With the sudden popularity of the Netflix show, Squid Game, many people are being introduced to Korean filmmaking for the first time. The idea of a movie with subtitles or that takes place in an unfamiliar place can be off-putting for some, but once everyone realizes there are decades of great Korean movies out there that match the quality and storytelling of Western filmmaking, they’ll wish they jumped on board earlier. Whether you’re a Korean movie veteran or just starting out, here are five excellent Korean movies on Netflix right now.
Unique zombie movies are hard to come by these days, with most of them often feeling oversaturated and uninspired. However, #Alive, released in 2020 and directed by Il Cho, managed to stand out against the rest. Joon-woo, a social media influencer, finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and trapped in his apartment. Alone and without a way to contact the outside world, Joon-woo discovers Kim Yoo-bin, a girl living in the apartment building opposite, and together, they communicate and share resources. While the idea of a social media influencer in a zombie apocalypse may sound cheesy, #Alive does a great job of exploring themes of isolation and despair.
Directed by Lee Chung-hyun, The Call is a tense and unique mystery thriller released in 2020 that deals with the ideas of time travel, but not how people are used to it being depicted. 28-year-old Kim Seo-yeon finds a phone at her childhood home and receives a call, with the person on the other end claiming to be a young girl calling from 20 years in the past. However, in an attempt to help the girl in the past, Kim Seo-yeon reveals information about her future, which, in turn, starts affecting the present. The Call puts a fun spin on time travel, turning from a harmless chat between two people to a suspenseful thriller about the consequences of changing the past.
The Drug King
For those that enjoy gangster movies that explore the world of crime, The Drug King is a must-watch. Directed by Min-ho Woo, it follows Lee Doo-sam, a drug smuggler with the goal of building a drug empire in the Busan underworld. It’s satisfying to watch the lengths Lee Doo-sam will go to gain power and avoid Kim In-goo, a prosecutor aiming to take him down. The Drug King takes advantage of the 1970’s setting with its stylish design and offers a good amount of action on top of the nail-biting drama.
Korean cinema isn’t full of superhero movies like Western entertainment, and its takes on the genre usually feel somewhat different. One example is Psychokinesis, which was released in 2018 and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Security guard Shin Seok-heon gains telekinesis from a fallen meteor and struggles to become the unlikely hero of the city. The film focuses on Shin Seok-heon’s personal relationships, and instead of fighting off some monster or a villainous counterpart, he protects a local market from a mob turf war. There’s a nice charm to the relatively small scale of Psychokinesis that makes the comedy of a clumsy security guard contrast well with the harsh world of mobsters and injustice.
If you’re looking for something more light-hearted to sit back and laugh to, then The Bros has you covered. Directed by Chang You-jeong, this 2017 comedy sees two very different brothers reunite for their father’s funeral, each with a different goal in mind. One aims to search their family’s land for buried treasure, while the other plans to convince their family to sell the land. As the brothers are forced to work together to prepare for the funeral, their relationship is challenged as they attempt to reconnect with one another, all while finding themselves in hilariously outlandish situations.