K-drama addicts know that the only way to satiate one's appetite for more Korean drama content is to either unplug the TV and/or disconnect the Internet so you can't stream shows anymore. (This seems drastic, I know, but as someone who has watched more than half a dozen Korean dramas in just the span of one month, the need for consumption is real.) And I wholeheartedly support your addiction. But when you've finished making your way through all the best Korean dramas on Netflix, it's time to tune into some good ol' fashioned Korean movies on the platform. (Bonus: Most Korean movies, on Netflix and otherwise, come in right under that two-hour mark.)
From romances like Tune in For Love to sci-fi epics like Space Sweepers, Korean movies offer an escape into worlds with intense plot twists and cheesy scenes (which we love). Browse our favorite Korean movies on Netflix, below, then sit back with some snacks and hit the play button. (And if you're looking for more of our favorite Korean TV shows on Netflix, or the best new Korean movies of 2023, we've got those too.)
20th Century Girl
Prepare to feel tons of nostalgia for your teenage crushes while watching this sentimental rom-com. In 1999, 17-year-old Bo-ra receives a request from her best friend Yeon-doo: to find out everything she can about Yeon-doo's crush, the popular Hyun-jin, while her friend's away overseas. As Bo-ra spies on and later ends up becoming friends with Hyun-jin, she also builds a connection with his thoughtful best friend, Woon-ho. This film is a thoughtful love letter to both devoted teenage friendships and the first feelings of young love.
This slick Korean thriller on Netflix follows the titular Bok-soon (Crash Course in Romance's Jeon Do-yeon), a top-class assassin who balances her successful career with her private life, as mother to 15-year-old Jae-young (Kim Si-a). After decades at the top of Korea's hidden hitman industry, Bok-soon decides to retire and focus on her relationship with her daughter. However, her final assignment goes awry, putting her in the crosshairs of several of her former co-workers and her formerly-devoted boss Cha Min-kyu (Sul Kyung-gu).
Don't be surprised if you want to throw your phone off a cliff (or just spent a few hours updating the privacy settings) after watching this terrifying psychological thriller. Office worker Lee Na-mi loses her smartphone on the bus after a night out, but she's relieved when it's discovered by a stranger and dropped off at a repair shop. After she recovers her phone and goes on with her life, she befriends a stranger named Jun-yeong, as they seem to have a lot in common. She has no idea that Jun-yeong was the one who found her phone, and installed spyware in efforts to find out everything there is to know about her life, and how to ruin it.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North
Viewers can watch this prequel to the horror K-drama Kingdom without seeing the original show, though the drama's always there if you fall in love with the film and want more. Set in Korea's Joseon period in the 16th century, the film follows the titular Ashin, a young girl growing up in a Northern border town with her sick mother. One day, while Ashin is away seeking out a mysterious blue "resurrection” flower to save her mother, her entire family is slaughtered back home. Ashin continues on, training to become a great warrior, and waiting for the opportunity for revenge.
Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror
This true-crime documentary covers one of the biggest crimes in recent South Korean history, the Nth Room case. In 2019, news surfaced of secret chat rooms, where over 60,000 users paid for degrading and pornographic content obtained through coercion and blackmail. The rooms' creators, known under usernames like "godgod" and "baksa," would use phishing, fake model recruitment, and other means to force women to do what they demanded, or else the content would be leaked to their families. This horrifying doc lays out the timeline of the case and the creators' eventual arrest through interviews with several reporters and investigators.
This dystopian thriller from Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho takes place in 2194, after humans have escaped an Earth rendered inhospitable due to climate change to live on man-made shelters in space. The previously united shelters have devolved into a decades civil war, and talented mercenary Jung-yi fights on behalf of the Allied Forces to afford her daughter's cancer treatment. When Jung-yi falls into a coma during a mission, the corporation Kronoid uses her consciousness to construct an army of AI-assisted soldiers, under the project name "Jung_E."
Fans of Baby Driver and the early Fast & Furious films will love this fun action comedy set in the lead up to the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. It follows the Sangyedong Supreme team, a racing team of low-level crooks portrayed by actors including Yoo Ah-in, Go Kyung-po, and Park Ju-hyun. When a prosecutor with knowledge of their shady dealings tracks them down, the crew are tasked with going undercover to infiltrate a money-laundering crime ring run by corrupt officials from the old government regime.
This stunning period film from Squid Game director Hwang Dong-Hyuk is set during the Qing invasion of Korea's Joseon dynasty in 1636. When King Injo refuses to accept the Qing emperor's rule, the Chinese army forces the king and his court to retreat to an isolated fortress in the middle of winter. As enemy forces surround the the castle, King Injo deals with a political struggle inside, as influential ministers attempt to sway their leader in his response to the invaders. This tense war epic also boasts an all-star cast including Park Hae-il, Kim Byung-hun, Kim Yoon-seok, and Park Hee-soon.
