Hello everyone and welcome back to another “Top Korean Movies by Genre” content by EonTalk! In today’s post, we will be going over 15 of my favorite Korean crime movies.
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Crime movies are something special in Korea. They can range from crime-thrillers to crime-action, crime-dramas to crime-noir, and even crime-comedies. There are numerous great crime films out of Korea, so it’d be impossible to go through all of them. Thus, today, I’ve compiled a list of 15 of my favorites crime movies.
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, since we have a total of 15 films to go through, I won’t be giving a detailed synopsis in this one, but a lot of these films can also be found in my Best Korean Thrillers, Action, and Gangster Movies videos, so be sure to check those out for more detail. Okay then, that being said, let’s get right into today’s list on Top 15 Korean Crime Movies!
Starting off the list, the #15 film is the 2017-released movie, <The King>.
<The King> was directed by Han Jae-Rim, who also directed <The Face Reader>, <The Show Must Go On>, <Purpose of Love>, and the upcoming film <Emergency Declaration>. The film is about a young man that becomes a powerful prosecutor and rises swiftly to power, but falls off even quicker. Starring in the film were Jo In-Sung, Jung Woo-Sung, Bae Sung-Woo, Kim Ah-Joong, and Ryu Jun-Yeol.
Next, the #14 film is a movie that was released back in 2018, <Believer>.
<Believer> was directed by Lee Hae-Young, who directed the mystery thriller <The Silenced>, and starred the likes of Cho Jin-Woong, Ryu Jun-Yeol, the late Kim Joo-Hyuk, Kim Sung-Ryung, Park Hae-Jun, Seo Hyun-Woo, Kang Seung-Hyun, Jung Ga-Ram, Jin Seo-Yeon, and Lee Joo-Young. The movie is about a police detective, who’s determined to catch the mysterious boss of Asia’s biggest drug cartel, joining forces with a revenge-thirsty member of the gang.
The #13 movie goes to the most recently released movie on this list, <Dark Figure of Crime>.
Directed by Kim Tae-Kyun, who also directed <Spring, Snow>, this crime mystery had a cast lineup of Kim Yoon-Seok, Ju Ji-Hoon, and Jin Sun-Kyu. Based on true events, the film is about a fierce psychological confrontation between a detective and a killer who confessed to multiple unclosed cases of murder.
Moving along, the #12 movie is the 2010 film, <The Yellow Sea>.
<The Yellow Sea> was directed by Na Hong-Jin, who directed other amazing works such as <The Wailing> and <The Chaser>. The film had a great cast of Ha Jung-Woo, Kim Yoon-Seok, and Jo Sung-Ha, and in the movie, when a man’s attempt to kill a target goes wrong, a series of violent events are triggered, which forces him to run for his life.
The #11 movie goes to the 2017 film, <The Outlaws>.
This movie was directed by Kang Yoon-Sung, who directed film <Long Live the King>, and starred the actors Don Lee aka Ma Dong-Seok, Yoon Kye-Sang, Cho Jae-Yoon, Choi Kwi-Hwa, Park Ji-Hwan, and Jin Sun-Kyu. I loved how this movie had a great mixture of crime, action, thrill, and comedy, and the chemistry between the two leads Ma Dong-Seok and Yoon Kye-Sang was great. The film is about a detective’s attempt to keep peace in the city, while two Chinese-Korean gangs battle over turf in the neighborhood.
Now into the Top 10, the #10 film is the 2009-released movie, <Mother>.
Directed by the one and only Bong Joon-Ho, who directed the record-breaking <Parasite>, as well as <Okja>, <Snowpiercer>, and <The Host>, <Mother> starred the likes of Kim Hye-Ja, Won Bin, Jin Goo, and Yoon Je-Moon. The vibes of this movie is really different from the other films on this list, much like how Bong Joon-Ho’s works are, and is really hard to put into words. It’s dark and grimy, but also very mysterious, and it’s just a genre of its own. In the film, when a son is framed for the horrific murder of a girl, the mother of the son desperately searches for the real killer to clear her son’s name.
Next, the #9 film is a movie that was released back in 2010, <I Saw the Devil>.
<I Saw the Devil> is not only a great crime film, but also one of the best revenge movies as well; And this makes sense, as the film was directed by Kim Ji-Woon, the master of revenge films. Director Kim is another legendary director out of Korean cinema, who also directed the likes of <The Age of Shadows>, <The Good, The Bad, The Weird>, and <A Tale of Two Sisters>. The film had phenomenal performances by Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Min-Shik, and the movie revolves around a secret agent who loses his fiancé to a serial killer, and him seeking revenge on the murderer through a series of catch and releases.
And the #8 movie goes to another film directed by Kim Ji-Woon, <A Bittersweet Life>.
<A Bittersweet Life> is another excellent revenge film by Director Kim, and this also starred Lee Byung-Hun, like the previous film. The movie also had other great actors such as Kim Young-Chul, Shin Min-Ah, and Hwang Jung-Min, and the combination of action, crime, and thrill of <A Bittersweet Life> makes this a must watch movie. In the film, when a gang member doesn’t follow through his boss’ order of killing his cheating girlfriend, a violent feud between the mobster and the gang begins.
Moving along, the #7 movie is the 2015 film, <Inside Men>.
