The 40 Best Korean Movies of the 21st Century


Korea has not been left out in the best 21st-century movies contest.

Arguably, Koreans produce quality movies with an extraordinary masterwork. Besides, they are unpredictable and uncountable.

Most of these films are available on Netflix. However, if Netflix is not available, you can use a VPN to access the best movies regardless of the country in which you are. So, whether you are a binge-watcher or a seasonal viewer, you will enjoy the below list of the best Korean movies of all time.

Lucid Dream (2017)

Director: Joon-Sung Kim

Writers: Joon-Sung Kim

Cast: Go Soo, Kang Hye-jungSol Kyung-gu

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10

Dae-ho’s son is abducted, and he is concerned it’s an act of revenge from his corrupt businessmen and politicians’ enemies. After three years and no avail to get his son, Dae-ho thinks of using lucid dreams as a way to relieve vital memories. With the help of his doctor, they get a new trail from his lucid dream.

Burning (2018)

Director: Chang-dong Lee

Writers: Chang-dong Lee, Jungmi Oh, Haruki Murakami

Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-Seo, Steven Yeun

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Lee Jong-Su, a deliveryman in Paju, meets his childhood friend Shin Hae-mi. They talk of their past, and Shin tells Lee of her trip to Africa. Shin requests him to feed her cat while away. But in return, things change. Burning is one of the best Korean movies well written, with unbeatable performances and undeniable masterpieces.

The Handmaiden (2016)

Director: Park Chan-Wook

Writers: Park Chan-Wook, Sarah Waters, Seo-kyeong

Cast: Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri, Cho Jin-woong

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

A con man ( Fujiwara) plans to seduce and marry a Japanese lady( Hideko) to steal her inheritance. He employs Sook-hee to become Hideko’s maid and lure her into marrying the con man. Sook –hee helps Hideko read books for his uncle Kouzuki guests, without Hideko knowing the secret to defraud her.

The Great Battle (2018)

Director: Kwang-shik Kim

Writers: Park Sung-woong, Park Sung-woong, Kwang-shik Kim

Cast: Jo In-sung, Park Sung-woong, Nam Joo-hyuk

IMDb rating: 7.1/10

Taizong manages to invade Goguryeo, having an initial target in the Ansi fortress. After winning a significant attack, he then besieges Ansi. Yang Manchun leads the battle.

The great battle is one of the best Korean action movies that give the audience great excitement to learn about Korean history.

Parasite (2019)

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Bong Joon Ho, Jin-won Han

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-Shik, Jang Hye-jin, Lee Sun-Kyun

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Kim’s family lives in a simple apartment. They struggle to make ends meet, with low-paying jobs joining pizza boxes. However, Kim’s son Ki-woo’s friend comes with a game-changer, a rock that would make the wealth. KI-woo pretends to be a University student and later gets a job there.

Rampant (2018)

Director: Sung-hoon Kim

Writers: Shin-Yeon Won, Jo-Yun Hwang, Hwang Jo Yoon

Cast: Jang Dong-gun, Hyun Bin

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

King Lee Jo’s son plans to buy European arquebuses to move away from the Qing, who seems excessively different from his father. However, his plan is exposed by Kin Ja-Joon, who was a war minister. The minister holds power over the king but takes this as an insurgence. The son later commits suicide to spare his subordinates.

Peninsula (2020

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Writers: Sang-ho Yeon, Ryu Yong-jae

Cast: Gang Dong-won, Lee Re, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

The government in South Korea becomes overwhelmed in a single day by a zombie outbreak. When Jung-Seok and his family board a ship, they encounter a couple with a young child on the way who pleads for help. If you love the best Korean horror movies, Peninsula is a perfect choice.

Ayla:The Daughter of War(2017)

Director: Can Ulkay

Writer: Yigit Güralp

Cast: Çetin Tekindor, İsmail Hacıoğlu, Kim Seol, Damla Sönmez, Ali Atay

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

The United States calls for help from Turkey. A Brigade is sent to South Korea to fight back the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. Luckily, Sergeant Suleyman finds a half-frozen little girl whose parents had been massacred on the night battleground. The Sergeant saves the girl and names her Ayla.

The Villainess (2017)

Director: Byung-gil Jung

Writers: Byung-gil Jung, Byeong-sik Jung

Cast: Kim Ok-vin, Shin Ha-kyun

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

A trained assassin gets in a hallway with a gun and knives and kills numerous people. No sooner than he finds himself surrounded by cops. The killer undergoes plastic surgery and, while recuperating, has a flashback and recalls an unnamed man was trying to resuscitate a lady. For those who love the best Korean action movies, the Villainess has significant actions.

