Best K-Movies by Genre

Hello everyone and welcome back to another “Top Korean Movies” content! Today’s post will be on the “Best K-Movies by Genre.”

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I’ve made several posts going over my favorite Korean movies by genre, such as Best Korean comedies, thrillers, romcoms, melodramas, and more. If you haven’t checked those out yet, be sure to do so, as I go over numerous must-watch Korean films. In today’s post, I’ll be selecting one Korean movie from those various genres, and be recommending one must-watch movie amongst 10 different genres. The genres I’ll be covering will be action, comedy, crime, gangster/noir, historical, horror, melodrama, romcom, thriller, and war.

But before getting into the list, I’d like to remind you that this list is ranked based on my personal recommendations, which means they are totally biased towards my opinions. Also, I tried refraining from recommending the #1 movies from those other posts I made, since those can date back to over a year from now, and looking back to it, I had a slight shift in opinions; not to mention, in order to reflect a new, updated perspective. The order of the list will be in alphabetical order by genre.

Okay then, that being said, let’s get right into today’s list on Best K-Movies by Genre!


Starting off the list, the must-watch Action film out of Korean cinema. The action K-movie of my choice goes to one of the oldest on this list, <Old Boy>.

<Old Boy> is not only a great action film, but is also an incredible thriller and mystery movie as well. The film stars Choi Min-Shik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Kang Hye-Jung, Kim Byung-Ok, Oh Dal-Su, and Yoon Jin-Seo, and was directed by one of Korea’s most well-known directors, Park Chan-Wook. Park Chan-Wook also directed other great films such as <Joint Security Area>, <The Handmaiden>, <Thirst>, and <Sympathy For Lady Vengeance>. <Old Boy> has one of the best twists, and has numerous memorable scenes. Definitely a must-watch.

The synopsis is as follow:
In 1988, a normal man who lives with his wife and daughter, Oh Dae-Su, wakes up one day to find himself in an unknown room. Dae-Su tries to escape, and even attempts to kill himself, while being imprisoned, but he fails to do so. He spends years trying to find the reason as to why the people that imprisoned him, did so, but he’s unable to come to a conclusion.  As his days in solitude grows, his anger with the people who kidnapped grows as well, and he swears that he’ll take revenge on those that destroyed his life. 15 years pass, and he is released from the room. What makes things even more confusing, is the fact that he was left with a wallet full of money, and a mobile phone. An unknown man calls Dae-Su, and tells him to figure out why he was imprisoned. Then, a young lady, Mido, comes into his life, and promises to help him get his revenge. The two start chasing after the mystery of Dae-Su’s imprisonment, but the reality is much more shocking, than either one of them could’ve imagined.


Next, the must-watch comedy. The Korean comedy that I chose as one of my favorites is the most recently-released film on this list, <Exit>.

Starring the likes of Jo Jung-Suk, Yoona from Girls Generation, Go Doo-Shim, Park In-Hwan, Kim Ji-Young, and Kang Ki-Young, <Exit> is an amazing action-comedy, and does both genres so well. It really defined Yoona as a great actress for me, as she and Jo Jung-Suk were absolutely hilarious in this. The movie was directed by Lee Sang-Geun, and if you haven’t checked this one out yet, be sure to do so! The film is currently available on the Korean Netflix with English subtitles.

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The synopsis of <Exit> is as follow:
Yong-Nam is an unemployed male in his late 20s/early 30s, and was pretty well-known in his college days as he was an ace climber at his school’s rock climbing club. However, upon graduation he fails to find a job and lives at his parent’s house as a sad, jobless man. At his mother’s 70th birthday party, he runs into Eui-Ju, a junior of his from the rock climbing club, who’s now an employee at the facility that the birthday party is being held at. The two catch up, discussing how life’s been and all, but out of nowhere an explosion occurs and the whole city starts filling up with toxic gas. Yong-Nam and Eui-Ju use the skills they acquired from their rock-climbing days to escape the disaster of the gas attack.


Okay, getting back to the video, the crime film of my choice goes to the 2017 film <The Outlaws>.

<The Outlaws> stars Don Lee, aka Ma Dong-Seok, Yoon Kye-Sang, Jo Jae-Yoon, Choi Kwi-Hwa, Lim Hyung-Jun, and Jin Sun-Kyu, and was directed by Kang Yoon-Sung, who also directed <Long Live the King>. The film is based on true stories that took place in 2004 Seoul, which makes the film that much more intriguing. The movie not only has Don Lee’s incredible action performance, but really showcased Yoon Kye-Sang as a chilling villain. It’s Yoon Kye-Sang that had a very memorable performance for me, and this really marked the start in major popularity for Jin Sun-Kyu.

The synopsis is as follow:
In 2004, a vicious boss of a new crime organization, Jang-Chen, comes to Seoul from Harbin and overthrows the existing gangs. In order to catch the upcoming thug, the beastly cop, Ma Suk-Do, who’s famous for using his fist to maintain peace in the neighborhood, and his team plan a strategy to end the reign of the recently-formed gang.


