Ever since ‘Parasite’ surfaced as a global phenomenon, people’s appetite for Korean cinema seems insatiable. A number of remarkable projects pre-Parasite have also gained prominence. Combine that with the OTT boom in the ‘covid era’ and you get the reason why we’re bringing you this list. Films from Korea have the unique ability to serve a diverse group of people. Not only as individual entities, but also the number of projects in each distinct category is growing. An inherent complication with this nature of making content is that of the substance withering away. But, as Netflix has been our witness, this does not seem to be the case with Korean movies.
Although the volume of Korean movies isn’t very large on Netflix, there are some quality films you must check out. We’ve tried our best to curate this list so as to come up with new titles that you might not have come across, and which are at the same time great artistic ventures as well. These come highly recommended and we would love to hear from you about your picks in the comments section. Happy reading!
Socially and politically inclined films with powerful statements to make are rarely this good. Striking a balance between exposition and story is the hard part when writing the script. Harder for sure is the execution on the screen that makes all the difference. With such a sensitive central issue, levelheadedness is paramount. That more or less dictates if the filmmaker’s courage will have any tangible impact or not. It is safe to say ‘Silenced’ took the entire nation by storm. People clamoured for justice denied due to delayed institutional action and inaction. Kang In-ho’s spirit to rally and uncover the dark truths of his new school are met with derision but earn our respect.
But the mood in the story is not redemptive. There is an inherent harshness in retributive satisfaction that comes in the form of shocking set pieces carved around the victims. Silenced has a winning quality both in cinematic terms and real ones that dictate real life. It is one of the most uncomfortable films to watch but an important one, without which and its kind, the entire movie-making business feels futile.
13. Tune in for Love (2019)
Box office records; check. Critical appreciation; check. Confirming its leads as major stars; check. Creating a compelling romance without too much derivation; check. Tune in for Love on Netflix ticks all these boxes and more, making the film a readily digestible viewing experience. Its incredibly layered and mature tone lay the groundwork an epic and timeless tale of love.
One of the most impressive things about it is the capitalization of room for visual navigation of the story. Characters often communicate with a subtle charm and nuance, mostly lost in such films.
K-Dramas have surprised many with the depth in character development and story progression and Tune in for Love is no different. Jung Hae-in became a national sensation on the back of his searing chemistry with Kim Go-eun. Both churn out impressive, sincere performances grounded in the reality of the writing as opposed to the reverie of airport novels.
12. Love & Leashes (2022)
The rom-com genre has a sturdy lineage. A formulaic approach is so in place that films of this kind will always be more hit than miss with viewers. But if the recent past is any indication, the genre is reaching a saturation point. Patience is fast dissolving as audiences expect more than just a boy and girl meeting and falling in love. Innovation in story is needed. And often when that comes with a cultural and perverse-looking but innocent twist, the result is often explosive. Something similar happens in Love & Leashes, an intriguing South Korean rom-com that blurts out stereotypes and replaces that space with a heartfelt, original story about the search for human connection.
Seohyun and Lee Jun-young make for charming protagonists, something that every fictionalized tale needs. They play co-workers who discover a colourful secret about each other when they inadvertently connect through an online app. They both do not hesitate to go back from taking the challenge and barely manage it to keep the exercise a secret from their co-workers. In the process, they also do a bit of self-discovery about their ambitions and personalities, something they’ve been running away from for far too long. BDSM is a polarizing subject in cinema. Its representation, artistic value, and depiction changes with changing flags.
American, French, or now Korean, creators have dabbled with the idea in their own unique ways. Love & Leashes is aware of how to fit this as a thematic element so as to neither make it too overwhelming nor for just namesake’s purpose. The balance is just about right, although the soft ending was a bit of a downer. Regardless, watch Love & Leashes not because of the kinky stuff, but for the fungibility of love that makes it such an easily traded commodity.
Related to Korean Movies on Netflix – Love and Leashes  Netflix Review: Subverts Genre Expectations with a Kinky Twist
11. Night in Paradise (2020)
Park Hoon-jung is a respected voice in the film industry. He has been associated with stylish works in the thriller genre of the highest quality. I Saw the Devil and New World are cherished films for cinema lovers. With Night in Paradise, Park makes a valiant effort to blend competing genres of action, noir, and drama in a compelling gangster war setting.
Remarkably shot in the dark, the film has many gears that it deploys wisely to scale tension. Park never seems out of his depth taking a closer and more insightful look at his characters amidst all the eventful action that unravels in the city. There is an instant affinity that Park shows to keep his work in a more light-hearted vein, and not attempt to carve a slow-burn narrative. It does look like the right creative choice given how the plot proceeds. Night in Paradise confirms the notion that hardcore violence and delicate sentimentality can go well together and when it does, proves to be an alluring proposition.