Memories of Murder (2003)

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Sung-bo Shim, Bong Joon Ho, Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Park Hae-il, Kim Sang-kyung, Byun Hee-bong, Kim Roi-ha

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Local detectives struggle with a case of two women who were raped and murdered in Oct 1986. The evidence collected is vague. But the detective claims he can detect the suspect through eye contact. The movie is among the best Korean movies ever made.

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Director: Park Chan-Wook

Writer: Park Chan-Wook

Cast: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-Sik

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Lee Geum-Ja is released from prison after being wrongfully imprisoned. The accusation was that she had kidnapped and murdered a 6-year-old school-going boy. Due to the spiritual transformation, Lee is released earlier than expected, ready to take revenge on the real murderer. The spiritual confirmation was a mask to help her earn a favor.

Midnight (2021)

Director: Oh-Seung Kwon

Writer: Oh-Seung Kwon

Cast: Jin Ki-Joo, Gil Hae-Yeon, Wi Ha-Joon, Kim Hye-Yoon

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Jin Ki-Joo is deaf and works at a sign language center as a counselor. One night she witnesses the murder of Kim Hye-Yoon and becomes the next target. Wi Ha-Joon, the Hyde serial killer, plans a silent search. Midnight is one of the best Korean movies in 2021, with the best acting traits for those who love serial killer thrillers.

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil (2019)

Director: Won-Tae Lee

Writer: Won-Tae Lee

Cast: Ma Dong-seok, Kim Sung-kyu, Kim Mu-yeol, Yoon Je-moon

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

A man gets down to take pictures of his damaged car after a crash with a stranger. But the stranger kills him. When Jung Tae-Suk investigates the crime scene, he quickly learns the work to be of a serial killer. The movie is one of the best Korean movies based on a true story.

Mother (2009)

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Kim Hye-Ja, Won Bin

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Yoon Do-Joon has an intellectual disability. His window mother tries to protect him when he takes revenge on a car that hit him. Do-Joon is sued, and the mother, who only sells medicinal herbs for a living, struggles to pay the debts. The mother also conducts unlicensed treatment to the women in town.

Ode to My Father (2014)

Director: JK Youn

Writers: JK Youn, Su-jin Park

Cast:Hwang Jung-min, Yunjin Kim

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Thousands of refugees were transported by the U.S navy boats. Due to the commotion, Deok-soo loses his sister, but his father is left behind looking for her. The father wants Deok-soo to take care of other siblings and take them to Busan. He becomes the head of the family at a young age.

Extreme Job (2019)

Director: Byeong-heon Lee

Writer: Se-Yeong Bae

Cast: Ryu Seung-Yong, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Hanee, Jin Seon-kyu

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

A group of young narcotics is on their last chance after failing their previous mission. Their test is to carry out undercover surveillance of those dealing with drugs. Unfortunately, one of their hideout location (Chicken restaurant) is about to go out of business. But the group decides to purchase the restaurant.

The Wailing (2016)

Director: Na Hong-jin

Writer: Na Hong-jin

Cast: Kwak Do-won, Chun Woo-hee

Hwang Jung-min

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

A stranger arrives at Gokseong, and a mysterious disease strikes the village. The villagers become deranged and start killing their families. Finally, a policeman swears to solve the mystery to save his daughter. The Wailing is one of the best Korean movies known for its treatment of those who seem disappointed by lack of faith.

Pandora (2016)

Director: Park Jung-woo

Writers: Jung-Woo Park, Jeong-woo Park

Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Kim Ju-Hyeon, Kim Young-ae

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Jae-hyeok is an employee at a local power plant that is the sole provider of energy for most of the jobs in the town. But he decides to leave the town to work on a fishing vessel to get bread for his family. However, all those he knew discouraged him from the move.

The Age of Shadows (2016)

Director: Jee-Woon Kim

Writers: Park Jong-dae, Lee Ji-min

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Uhm Tae-goo, Gong Yoo, Shin Sung-rok, Han Ji-min

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

The Japanese colonial government charges Lee Jung chool from joining the country’s resistance movement. It’s no wonder Lee Jung has a history of exchanging his people to get a superior position with the Japanese. The Age of Shadows is one of the best Korean movies on Netflix.

New World (2005)

Director: Park Hoon-Jung

Writer: Park Hoon-jung

Cast:Lee Jung-jae, Choi Min-sik, Park Sung-woong, Song Ji-hyoHwang Jung-min

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Leung jae works as an undercover cop in the Goldmoon International crime company. But he is always at risk of discovery. The chief promises to reassign Lee Jung Jae, but the promise never comes to pass; this makes him threaten to quit the cop work. Unfortunately, the chief threatens to reveal Lee Jung’s real identity.

