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The Best South Korean New Wave Movies

“What are the best South Korean New Wave Movies?” We looked at 57 of the top South Korean New Wave films, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 30 films, all appearing on 2 or more “Best South Korean New Wave” movie lists, are ranked below by how many times they appear. The remaining 25+ movies, as well as the sources we used, are in alphabetical order on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 30 Best South Korean New Wave Movies Ever Made



30 .) A Dirty Carnival (2006) directed by Ha Yoo

A Dirty Carnival (2006)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

Byung-du is a 29-year-old career criminal, working for the middle-rank enforcer Sang-chul. Burdened with a terminally ill mother and taking care of younger siblings, Byung-du is feeling financial pressure as a substitute patriarch. When the big boss President Hwang is cornered by a corrupt prosecutor, Byung-du volunteers for a whack job and wins the big man’s trust.



29 .) Attack the Gas Station! (1999) directed by Sang-Jin Kim

Attack the Gas Station! (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

Attack the Gas Station! is a 1999 Korean crime-comedy film directed by Kim Sang-jin and written by Park Jung-woo. The film tells the story of a quartet of thugs who rob a gas station out of sheer boredom, having robbed it only a few days previously.



28 .) Friend (2001) directed by Kyung-taek Kwak

Friend (2001)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

Four childhood friends go their separate ways, two go off to college while the others become rival gangsters. The highest grossing film upon its release, this Korean crime saga stars international star Jang Dong-gun.



27 .) JSA: Joint Security Area (2000) directed by Park Chan-wook

JSA: Joint Security Area (2000)

Lists It Appears On:

  • The Culture Trip
  • White City Cinema

From the visionary director of Oldboy, Park Chan-wook, directs a twisty murder mystery set in the most dangerous border in the world – the DMZ which separates North and South Korea – where a young North Korean soldier is shot and killed.



26 .) Lady Vengeance (2005) directed by Park Chan-wook

Lady Vengeance (2005)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • White City Cinema

After being wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and murdering a young child, a beautiful young woman (Lee Yeong-ae) is imprisoned for 13 years and forced to give up her own daughter. While in prison she gains the respect and loyalty of her fellow cellmates, all the while plotting her vendetta on the man responsible (Oldboy’s Choi Min-Sik). Upon her release she sets in motion an elaborate plan of retribution, but what she discovers is a truth so horrifying, even revenge doesn’t seem punishment enough.



25 .) Poetry (2010) directed by Lee Chang-dong

Poetry (2010)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indiewire

Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Poetry is an “achingly exquisite portrait” (Philadelphia Inquirer) of a woman’s brave fight against Alzheimer¹s, and against her guilt over a relative’s brutal crime. This highly acclaimed Korean drama (100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) showcases a performance of “surpassing delicacy” (Los Angeles Times) by Yun Jung-hee, who was voted as her country’s greatest actress in a public poll.See More



24 .) Shiri (1999) directed by Je-kyu Kang

Shiri (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

North Korea’s 8th Special Forces hijacks a shipment of CTX, a potent new liquid explosive, and threatens South Korea as part of a plot to re-unify the two countries.Ryu and Lee, special agents of O.P., South Korea’s secret intelligence service, attempt to track down the terrorists and find the CTX. Meanwhile Hee, the 8th’s ultra-bad female sniper, resurfaces to wreak havoc and haunt Ryu.



23 .) Silmido (2003) directed by Woo-Suk Kang

Silmido (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

On 31 January 1968, 31 North Korean commandos infiltrated South Korea in a failed mission to assassinate President Park Chung-hee. In revenge, the South Korean military assembled a team of 31 criminals on the island of Silmido to kill Kim Il-sung for a suicide mission to redeem their honor, but was cancelled, leaving them frustrated. It is loosely based on a military uprising in the 1970s.



22 .) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) directed by Ki-duk Kim

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indiewire

An isolated lake, where an old monk lives in a small floating temple. The monk has a young boy living with him, learning to become a monk. We watch as seasons and years pass by.



21 .) Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004) directed by Je-kyu Kang

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2

When two brothers are forced to fight in the Korean War, the elder decides to take the riskiest missions if it will help shield the younger from battle.



