Netflix’s smash show Squid Game has quickly become a sensation, gaining millions of viewers since its release and being watched in over 90 countries. For many, Gi-hun’s deadly game show run has been an introduction to Korean entertainment. Just like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite did in 2019, Squid Game has knocked down the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles and opened a door up for fans around the world.
For those looking for a crash course in Korean cinema or simply yearning for more of Squid Game‘s biggest stars, there’s plenty of fantastic films to choose from when it comes to South Korea’s movie exports.
10 New World Features Gi-hun At His Gangster Movie Best
Lee Jung-jae’s captivating performance as Gi-hun in Squid Game will likely have left many fans wanting to see more from the immensely talented actor, and Park Hoon-jung’s masterful gangster thriller New World is the perfect next step when diving into Lee’s filmography.
The Squid Game star in a vastly different role from Player 456 should be enough to get fans intrigued, yet New World is not just one of Korea’s greatest gangster flicks, it’s one of the finest to come from any nation in recent years.
9 Sympathy For Mr. Vengeace Is A Harrowing Look At Organ Trafficking
Squid Game‘s organ trafficking subplot made for some fascinating and disturbing scenes, but for any viewer looking to dive into a deeper, more harrowing tale centered around the issue, the first installment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy may be just what the doctor ordered.
Gripping and littered with the blackest of humor, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeace is the gruesome story of a deaf-mute factory worker who kidnaps his boss’s daughter in the hopes of using the ransom money to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. Things do not go to plan, and what follows is a spectacularly gruesome movie about revenge and the lengths people will go to in order to survive.
8 Miracle In Cell No. 7 Is A Tremendously Heartwarming Father-Daughter Tale
Seven truly is the lucky number for this heartfelt and touching comedy-drama, Miracle In Cell No.7. It currently sits in seventh place in the list of highest-grossing domestic movies in South Korea.
Unforgettable emotionally and at times heartwarmingly funny, the film is based on the true-to-life tale of a mentally disabled man wrongly convicted of a horrendous crime in the 1970s. Miracle In Cell No.7 received a plethora of award nominations and is an excellent choice when it comes to Korean films of the more feel-good variety.
7 Train To Busan Pits The Salesman Against The Undead
Though he only appeared in two scenes, Gong Yoo certainly made an impression on any Squid Game fan with his showing as The Salesman. Remarkably charismatic and eerie at the same time, his performance played a huge part in stepping up the stakes in the early hours of Netflix’s smash hit show.
Gong Yoo is known to many as a passenger on cinema’s deadliest high-speed train ride. Train To Busan is one of the most intense and emotional zombie movies any horror fan can feast their eyes on, and Gong’s cynical workaholic lead character is not so far removed from the man that made the offer Gi-hun couldn’t refuse.
6 I Saw The Devil Is A Masterpiece Of Suspense And Style
The man behind the Frontman mask was a familiar face to many, Lee Byung-hun is one of South Korea’s most acclaimed and respected actors. The prolific star has even made his mark on Hollywood, appearing in Terminator: Genisys, 2016’s The Magnificent Seven, and the G.I. Joe series.
I Saw The Devil is one of Lee’s finest cinematic outings. Frequently cited as one of Korea’s greatest movies, the thriller sees Lee on the hunt for a serial killer responsible for the death of his wife. With Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame playing the psychopathic murderer and direction from the great Kim Jee-woon, I Saw The Devil is a must-watch for any fan of Korean cinema.
5 Burning Is One Of Korea’s Best Movies Of Recent Years
Lee Chang-dong’s psychological thriller became the first Korean film to make it to the final nine-film shortlist at the Academy Awards, and it accomplished this one year before Parasite took home the statue.
Highly acclaimed and adored, Burning stars Yoo Ah-in and Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead fame. Fitting with its title, the 2018 movie is a slow-burn exploration of jealousy and revenge that becomes increasingly uncomfortable to watch, yet somehow remains impossible to look away from.
4 Mother Is Motherly Love On A Dangerous Level
If Gi-hun’s and Sang-woo’s relationships with their mothers in Squid Game were dysfunctional, Bong Joon-ho has a movie to seriously shake that perspective up. Mother is all about a protective mother’s quest to clear her intellectually disabled son’s name, and throughout her investigation, she loses grip on her reality, as well as on her morals.
Actress Kim Hye-ja had something of a reputation as Korea’s surrogate mom within media, so Bong Joon-ho decided to shatter this image by casting her in his thriller, and Kim won herself international acclaim for her performance as the unhinged parent.
3 Few Films Capture Inner Turmoil As Perfectly As Joint Security Area
Another Park Chan-wook masterpiece and another thriller starring the mysterious Frontman Lee Byung-hun, Joint Security Area revolves around a fatal shooting at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, but the real beauty of the film lies in the relationships between the characters on opposite sides of the heavily fortified border.
Korea’s all-time highest-grossing movie upon its release in 2000, Joint Security Area is both gripping and heartbreaking and offers viewers a startling look at life beside the bridge of no return.
2 The Man From Nowhere Is A Heart-Poundingly Intense Action Thriller
A brutal and unrelenting action thriller, The Man From Nowhere draws favorable comparisons to the likes of John Wick. Its action sequences are breathtaking, and its main character is a quiet, charismatic killing machine.
Won Bin stars in one of his select few movie roles, and with stylish direction and a sharp emotional script from Lee Jeong-beom, The Man From Nowhere assaults the senses as hard as it pulls the heartstrings.
1 Memories Of Murder Is Possibly The Greatest Korean Movie Ever Made
Years before Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite took the world by storm, the masterful director gifted the world this cinematic treasure. Quite simply one of South Korea’s greatest ever movies, Memories of Murder is a crime thriller with few equals. A darkly humorous mystery that manages to retain fist-clenching levels of tension throughout, the 2003 movie is packed with refreshingly human characters and tells a story as fascinating as it is frustrating.
Song Kang-ho steals the show with a typically electric performance as one of the lead detectives following the breadcrumbs left by South Korea’s first confirmed serial murderer. Memories of Murder is without doubt one to remember, and to many, this movie is the perfect starting point when it comes to the nation’s cinematic exports.
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