Top Korean Historical Movies

Hello everyone and welcome back to another Top Korean Movies by genre post! Today’s topic will be on the “Top Korean Historical Movies.” Historical films are a great window into learning about the past events of a country, and some of the historical dramas of Korean cinema do a great job at informing the audience of the history of Korea. I’ve compiled a list of 10 movies that I believe successfully accomplish this, and I tried to introduce some newer films that I had not featured in previous content. 

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Before getting into the list, I’d like to remind you that this list is based on my personal recommendations. To be completely honest, historical dramas aren’t a genre of films that I really like. Thus, my library of watched historical movies isn’t very large. However, the ones I’ll be mentioning here are ones that I do recommend and do believe you’ll enjoy watching. Furthermore, the criteria of the rankings were based on the average of the audience rating, critics rating, as well as how well it did at the box offices. That being said, let’s get right into today’s post on Top Korean Historical Films!



Starting off the list, the #10 film is one of the newest movies to release on this list <Fengshui>.

<Fengshui> was directed by Park Hee-Gon, who also directed <Insadong Scandal> and <Perfect Game>, and the film starred the likes of Cho Seung-Woo, Jisung, Kim Sung-Kyun, Moon Chae-Won, You Jae-Myeong, Park Choong-Sun, Baek Yoon-Shik, Lee Won-Geun, and Kang Tae-Oh. The movie had an audience score of 7.75, critics score of 5.80, and had a box office number of 2 million, meaning it had an average score of about 700,000. 

The synopsis is as follows:
‘Feng Shui’ is the energy of land that can shift fates. Park Jae-Sang is a highly intelligent man that can change your fate by reading and predicting the terrains and energy of the surrounding land, and suggesting where to buy real estate to settle. However, he loses his family in a terrible fire that was intentionally schemed by the Kim family line, who’s trying to take over the country, because he got in their way. Thirteen years later, Park plans to get his revenge on the Kim family. He joins forces with Heung-Sung, a man of royal blood that doesn’t receive any respect and so wants to overturn the kingdom. As the duo strategizes their retribution, they find out about an extremely rare, prosperous land that will produce the next King. However, the two start having different purposes for the land.


The #9 movie goes to the 2017-released film, <The Fortress>.

Directed by Hwang Dong-Hyuk, who also directed <My Father>, <Silenced>, and <Miss Granny>, <The Fortress> had a strong cast of both main and supporting actors. The film starred the likes of Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Yoon-Seok, Park Hae-Il, Go Soo, Park Hee-Soon, Song Young-Chang, Cho Woo-Jin, and Lee David, and the audience rating of the movie was 8.17, the critics gave it a 7.50, and the film recorded 3.8 million at the box offices. <The Fortress> had an average score of 1.2 million.

The synopsis is as follows:
In 1636, King Injo and his retainers seek refuge in a fortress as Qing dynasty forces from China invade Korea. The situation grows desperate as the king’s advisers debate what course to take, while his people suffer and die in the fortress. Minister “Choi Myung-Gil” believes everything must be done to protect the nation and the people, Minister “Kim Sang-Hun” says they must fight till the end, and “Injo’s” anguish grows more and more. With nowhere to retreat, what will be the fate of the Namhansanseong North Gate?


Next, the #8 film is a movie that was released back in 2014, <KUNDO: Age of the Rampant>.

<KUNDO: Age of the Rampant> was directed by Yoon Jong-Bin, who directed other amazing works such as <Beastie Boys>, <Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time>, and <The Spy Gone North>. The film also had great actors, such as Ha Jung-Woo, Kang Dong-Won, Lee Kyung-Young, Lee Sung-Min, Cho Jin-Woong, Ma Dong-Seok aka Don Lee, and Yoon Ji-Hye. The film was scored a 7.34 by its viewers, 7.11 by the critics, and sold 4.7 million tickets at the box offices, meaning its average score is 1.6 million. 

The synopsis is as follows:
The last days of the Joseon Dynasty, where the wages of greed bring poverty and death. A pack of bandits – calling themselves KUNDO – rise against the tyrants, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In an era where status is decided by birth, this band of thieves risks their lives for honor, in the name of the poor and oppressed. But for one man, a debt of bloody revenge is owed to the aristocrat that robbed him of his family and his name.