Sweet & sour (2021)

Director: Kae-Byeok Lee

Writer: Lee Gye-Wook, Kurumi Inui

Cast: Jang Ki-yong, Krystal Jung, Chae Soo-bin

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Hyuk is diagnosed with Hepatitis B. While other patients avoid him, his parents also keep their distance. But Chae Soo-bin, a nurse in the hospital, chooses to ignore them and takes care of Hyuk. Sweet & Sour is one best Korean movies in 2021 for those who love long-distance relationships.

Mission Possible (2021)

Director: Kim Hyeong-Joo

Writer: Kim Hyeong-Joo

Cast: Kim Young-Kwang, Lee Sun-bin

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

A secret agent gets into a mission of gathering intelligence information about the illegal smuggling of firearms brought to Korea. Another detective ( Kim Young-Kwang) joins the rig but has no experience. He also fights small issues, which complicates things when the witnesses are found murdered. This makes them become suspects of illegal firearms.

A Taxi driver (2017)

Director: Hun Jang

Writer: Yu-na Eom

Cast: Thomas Kretschmann, Song Kang-ho

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Kim works as a taxi driver in Seoul. One day he overhears a fellow taxi driver talking of his foreign client who wants to travel to Gwangju before the curfew. He plans to steal the client (Peter). Kim lures Peter to get into his taxi and drive off to Gwangju, but the road is manned by soldiers.

The Housemaid (2010)

Director: I’m Sang-soo

Writer: Kim Ki-young, Im Sang-soo

Cast: Jeon Do-Yeon, Seo Woo, Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Jung-Jae

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

A young woman jumps off a building and dies. Eun-Ji persuades her roommate and colleague to drive her to the suicidal scene. Eun-Yi is later hired to take care of Haera’s daughter. She bonds with the baby, but Haera’s husband wins her with wine, and they later get into a relationship.

High Society (2018)

Director: Hyuk Byun

Writer: Hyuk Byun

Cast: Park Hae-il, Soo Ae

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

A couple yearns to join the uber-elite class. The wife is at the top of the social ladder, working as a deputy director and taking part in an art gallery. The husband is a renowned professor at Seoul National University and wants to vie for a seat at the National Assembly. The film is among the best Korean movies on Netflix.

The Beauty Inside (2015)

Director: Jong-Yeol Baek

Writers: Seon-Jeong Kim, Kyung-hee Noh, Jeong-ye Park

Cast:Han Hyo-joo, Kim Dae-myung, Lee Dong-hwi, Choi Yong-min

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Woo-jin wakes up one day to see a face and body that doesn’t belong to him. He is shocked with no words, and when he confronts his mother, she accepts him regardless of his appearance. His mother and his best friend help Woo-jin cope up with the condition.

Right now, Wrong Then (2015)

Director: Hong Sang-soo.

Writer: Hong Sang-soo.

Cast: Jung Jae-young, Kim Min-hee, Youn Yuh-jung

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

A film director travels to Suwon for one of his film screenings. On his way, he spies a pretty girl. He meets the girl again in a temple blessing hall. After his introduction, the girl agrees to join him in a coffee shop. He goes with the girl to his studio and watches her paint.

Dark Figure of Crime (2018)

Director: Tae-Gyun Kim

Writer: Kyung-taek Kwak, Tae-gyun Kim

Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Ju Ji-hoon

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Kim meets with Kang, but as they chat together in a restaurant, Kang is arrested for killing his girlfriend. He accepts the charges and is put to jail. Later he is accused of killing six other people. The film is one of the best Korean movies with sturdy acting and directing. Also, it mixed with great suspense.

The Bow (2005)

Director: Kim Ki-Duk

Writer: Kim Ki-Duk

Cast: Han Yeo-reum, Seo Ji-Seok, Jeon Seong-Hwang

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

An elderly man works at a fishing plea with the help of a 16 years old girl. She has been the guardian since the girl was six years old. They plan to marry when she gets to 17, not knowing the girl’s parents are searching for her. The girl believes the old man is everything to her.

Hotel By The River (2018)

Director: Sang-soo Hong

Writer: Sang-soo Hong

Cast: Gi Ju-bong, Kwon Hae-Hyo, Song Seon-mi Kim Min-hee

IMDb rating: 6.7/10

Young-Hwan’s sons visit him in a hotel situated at the Han River. But the sons seem to be jealous of one another. The father falls asleep in different parts of the hotel room while they continue waiting for him. The film is among the best Korean movies on Netflix.

