Many of the Korean movies–most with English subtitles, on this list are independent films. Some of the independent films are by Kim Ki Duk, my favorite director. He is a controversial director in South Korea.
However, he is critically acclaimed abroad. Nevertheless, ALL of the movies on this list address issues within Korean society, issues that– in fact, pervade humanity.
Therefore, they will challenge your perspective of your own society and your perspective on humanity as they blur the lines between justice and revenge– between love and obsession– between the beautiful and the grotesque– between good and evil.
My Top 10 Must-Watch Korean Movies (English Subbed)
1. Address Unknown
Set after the Korean war, a half-black, half-Korean boy lives with his mother in an abandoned school bus. While his Korean mother looks for his estranged black father by writing letters that always come back stamped “Address Unknown,” he struggles to fit in with Korean society. In the end, will he ever really belong in a place that has no place for him?
2. The Unforgiven
A boy finally goes off to army, but he struggles to fit in and follow commands from his superiors, one of whom happens to be an old friend, or hyung. Slowly, the army changes him, but once he leaves will he be able to come to terms with the person he has become?
3. Beastie Boys (Moonlight of Seoul)
Two men sell their bodies for sex as “hosts,” struggling to make ends meet and to make sense of the world they live in; featuring two of my favorite actors before they “blew up,” Ha Jung Woo and Yoon Kye Sang!
4. No Regret
A secretly gay man falls in love with a boy who drives him home one day (designated driving services are popular in Korea). Then, they meet again at a host bar where the boy is working. Although they fall in love, will their love survive the pressures of Korean society?
(Stunning performance by Kim Nam Gil!)
5. Birdcage Inn
In a beautiful but gritty coming of age story, a young, conservative girl is forced to confront a prostitute who moves into her home that serves as a motel for travelers. As she does so, she finds out more about herself and her own sexuality.
6. A Good Day to Have an Affair
A married woman finds out that her husband is having an affair, and a single woman finally meets the man of her dreams; but, not everything is as it seems.
7. A Good Lawyer’s Wife
After struggling to deal with a cheating husband and his strange family, the wife of a lawyer is suddenly confronted with a loss that wakes her up from the dream she’s been living; but, will she ever dream again?
8. Chubby Revolution (Plump Revolution)
A lighthearted comedy tackles a serious issue: The obsession with physical beauty in Korea. How? Well, a model suddenly starts to gain weight when she finds out that the man she is in love with only dates chubby girls. Will he fall for her, and does her weight really matter to him– or to her?
Watch HERE, English subbed, on GoodDrama!
It’s been two years, and he no longer looks at her anymore. So, a young woman becomes increasingly obsessed with her looks, suddenly disappearing one day. Secretly, she undergoes plastic surgery, only to come back to her boyfriend as someone new. Will he remember his old girlfriend, or will he forget her and fall in love with someone else– no, with her, again?
Watch HERE, English subbed, on Viki!
10. Silenced (The Crucible)
A teacher reluctantly goes to the middle of nowhere in order to teach at a school for the deaf. He misses his wife and newborn baby back home.
But, when strange things start to happen around him, he realizes that the deaf children he teaches have been sexually abused by the faculty of the school. Silenced and ignored by the entire community around them, will anyone– including the new teacher, listen to their anguished voices?
(Based on a true story!)
So, what are some of your “must-watch” Korean movies?
Although these movies may be hard to find– along with their English subtitles, it’s worth taking the time to look for and watch them; but, if you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, then leave me a comment, and I’ll try to help.
In addition, many of these videos can be found subbed in languages other than English, so it’s worth doing a quick search on your own, too– if you speak Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and even Italian!
P.S.: Want more Korean movies? No problem. I have a second and a third (and a fourth) Korean movie list, with even more must-watch Korean movies from rom coms to horror flicks to action-packed blockbusters and even mysteries.