It’s kind of obvious that Korean films have made quite a splash on the world’s screens.
With the 2019 South Korean black comedy Parasite winning four Academy Awards recently, it is evident that the Korean wave is washing across the world.
With so many excellent Korean films to watch, it is hard to pick out a select few, but here are five that will certainly blow you away with their quality and entertainment value.
1. The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014)
Based on true events, The Admiral is a war movie that held the title of the most-watched and highest grossing film in South Korea before Parasite came along.
Set during the Imjin War when feudal Japan invaded the Kingdom of Joseon, the movie centres on a battle that became the symbol of Korean resistance.
Taking centre-stage is Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, played by veteran actor Choi Min-Sik, who leads the charge in the battle of Myeongnyang, where his tiny fleet of 13 ships take on 130 Japanese warships.
The Admiral doesn’t hold back when it comes to action, and the fighting is indeed intense and gripping as the outnumbered Koreans fight ferociously against the invaders.
At the end of the film, you will understand why the revered Admiral Yi is honoured with a statue in the centre of Seoul.
2. Train to Busan (2016)
A film that took Malaysians by storm, Train to Busan is a refreshing Korean take on the zombie genre.
The film takes place during a zombie outbreak and follows a group of survivors who have to make their way to the safe haven of Busan on a train filled with the undead.
Unlike the traditional slow and lumbering Western zombies, Train to Busan’s oriental zombies are fast runners who can infect others in a matter of seconds.
Many reviews commend the film for adding a well-executed emotional core to the traditional zombie movie storyline.
In addition to being a horror movie, the film also has a social commentary lampooning the apathy of the upper class during times of crisis.
3. Oldboy (2003)
Another film starring Choi Min-Sik, this film is an action thriller which has garnered critical acclaim and is considered to be one of the best Korean films to date.
The story revolves around the character of Oh Dae-Su, a man separated from his family for 15 years when he is imprisoned in a cell resembling a hotel room.
The identity of his captor and the reason behind his captivity unknown, Dae-Su eventually gains his freedom and sets out to find answers for his ordeal.
This film has a particularly well-choreographed scene in a hallway that will appeal to action fans.
4. Castaway on the Moon (2009)
For more light-hearted viewing, this charming romantic comedy is the perfect flick to watch on a date.
The film features the relationship between a castaway living on an island in the centre of Seoul and an introverted hermit.
After a failed suicide attempt, debtor Kim Seong-geun ends up stranded on an islet in the middle of Seoul’s Han River. He cannot leave due to his inability to swim.
The only person who notices him is a reclusive Kim Jung-yeon who chances upon him while photographing the moon.
As their friendship develops through a system of bottle messages and messages written in the sand, Seong-geun learns that there is more to life than his troubles, while Jung-yeon starts to come out of her shell.
5. Mother (2009)
Not to be confused with the bizarre 2017 American film by Darren Aronofsky, Mother is a drama that centres on a widow’s efforts to save her son.
Kim Hye-ja is the veteran actress who plays the unnamed protagonist living alone with her special needs son.
When her son is accused of killing a girl and arrested, she sets out to prove his innocence and to find out the truth behind the murder.
The film highlights the deep love that the mother has for her son, and just how far she is willing to go to protect him while entertaining audiences with an intriguing whodunit mystery.
If you are fond of twists, prepare to be surprised when it is ultimately revealed what really happened on that fateful night.