From My Sassy Girl (2001) to Snowpiercer (2014), we rank the best Korean movies on Netflix.
Korean films and directors have gained immense popularity in recent years, and thanks to Netflix, viewers around the world can now easily access a wide range of captivating Korean movies. With their unique storytelling techniques, compelling narratives, and exceptional performances, Korean movies have become a global sensation. The Korean film industry, specifically South Korea, has been booming for a while now, but things like Squid Game and Parasite have really put it on the map. There are some incredible directors, like Yoon Sung-hyun and Park Hyun-Jin that often get overlooked. In this list, we will explore the world of Korean movies on Netflix, highlighting some must-watch titles that are sure to leave you enthralled.
Korean movies have garnered international acclaim and been recognized at prestigious film festivals around the world. Movies that center around South Korean culture are so different than those that we make in Hollywood, and they should be a part of every movie fan’s lexicon. With their distinct style and fresh approach, these films have captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. Netflix, being a leading streaming platform, has played a crucial role in showcasing Korean movies to a global audience.
Korean movies often break away from conventional storytelling techniques, presenting narratives that are thought-provoking and emotionally engaging. Whether it’s a gripping thriller, a heart-warming romance, or an intense action film, Korean films excel in captivating viewers with their innovative storytelling.
From Night in Paradise to Okja, there’s plenty to enjoy from the Netflix Korean movie collections. Here are some of the best Korean movies on Netflix that come highly recommended for your watchlist. These films were playing as of October 5, 2023. For more great movie recommendations every week, join us on YouTube.
Best Korean Movies on Netflix
15. The Bros (2017)
Director: Chang Youjeong
The story is set in the bustling city of Seoul, where two estranged brothers, Lee Seok-Bong, a history teacher, and Lee Joo-Bong, a successful businessman, find themselves reluctantly reunited after their father’s sudden death. As they drive together, they accidentally hit a woman who suffers from memory loss after the accident. With this mysterious woman (Lee Hanee), they slowly begin to learn things about their family. These revelations not only shed light on their father’s life but also force the brothers to confront their own personal demons. The plot twists keep viewers on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the next surprising turn of events.
As the brothers experience this journey together, they encounter numerous challenges and obstacles along the way. With their clashing personalities, their journey is not without its fair share of conflicts. However, through these trials, they slowly begin to understand each other better and develop a bond that was long overdue.
From exhilarating chase scenes through the streets of South Korea capital Seoul to hilarious mishaps during their investigation, the film keeps audiences entertained throughout. The blend of genres adds depth to the narrative and ensures that viewers never know what to expect next.
14. Night in Paradise (2020)
Director: Park Hoon-jung
Among the more captivating Korean movies on Netflix is the intriguing Night in Paradise starring Uhm Tae-goo and Jeon Yeo-been. This crime drama takes viewers on a thrilling journey on the path to redemption and through the underworld of gangsters.
Park Tae-gu, a prominent gangster, finds himself seeking revenge after losing both his sister and niece in a tragic accident. He embarks on a mission to eliminate those responsible for his family’s demise. Suddenly, he finds out he has terminal cancer. Tae-gu decides to spend his remaining days at a remote location, Jeju Island, leaving the chaos of the criminal world behind him. He meets a woman, Jae-Yoen, who is also terminally ill, and begins to question the choices he has made in his life. Their shared experiences allow him to reflect on the consequences of his actions and contemplate the possibility of redemption. However, his past catches up with him, threatening his newfound peace.
Park Hoon-jung made a visually stunning and emotionally charged film that takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Through its intricate plot, the film explores themes of recovery, love, and consequences.
13. Lucid Dream (2017)
Director: Kim Joon-sung
When a film is an amalgamation of genres like science fiction, mystery, and thriller, it runs the risk of being all over the place. Often, movies like this have plot holes or the climax is unsatisfactory. Thankfully, that is not the case with Lucid Dream. The filmmaker handles it with a lot of skill and finesse, despite it being his directorial debut. The concept, is, in part, influenced by movies like Inception and Vanilla Sky. But it also possesses a distinct style and character.