20 .) Tale of Cinema (2005) directed by Hong Sang-soo

Tale of Cinema (2005)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

In Seoul, the paths of two men and one woman intersect and move apart from one another, centering around their love for cinema. A suicidal student meets a young woman who decides to follow him in his fatal gesture. Coming out of a cinema, Tongsu, an unsuccessful filmmaker, spots a beautiful young woman, and recognizes her : she is the main actress in the film he has just seen. The life of this wavering and distressed young man strangely echoes the one of the young man from the beginning… ×



19 .) The Foul King (2000) directed by Jee-woon Kim

The Foul King (2000)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

Dae-Ho is an unproductive bank clerk who is late to work every morning and the object of his manager’s frustrations. He was a fan of TV wrestling as a child, but can’t get out of a headlock. He finds a local wrestling trainer and through a series of events eventually starts to train. He is slowly transformed as he begins his second job as the cheating villain wrestler known as the Foul King. He starts to stand up for himself in odd ways that are not really in his own best interest. Events get out of hand as conflicting influences come together. ×



18 .) The Good the Bad the Weird (2008) directed by Jee-woon Kim

The Good the Bad the Weird (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • The Culture Trip

The story of three Korean outlaws in 1930s Manchuria and their dealings with the Japanese army and Chinese and Russian bandits. The Good (a Bounty hunter), the Bad (a hitman), and the Weird (a thief) battle the army and the bandits in a race to use a treasure map to uncover the riches of legend.



17 .) The Quiet Family (1998) directed by Jee-woon Kim

The Quiet Family (1998)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • Taste Of Cinema

A family decides to buy a lodge in a remote hiking area. Their first customer commits suicide and the distraught family buries his body to avoid the bad publicity. But their luck gets worse, the bodies start piling up, and the family becomes frantic to rectify the situation.



16 .) Crying Fist (2005) directed by Seung-wan Ryoo

Crying Fist (2005)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema

Jobless, besieged by creditors, and abandoned by his wife, the once silver medalist Tae-shik has sunk to street hustling, becoming a human punching bag. Meanwhile, young Sang-hwan’s delinquent ways land him behind bars. Both men look to boxing to turn around lives gone astray, aiming for the amateur title, ultimately pitting them against each other, but more importantly, against themselves.



15 .) I Saw the Devil (2010) directed by Jee-woon Kim

I Saw the Devil (2010)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • Indiewire
  • The Culture Trip

Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time, but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiance Soo-hyun, a top secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer. ×



14 .) My Sassy Girl (2001) directed by Kwak Jae-yong

My Sassy Girl (2001)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema

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 and an unnamed girl. Kyun-woo is shamed into assisting the girl because the other passengers mistakenly think she is his girlfriend.



13 .) Oasis (2002) directed by Lee Chang-dong

Oasis (2002)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema

Oasis is a love story of two young people abandoned by families. A young man released from prison visits the widow of the man he killed drunk-driving. There he meets her daughter, wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy. Will these two lost people find a way to make their relationship work?



12 .) 3-Iron (2004) directed by Ki-duk Kim

3-Iron (2004)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

A young man, whose only possession is a motorcycle, spends his time riding around the city looking for empty apartments. After finding one, he hangs out for a while, fixing himself something to eat, washing laundry or making small repairs in return. He always tries to leave before the owners get back but in one ostensibly empty mansion he meets the abused wife of a rich man and she escapes with him…



11 .) A Bittersweet Life (2005) directed by Jee-woon Kim

A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Pajiba
  • Taste Of Cinema

Kim Sun-woo is an enforcer and manager for a hotel owned by a cold, calculative crime boss, Kang who assigns Sun-Woo to a simple errand while he is away on a business trip; to shadow his young mistress, Heesoo, for fear that she may be cheating on him with another, younger man, with the mandate that he must kill them both if he discovers their affair.



10 .) Failan (2001) directed by Hae-sung Song

Failan (2001)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

After losing both her parents, Failan emmigrates to Korea to seek her only remaining relatives. Once she reaches Korea, she finds out that her relatives have moved to Canada well over a year ago. Desperate to stay and make a living in Korea, Failan is forced to have an arranged marriage through a match-making agency.



9 .) Joint Security Area (2000) directed by Park Chan-wook

Joint Security Area (2000)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indiewire
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema

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. ×



8 .) Peppermint Candy (1999) directed by Lee Chang-dong

Peppermint Candy (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

In the spring of 1999, a group of old friends gather to celebrate their 20 year reunion. Among the group is Yeong-ho, a cold, unhappy man, whose demeanor puts a damper on the festivities. The seriousness of Yeong-ho”s depression becomes apparent, however, when he climbs a railroad bridge and looks like he might jump. At this crucial moment, memories of seven crucial episodes from Yeong-ho”s past flood his mind.



7 .) Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) directed by Park Chan-wook

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

This is the story of Ryu, a deaf man, and his sister, who requires a kidney transplant. Ryu’s boss, Park, has just laid him off, and in order to afford the transplant, Ryu and his girlfriend develop a plan to kidnap Park’s daughter. Things go horribly wrong, and the situation spirals rapidly into a cycle of violence and revenge.