This 2017 crime film stars a pair of unlikely heroes investigating a serial killer in the town of Aridong. Deok-su is the miserly landlord of a small apartment, who always pushes the tenants to pay overdue rent. When a series of new murders are discovered and Deok-su is implicated, ex-detective Pyung-dal suddenly appears and asks the landlord for help, saying he already has a suspect and they can capture the killer together.
This 2017 movie is directed by Bong Joon-ho, so you know it's worth a watch. Without revealing too much, here's the plot line: The Mirando Corporation is obsessed with breeding super pigs and sends them to farmers around the world to be raised. For 10 years, Mija has been raising Okja in the mountains of South Korea; one day, Okja is crowned the "best super pig" by the corporation and is scheduled to be taken to New York City. Devastated, Mija sets out on a journey to save her friend and in the process exposes the evildoings of The Mirando Corporation. This movie boasts a powerful ensemble cast with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
If you like movies like Inception, give this 2017 South Korean film a watch. The story centers around investigative journalist Dae-ho whose son is kidnapped with little chance of rescue. Three years pass, and Dae-ho learns of a new form of therapy that allows people to relive important memories through lucid dreams. His friend conducts the therapy on him, allowing Dae-ho to go back to the day his son was kidnapped. Dae-ho finds a new trail of evidence and, accompanied by Detective Song, who was on the case three years ago, sets out on a journey to uncover the truth.
Tune in for Love
Nurse the emotional void left in your soul by Crash Landing on You by tuning into another heart-wrenching love story. This 2019 movie begins in the '90s during the Asian financial crisis. Writer Mi-su and Hyeon-woo meet as teenagers while working in a bakery over Christmas. As time passes, obstacles in adulthood separate them from each other, though the pair always look for ways to reunite. However, one of them holds a secret that might completely destroy their relationship. The film spans across a decade and has a nostalgic tone, plus a beautiful soundtrack. By the end of the film, you're guaranteed to shed a few happy and sad tears.
Billed as South Korea's first blockbuster space film, Space Sweepers focuses on a group of strivers trying to make ends meet as humans leave an uninhabitable Earth to live in utopian space colonies. The debt-ridden "space sweepers," led by Vincenzo's Song Joong-ki, work as scavengers picking up debris from the wealthy colonies. On a mission, they discover a young child named Dorothy, who turns out to be an android containing a nuclear weapon. The group's initial plan to sell Dorothy to the highest bidder gets upended as they start to bond with the adorable android. Space Sweepers is perfect for anyone who likes their sci-fi epics with a bit of heart.
Night in Paradise
If you like Asian gangster movies, this one's got a lot going for it. Mobster Park Tae-goo (Uhm Tae-goo) flees to Jeju Island after he suffers a brutal family tragedy, with killers hot on his trail. There he meets Kim Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been), terminally ill, with secrets of her own—who also knows her way around a gun. This will become important later. Directed by Park Hoon-jung (New World), who's mastered the dark and violent crime genre, the film's got some soft, quiet scenes, followed by intense action that includes (no spoilers) one of the craziest shootouts in recent memory.
Sweet & Sour
A romantic Korean movie that shows both the bliss and tough times in a love story, Sweet and Sour may interest fans of Sally Rooney books or shows like Netflix's Lovesick. Da-eun, a nurse, and Jang-hyeok, an engineer, immediately click when they first meet at her job in Incheon. They have a sweet and loving relationship until Jang-hyeok gets a new job in Seoul with a long commute that strains their relationship. It also doesn't help that Jang-hyeok begins to bond with a co-worker at his new job, who's played by f(x) singer Krystal Jung. With an ending that has made waves among viewers, Sweet and Sour has been lauded as a realistic depiction of modern relationships.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho (who also directed Train to Busan), Psychokinesis is a superhero movie that centers on bank security guard Suk-Hun. After drinking water from a mountain spring that was struck by a meteor, Suk-Hun finds himself with telekinetic superpowers. His estranged daughter, Roo-Mi, runs a fried chicken restaurant that is under threat of being taken over by a construction company—which is controlled by the mafia, which also wants to kick the neighbors out of the area. A confrontation takes place between the thugs, Roo-Mi, and her mother. Suk-Hun attempts to use his newfound powers to rescue his daughter from the mafia as well as the neighborhood. Will he succeed?