Moving along, the #7 movie is the other newest film on this list, <The Great Battle>.

<The Great Battle> was directed by Kim Kwang-Shik, who also directed <My Dear Desperado> and <Tabloid Truth>, and I also featured this movie in my Best Korean War Movies video. The film starred the likes of Jo In-Sung, Nam Joo-Hyuk, Park Sung-Woong, Bae Sung-Woo, Uhm Tae-Goo, Seolhyun of AOA, Park Byung-Eun, and Oh Dae-Hwan, and had an audience score of 8.63, critics score of 6.22, and box office number of 5.4 million. <The Great Battle> had an average score of 1.8 million.

The synopsis is as follows:
With the aim of conquering and expanding his kingdom, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty gathers thousands of soldiers to invade the Goguryeo frontier city of “Ansisung.” With over 200,000 warriors under Taizong’s control, the army of Ansisung must fight off the raiders with just 5,000 fighters. Although the Lord of Ansisung, Yang Man Chun, had to fight an army that’s 40 times larger than his,he bravely determines that it’s worth the fight.


The #6 movie is the 2015 film, <The Throne>.

<The Throne> was directed by Lee Joon-Ik, who has other great directorial works under his name, such as <The King and the Clown>, <Radio Star>, <Hope>, and <DongJu: The Portrait of A Poet>, and he has an upcoming film as well, titled <The Book of Fish>. <The Throne> is another great historical film that had great cast members, including Song Kang-Ho, Yoo Ah-In, Moon Geun-Young, Jun Hye-Jin, Kim Hae-Sook, Park Won-Sang, Jin Ji-Hee, Park So-Dam, and Seo Ye-Ji, and the audience gave it a score of 8.49, the critics rated it a 7.54, the highest on this list, and its record at the box offices was 6.2 million, meaning its average score was 2.1 million. 

The synopsis is as follows:
Young-Jo, who constantly faced controversy over the legitimacy of his succession to the throne throughout his reign, makes constant efforts to become the perfect king. He hoped that his son, Seja, to be a king recognized by all, but contrary to his expectations, he was disappointed by the crown prince. Young-Jo was the pride and joy of his father, and he wanted to live up to the expectations his father set out for him, but he starts to resent his father who doesn’t know his true beliefs. The tragic family history of a father, the king, and son, the crown prince, begins.


Starting off the top 5, the #5 movie is the 2011 film, <War of the Arrows>.

<War of the Arrows> was directed by Kim Han-Min, who’s responsible for directing other movies such as <Paradise Murdered>, <Handphone>, and <The Admiral: Roaring Currents>, and the director also has an upcoming movie to release, titled <Hansan: The Rise of Dragons>. <War of the Arrows> starred the cast members Park Hae-Il, Ryu Seung-Ryong, Kim Mu-Yeol, and Moon Chae-Won, and the audience rating was 7.87, critics rating was 6.80, and the box office number was 7.5 million, meaning it averaged a 2.5 million.

The synopsis is as follows:
The son of a traitor, Nam, lived his life hoping for the happiness of his sister Ja-In, his only blood family. On the day of Ja-In’s wedding, which was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, Ja-In and the groom, Seo-Goon, are taken as prisoners by the troops of the Qing Dynasty. Nam advances into the heart of the Qing army, relying on the bow and arrow that was left by his father, and kills the troops one by one. Now aware of the archery skills of Nam, Jyushinta begins to chase Nam in order to protect Prince Dorgon and his subordinates. The battle of archery to protect begins.


Moving onto the #4 spot, the #4 movie goes to the 2013 film, <The Face Reader>.

This movie was directed by Han Jae-Rim, who directed <Purpose Of Love>, <The Show Must Go On>, <The King>, and the upcoming film titled <Emergency Declaration>, and starred the actors Song Kang-Ho, Lee Jung-Jae, Baek Yoon-Shik, Jo Jung-Suk, Lee Jong-Seok, Kim Hye-Soo, and Kim Eui-Sung. This movie had an audience score of 8, critics score of 6.53, and recorded 9.1 million at the box offices, meaning it had an average score of 3 million.

