It’s already been over a month since “Reply 1988” ended, but I’m still stuck in the world of high-waisted jeans, neighborhood pizza parties, and teenage hijinks created by the Ssangmundong gang and their families. Did the ending leave you craving more of the good ol’ days? Here are a few similarly nostalgic dramas and movies arranged by theme that may help you overcome the void left by “Reply 1988.”
Note: Content below contains spoilers for “Reply 1988,” so finish all those episodes before reading below!
A big part of the “Reply” magic is the attention to detail in creating the ’80s atmosphere through its cultural references and fashion statements. Cue bobs, Nike, and oversized jackets. You can see it also in the Korean movie “Sunny,” where the ’80s references are equally on point. It’s a showdown of dance moves and friendship between “Reply 1988“‘s Sobangcha, comprised of Sun-woo, Jung-hwan, and Dong-ryong and a group of high school girls who collectively call themselves Sunny. This is a movie about friendship that you won’t forget, if not for the memorable ’80s title song “Sunny,” then for the reminder to stay “sunny” no matter what life puts you through.
Being friend-zoned is tough; being sibling-zoned is even harder. I totally didn’t expect the Bo-ra and Sun-woo loveline, but after seeing that moment when Sun-woo started to develop feelings for Bo-ra and how earnestly he pursued her, I couldn’t help but root for them. Can’t get enough of the Sunbora couple? Then try watching “Apple In Your Eye,” a Taiwanese drama about Zhou Ji-wei and Dai Yao-qi, two neighbors raised as siblings. Zhou Ji-wei is always there for Dai Yao-qi, whether it’s instinctively catching the box of cigarettes he throws at her or bravely declaring that his dad isn’t a liar in front of the neighborhood bullies. And even though Dai Yao-qi always complains about Zhou Ji-wei crying and following him around all the time, he always appears in front of her at the right time. Though the dynamics are reversed from the Sunbora couple, this is another siblings-turned-lovers couple that you can’t help but love.
Are we just friends or is there something more? Part of what makes “Reply 1988” so endearing is the strong bond of friendship between the kids who stick with each other through thick and thin. Of course, things get complicated when you add romance in the mix, but then it wouldn’t be a Korean drama if it didn’t. “The Way We Were” ups the angst by making it a love square instead of triangle. Starting in the summer of 1998 when five friends meet through a coincidence, the drama follows how the blurred lines morph between friendship and romance. What’s most refreshing about “The Way We Were” is its realistic portrayal of how these friendships and people continuously evolve as they enter different phases of life. Because who said you couldn’t be realistic in an Asian drama?
A “Reply” series wouldn’t be complete (or fun) without the series teasing us with the ultimate question – who’s the husband?! I’ll admit, I honestly thought Jung-hwan would end up with Deok-sun after all the hints. If you suffer from second-lead syndrome, you’ll enjoy “Our Times,” a Taiwanese movie that also likes to tease its audience with the husband hunting game. A cute, feel-good movie that would be perfect to watch with your bff or old classmates, it focuses on nerdy Lin Chen-hsien, a student who’s having more boy troubles than she thought. Will it be popular Ouyang Fei-fan or bad boy Hsu Tai-yu? Who’s the husband?!
One of my top three most memorable scenes of “Reply 1988” was Jung-hwan’s big confession-not-a-confession. After following him through all those years of crushing on Deok-sun, I couldn’t believe it ended like that! Sometimes though, you just know deep down inside that it’s never going to happen, and you have to let go. It totally reminded me of “You Are the Apple of My Eye”, a Taiwanese movie that transports you back to your embarrassing school days and inexperienced first loves. I’m not really sure who’s more frustrating, Jung-hwan and his cop out confession or Ko Ching-teng and his refusal to hear Shen Jia-yi’s answer for fear of rejection. I just know I’d gladly accept either of them any time.
The pillar of “Reply 1988” was the families that made up Ssangmundong. I cried the most in Sung Dong-il’s scenes with his children. Ra Mi-ran and Jung-hwan’s scenes are a close runner-up. “Story of Time” is a Taiwanese drama with the same deadpan humor and similar setup as “Reply 1988”, minus the black sheep. It too wins for making me cry the most in the family scenes, particularly troublemaker Tao Fu-ban’s firm devotion to his family, even if it made for some bad life choices and losing Wong Qian-qian. It’s a bit long at 54 episodes, but you’ll become as attached to the Zi Qiang Village gang as you are to the Ssangmundong gang. Nostalgic backdrop all grounded in the heart and soul of family? Yes, please!