6 .) Oldboy (2003) directed by Park Chan-wook

Oldboy (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • The Culture Trip
  • White City Cinema

With no clue how he came to be imprisoned, drugged and tortured for 15 years, a desperate businessman seeks revenge on his captors.



5 .) The Chaser (2008) directed by No Hong-jin

The Chaser (2008)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • MUBI
  • Pajiba
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

Joong-ho is a dirty detective turned pimp in financial trouble as several of his girls have recently disappeared without clearing their debts. While trying to track them down, he finds a clue that the vanished girls were all called up by the same client whom one of his girls is meeting with right now.



4 .) The Host (2006) directed by Bong Joon-ho

The Host (2006)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indiewire
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • The Culture Trip
  • White City Cinema

Gang-du is a dim-witted man working at his father’s tiny snack bar near the Han River. Following the dumping of gallons of toxic waste in the river, a giant mutated squid-like appears and begins attacking the populace. Gang-du’s daughter Hyun-seo is snatched up by the creature and he and his family are taken into custody by the military, who fear a virus spread by the creature.. In detention, Gang-du receives a phone call from Hyun-seo, who is not dead, merely trapped in a sewer. With his family to assist him, he sets off to find Hyun-seo. ×



3 .) A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) directed by Jee-woon Kim

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indiewire
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • The Culture Trip
  • White City Cinema

A recently released patient from a mental institution returns home with her sister, only to face disturbing events between her stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house- all of which are connected to a dark past in the family’s history.



2 .) Save The Green Planet (2003) directed by Jang Jun-hwan

Save The Green Planet (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indiewire
  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • The Culture Trip
  • White City Cinema

A traumatized young man abducts Korean leaders, believing they’re toxic reptilian aliens – a fifth column launching a takeover of beloved Earth. Stumped law enforcement geniuses half-seriously hire a disgraced, disheveled private detective with a long-ago history of super-crime solving. The alienated South Korean youngster Lee Byeong-gu builds an isolated basement command post/torture chamber/film studio to force the awful truth out of the slimy, uncooperative politicians and businesspeople, then alert the public. Byeong-gu is helped by his devoted girlfriend, who buys his theories, but wonders if his horrible childhood has colored his thinking. ×



1 .) Memories of Murder (2003) directed by Bong Joon-ho

Memories of Murder (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • IMDB
  • IMDB 2
  • Indiewire
  • MUBI
  • Pajiba
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • White City Cinema

1986 Gyunggi Province. The body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commences under similar circumstances. And in a country that had never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial murderer grow louder. A special task force is set up in the area, with two local detectives Park Doo-Man and Jo Young-Goo joined by a detective from Seoul who requested to be assigned to the case.



 


The 25+ Additional Best South Korean New Wave Films



 

# Movies Directors Lists
31 A Moment to Remember (2004) John H. Lee IMDB
32 Barking Dogs Never Bite   White City Cinema
33 Battle Ground 625 (2005) Kwang-Hyun Park IMDB 2
34 Christmas in August   White City Cinema
35 Chunhyang   White City Cinema
36 Hansel & Gretel   MUBI
37 Mother (2009) Bong Joon-ho IMDB
38 My Girl and I (2005)   The Culture Trip
39 Natural City (2003) Byung-chun Min IMDB
40 New World   Pajiba
41 Nobody’s Daughter Haewon   Indiewire
42 Nowhere to Hide   White City Cinema
43 Secret Sunshine   White City Cinema
44 Taegukgi Kang Je-gyu Taste Of Cinema
45 The City of Violence   MUBI
46 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly   MUBI
47 The Handmaiden (2017)   The Culture Trip
48 The King and the Clown   MUBI
49 The Man from Nowhere (2010) Jeong-beom Lee IMDB
50 The President’s Last Bang   White City Cinema
51 The Yellow Sea   Pajiba
52 Thirst (2009) Chan-wook Park IMDB
53 Train To Busan (2016)   The Culture Trip
54 Turning Gate   White City Cinema
55 Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors   White City Cinema
56 Welcome to Dongmakgol Park Kwang-hyun Taste Of Cinema
57 Woman on the Beach   White City Cinema

 


 


8 Best South Korean New Wave Film Sources/Lists



Source Article
IMDB 25 Essential South Korean New Wave Films
IMDB 2 Taste of Cinema’s 25 Best Films of the South Korean New Wave
Indiewire Primer: 10 Essential Films Of The Korean New Wave
MUBI South Korean New Wave
Pajiba 5 Hidden Crime Gems From The New Wave Of Korean Cinema
Taste Of Cinema The 25 Best Films of The South Korean New Wave
The Culture Trip 10 Iconic New Wave South Korean Films
White City Cinema South Korean New Wave

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