10. Revenger (2018)
‘Revenger’ lays out a canvass, picture-perfect, built to entertain and thrill your senses. As much as it brushes your adrenaline and keeps you on the edge, ‘Revenger’ lacks exuberance. The writing mostly falls flat, the characters lack motivation, and the forceful attempts to bring a lighter tone to the scenes seem cringy. But, it has Bruce Khan. And that seems to be enough. The martial arts expert delivers a performance true to his talents and dedication.
All the stunts he pulls are packed with such ferocious energy, it is difficult not to stand up and take note. His central act is one for the ages and should make the list of best action performances in recent film history. If you’re looking for something without looking for something, ‘Revenger’ is a good bet.
Watch Revenger on Netflix
9. The Drug King (2018)
Any film starring Song Kang-ho can not disappoint. His screen presence, personality, and popularity are second to none. He’s a giant of the Korean film industry and has steadily established himself as a global superstar. In ‘The Drug King’, he portrays a real-life drug smuggler Lee Doo-sam, whose criminal empire is built on a pile of bodies and dismantled rivals. He made his notorious name in the ’70s in a Korea marred by political turmoil and only the beginning of the realization of modernism.
‘The Drug King’s inspiration quite clearly stems from yesteryear action classics such as ‘Scarface’ and ‘Chasing the Dragon’. It relies heavily on the mass hysteria and romanticism with gangsters and the depictions of their lives on screen but carves out its own unique fingerprint in Korean cinema.
Watch The Drug King on Netflix
8. The Chase (2017)
The obsession of film industries with police officers and serial killers has a demonstrated history across all languages. Murders and the mystery of solving it is an age-old trope that is never likely to go out of fashion. ‘The Chase’ sees a landlord who realizes that recent murders in town are related to those committed some three decades back. This discovery sparks fears that the serial killer responsible has returned. He teams up with a willing police officer and thus begins the search.
Jang Hang-jun blends offhand comedy with grim murders in his typical style, providing timely infusions of new characters and subplots to keep matters interesting.
Watch The Chase on Netflix
7. Time to Hunt (2020)
With the way we’re going forward, the possibility of us turning out like ‘Time to Hunt’s grimly realized fantasy is quite high. The makers get almost everything right, from the apathetic people to ravished sub-urbs placing their protagonists with little or no motivations to avoid prison. In a place where human decency holds receding value, the group, released from prison, plans to execute one final heist before disembarking on different paths.
Related to Korean Movies on Netflix – The Best Films of 2020
Although successful in their attempt, they’re hunted, one by one by a mercenary who won’t stop at anything. The character-driven plot is intense and filled with high-octane action sequences. As far as Korean movies of 2020 are concerned, the Netflix film ‘Time to Hunt’ ticks all boxes of escapist blockbuster cinema, compromising only a bit in character exposition or including and interesting themes that could have been explored with more patience and focus.
Watch Time to Hunt on Netflix
6. #Alive (2020)
When it comes to the zombie genre, ‘Train to Busan’ really doesn’t have a match. The emotional depth of the script, the relentless zombie attacks, and the thrilling action sequences filmed with realistic time-space initials all add up to a phenomenal experience. ‘#Alive’ takes a different tangent in terms of the setting and the pace, although the overarching theme of a zombie infestation remains the same. John-woo’s neighborhood gets infected with a strange virus that turns humans into flesh-hunting zombies. John gets trapped in his apartment and does his best to communicate with the outside world and arrange a rescue mission. When he hears his family’s final recorded message, John attempts suicide only to see a ray of light in an opposite building.
Similar to Korean Movies on Netflix –Train to Busan  – A High-Speed Ride with the Undead
There are obvious references to the quarantine life induced by the Corona pandemic in John’s solitude. He relishes life in the trappings of his modernist apartment initially. But after a point in time, the lifestyle becomes monotonous and he stumbles upon more “exciting” adventures around him. ‘Alive’ not only deliberates the impact of fear, loneliness, and the millennial condition in contemporary times but also provides solid entertainment and an engaging story.
Watch #Alive on Netflix
5. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)
Like exploring the afterlife? Check. Like big-budget productions with lavish sets and grandiose visuals? Check. Like exploring your own soul through that of a fictional character? Check. If you’ve also checked all the three criteria, ‘Along with the Gods 2’ is definitely your cup of tea. Stretched into two parts, the film charts the journey of a fallen fireman through the afterlife where he’s escorted by three of its guardians. They are tasked with defending him in multiple indictments of acts committed by him while on earth. Both the parties gain if his case is pleaded successfully; the guardians score life-saving points (see what I did there?) and the fireman will be resuscitated. His heroic image, though, conceals a rotting secret that he never wants to let out.
