicate in Korea.
Ja-sung reports about the syndicate’s moves to his superior officer Chief Kang who only thinks of him as a bait.
After being an undercover gangster for eight years, Ja-sung arrives at a point where he either has to retire as a police officer or continue being the right-hand man to Jung Chung, the most powerful man in the Goldmoon.
Unlike other gangster films, New Flow has an engrossing plot. The film is the first installment in a planned trilogy.
5. The Classic (2003)
This romantic film tells the love story of a young girl while her mother’s story is told in a series of flashbacks.
Ji-hye, the daughter accidentally reads her mother’s letters and finds about her failed love affair in the past with a man named Joon-ha. As she was betrothed to another man, the mother couldn’t marry Jooh-ha.
Ji-hye is deeply touched by her mother’s story. In the present, she soon finds out that the man she is interested in, Sang-min, reciprocates her feelings.
As a surprise in the climax, it is shown that he is the son of Joon-ha.
The movie is praised for its soft melodramatic music and great acting by Son Ye-jin who played dual roles as the mother and daughter.
4. My Sassy Girl (2003)
My Sassy Girl is a rom-com at its best. The plot follows the life of Gyeon-woo, a male engineering student who gets attracted to a beautiful girl who gets drunk frequently and complains about her past relationship.
After meeting several times, the couple grows close, but the girl hides something about her past which prevents her from striking a relationship with Gyeon-woo.
The movie is all about how the couple unites finally amidst many comical turns.
3. Oldboy (2003)
Oh Dae-su, a businessman, gets kidnapped on his little girl’s birthday, in 1988.
After being held in solitary confinement in a hotel-like prison, he was released fifteen years later, in 2003.
With his life shattered, he sets out with only one motive, to find and punish the person responsible for his confinement.
Meanwhile, he falls in love with a young chef. Dae-su finally traces Lee Woo-jin, the man behind his imprisonment and is shocked to know that Lee did this to exact revenge for his mistake in high school that costed Lee’s sister’s life.
The movie is critically acclaimed worldwide and is remade in Hollywood with Josh Brolin in the lead role.
2. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Kim Sun-woo is a mobster who is unquestionably loyal to his crime boss Kang.
Everything goes well until Kang asks him to monitor his wife whom he suspects of having an affair with another man.
Kang gives clear orders to kill the woman and her paramour upon finding them together, but Sun-woo hesitates as he has a soft spot for the woman.
For his betrayal, he is brutally tortured. He escapes just as he is about to be executed.
After a gun-fight with Kang’s men, Sun-woo emerges victorious but is mortally wounded.
In his final moments, he reminisces about how he loved the beauty and innocence of the young woman.
1. Memories of Murder (2003)
Memories of Murder is not only the all-time great Korean film but also one of the best crime-drama films in the world.
Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung play two detectives investigating a series of murders where the perpetrator sexually assaults and murders beautiful women on rainy nights.
The two detectives lack proper technique for tracing the assassin, and instead, they use brutality and torture on their suspects. In one case, they even cause a boy’s death.
After a fruitless DNA evidence test and too many roughed up suspects, the case remains unsolved.
The film won awards in the Best Film, Best Actor and Best Director categories at the Grand Bell Awards.
It is based on real life murders committed in the Hwaseong area between 1986 and 1991.