Moving along, next genre is one of my favorite when it comes to Korean cinema: Gangster/noir. The film of my choice in this genre goes to the 2013-released movie, <New World>.

Directed by Park Hoon-Jung, who also directed other incredible films such as <The Tiger>, <VIP>, <The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion>, and most recently, <Night in Paradise>, <New World> isn’t only one of my favorite Korean gangster movies, but also one of my favorite Korean movies in general. I’ve got a video going over hidden secrets and facts about the film, titled “Things You Didn’t Know About New World,” so be sure to check that out to learn some entertaining info regarding the film. Anyways, <New World> had amazing performances by Lee Jung-Jae, Choi Min-Shik, Hwang Jung-Min, Park Sung-Woong, and Song Ji-Hyo. This is a must, must-watch.

The synopsis is as follow:
The president of the major crime organization, Gold Moon, suddenly dies, leaving the next top two directors, Jung Chung and Joong-Gu as potential successors of the president seat. Seeing this as an opportunity, the police launch an operation called “New World,” utilizing a weapon they planted years before. Jung Chung’s right hand man, Ja-Sung, is an undercover cop that’s been keeping a close eye from the inside on Gold Moon for 8 years, being supervised by Police Chief Kang. With a baby on the way and living in fear of being exposed by Gold Moon, Ja-Sung is torn between his duty and honor as a cop, and the fiercely loyal organization members.

Historical Dramas

The next category of must-watch K-movies is historical dramas. The historical drama that I chose as a must-watch goes to the movie released in 2012, <Masquerade>.

Directed by Chu Chang-Min, who also directed <Mapado>, <Lost In Love>, <I Love You>, and <Seven Years of Night>, <Masquerade> had amazing performances by Lee Byung-Hun, Ryu Seung-Ryong, Han Hyo-Ju, Kim In-Kwon, Jang Kwang, and Shim Eun-Kyung. This was my personal favorite Korean historical drama, as it had lots of humor scattered throughout its movie, which kept it from being too serious, which some historical films are guilty of. Furthermore, Lee Byung-Hun absolutely killed it, playing double roles in the movie.

The synopsis is as follow:
In order to avoid the constant threat of assassination, the tragic historic figure of King Kwang Hae orders his councilor Heo Kyun to find him a double. Heo Sun, a jester who looks remarkably like the king, is chosen. But the day that King Kwang Hae feared comes all too fast: the King is now in a coma induced by an unknown poison. Quickly realizing what he believes takes to be a good king, Heo Sun must now rule Joseon as if it were truly his own.


The must-watch horror K-movie of my choice goes to the 2016-released masterpiece, <The Wailing>.

<The Wailing> was directed by Na Hong-Jin, who also directed <The Chaser> and <The Yellow Sea>, and starred the actors Kwan Do-Won, Hwang Jung-Min, Kunimura Jun, Chun Woo-Hee, and Kim Hwan-Hee. This is one of the most globally recognized K-movies. I’d say this is right up there alongside <Train to Busan>, in terms of recognition, and I believe <The Wailing> is the only horror movie that I voluntarily watched a second time. If you know me, I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, and so for me to actually thoroughly enjoy this, says a lot. From the story to the acting, and just the atmosphere it provides, I highly enjoyed the film.

The synopsis is as follow:
Upon the arrival of a strange man, a town starts to suffer from a series of mysterious events. The police closes the case claiming that it’s the addiction to the mushrooms that the villagers have for the reason of the events, but rumors and suspicions spread that the cause of all the incidents was due to the strange man. Jong-Goo, a cop, meets with a woman that claims she witnessed the incident, and starts to believe all the rumors. As his own daughter starts to show symptoms of the same nature as the affected villagers, Jong-Goo starts to go after the truth.


Next, my favorite Korean romance melodrama goes to the 2004-released film, <A Moment To Remember>.

Directed by Lee Jae-Han, who’s other works includes <Operation Chromite> and <71: Into The Fire>, <A Moment To Remember> stars the incredible couple of Jung Woo-Sung and Son Ye-Jin. Son Ye-Jin is an icon when it comes to the melodrama genre, and what’s amazing is that she’s still able to pull off those romance roles. Although <A Moment To Remember> is nearly 17 years old now, the movie doesn’t feel old at all, and has aged very well. Older films tend to be on the slower side a lot, but <A Moment To Remember> had me intrigued throughout its duration.

The synopsis is as follow:
Soo-Jin is a career woman who essentially has everything she wants and wanted, and was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. However, she faces grand hardship when her boyfriend, who’s married, dumps her. As she tries to forget her ex, she runs into Chul-Soo, a blue-collar worker who dreams of becoming an architect. Soo-Jin starts to fall for Chul-Soo, and the two eventually falls in love and gets married. Just when they thought there’s only happily ever after left, the two are faced with the devastating news that Soo-Jin has a disease wherein which her memories are slowly erased from her mind.


