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
Thanks to Netflix 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.
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 balances thrilling action sequences with bits of social critique on class. Strap in for a fun ride.
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 gone 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.
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 them 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.
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.
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, shoot outs, and a camaraderie that goes beyond political borders, it's a sure hit to anyone looking for some action-packed entertainment.
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 for a heartwarming tale in the most unexpected way.
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.