The 2017 thriller received an 8.2 out of 10 rating from MyDramaList and stars Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won. It's described as "equal parts Bad Boys and The Raid" with a "Tom Clancy adaptation." How the story unfolds: A military coup takes place in the near future in North Korea, where Eom Chul-Woo, a former agent of the North Korean Special Forces, has orders to execute two leaders who are planning a coup d'état on Victory Day. The leader of North Korea and Eom Chul-Woo escape to South Korea. Eom Chul-Woo and a South Korean government official, Kwak Chul Woo, now have carry out a secret operation to prevent a Korean war.
Make some popcorn and get ready to settle in with this mystery thriller from 2017. The story follows Jin-seok, who witnesses his brother Yoo-seok's abduction. After 19 days, Yoo-seok returns home one night with no memory of what happened, which leads the family to believe he repressed those horrid memories. Soon after, Jin-seok realizes that both his parents and brother are acting very strange and attempts to seek help but ends up getting kidnapped by his "brother." Jin-seok is then thrown into a confusing murder plot and attempts to clear his name while battling whatever has gotten hold of his parents and brother. Creepy AF? We think so.
Love and Leashes
This 2022 rom-com is a sexy and hilarious breath of fresh air for viewers who love Korean romances but wish there was a bit more PDA (basically anyone who devoured Business Proposal's kiss scenes). Office worker Ji-woo (Girls Generation's Seohyun) is forming a crush on her cute new co-worker Ji-hoo (Imitation's Lee Jun-young) when one day she receives his package containing a human-sized dog collar. Soon she's sucked in to the world of BDSM and dominant-submissive partnerships.
The Drug King
This true-story drama centers around a small-time narcotics dealer Lee Doo-sam (played by Song Kang-ho), who eventually becomes the infamous king of narcotics in Korea in the '70s. In addition to selling drugs in Korea, he also exported to Japan and smuggled diamonds and other items. In the movie, Jo Jung-suk plays a Seoul prosecutor who wants to bring Lee down, and Bae Doona plays a lobbyist who helps Lee climb the drug dealing rungs to become the top dog.
"The Korean thirst for movies about government and corporate malfeasance continues unabated in Pandora," wrote The Hollywood Reporter. When an earthquake strikes a small Korean town that houses a rundown nuclear power plant, it causes an explosion that quickly affects Jae-hyeok, who lives in the town, and his lover Yeon-joo, who works at the plant. The situation spirals out of control, and it's up to Jae-hyeok and his coworkers to return to the nuclear power plant in order to save everyone.
This movie tells the story of a married, middle-class couple. The husband, Jang Tae-ju, is a respected college professor, while his wife, Oh Su-yeon, is an esteemed curator of a famous art gallery. The story follows the pair as they aim to achieve their upper echelon goals: Jang Tae-ju wants to have a political career and Oh Su-yeo wants to become the director of her gallery. Together, the two hope to gain acceptance into high society and are prepared to do anything it'll take to get there.
Because there's no such thing as too many K-zombie thrillers, #Alive takes place during a zombie apocalypse and follows livestreaming video gamer Oh Joon-woo as he attempts to stay, yes, alive amid all the madness happening outside his apartment. Fortunately, he soon catches sight of another uninfected survivor, Kim Yoo-bin, in a nearby apartment, with whom he strikes up a very socially distanced friendship. Finally, they attempt a daring escape, but you'll have to tune in to see whether they make it to safety or succumb to the bloodthirsty hordes of zombies waiting eagerly on the streets below for new people to infect.
The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure
This is the movie to watch for fans of swashbuckling adventures with star-studded casts. A team of bandits led by the eccentric Wu Mu-chi (Kang Ha-neul) are marooned in the middle of the ocean when they're rescued by a group of pirates under captain Hae-rang (Happiness' Han Hyo-joo). Both groups are after a lost royal treasure, so they band together to get their hands on it before aspiring ruler Boo Heung-soo (Kwon Sang-woo). Other notable characters in the dysfunctional crew include quiet archer Han Goong (EXO's Oh Se-hun) and comic relief Mak-yi (Lee Kwang-soo).
Time to Hunt
Heist fans, this one's for you. Jun-seok is something of an amateur, less suave Danny Ocean who recruits his friends to pull off daring heists. Their latest target is an illegally run gambling house, and though Jun-seok and his friends are successful in robbing the gambling den of plenty of money and incriminating security footage, the people who run the sketchy business aren't exactly thrilled about the messy heist. They hire a hitman to track down and kill the heist's crew members one by one, sending the thieves racing to stay one step ahead of the assassin by any means necessary.
What Happened to Mr. Cha?
In a very meta twist, legendary South Korean actor Cha In-pyo plays an outsize version of himself in this 2021 film. As an actor past his prime and growing more irrelevant by the day, he embarks on a series of increasingly ridiculous stunts in an attempt to recapture the level of widespread fame and adoration he held earlier in his career. "In doing so, he crosses the boundaries between his real self and the fictional character in the film. He peppers his characterization with the outgoing, relatable, and intense aspects of his own personality, while delivering snippets of fresh ideas and hearty laughter," per Netflix. Even more fun: Cho Dal-hwan, known for his highbrow acting roles, plays Cha In-pyo's sidekick.
