The best Korean movies and thriller series to binge-watch this year

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Remember when Parasite broke all records at international award ceremonies, especially the Oscars in 2020?

While Korean dramas have amassed a loyal following of viewers around the world, the success of Parasite launched a renewed interest in Korean thrillers. Some great movies and shows in 2020, such as #Living and The good detective, have only helped to increase the popularity of this genre outside the country.

We’ve put together a list of the most acclaimed movies and series that have become cult favorites with audiences around the world.

(Featured and Main Image: IMDB)

Best Korean Movies and Thrillers to Binge-Watch This Year

1

Common security zone

When a deadly shootout on the North Korean side of the DMZ threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula, an international investigator (Lee Young-ae) is given the responsibility of uncovering the truth. The critically and commercially acclaimed film has won numerous awards both at home and abroad. Released in 2000, the film’s success catapulted actors Song Kang-ho (from Parasite glory) and Lee Byung-hun (Storm Shadow of GI Joe film series), which played North Korean and South Korean soldiers, respectively, to fame. It also turned out to be a hit for director Park Chan-wook.

Watch it here.

Common security zone

Signal

2

Signal

It’s extremely difficult to weave a tight story around time travel, especially a thriller. (Remember the years 2002 The time machine?) Corn Signal Not only does it get the right logic around time lags and their resulting implications, but also succeeds in making viewers apprehensive about what happens after each episode. The story is about a young criminal profiler (Lee Je-hoon) working on cold cases in 2015 who finds a walkie-talkie that links him to a 1989 detective (Cho Jin-woong), who has been missing for decades in the current timeline. Together, they race against time to solve these cases and in doing so uncover secrets they never imagined they would face. The series is one of the most watched Korean dramas of all time, and rightly so.

Watch it here.

Signal

Foreigner

3

Foreigner

Foreigner follows a prosecutor (Cho Seung-woo) who has lost empathy following surgery, and a fearless cop (Bae Doona) trying to solve a murder case. As they progress, they find themselves more and more embroiled in a major political scandal. The show’s first season was released in 2017. It won numerous awards and was named one of the best international shows of the year by the New York Times. A second season was released in 2020 with similar critical reception.

Watch it here.

Foreigner

Murder memories

4

Murder memories

Considered by critics to be one of the best mysterious thrillers ever made in Korean cinema history, Murder memories is the film that shot Parasite director Bong Joon-ho in a household name in his country. Song Kang-ho plays the role of a detective in a small province who teams up with others to solve a spate of rapes and murders that have left authorities perplexed and people frightened. That he can do that as his character ages is what keeps viewers hooked until the end. Unsurprisingly, the film won several awards after its release in 2003.

Watch it here.

Murder memories

The hunter

5

The hunter

A former cop turned pimp (Kim Yoon-seok) is alarmed by the disappearance of some of his daughters. When he sets a trap to catch the perpetrator, he finds himself in pursuit of a serial killer (Ha Jung-woo). The hunter, which marked director Na Hong-jin’s feature debut, is as fast as the name suggests. Watch him for the brilliant Ha, whose chilling performance made him one of the most wanted actors around the house.

Watch it here.

The hunter

Old boy

6

Old boy

Choi Min-sik, who is widely hailed as one of the greatest actors in Korean cinema, plays a man kept in solitary confinement by a mysterious person for 15 years. Seeking revenge when he is suddenly released, Choi’s character realizes that his ordeal is not yet over as he must find his attacker in five days. This 2003 film is the second in Park Chan-wook’s “revenge trilogy”, the other two being from 2002 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and the years 2005 Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. It is the most beloved of the three and therefore considered by many to be the director’s masterpiece.

Watch it here.

Old boy

I saw the devil

7

I saw the devil

In this visceral 2010 film by Kim Jee-won, an intelligence officer (Lee Byung-hun) attacks a ruthless serial killer (Choi Min-sik) after the latter kills her fiancé. The performances of the two actors in their respective roles give intensity to the game of cat and mouse that marks the climax of this crime thriller.

Watch it here.

I saw the devil

Save me

8

Save me

The death of their son brings a couple into a religious cult, whose leader has his own designs for their daughter Im Sang-mi (Seo Yea-ji). A few years later, the trapped girl is able to ask for help from a group of boys she knew at school. When a rescue attempt is launched by them, it reveals horrific secrets about the cult and propels their sleepy town into the center of national attention. The 2017 drama is based on the webtoon Out of the world.

Watch it here.

Save me

Vagabond

9

Vagabond

Stuntman Cha Dal-gun (Lee Seung-gi) sees his life fall apart when he loses his beloved nephew in a plane crash en route to Morocco. In search of answers to the tragedy, he stumbles upon an international plot and realizes that people haven’t been told the truth. He then calls on Go Hae Ri (Bae Suzy), an agent of the National Intelligence Service. The series was released in 2019.

Watch it here.

Vagabond

Forget

ten

Forget

Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul) has a seemingly perfect life with his brother, mother, and father. One day, his brother is kidnapped. When he mysteriously returns after 19 days, Jin-seok notices changes in his family’s behavior. He tries to uncover the truth behind his brother’s kidnapping and is then confronted with a secret that puts his own life in danger. The 2017 Korean mystery thriller is directed by Jang Hang-jun.

Watch it here.

Forget

The servant

11

The servant

One of the best Korean thrillers, The servant is about a con artist (Ha Jung-woo) who hires a poor maid (Kim Tae-ri) to serve a wealthy Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) in Japanese-occupied Korea. Her real intention, however, is to use the maid to cheat the wealthy woman about her inheritance. Directed by Park Chan-wook, it has won numerous international awards including the BAFTA for best non-English language film in 2018.

Watch it here.

The servant

Lamentations

12

Lamentations

With a 99% rating for Rotten Tomatoes, the supernatural horror thriller is another gem from director Na Hong-jin. A cop (Kwak Do-won) tries to uncover the mystery behind the deaths and illnesses in a remote village. His situation turns grim when his own daughter is grieved, even as a shaman (Hwang Jung-min) tries to help save the people from a Japanese alien (Jun Kunimura) whom everyone believes to be a demon.

Watch it here.

Lamentations



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