The popularity of Korean content is on the rise, partly thanks to the recent success of films such as Parasite. With Netflix adding more Korean titles to its collection, it's a great time to start checking out these Korean films

With the success of Parasite, Squid Game and BTS, Netflix is heavily investing in Korean content. The streaming giant has plenty of films on offer, from romance pieces to political thrillers, and dark comedies.

To help you start––or continue––your venture into the Korean cinema, we’ve crafted a list of the best films to watch on Netflix. Prepare snacks and pillows, maybe tissues too.

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1. Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer marks maestro, Bong Joon-ho’s English debut. Despite the film being mainly in English, Bong himself said it’s a Korean film, that just happens to star Hollywood actors.

Adapted from the French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, the film is set in a dystopian future, following a climate engineering catastrophe that trigged a second Ice Age. Survivors of mankind flee to a circumnavigational train run by a billionaire. In this post-apocalyptic world, citizens are segregated in the train with the lower class at the tail and the elite at the head. Tired of the unfairness, a mission to overtake the engine system unfolds.

Bong incorporates elements of what makes his earlier works successful but Snowpiercer is also a feast on its own. It’s grim, gritty and exciting. The film is flared with stunning visuals with each section of the train being uniquely designed and perfectly balancing thrilling action sequences with bits of social critique on class. Strap in for a fun ride.

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2. Time to Hunt

Time to Hunt is set in dystopian South Korea where the economy crumbled down after a financial crisis, following three friends who become the target of a contract killer after their casino heist went wrong.

Newly released from prison, Jun-seok (Lee Je-hoon) dreams of a better life elsewhere. But with his savings gone and employment, not an option, he convinces his friends, Ki-hoon (Choi Woo-shik) and Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong) on a daring mission to rob an underground gambling den so they could use the money to escape to Taiwan. Things don't go well after.

The science-fiction thriller is exciting with much of the thrills coming from its stunning cinematography, sound editing, and camera work. As soon as the cat-and-mouse chase between the leads and the killer start, a consistent air of tension and suspense is present. A must watch for those looking for entertainment and visual eye-candy.

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3. Tune in For Love

Those who have watched the popular hit Korean drama, Goblin, might be in for a treat for this one as Kim Go-eun (Kim Mi-soo) and Jung Hae-in (Cha Hyun-woo) finally pair up for Tune in For Love after briefly sharing a scene in the drama. It marks the sophomore debut of Jung Ji-woo who previously directed A Muse, the film that shot Kim to fame.

Spanning 11 years––from 1994 to 2005, we follow the two leads as they meet, only to get separated time and time again. We see that they continuously try to look for ways to reunite amidst various obstacles.

For a film that takes place in different years, expect a nostalgia trip with a lovely soundtrack. A perfect watch for those looking for a jumpstart into the Korean romance craze.

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4. Okja

Checking out the other works of award-winning director, Bong Joon-ho is definitely a must especially after Parasite’s historic win at the Oscars––enter Okja, a story about Mija who’s raising Okja, a genetically modified pig in the South Korean mountains.

However, Miranda Corporation, who is obsessed with breeding superpigs decides to tear the two friends apart. As Okja is scheduled to move to New York, Mija goes on a rescue mission to save her friend.

Bong’s specific genre is hard to pinpoint but if there's anything certain, the director always adds sprinkles of commentary. Okja is no exception. This part friendship story, part horror show, and part rescue film is a good choice for those who need to get into Bong’s work.

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5. Steel Rain

Based on the 2011 webtoon of the same name, Steel Rain follows a North Korean soldier who flees to neighbouring South Korea after a coup. But he's not alone. His companions include two schoolgirls who survived the attack and the Great Leader.

They find refuge down south and forms an unlikely friendship with Kwak Do-won (Kwak Chul-woo), the South Korean senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security. The two attempt to uncover the truth about the coup and to safely return the girls and the Leader to North Korea.

Steel Rain is exciting from start to end. With espionage, an assassination attempt, shootouts, and a camaraderie that goes beyond political borders, it's a sure hit to anyone looking for some action-packed entertainment.

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6. Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis is Yeon Sang-ho’s follow-up to the smash zombie hit, Train to Busan. But don’t expect to see zombies here. The film is the first of its kind––a superhero story that follows a security guard, who after drinking from a mountain spring affected by a meteor, gains telekinetic powers. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter and save her from the mob-run construction company threatening to destroy her business.

In the age of massive superhero films, Psychokinesis is a hidden gem. It doesn’t deal with saving the world but just a father using his newfound powers to make things right with his daughter. Slapped with dark comedy and nuances of social commentary particularly about warfare, the film is sure to entertain both superhero fans and those seeking a heartwarming tale in the most unexpected way.

