So you’ve watched countless Korean dramas to your heart’s content. Or, maybe you loved Parasite, the South Korean movie that made history as the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards. Whichever the case, you’re probably looking for even more incredible Korean movies to watch — from stirring dramas and suspenseful action flicks to the best romantic Korean movies to make you swoon. Luckily, South Korean cinema has a long history of producing groundbreaking movies with international acclaim, and we’ve rounded up some of the best ones to watch right here.
Whether you’re looking for a poignant, tear-jerking drama or an exciting psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, there’s something for everyone on this list, which includes must-watch classics as well as the latest Korean movies to come out on Netflix. And if you want to explore more of director Bong Joon Ho‘s work after watching Parasite, there are several of his masterpieces on this list, as well as more critically acclaimed films from other prominent Korean directors. From dramas, comedies, horror films — and yes — even zombie flicks, here is just a sampling of what Korean cinema has to offer.
A tender and stirring drama about a family of South Korean immigrants who take on the American dream in 1980s rural Arkansas, this recent highly acclaimed film from Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung received six Academy Award nominations (including for Best Picture!). You’ll probably want to keep a box of tissues handy for this one.
2The Beauty Inside (2015)
If you’re looking for a great romantic Korean movie to watch, this 2015 fantasy rom-com — which is based on the 2012 American social film of the same name — tells the story of a man who wakes up in a different body every day. (Plus, there’s also a K-drama adaptation of the film you can watch afterward!)
3Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure (2022)
One of the latest Korean movies released is this period adventure film about a crew of pirates from the Joseon Dynasty who go in search of royal gold lost at sea. Currently one of the top Korean movies released in 2022, Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure has anexciting, fast-paced story and plenty of adventure.
4Be With You (2018)
This tender melodrama is another popular romantic Korean movie that swept the box office upon its premiere. A remake of a popular Japanese movie of the same name, Be With You tells the story of a woman who miraculously returns to her husband one year later after her death — but with no memories of her life or family
5Space Sweepers (2021)
Love sci-fi adventure films? One of the latest Korean movies from Netflix — and also touted as the first Korean space blockbuster — Space Sweepers is set in 2092 when Earth has become almost inhabitable. The story follows the crew of a space junk collector ship called The Victory, as they discover a child humanoid robot and embark on an epic space adventure.
6The Wailing (2016)
South Korean cinema has long excelled in the horror genre — and The Wailing, which boasts a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes,is certainly proof of that. Not for the faint of heart, this widely praised horror-thriller flick centers on a series of mysterious killings in a rural Korean village
7Memories of Murder (2003)
If you loved Parasite and are looking to explore more of director Bong Joon Ho’s works, Memories of Murder is a great place to start. Combining the crime thriller genre with social satire and absurdist comedy, this film follows two detectives investigating a series of murders (loosely based on the true story of Korea’s first confirmed serial murders that took place in the 1980s).
8My Sassy Girl (2001)
My Sassy Girl is perhaps one of the most well-known Korean romantic comedy films of all time — in fact, it was the highest-grossing comedy in Korea at the time of release. With a delightful love story about a college student who meets a trouble-making girl, it’s easy to see why this gem became such a widely successful blockbuster hit.
There’s a reason why this black comedy thriller has earned so much international acclaim and has even become the first-ever foreign-language movie to win Best Picture. With an engrossing and genre-bending plot, Parasite captivates with suspenseful storytelling all throughout the film — and delivers a truly intriguing take on the powerful themes of class, violence and social inequality.
Based on the short story Barn Burning by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, this critically acclaimed psychological mystery drama from famous Korean director Lee Chang-dong tells the quietly haunting story of a young man who faces a mysterious secret after his childhood friend returns from a trip and brings along a man with a strange hobby.
11Train to Busan (2016)
Another must-watch Korean thriller film, Train to Busan presents a fresh and original take on one of the most classic film genres — the zombie apocalypse flick — as it follows a man fighting for survival on a speeding train that’s overtaken by a zombie outbreak. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat the entire time while watching this one!
12The Host (2006)
If you loved Parasite, The Host is another masterpiece from director Bong Joon Ho that you’ll definitely need to watch (especially as it also stars Parasite’s leading man Song Kang-ho). This thrilling flick presents a truly gripping storyline — involving a terrifying sea creature — to deliver what’s widely considered one of the greatest monster movies to date.
13A Taxi Driver (2017)
Parasite‘s Song Kang-ho stars in yet another beloved film, this one about a cab driver from Seoul who unintentionally becomes involved in the Gwangju Uprising, a historical event that took place in South Korea in 1980. (Plus, it’s based on a real-life true story, which makes it an even more compelling watch.)
Perhaps one of the most well-known Korean films of all time, this dark and visceral vengeance movie from Park Chan-wook — one of Korea’s most celebrated directors — follows a man who sets out on a revenge mission after inexplicably being imprisoned for 15 years. Warning: This one’s definitely not for the faint-of-heart!
15The Handmaiden (2016)
Another masterful movie from director Park Chan-wook is this erotic psychological thriller and romance film inspired by the 2002 novel Fingersmithby Sarah Waters. Set in 1930s colonial Korea and Japan, this movie follows the riveting story of a Japanese heiress and her Korean handmaiden, who’s actually involved in an elaborate plot with a con-man to seduce the wealthy woman from her inheritance.
For fans of melancholic and emotionally stirring films, Lee Chang-dong‘s Poetry delivers a poignant story about an elderly woman who takes up a poetry class after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.Family, memory and mortality are all themes that this movie explores beautifully (which means you’ll definitely want to keep the tissues nearby).
17I Saw The Devil (2010)
Again, you can’t fully explore Korean cinema without delving into their truly fantastic horror films — especially with this highly visceral and shockingly violent horror-thriller flick from 2010, which follows a secret agent who sets out to find a psychopathic serial killer after his wife is brutally murdered. You probably won’t want to watch this one at night!
18Extreme Job (2019)
What happens when a team of narcotics detectives goes undercover in a fried chicken joint to stake out an organized crime gang? That’s exactly the quirky premise of this recent cop comedy hit, which delights audiences with the perfect balance of exciting action and feel-good comedy.
This adventure-drama film (which features both Korean and English) about a young girl and her giant mutant pig is another gem from Bong Joon Ho — and even has a star cast that includes American actors like Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal. Centered around a Korean girl determined to save her beloved pet from being taken away by a powerful corporation, Okja is equal parts a whimsical fable and a dark, compelling satire.
For those who can’t resist an intense psychological thriller, Forgotten is a must-watch that follows a young man trying to uncover the truth behind the sudden return of his abducted brother. The film delivers edge-of-your-seat mystery together with suspenseful horror moments — and truly some mind-bending plot twists you’ll never see coming.
21Secret Sunshine (2007)
From the same director who brought Burning and Poetry to the screen (Lee Chang-dong), Secret Sunshine delivers a quietly riveting and heart-wrenching drama about a widowed mother who undergoes a tragedy after moving to a new town. Parasite‘s Song Kang-ho also stars in this tear-jerking film, which explores grief, faith and personal loss.
If you still can’t enough of Bong Joon Ho’s movies, Mother sees the notable director tackling the murder mystery genre for a fascinating and riveting thriller film about a mother who, after her intellectually disabled son is accused of murder, attempts to track down the real killer in order to clear her son’s name.