This psychological thriller basically answers the question of what would've happened if, rather than Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock using the magic time-traveling mailbox in The Lake House to start up a (very) long-distance romance, a serial killer had used it instead to torture their next victim. Jeon Jong-seo and Park Shin-hye, respectively, play those two main characters, who are able to contact each other 10 years apart through a cordless phone in the house where they each spent their respective childhoods. Though their calls start off helpful, with each giving the other enough information to improve their lives, things quickly take a turn, with the killer taking advantage of their multi-year connection to commit murders without attracting police attention and, ultimately, kill her long-distance phone pal. Though the movie seemingly closes on a happy ending, be sure to stick around for the two end credits scenes for the full story.
Yaksha: Ruthless Operations
This multi-lingual spy thriller takes place in Shenyang, a North-East Asian city with the highest spy density in the world. National Intelligence Service Prosecutor Han Ji-hoon (Squid Game's Park Hae-soo) is sent there to infiltrate the Black Team, a legendary black ops team lead by a ruthless legend known lass "Yaksha" (Sol Kyung-gu). While the Black Team trying to shake-off Ji-hoon at every turn, his persistence eventually gets him wrapped up in an international war over government secrets. (Bonus: GOT7's Jinyoung plays a member of the Black Team.)
This laugh-out-loud comedy from Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk shows what happens when a 70-something grandma gets the chance to relive her 20s. Oh Mal-soon (Na Moon-hee) is a cantankerous 74-year-old widow and lifelong singer who lives with her son and grandkids. When she comes across a mysterious photo studio, Mal-soon is transformed back into her 20-year-old self (played by Shim Eun-kyung). The cranky now-young woman still has old-fashioned tastes, but she still woos over both her grandson (BIA4's Jinyoung) who lets her join his band, and a record producer (Sweet Home's Lee Jin-wook) who wants to make her a star.
This dramatic film from Squid Game director Hwang is tough to watch, but its depiction of this true story led to political change in South Korea. It's based off events at the real-life Gwangju Inhwa School for the Deaf, where students were victims of repeated sexual assaults in the early 2000s. When a kind new art teacher (Goblin's Gong Yoo) earns the trust of the students, he learns about the rampant abuse and teams up with a human rights activist (Jung Yu-mi) to seek justice for the kids.
This historical epic (also by director Hwang) takes place during the Qing Invasion of Korea (then called Joseon) in 1636. King Injo (Park Hae-il) and his court have holed up in mountain fortress Namhansanseong, which lacks the resources they need to survive the winter. Attempting to help the group are the king's trusted advisors: Choi Myung-kil (Squid Game and Mr. Sunshine's Lee Byung-hun), who believes they need to surrender for their citizens' sake, and Kim Sang-hun (Kin Yoon-seok), who wants to keep their honor and fight.
Here's a hilarious comedy about estranged siblings thrown together to fulfill a familial obligation. The titular brothers—poor history teacher Seok-bong (Eternals and Train to Busan's Ma Dong-seok) and ambitious office worker Joo-bong (Reply 1988's Lee Dong-hwi)—travel to their father's funeral in Andong with very different motives. Seok-bong, who's supposed to be leading the rites, wants to search their family home for relics or buried treasure that can pay off a debt. Joo-bong needs to get permission for his company to build a highway through his family's land. Then there's a mysterious woman (Lee Hanee) who gets amnesia after the bros hit her with their car.
This action comedy is perfect for fans of dramas like Vincenzo or Itaewon Class. The crime film pits unrelenting detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) against arrogant chaebol heir Jo Tae-oh (Yeo Ah-in), who also runs a secret crime syndicate. It's a classic good guys vs rich baddies story that'll make you love to hate the main antagonist.
This sweet BL (Boys Love) rom-com is a must-watch for anyone looking to get into the sub-genre. Free-spirited Kang In-soo (played by the idol of the same name) is a street musician who hopes to turn his love of music into a full-time career. When shy keyboardist Yoon Sang-yi (Lee Sang) discovers In-soo's busking videos on YouTube, he recommends In-soo for his company's rookie project. As the two work and live together in the company dorm, they start to fall in love.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky
For any K-pop fans who haven't caught this documentary about global girl group BLACKPINK, it's worth it for a peek behind the scenes at what makes the group tick, as well as insightful look into the industry's trainee system. Through interviews with the members and their producers, old trainee footage, and behind-the-scenes clips, Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa tell their story of their rise to fame and their goals going forward.
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