Secret Sunshine (2007)

Director: Chang-dong Lee

Writer: Chang-dong Lee, Chung-Joon Lee

Cast: Jeon Do-yeon, Song Kang-ho

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Jeon Do-Yeon moves to a new town with her child after her husband dies. She decides to start a new life where her deceased husband lived, but her car breaks down while going to the town. And when she called a mechanic, they immediately connect and get comfort from each other though from different backgrounds.

The Battle of Jangsari(2019)

Directors: Kwak Kyung-taek, Kim Tae-hoon

Writers: Lee Man-Hee, Jung Tae-Won

Cast: Kim Myung-min, Choi Min-ho, Megan Fox

IMDb rating: 6.2/10

A group of student soldiers is tasked with enacting a diversionary mission based in South Korea. But due to lack of training, the soldiers struggle their way out in an attempt to accomplish the mission. The Battle of Jangsari is one best Korean action movies with good acting and drama.

Like You Know It All (2009)

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Writer: Hong Sang-soo

Cast: Kim Tae-woo, Uhm Ji-won, Go Hyun-jung

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Goo goes to judge a local film festival, but he does seem to get a good hit. However, the critics are still in love with him. Jurors are fond of drinking and sleeping through the movies. He meets up with a friend, drinks alcohol until he passes out. And end up offending his friend’s wife.

Swing Kids (2018)

Director: Kang Hyeong-Cheol

Writer: Kang Hyeong-Cheol

Cast: Doh Kyung-soo, Jared Grimes, Park Hye-Su, Kim Min-ho, Oh Jung-Se

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

A North Korean soldier ( Do Kyung-soo) is thrilled with tap dancing. This is after a meeting with an American officer (Jared Grimes). Oh, Jung-Se conducts an audition for the dancing company in an attempt to find his wife. Swing Kids is among the best Korean movies on Netflix.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013)

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Writer: Hong Sang-soo

Cast: Jung Eun-chae, Lee Sun-kyun

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Kim-Ja-ok is on his way to lunch when she meets with (Jane Burkin) a French actress-singer. She later gets her autograph, and the actress claims how Kim-Ja ok looks like; that’s with her daughter. But the meeting later turns out to be a dream, one that the actress is believed to have shown in the film.

Hill of Freedom(2014)

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Writer: Hong Sang-soo

Cast: Ryo Kase, Moon So-ri

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Teacher Mori lands in Seoul searching for Kwon, whom she fell in love with some years back. He resides at a guest house hoping to see her, where he is befriended by the guest owner. Hill of Freedom is one of the best Korean movies,  which is quite funny and never offers the audience a dull moment.

The Unjust (2010)

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan

Writer: Park Hoon-jung

Cast: Hwang Jung-min, Yoo Hae-jin, Ryoo Seung-bum

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Five schoolgirls are raped, and the crime disheartens the whole country. The cops gun down one suspect. But the suspect is not proved guilty, which upsets the public. They believe the real culprit may be still in the game, who is believed to be a former child rapist. The Unjust is one best Korean movies on Netflix.

Cold Eyes (2013)

Directors: Cho Ui-Seok, Kim Byeong-SEO

Writer: Cho Ui-Seok

Cast: Sol Kyung-gu, Han Hyo-joo, Jung Woo-sung, Lee Junho, Jin Kyung

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Yoon-Joo is employed by a police division where she meets police officers who stay unarmed with no uniforms. Yoon- Joo joins the Hwang team that dwells solely on following criminals to get information rather than arresting them. But the team gets into trouble after failing to identify a ring of robbers.

Poetry (2010)

Director: Lee Chang-dong

Writer: Lee Chang-dong

Cast: Yoon Jeong-hee, Lee David, Kim Hee-ra

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Children play on the river bank, where they note a girl’s body with a school uniform floating on water. When Yoon Jeon-hee visits the hospital, she comes across a woman who claims her daughter has drowned in the river. When the teacher is asked about the student, he claims he doesn’t know her.

Infinite (2021)

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Ian Shorr

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Jason Mantzoukas, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rupert Friend

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

Heinrich jumps from his car into thin air and lands on a crane 150 feet away. But later discovers he has hallucinations from the past. Infinite is one best Korean movies in 2021 that deals with the lives of people who seem to have the ability to live forever.

Even though Hollywood films have their own place in our hearts, Korean movies aren’t very far behind on the likable scale. If anything, some of the best Korean movies have attracted a large fan-following, that’s for not just movies, shows too! We hope you like the selection of movies on this list!

Joshua Garner

Joshua calls himself nerd+geek who is also passionate about football. He enjoys comics, animes, and science fiction. He finds his comfort in writing about suspense, thrillers and science fiction shows and movies.

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