Related to Korean Movies on Netflix – Here’s Why the Ending of The Shape of Water Doesn’t Work
The way the fireman’s story unfurls presents an exciting opportunity for director Kim Yong-hwa to build up the film’s emotional appeal. The film’s imagination runs ragged, including in its realm almost everything that could possibly affect someone’s life. Despite its driven attention to the story, ‘Along with the Gods’ leaves the fate of its lead in the viewer’s hands leaving it up to them to pass judgment.
Watch Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds on Netflix
4. Forgotten (2017)
Jang Hang-jun’s ‘Forgotten’ is replete with unexpected plot twists and a compelling story that keeps you hooked. In his trademark lyrical style, Hang-jun tells the story of a 41-year old man living as a teenager with his pretend family. As he grows suspicious of his situation, he further probes and realizes a horrible truth about his past life. There’s never a still moment in the film. Hang-jun keeps the viewer on edge with constant new information and multiple plot-endings.
‘Forgotten’ boasts of an innovative plot and near-perfect execution both in terms of style and substance. The clever direction takes you to different places in your mind as you watch on, thus keeping the mystery at its core intact until the very end. ‘Forgotten’ adds another dimension to innovation in storytelling, something that Korean films redefine with every new venture.
Watch Forgotten On Netflix
3. High Society (2018)
‘High Society’ ponders upon the price one pays to sell one’s soul to gain in life. The philosophy behind the premise of the film is mirrored in real-life in the upper echelon of our society. Dark, rotting truths behind great success stories and the elusive ‘dream life’ we all aspire for are not pleasant. They’re kept buried and the powerful exhort every resource dispensable to make sure they never come out. After saving a man from a burning building, venerable Professor Jang dreams of a life as a politician. His wife Soo-yeon, deputy director of the gallery of contemporary art, pushes to further her own career by indulging in an affair. The two loose sight of themselves as they’re sucked in by the grandiosity of the world in front of them.
There is a lot of erotic content in the film. Director Hyuk Byun, who also wrote the film, never quite manages to rise beyond the typecasted genre tropes that have been explored before. There’s little innovation in terms of character detailing and storytelling, which leaves the two leads with a lot of responsibility. Soo Ae and Park Hae-il are up to the task and evolve their chemistry and dynamic with admirable subtlety and nuance for the third act. Byun, though, sticks to the philosophical complication he presents until the very end. ‘High Society’ probes the moral compass within you and draws it against the most irresistible thing in the world – desire – and provides ample food for thought but suffers from mediocre execution.
Watch/Stream High Society on Netflix
2. The Call (2020)
Kim comes back to stay at her childhood house while visiting her sick mother. After discovering she has lost her phone, Kim ventures around the house and stumbles upon a landline. She receives regular calls from a strange woman, Young-sook, who’s supposedly living in the same house a couple of decades ago. At first sceptical, Kim starts to believe the woman after she saves Kim’s father from a childhood accident. She lives in the altered timeline but is unaware of a jealous Young-sook plotting against her. They wage a war that travels across timelines and with them changes the landscape of their existence.
Related to Korean Movies on Netflix – The Call  Netflix Review: When Present and Past Collide in a Hopeless World
While ‘Call’ is definitely engaging as a sci-fi thriller, it comes with a few fundamental flaws. The plausibility of the premise is one issue. There’s no explanation whatsoever as to how the two protagonists were able to communicate and how the past can alter the present. Due to the limited nature of the idea, the ending, at least before the credits rolled in, was predictable. However, ‘Call’ leaves nothing to chance and whims of the viewer and delivers an enjoyable cinematic experience owing to superlative performances and a fast-paced narrative.
Watch The Call on Netflix
1. The Host (2006)
‘The Host’, at least for the initial few minutes, plays out like a dysfunctional symphony that seems restless and attuned to follow the beat. Once it gets its claws hooked in, there’s no turning back. Bong Joon-ho collaborates with regular Song Kang-ho on the film.
The plot revolves around a mysterious amphibian creature who emerges from the river and disappears from the scene with the daughter of Park Gang-du, the central point in the film. He, along with his family, embark on a rescue mission amidst growing incidents of the monster’s sighting. ‘The Host’ ebbs and flows in the lavish and grand vision of director Bong. The filmmaker articulates a battle against the odds brimming with high-intensity drama and tastefully curated set pieces. The urgency in the film’s events and the purity of motivations of the characters go hand in hand to amplify the film’s cinematic impact.
Similar to Korean Movies on Netflix – The 30 films of the 21st Century
Much like Steven Spielberg, director Bong creates magical moments, the ones that run through your body like electricity in a live wire. The film is a memorable experience and stays on Netflix as a film produced almost a decade and a half ago for good reason.