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7. The Drug King

The Drug King is based on the life of Lee Doo-sam, a drug smuggler from Busan who is building his narcotics empire in the 1970s, eventually becoming a kingpin in the business. This rags to riches criminal saga stars famed actor, Song Kang-ho with supporting roles from Jo Jung-suk and Bae Doona.

Song’s performance as the titular drug lord is the main draw here. As a semi-autobiographical story, the film primarily focuses on the character’s rise to power and eventual fall, Song brings his character to life with admirable depth and flavour. It’s equal parts humorous, dark, and entertaining. Those looking for a piece reminiscent of South Korean gangster thrillers will enjoy this. If not, it’s a great introduction to the genre that South Korean cinema has plenty to offer.

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8. The Merciless

This 2017 crime action movie was shown in the Midnight Screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival—proving that Korean actor Yim Si-wan is one of the most talented of his generation. Not backing down on sharing the screen with veteran actor, Sol Kyung-gu.

The Merciless is a story about loyalty. But with loyalty also comes betrayal. Jae-ho (Sol) wants to become the best in the crime organisation world. He teams up with Hyun-su (Yim), an ambitious newbie he met in prison. The two work their way up to take over the organisation—as partners in crime—but their ulterior motives start to unravel.

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9. Night in Paradise

South Korean cinema has always been loved for its gangster-action films and noir stories. The newest offering is Night in Paradise, helmed by the renowned noir director, Park Hoon-jung. If you loved Jeon Yeo-bin in Vincenzo, prepare to see another side of her here.

The story follows an assassin, Tae-goo (Um Tae-goo) who gets the chance to switch sides with his rival gang. But he rejects the offer, which cost the lives of his sister and niece.

Avenging their deaths, he kills the chairman of the gang and flees to Jeju Island. There, he meets Jae-yeon (Jeon), a terminally ill woman. But the henchman of the gang is mercilessly hunting down Tae-goo.

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10. Space Sweepers

For a breath of fresh air, check our Space Sweepers—Netflix’s first Korean space movie. Boasting a star-studded cast led by Song Joong-ki and Kim Tae-ri, Space Sweepers follows a crew of space junk collectors.

Seemingly just tasked with collecting space junk to make ends meet, the crew discovers a child robot named Dorothy—who’s actually a weapon of mass destruction.

Instead of just going through the motions like they usually do, the crew becomes involved in a risky business deal that eventually puts their lives at stake.

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11. Sweet & Sour

Those in need of a heart-fluttering watch shouldn’t miss, Sweet & Sour. Equally frustrating, Sweet & Sour depicts the highs and lows of a relationship, essentially, the sweet and sour parts of love.

Starring Jang Ki-yong, Chae Soo-bin and Krystal Jung, the movie follows a couple (Jang and Chae) who endures the challenges of their relationship—making their long-distance love survive. But when a new girl enters the picture (Jung), it proves difficult.

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12. The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

After seeing the charming Jang Ki-yong in Sweet & Sour, watch him transform into a bad boy in The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos together with Eternals star, Ma Dong-seok. An absolute entertaining watch, the movie is a sequel to the Bad Guys TV series, though you don’t have to watch it in advance.

This action movie follows Special Crime Unit chief, Oh Gu-tak as he forms a ragtag team of troublemakers and ex-convicts for a new mission: Park Woong-chul (Ma), con artist Kwak No-soon (Kim Ah-joong) and convicted cop, Koo Yoo-sung (Jang).

It’s a job that only bad guys can handle.

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13. #Alive

#Alive deeply resonated with watchers when it came out in 2020—the height of the pandemic, as it follows a virus that rampages a city, turning people into flesh-eating monsters.

The movie revolves around Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in), who’s been loved inside his apartment since the outbreak. He’s been digitally cut off from seeking help and is in desperate need to find a way out. He then meets his resourceful, next-building neighbour, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye). Together, they find a way to survive.

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14. The Chase

If you’ve watched the true crime documentary, Raincoat Killer on Netflix, you should put this on your watch list as it’s partly inspired by the real life events.

The crime thriller is set in a town where people have been turning up dead. 30 years ago, detective Park Pyung-pal (Sung Dong-ill) has tried to catch the killer but failed. Now, it seems the killer is back. In order to track him down, he visits his grumpy, elderly landlord, Sim Duk-soo (Bae Yoon-sik) who knows about the area and thinks they should team-up.

But the killer went from murdering the elderly to young women, will the ragtag duo be able to find him before it’s too late?

Watch here

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This article was originally published on August 13, 2020 and was updated on November 12, 2021.



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