The synopsis is as follows:
Nae-Kyung, the most skillful face reader in Joseon dynasty, was living in seclusion when he was offered a lucrative partnership by Yeong-Hong, a Korean geisha. Nae-Kyung accepts the proposal to read the faces of Yeon-Hong’s guests only to get involved in a murder case. With his face reading skills, Nae-Kyung successfully identifies the murderer and his skills are soon acknowledged by King Moon-Jong who orders him to identify the potential traitors who threaten his reign. However after the unexpected death of Moon-Jong, Nae-Kyung is courted by Grand Prince Soo-Yang who yearns to become King himself by killing the young successor Dan-Jong. Nae-Kyung decides to keep his loyalty to the late King and help Kim Jong-Seo protect the young King which forces him into the biggest power struggle in the history of the Joseon dynasty.


Coming in at #3 of my list of best Korean historical movies is the oldest film on this list, <The King and the Clown>.

<The King and the Clown> was directed by the previously mentioned director, Lee Joon-Ik, who directed the #6 film, <The Throne>, and the movie featured the actors Gam Woo-Sung, Jung Jin-Young, Kang Sung-Yeon, Lee Jun-Ki, Jang Hang-Sun, Yoo Hae-Jin, Jung Seok-Yong, and Lee Seung-Hoon. <The King and the Clown> was given a 9.03 by the audience, 6.67 by the critics, and 10.5 million people showed up at the theaters, which is really impressive, considering the time and age the movie was released in. The average score of the film was 3.5 million.

The synopsis is as follows:
Two 16th century Joseon Era clowns, the supremely self-assured Jang-Saeng and his good friend Gong-Gil, earn a meager living as street performers in Hanyang. Miraculously, their excruciating poverty comes to an end when the tyrannical King Yeon-San catches their act and, delighted, invites them to serve as resident court jesters at his palace. But matters grow increasingly complex and tricky when Yeon-San feels a torrent of lust for Gong-Gil and attempts to possess the androgynous performer. This elicits unbridled jealousy from Jang-Saeng and sets him on a head-to-head collision course with the king.


The #2 film was a movie released in 2012, <Masquerade>.

Directed by Choo 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. <Masquerade> had an audience rating of 9.24, the highest on this list, critics score of 7.27, box office number of 12.3 million, and average score of 4.1 million. 

The synopsis is as follows:
In order to avoid the constant threat of assassination, the tragic historic figure of King Gwanghae orders his councilor Heo-Kyun to find him a double. Ha-Sun, a jester who looks remarkably like the king, is chosen. But the day that King Gwanghae 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, Ha-Sun must now rule Joseon as if it were truly his own.


And finally, the #1 Korean historical drama film. The #1 spot goes to the 2014 film that broke the record of highest ticket sales, <The Admiral: Roaring Currents>.

<The Admiral: Roaring Currents> was directed by Kim Han-Min, the director of the #5 film, <War of the Arrows>, and the movie is available on the Korean Netflix. I’m not sure if it’s available in other Netflix servers, as each country has different available content, so you might want to check if this historical film is available in the location you are in. <The Admiral: Roaring Currents> starred incredible actors Choi Min-Shik, Ryu Seung-Ryong, Cho Jin-Woong, Jin Goo, Lee Jung-Hyun, Kwon Yool, No Min-Woo, Kim Tae-Hoon, and Park Bo-Gum박보검. The film was rated a 8.88 by the audience, and 6.29 by the critics, which aren’t the highest numbers on this list. However, as mentioned before, this film holds the record for the highest box office sales, with 17.6 million, which shot up its average to 5.87 million, making it the number 1 film on this list.

The synopsis is as follows:
In 1597, Joseon was in extreme difficulty due to a long period of war. Admiral Yi Sun-Sin is appointed as the commander of three provinces. However, all he has are soldiers who lost their fighting spirit, people full of fear, and a dozen ships. When Kurushima becomes the head of the Japanese military, Joseon becomes even more agitated. As soon as 330 Japanese ships gather, the people feel defeat in the overwhelming number, and Admiral Yi Sun-Sin must fight to win with only 12 ships.



And that’s it for today’s post on “Top Korean Historical Movies.” Some films that you believe should have made it on this list may not have been included, but please remember that this top 10 list was based on my personal recommendations. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear which movies you believe are deserving of the title “Best Korean Historical Films,” 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. If you have requests for other genres or other types of content, please let me know by commenting down below as well!

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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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