Best South Korean Thrillers of recent times.
Today’s list consists of only the Best South Korean Thrillers since this country seems to be specializing on this particular genre for some time now.
In-spite of suffering long periods of political censorship in the past South Korean film industry has evolved and produced numerous quality cinema that have achieved immense international acclaim!
The new-age South Korean directors have given some of the best suspense thrillers of our times. Be it the theme of the infamous gang war films or the merciless serial killer movies or the classic police-gangster action dramas or else the ever-popular gruesome revenge sagas – you name it and they have delivered it to perfection.
Statutory warning: Most of these South Korean Thrillers are not meant for kids to watch. The realistic approach of these intense thrillers often get too violent even for the taste of most adult-audiences. So watch these graphic (often gory) films at your own risk.
Enough said … let the fun begin!
20. Don’t Cry, Mommy (2012)
Don keu-ra-i ma-mi (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrTkEMXDPdw
A rape of a young girl that eventually leads into her suicide, but will the rapists (being minors) get their desired punishments?
When the judgment of the law ends up favoring the three juveniles, the mother of the girl decides to take things in her own hands.
Directed by Yong-han Kim, this is one perfect revenge drama.
19. The Suspect (2013)
Yong-eui-ja (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ctw3o_tv_k
Abandoned during a mission and on the run, his wife and daughter murdered, this is a tale of a field agent in North Korea who is all set to take revenge on them who has destroyed his life.
Directed by Shin-yeon Won. an action pact drama where the central character’s only goal is to have his vengeance and finish the treacherous game of double cross and deceit.
18. Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time (2012)
Bumchoiwaui junjaeng: Nabbeunnomdeul jeonsungshidae (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPRFKk3gYBE
A corrupt customs official who was about to get fired randomly gets associated with a vicious gangster and becomes the most powerful crime partner of the town!
Directed by Jong-bin Yun, this one is a pure gangster flick with lots of twists and turns in the storyline. And it’s also about friendship and rivalry, loyalty and betrayal, respect and (of course) murder!
17. Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013)
Hwa-i: Goi-mool-eul sam-kin a-i (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EODuG-0Y9E
A boy raised by five criminals (all fathers), who finally goes in search for the truth as he was forced to take part in a killing spree.
Directed by Joon-Hwan Jang, a brilliant film that needs to be much more popular to the thriller-fans all across the world.
Graphic violence is an essential part of the film, so you be prepared.
16. A Hard Day (2014)
Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r1lJuk4EjA
A homicide detective kills a man in a car accident, and desperately tries to hide the body and he succeeds too … well almost.
Soon he is threatened by some mysterious guy who seems to have witnessed everything and knows all about it!
Directed by Seong-hoon Kim, a very well crafted thriller indeed.
15. Bedevilled (2010)
Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG2bObtGlsI
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.’
Directed by Cheol-soo Jang, this is the story of a woman living in an isolated island, who is abused and tortured in every possible way until one day she decides to avenge upon her tormentors! Extreme violence, disturbingly real and gory, and yet highly engaging.
14. The Terror Live (2013)
Deu tae-ro ra-i-beu (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om2BFo4c4QQ
An exclusive live broadcast with a terrorist is the only way for a news anchor to claim his top position back, but then how far is he ready to sacrifice to get what he wants?
Directed by Byung-woo Kim, an underrated thriller shot almost entirely in one room (the radio station), giving the impression of real time and a sense of claustrophobia. A combination of superb acting and intense drama.
13. Breathless (2008)
Ddongpari (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zzcGQkuTs4
Not exactly a thriller in it’s true sense, but definitely one of the most brutal Korean crime drama of recent times.
A story of a touching friendship between a heartless loan shark and a troubled young school girl.
Directed by Ik-joon Yang, a brilliantly emotional film, much underrated as it deserves a lot more attention and appreciation.
12. A Dirty Carnival (2006)
Biyeolhan geori (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWtiC1JFRnE
This one is an action pact film portraying the life of the gangsters from a dangerously uncomfortable perspective.
Directed by Ha Yoo, this is the story of a man’s realization of the his capabilities and more importantly his own limitations; a fine crime drama that reveals the merciless world of crime and criminals from very close proximity.
11. Montage (2013)
Mong-ta-joo (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV5Hom6_GxE
15 years ago a crime was committed, a kidnap, and a mother lost her child forever.
And now, the crime is being repeated, another kidnap, same style – but this time can they stop the crime and tackle the kidnapper?
