Korean Movies 101


Soompi has put together a list of must-see Korean films–your Korean movie staples, if you will. These films have received international critical acclaim and are beloved by fans. Our recommendations are broken up into four categories: Thrillers, Action, Dramas and Romantic Comedies. You can find most of these films with English subtitles on Netflix or YouTube. For more great Korean movie and drama recommendations and discussion, check out Soompi’s Korean Drama and Movies forum! Leave a comment with your own recommendations!


Old Boy (2003)

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in 5 days. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.

The Man From Nowhere (2010)

A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug- and organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.

The Host (2006)

A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people. One victim’s loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.


JSA (2000)

In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 remaining bullets in the assassin’s magazine clip, amount to 16 bullets for a gun that should normally hold 15 bullets. The investigating Swiss/Swedish team from the neutral countries overseeing the DMZ suspects that another, unknown party was involved – all of which points to some sort of cover up. The truth is much simpler and much more tragic. (IMDB)
War of the Arrows (2011)

Set during the second Manchu invasion of Korea, Nam Yi, the best archer in Korea, goes up against the Qing Dynasty to save his younger sister Ja In – who was dragged away by Manchurian. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008)

The story of two outlaws and a bounty hunter in 1940s Manchuria and their rivalry to possess a treasure map while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.


The Way Home (2002)

Seven-year-old Sang-woo is left with his grandmother in a remote village while his mother looks for work. Born and raised in the city, Sang-woo quickly comes into conflict with his old-fashioned grandmother and his new rural surroundings. Disrespectful and selfish, Sang-woo lashes out in anger, perceiving that he has been abandoned. He trades his grandmother’s only treasure for a video game; he throws his food and he throws tantrums. When Sang-woo’s mother finds work and finally returns for him, Sang-woo has become a different boy. Through his grandmother’s boundless patience and devotion, he learns to embrace empathy, humility and the importance of family. (IMDB)

The Classic

Shy Ji-hae’s friend is having problems expressing her feelings to the boy she loves, so she asks Ji-hae to write e-mails to him in her name. As the boy falls in love with her letters, Ji-hae discovers the story of her mother’s romance which is remarkably similar to her own circumstances. (IMDB)


17-year-old Wan-Deuk comes from a poor family and his grades in school are equally poor. He is a rebellious and troubled student, but he never loses in fights. Wan-Deuk then meets teacher Dong-Joo. At first, Dong-Joo and Wan-Deuk are like enemies, but Wan-Deuk grows to like him. Meanwhile, Dong-Joo cares for and seems to understand Wan-Deuk. Wan-Deuk takes up kick-boxing and through the sport grows as a person and also develops a dream. (IMDB)

Available on Netflix.

Romantic Comedies

My Sassy Girl (2001)

Based on a series of true stories posted by Ho-sik Kim on the Internet describing his relationship with his girlfriend. These were later transformed into a best-selling book and the movie follows the book closely. It describes the meeting of Kyun-woo (Cha) and an unnamed girl. Kyun-woo is shamed into assisting the girl because the other passengers mistakenly think she is his girlfriend. Once he helps her, Kyun-woo develops a deep sense of responsibility for her which enables him to tolerate (somehow) the girl’s abuses. (IMDB)

200 Pounds of Beauty

Hanna is the famous Korean pop singer. She suffers from having extremely poor self-esteem, as she has been ignored because of her appearance. At last, she makes the decision of a lifetime to have full-body plastic surgery. (IMDB)

100 Days with Mr. Arrogant

Ha-yeong is dumped by her boyfriend on the 100th day of their relationship, an important milestone for every couple. Hyeong-jun is a wealthy and handsome man who melts women wherever he goes, but is not interested in dating. One day, as the later is driving his luxury car, the two will meet. Disgruntled by her recent rejection, Ha-yeong kicks a soda can out of frustration, which finds its way onto Hyeong-jun’s head. Startled by the impact, he loses control of his car and scratches it against a wall. When Ha-yeong is unable to pay for the damages, he persuades her to repay him by signing a contract that binds her to his service for 100 days. What happens next is strictly by the (silly) book and inevitably, they both start having feelings for one another. (IMDB)