<Inside Men> was directed by Woo Min-Ho, who directed other productions such as <The Spies>, <The Drug King>, and <The Man Standing Next>. The film had an ensemble cast of Lee Byung-Hun, Cho Seung-Woo, Baek Yoon-Shik, Lee Kyung-Young, Kim Hong-Pa, and Bae Sung-Woo, and there’s also an extended director’s cut of the movie, titled <Inside Men: The Original>. This three-hour version of the movie is an even greater in-depth film of the shady business of politics, media, and conglomerates. In the movie, a former political henchman seeks revenge when he’s dropped by a ruthless politician, while a determined investigator tries to find proof of a connection between the two of them.
The #6 movie goes to the 2008 film, <The Chaser>.
This movie was directed by Na Hong-Jin, who was mentioned earlier for directing <The Yellow Sea>, and had Kim Yoon-Seok and Ha Jung-Woo as the main leads. The thrill and suspense this movie had was out of this world, and revolves around an ex-policeman that runs a prostitute business, who starts to investigate and track down the disappearances of his girls.
And now, the top 5. Starting off the top 5, the #5 movie is the 2012 film <Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time>.
<Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time> was directed by Yoon Jong-Bin, who also directed <Beastie Boys>, <KUNDO : Age of the Rampant>, and <The Spy Gone North>, and has one of the most notable lineups of Choi Min-Shik, Ha Jung-Woo, Cho Jin-Woong, Ma Dong-Seok, Kwak Do-Won, and Kim Sung-Kyun. This is a must-watch if you love Korean noir movies, and is about a corrupt customs official that discovers a haul of methamphetamine and teams up with a mob boss to become the most powerful crime organization in Korea.
Moving onto the #4 spot, the #4 movie goes to another great crime action film, which was released in 2010, <The Man From Nowhere>.
<The Man From Nowhere> was directed by Lee Jung-Bum, who’s responsible for directing other movies such as <Jo Pil-Ho: The Dawning Rage> and <No Tears for the Dead>. This is regarded as one of the best crime-action movies by many, and Won Bin was an absolute badass in this. Other actors of the movie were Kim Sae-Ron, Kim Tae-Hoon, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Sung-Oh, Lee Jong-Pil, and Thanayong Wongtrakul. The film is about a reserved pawnshop keeper with a violent past, who takes on a drug-and-organ trafficking ring in hopes of saving a child that was kidnapped by the gang.
Coming in at #3 of my list of best Korean crime movies is the oldest film on this list, <Friend>.
<Friend> was directed by Kwak Kyung-Taek, who directed other good films such as <Typhoon>, <Eye For An Eye>, <The Classified File>, <Battle of Jangsari>, and the sequel to <Friend>, <Friend: The Great Legacy>. The movie featured the actors Yoo Oh-Sung, Jang Dong-Gun, Seo Tae-Hwa, and Jung Woon-Taek, and is one of the classics when it comes to crime gangster films. Although the movie 20 years old now, it’s still a legendary must-watch film. The narrative is of four childhood friends that go their separate ways, where two go off to college while the other two become rival gangsters.
And now, just two movies left. Two of my favorite crime movies. First, the #2 film was a movie released in 2013, <New World>.
Directed by Park Hoon-Jung, who also directed other incredible films such as <The Tiger>, <VIP>, and <The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion>, <New World> is not only one of my favorite Korean crime movies, but is one of my favorite Korean movies period. Starring one of my favorite K-actors Hwang Jung-Min, who I recently made a Who Is episode on, as well as Lee Jung-Jae, Choi Min-Shik, Park Sung-Woong, and Song Ji-Hyo, the movie is about an undercover officer that infiltrates a large crime organization, and spends eight years rising in the ranks. However, when the head of the organization is killed, the undercover cop is torn between his loyalties.
And finally, the #1 Korean crime movie. The #1 spot goes to the 2003 film that’s a classic when it comes to Korean films: <Memories of Murder>.
<Memories of Murder> was directed by the legend Bong Joon-Ho, who was mentioned earlier for directing <Mother>, and this is a staple when it comes to crime films. This movie starred and had incredible performances by Song Kang-Ho and Kim Sang-Kyung, and the thrill and suspense the movie has, as well as elements of mystery makes this a #1 film. Based on true events, <Memories of Murder> is about two detectives in a small town struggling to find the criminal that raped and murdered multiple young women. From the storyline to the pacing, the musical scores to the cinematography, everything about this was excellent.
And that’s it for today’s content on Top 15 Korean Crime Movies. Some films that you 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 deserving of the title “Best Korean Crime Movies,” as well as movies on this list that you’ve seen and enjoyed, so please leave a comment or join in on discussions on the EonTalk Telegram group to further discuss with me and other Korean movie lovers. Also, support EonTalk on Patreon to express your appreciation of the content I make!
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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.
3 thoughts on “Top 15 Korean Crime Movies”
The yellow sea
I was introduced to Korean cinema through your #1 pick and have been an ardent admirer of Korean film industry since then. The skill with which the story is narrated through the unspoken and spoken is magnificent and well worthy of praise. Can’t wait to go through the entire list on movie nights.
I am a great fan of korean movies. I come of India. I have seen all of movies you have listed… They were all unique and excellent in their own way…. Very well made and comprehensive list…. Thank you.. I joined your telegram channel, hope to share and discuss about k-movies…. Meanwhile keep up your good (excellent) work, really appreciate your love and effort….