The story is focused on mystery and follows Dae-ho, a man searching for his abducted son whose trail has gone cold for the last three years. He puts all his bets on lucid dream therapy which allows him to relive the memories of that fateful day in order to find some new clues. This takes him on a sort of acid trip through his memories and the memories of the prime suspect.
The movie does take a lot of elements from Nolan’s Inception and that leads to a bit of predictability. That bit is a let-down. But the film is mesmerizing; full of conspiracy and suspense, it is truly one of the best Korean movies on Netflix.
12. High Society (2018)
Director: Hyuk Byun
The film revolves around the lives of the elite in South Korean society, focusing on their extravagant lifestyles and the challenges they face. The characters make the choice between their morals and ethics or living a life of luxury. They will do anything to join the elite.
Our characters are Tae-joon, a professor, his wife Soo Yeon, a gallery curator, and Ji-hok, an artist. They are doing well for themselves, but they haven’t quite reached the “high society” status they crave. All three of them go on a journey that showcases the stark contrast between different social classes and the lengths one may go to maintain their position in society. As they immerse themselves in this new world, they discover that not everything is as lavish as it seems, uncovering scandals, deceit, and power struggles within high society.
High Society isn’t on every ‘Best Korean Movies’ list. It was met with mixed reviews, but movies like this are always so fun for audiences. It may not be great from a film critic’s perspective, but it is tense and glamorous in a way that makes it enjoyable.
11. JUNG_E (2023)
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
JUNG_E is a fresh take on what a zombie can be, and how AI can play into that. It’s a sci-fi story about technology advancement and social class. It’s a timely piece that is worth a watch in 2023. It delves into various thought-provoking themes, inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of creativity, self-expression, and the blurred boundaries between reality and fantasy. This Netflix movie is enthralling and hooks viewers with its gripping plot and remarkable performances, especially the main character.
It takes place in a near-future dystopia in which AI lives alongside humans. The main character, Seohyun (played beautifully by the late Kang Soo-yeon) is a technological researcher who is attempting to lead the rebellion side of the current civil war. She creates a soldier, JUNG_E, whom she modeled after her mother. She actually clones her mom’s brain because she was a historic soldier before she died.
JUNG_E may not make it to the same level as Train to Busan, but it does showcase how Yeon Sang-ho is truly innovative. It comes to us from South Korea, and it is certainly one of the more interesting Korean movies on Netflix.
10. The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure (2022)
Director: Kim Jeong-Hoon
The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure is a thrilling Korean film that takes viewers on an action-packed adventure. This movie combines elements of history, comedy, and adventure to deliver an exhilarating experience. With its talented cast and stunning visuals, it is a must-watch for fans of the genre.
The film is set in the Joseon Dynasty, where a group of pirates led by Jang Sa-jung embarks on a quest to find the last royal treasure. The treasure is believed to hold immense power and can change the fate of the nation. However, they face rival pirate gangs, treacherous seas, and a formidable imperial army.
What really makes this movie stand out is its blend of action and humor. The witty dialogue and comedic timing provide moments of relief from the hardcore action. The film also has breath-taking cinematography capturing the beauty and grandeur of the ocean. The attention to detail in the set designs and costumes adds authenticity, and honestly just makes it look really cool.
Prepare to be immersed in the world of pirates and treasure hunts and embark on a thrilling journey with Jang Sa-jung and his crew as they search for the treasure.
9. Miss Granny (2014)
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
This funny and wry comedy from Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk introduces us to Oh Mal-soon, a cantankerous widow of 70 years. She stumbles upon a mysterious photography studio, and transforms into her 20-year-old self. She now goes by the name Oh Doo-ri and rediscovers the joys and struggles of being a young girl in modern-day Seoul, and through her youthful appearance, gains a newfound confidence. Oh Doo-ri joins a band with her grandson, Ji-ha, who has no idea she is really his grandmother. She uses this opportunity to guide him toward a better future.
This film has struck a chord with audiences because it explores themes of aging, regret, and the desire for a second chance. It’s easy to resonate with Oh Mal-soon’s journey. Miss Granny also challenges societal norms and expectations placed on older women. Doo-ri’s newfound confidence and success empower viewers, inspiring them to break free from stereotypes.
South Korean cinema often has strong themes of family, and this is no exception. Its emphasis on the importance of intergenerational relationships make it one of the best Korean movies on Netflix.
8. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021)
Director: Kwang Il-Han
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, takes viewers on a thrilling journey through the dark and mystical world of The Witcher. South Korea brings us the beloved characters and captivating storyline that fans have come to love. It serves as a prequel to the popular Netflix series, The Witcher. This list would be incomplete without a great animated film from a Korean director.
The story revolves around the origins of Vesemir, a skilled witcher, and mentor to Geralt of Rivia. Set in the Continent, a realm filled with fantastical creatures and political intrigue, the film explores Vesemir’s transformation from a naive young man into a battle-hardened monster hunter. As Vesemir delves deeper into his mission, he discovers a dark secret.
This film comes to us from South Korean director Kwang Il Han and is entirely in English. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf successfully captures the essence of the Witcher universe, immersing viewers in a visually stunning and action-packed adventure. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a must-watch for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.
7. #Alive (2020)
Director: Il Cho
#Alive is a South Korean zombie horror film that isn’t just another zombie movie. It is incredibly modern, especially with the subject matter premiering in 2020. It’s also a metaphor for being chronically online, as the protagonist, Oh Joon-woo, is only able to communicate through social media.
The film follows a man whose apartment block is destroyed by mysterious viruses that transform the town into a zombie-ridden area. He meets a woman in a neighboring complex, and they work together to communicate and create a path to the extraction point before it’s too late.
This is an interesting suspenseful exploration of survival in an increasingly challenging world of crises. #Alive is a gripping Korean film that showcases the strength of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity. With its thrilling plot and dynamic characters, this movie leaves audiences on the edge of their seats. Prepare to be captivated by the harrowing journey of Joon-woo and Yoo-bin as they fight for their lives in a world overrun by zombies.
Remember, survival is not just about staying alive physically; it’s also about preserving hope, connection, and humanity in the most challenging circumstances.
6. Forgotten (2017)
Director: Jang Hang-jun
Forgotten, starring Kim Mu-yeol and Na Young-hee, is one of the most mentally demanding thrillers out there. It makes you think. It’s mysterious and has a tone almost resembling horror. The premise of the film is extremely complicated and conflicted in itself, which makes it harder for the audience to crack the mystery that lies behind the veil.
It follows a young man, Jin-Seok, who finds himself very confused when his previously abducted brother returns with serious memory loss. He can’t remember anything about the past 19 days in which he had been missing. Jin-Seok quickly begins to notice some concerning changes in his older brother and begins to think that this might not be his brother at all.
But what I truly appreciate about this film is that it doesn’t entirely keep you in the dark. After the first half is done and the mystery has been established, the film drops subtle hints and clues regarding the underlying psychological narrative. The build-up before the epic reveal is masterly done. It’s sad and twisted all while being action-packed and engaging.
Forgotten is an exciting adventure full of twists and turns and countless red herrings. Watch it. I promise you won’t regret it.
5. Pandora (2017)
Director: Park Jung-woo
This Korean disaster drama by Park Jung-woo follows an investigation into a South Korean nuclear plant’s ill effects. It’s about power and corruption, and the human costs associated with technological advances. The film received praise for its portrayal of an extreme and real nuclear crisis and its actors’ performances.
The nuclear energy-themed disaster drama perfectly mixes melodrama and political/corporate intrigue. The early scenes characterize the simple town populace. The quaint town, situated near the port city of Busan, depends on the nuclear power plant for stable employment. But one day, an unanticipated earthquake creates a catastrophic nuclear meltdown in the poorly-maintained plants. The government and plant management try to cover up and contain the problem.
Pandora largely works due to the realistic depiction of people and the government’s chaotic reaction after such disasters. Of course, it goes to ludicrous lengths to weave a cloyingly sentimental narrative. However, the film effectively visualizes the disaster sequences, exaggerating our fears regarding this unbridled energy source. Overall, it’s thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking, compared to the American movies in the same genre.
4. My Sassy Girl (2001)
Director: Kwak Jae-yong
Kwak Jae-yong’s endlessly charming romantic comedy subverted all the clichés of the genre with a simple plotline. It’s a boy-meets-girl story, but the silly, unconventional scenarios the romantic pair drums up are beyond words. It was released in 2001 and quickly became a massive hit, both domestically and internationally.