K-films aren’t only good with melodramas, but romcoms as well. My recommendation of Korean romcom that’s a must-watch goes to the film that was released in 2018, titled <On Your Wedding Day>.

Directed by Lee Suk-Keun, who does not have other directorial works, but worked on adaptations for <The Honest Candidate>, <The Bros>, and <The Outlaws>, <On Your Wedding Day> is one of the realest movies I’ve seen. I found myself laughing out loud, while also being shaken by the emotional scenes as well. If you liked dramas like <Oh My Ghost> or <Let’s Fight Ghost>, or movies like <Very Ordinary Couple> or <Architecture 101>, I highly recommend you watch <On Your Wedding Day>.

The synopsis is as follow:
Turn back the clock to when you first fell in love. Do you remember the emotions you felt? Can you hear your heart beating as if it’ll burst out of your chest? That’s how Woo-Yeon felt when he first met Seung-Hee for the first time in the summer of 2005. After desperately following his first love around, the two finally start dating. But not for long. Woo-Yeon suddenly receives a call from his first love, telling him to be well, and disappears. A year later, with all hope lost, Woo-Yeon sees Seung-Hee on a brochure of a university out of sheer chance. That’s when he sets his mind and determines to study his ass off to get accepted into the same school as his first love. A year of sleepless nights and endless studying later, Woo-Yeon is admitted into the college. However, he finds out that the love of his life has a boyfriend… And that’s just the start of time and fate’s cruel play of trickery.


And now, we’re down to just 2 genres. First, one of the best when it comes to Korean cinema: Thrillers. One of the best Korean thrillers in my opinion is the oldest film on this list, <Memories of Murder>.

Directed by the legend himself, Bong Joon-Ho, this movie tops the list for not only “best Korean thriller” for a lot of people, but the best THRILLER in general! This movie was based on true events, and the film gets extremely suspenseful as it progresses. <Memories of Murder> is considered as the best Bong Joon-Ho film by many, even surpassing <Parasite>, and I can definitely understand why, as this is a definite must-watch.

The synopsis is as follow:
1986, in the countryside of Gyeongi-do province of South Korea, a young woman is found dead after being brutally beaten and raped. 2 months later, another body of a young lady is found in the same way. As the incidents start to receive massive international coverage, the whole country starts to be filled with fear, as nothing like this has ever occured in the country before. A Special Investigation Team is placed in the area of the incidents. The criminal is known for leaving no traces of himself, to the extent that leaves the investigators dumbfounded. As the new Captain, Shin, joins the team, the investigation starts to pick up steam. The detectives plan a trap to catch the suspect, but the plan doesn’t go as planned as another victim is found, dead. The case is reset back to phase 1, and the media gets even more riled up, making the detectives go crazy.


And finally, the last genre of today’s video: War films. The #1 spot of EonTalk’s list of best Korean war movies goes to the 2004-released film, <TaeGukGi: Brotherhood Of War>.

This by far, hands down, is the best war movie out of Korean cinema, in my opinion. <TaeGukGi> was directed by Kang Je-Kyu, the director of <My Way>, <Shiri>, and <Awaiting>, and although this movie was released nearly 16 years ago, it still holds the spot for the best Korean war movie. <TaekGukGi> starred the incredible duo of Jang Dong-Gun and Won Bin as the main cast, as well as Lee Eun-Ju, Gong Hyung-Jin, Jang Min-Ho, and Lee Young-Ran as the supporting cast members. This film is one of the most emotional movies, and shows a totally different side to Won Bin from <The Man From Nowhere> and <Mother>.

The synopsis is as follow:
Jin Tae has always looked out for his little brother, Jin Seok. The older brother would do everything and anything to provide for his younger brother. Once the Korean War began, both Jin Tae and Jin Seok were drafted. In order to protect his little brother, Jin Tae makes a deal with his commander to take the riskiest missions if it means it’ll keeping Jin Seok safe. In time, Jin Tae becomes a war hero, but at the cost of becoming a blood-thirsty soldier. Once the two brothers meet after times pass, Jin Tae is near unrecognizable as he’s changed so much since Jin Seok last saw him.

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And that’s it for today’s content on the best Korean movies by genre. Some films that you may believe should have made it on this list may not have been included, but please remember that this list was based on my personal recommendations. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear which movies you believe are the best in respective categories, as well as movies on this list that you’ve seen and enjoyed, so please leave a comment. Be sure to sign up for ExpressVPN using the link provided to access more Korean movies. If you have video requests, please let me know by commenting down below!

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Please keep in mind this review is composed of solely my own opinions, and should be taken with a grain of salt. I am in no way a professional writer, nor have I majored or studied journalism. This is for informative entertainment purpose only, representing my personal views. I do not own the images and/or videos used in the review. No copyright infringement intended.

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