Korean cinema has indelibly broken into the mainstream of media consumed around the globe thanks to the raging success of TV shows like Netflix's Squid Games and the 2020 Oscars Best Picture winner, Parasite. So whether you're just now foraying into the country's film history, or you're already an aficionado, we've compiled a list of 7 Korean films that we think every budding cinephile should watch.
1. Okja (2017)
Netflix's science-fantasy action-adventure film directed by Bong Joon-ho follows young Mija as she embarks on a rescue mission to bring home her best friend, a 'super pig' called Okja, from the hands of a multinational corporation with big plans. As with all Bong Joon-ho films, it's the perfect mix of witty dialogue and revelations so sad you feel like you've been punched in the throat.
2. Burning (2018)
Based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, this psychological drama follows aspiring young writer Jong-su, who bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighbourhood and asks him to look after her cat while she's away on a trip to Africa.
3. The Housemaid (1960)
This post-war film tells the story of a husband and his pregnant wife who hire a seemingly innocuous housemaid to aid with household chores. What transpires is much more than they bargained for.
4. Oldboy (2003)
A cult classic, this neo-noir action thriller film is the story of Oh Dae-su, a man imprisoned by unknown captors for 15 years, before being released into a web of conspiracies. His quest for vengeance is sidetracked when he falls for a beautiful young sushi chef.
5. Train to Busan (2016)
For fans of a classic zombie horror, Train to Busan tells the tale of a birthday train trip that turns into a nightmare, as occupants are trapped amidst a zombie outbreak in South Korea.
6. Snowpiercer (2013)
Another of Bong Joon-ho's epic class struggle metaphors, set upon a train that circumnavigates a frozen, dystopian earth. The locomotive's poor and weak decide they've had enough of the hard labour and poverty they endure being in the last carriage, and decide to make their way up to the front.
7. Midnight (2021)
This thriller follows a young deaf woman and her mother in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless serial killer, played by Wi Ha-joon of Squid Game fame.