My Sassy Girl revolves around the unlikely romance between a college student, Gyeon-woo, and a sassy, unpredictable girl (known as “the girl”) whom he meets on a train. The chemistry between the lead pair Cha Tae-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun is palpable. They keep us engaged, and frankly, make up for the minor flaws and clichés in the narrative. The first half is a little scattershot with great moments of slapstick comedy. The second half of the film boasts a strong emotional element and is slightly melodramatic. Despite a series of unbelievable coincidences in the latter half, the performances move us nonetheless.
With its engaging storyline and memorable characters, My Sassy Girl remains a timeless classic.
3. The Call (2020)
Director: Lee Chung-hyun
The Call is a gripping South Korean film that takes viewers on an intense and suspenseful journey. Starring Jeon Jong-seo and Park Shin-hye, it’s a remarkable movie that showcases the power of storytelling. It delivers a thrilling experience and is worth the watch.
It follows the lives of two women, Seo-yeon and Young-sook, who are connected through a mysterious phone call. Seo-yeon discovers an old phone in her house and receives a call from Young-sook, who claims to be living in the same house but in the past. The two are separated by 20 years and are only able to communicate through a single phone. As their conversations continue, Seo-yeon discovers that Young-sook was a notorious serial killer who is hell-bent on using their communication to change her fate. However, altering the past has severe consequences, leading to a thrilling battle between the two women across time.
The Call seamlessly blends suspense, thriller, and time travel genres, demonstrating the filmmakers’ attention to detail and commitment. This is simply a good story, that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
2. Okja (2017)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Bong Joon-ho’s highly imaginative Eco-fable is an almost-perfect synthesis of humor and horror. This director is known for his successful work in horror, specifically bringing South Korean films to America. In the realm of thought-provoking films, Okja stands as a shining example. This production offers a unique and compelling narrative. It’s truly a cinematic gem.
The film follows the adventures of 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 tones and styles. Despite the film’s intense and emotional moments, Bong Joon-ho expertly intersperses humor throughout. The comedic relief provided by supporting characters such as K and Dr. Johnny Wilcox adds depth and levity to the narrative, preventing it from becoming too heavy. Tilda Swinton dashingly plays the villainous role of a corporate head. Okja is a thoroughly entertaining fare that elegantly incorporates socio-political and socio-economic commentary.
Okja is a must-watch for anyone seeking a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant film that challenges conventional notions. Prepare to be captivated by Mija’s journey and leave with a renewed sense of purpose and a deep appreciation for the power of friendship.
1. Snowpiercer (2014)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Adapted from the French cult graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer marked the English language debut of gifted Korean genre director Bong Joon-ho and leaped into big-budget filmmaking. He astoundingly balances absurd humor with genuinely scary situations. It has been widely acclaimed for its unique storytelling and thought-provoking themes. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the film takes us on a thrilling journey aboard a perpetually moving train called Snowpiercer.
The film follows the struggles of a group of lower-class passengers who revolt against the oppressive upper-class system on the train. As they progress through different sections of the train, each representing a societal class, we are exposed to the stark inequalities and injustices within this microcosm.
Flaws and holes aside, the film evokes several thought-provoking questions that have been asked for a long time in dystopian movies: Is mankind worth trying to save at all? Does survival incite greater costs? And is it worthwhile to be inhuman for a better chance of preserving humanity? Very few big-budgeted Hollywood movies have posed such questions or dealt with action set pieces secondary to characterization. An enthrallingly executed piece of allegorical sci-fi cinema, Snowpiercer is devilishly unpredictable and ceaselessly dazzling.
The best Korean films on Netflix offer a diverse range of genres and storytelling styles. Go check out Steel Rain, The Drug King, and the various Korean TV shows, after you’re done watching these. What are your favorite Korean movies on the streaming platform? What did we miss?
An ardent cinephile, who truly believes in the transformative power and shared-dream experience of cinema. He blogs at ‘Passion for Movies.’
I’m an actor, singer, writer, and artist, incredibly passionate about film and other art forms. Outside of work, I love spending time with my dogs and eating Poke.