Bong Joon Ho’s feature film Parasite dominated this year’s Oscars, becoming the first non-English film to win Best Picture in the history of Oscars. The social satire won 4 Oscars — Best Director, Best Picture, best original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film — at the 92nd Academy Awards. (See: Oscar 2020 Winners: Complete List). Here’s my ranking of all 7 Bong Joon Ho movies, and where you can stream them:
7. Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)
Bong Joon-ho’s ability to make incisive sociopolitical observations through a genre set-up began with this black comedy. The familiar thematic concerns of Bong such as class and economic disparity pretty much drive this directorial debut. The protagonist is an unemployed academic, subservient to his bread-winning, pregnant wife. He takes out his frustrations on a cute, incessantly barking dog in the apartment complex. His extreme efforts to silence it lead to engrossing surprises. On the aesthetic front, Bong was yet to zero-in on his unique style. But on thematic front, Barking Dogs Never Bite belongs to the same world as his Palme d’Or winning Parasite.
6. Okja (2017)
Bong Joon ho’s highly imaginative Eco-fable is an almost-perfect synthesis of humor and horror. The film follows the adventures of a South Korean teen Mija and her genetically modified super-pig named Okja. One of the film’s delights is to observe Bong’s agile directorial skills in moving between different tone and styles. Tilda Swinton dashingly plays the villainous role of a corporate head. Okja is a thoroughly entertaining fare which elegantly incorporates sociopolitical and socioeconomic commentary.
Where to watch Okja: Netflix
Recommended: 15 Best Korean Movies Of 2017, Ranked
5. Snowpiercer (2014)
Adapted from French cult graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer marked English language debut for gifted Korean genre director Bong Joon-ho and leap into big-budget filmmaking. Flaws and holes aside, the film evokes several thought-provoking questions, which have been asked for long in dystopian movies: Whether mankind is worth trying to save at all? Does survival incites greater costs? And is it worthwhile to be inhuman for the better chance of preserving humanity? Very few big-budgeted Hollywood movies have posed questions and have dealt action set pieces secondary to characterization.
An enthrallingly executed piece of allegorical sci-fi cinema, Snowpiercer is devilishly unpredictable and ceaselessly dazzling.
Recommended: 5 Best Korean Movies On Amazon Prime
4. The Host (2006)
Bong Joon-ho’s reinvigorated monster movie is much more complex than effects-heavy escapist Hollywood features. Even the familiar conventions of the genre are shot with a formidable style. Song Kang-ho plays the dim-witted protagonist, whose beloved teenage daughter is carried off by a giant mutant, dwelling in the polluted Han River. The family’s misfits come together to rescue the 13-year old girl. They also have to fight the incompetent, arrogant bureaucrats in protective suits. The Host is part family comedy and part political satire. Director Bong astoundingly balances absurd humor with genuinely scary situations.
Where to watch The Host: Netflix
3. Mother (2009)
There’s no greater love in this world than one between a mother and her child. Director Bong Joon-ho uses this simple idea in his violent, apathetic world to create a spellbinding murder mystery. As usual Mr. Bong strikes the right balance between dry comedy and suspense. The story revolves around a mentally challenged young guy Do-jun and his old, over-protective single mother. Do-jun is arrested in the murder case of a local school girl. The mother sets out to find the truth that may set her son free. Director Bong, in the vein of his crime masterpiece Memories of Murder, immaculately builds up a sense of dread. The other biggest force is Kim Hye-ja’s sensitive performance as the helpless mother.
Where to watch: Buy on iTunes, Amazon and Vudu
2. Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon ho’s Palme d’Or winning social satire and now the first foreign film in Oscar history to win Best Picture, tells a timeless about the rich and the poor. But the brilliance lies in the layers of fascinating details that offers a unique viewing experience. The narrative is centered on two nuclear families in Seoul, one poor and one rich. The poor Kim family cons their way to work for the wealthy Park family. The horrors of economic disparity wreak havoc on both the families. Parasite largely unfolds in grey zones without assigning blame to a particular class. It shows how antipathy is rooted in both sides and the villain here is the stratified system.
The film won 4 out of 6 nominations at the Oscars this year. Bong Joon ho ties with Walt Disney now for the most Oscars won in one night (4), a record Disney set in 1953. (See: Oscars 2020 Nominees: Full List | 92nd Academy Awards)
Where to watch Parasite: Buy on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play
1. Memories of Murder (2003)
Fritz Lang’s M & Immamura’s Vengeance is Mine are rare, profound crime films that tackle the subject of serial killings to deftly look into the moral squalor of the modern society. Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder belongs to that small list of crime masterpieces. It is based on the series of unsolved sex murders that happened between 1986 and 1991 in the mid-western region of Korea. The big surprise of this thriller is the characterization of the incompetent detective protagonist. Bong’s subtle visual compositions demand repeat viewings to fully contemplate the thematic complexities. Memories of Murder could also be seen as a mesmerizing study of chaos constantly winning over order.
Where to Watch Memories Of Murder: YouTube
There we are! This is my ranking of all Bong Joon Ho movies. What are your favourites films of the director? Tell us your #Top3 in the comments below.
By Arun Kumar
Recommended: 31 Best Korean Movies Of The 21st Century