Directed by Geun-seop Jeong, a perfect thriller that turns out into a deadly game of wits.
10. Cold Eyes (2013)
Gam-si-ja-deul (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH15-Aj57fc
The police surveillance team with their latest techno gadgets clashes with a team of ruthless bank robbers who seems to be unstoppable in their mission.
Directed by Ui-seok Jo and Byung-seo Kim, this is a high voltage suspense drama that ensures to quicken your pulse till the end.
This Korean thriller was one of the biggest box office hit of the year!
9. New World (2013)
Sinsegye (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rln9Hx_wPFw
The police with the help of an undercover agent tries to take on the dangerous mafia but then certain unexpected twists completely turns the rules of the game.
A complex and gripping storyline, brilliant acting and the element of suspense intact till the very end.
Directed by Hoon-jung Park, this is South Korean thriller at its best.
8. Pieta (2012)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MebVzBdz0OI
A loan shark who leads a brutal and violent life encounters a strange woman who claims to be his long lost mother.
Directed by Ki-duk Kim, a unique film that revolves around a son taking revenge on his so-called mother because she has abandoned him in his childhood!
A mother and son film with so many layers of emotions, never seen before.
7. The Man from Nowhere (2010)
Ajeossi (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38rPoGSr19U
A pawn shop owner who prefers to keep to himself befriends a little girl from the neighborhood.
And when this girl’s life is in danger this man from nowhere makes it his business to rescue his little friend from the ruthless gangsters.
Directed by Jeong-beom Lee, a gritty fast paced emotional tale told in great style.
6. The Yellow Sea (2010)
Hwanghae (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoyKIBiCb7Y
Directed by Hong-jin Na, this is the story of a poor taxi driver who is sent across the sea to kill someone. But instead of killing his target he starts searching for his wife!
A dangerous mistake that almost costed his life.
A tale of extreme vengeance; some of the action moments in this film are legendary even in Korean standards!
5. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Dalkomhan insaeng (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6Kcns8MujA
A gangster’s sweet life turns bitter when he refuses to follow his boss’s orders. But then, an ego clash with the dangerous mafia boss can surely cost you much, may be your happiness if not your life!
Directed by Jee-woon Kim, a classy film shot beautifully, crisp script and great performance by everyone. One of the best gangster movies I have seen till date.
4. Mother (2009)
Madeo (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcxml0xeFlI
Directed by Joon Ho Bong, this is an incredible story of a mother’s retribution.
When a mentally retarded boy is suspected of murder, his mother takes upon the task to find the real killer. Her maternal instinct to protect her child takes her to the ultimate level of desperation.
Powerful performances and a brilliant piece of story telling.
Another brilliant thriller from the same director is Memories of Murder (2003) – Salinui chueok (original title).
3. I Saw the Devil (2010)
Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwWgp1bqVwE
A deadly game of vengeance between a secret agent and a serial killer is being played through out the film. But who will be the winner?
Insanely violent and graphic, a story of a psychopath being chased and tormented by an equally demented cop.
Directed by Jee-woon Kim, this thriller is so full of obsession, hatred and revenge.
2. The Chaser (2008)
Chugyeogja (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai0GambXj-s
A detective turned pimp tries to trace his call girls who seem to vanish into thin air. Is there one particular client who may be responsible for their sudden disappearances?
Directed by Hong-jin Na, this gruesome thriller has some of the most extreme moments of tension and violence – terrific storyline and exceptionally natural acting. The best Korean thriller ever made till date!
1. Oldboy (2003)
Oldeuboi (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HkjrJ6IK5E
And now, the most popular South Korean film ever made, included in the all time best 100 films list in IMDb!
A man has been kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, but why? Will he be released someday?
A unique and disturbing tale, directed by Chan-wook Park, full of violence and extreme vengeance.
Along with Oldboy, don’t you forget to check out the other two films of Chan-wook Park‘s Vengeance Trilogy, that also includes Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005).
and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most innovative one. A must watch).
+1. The Housemaid (1960)
Hanyo (original title)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40u9lEHrMa8
A man in an illicit relationship with his housemaid eventually complexes his married life a bit too much for any scope of peaceful resolution.
Directed by Ki-young Kim, this is one of the most artistic film in this list, very well dramatized and superlative performances.
A classic South Korean thriller, that has not aged even after so many decades.
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Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com, www.impawards.com, asianwiki.com, www.koreanfilm.or.kr.