Top Korean Thrillers

Hello everyone and welcome back to another post by EonTalk! I hope everyone’s been enjoying the past few written content I’ve been uploading. Today, I’ve got the written version of the Top Korean Thrillers content.

If you’ve been following EonTalk for a while now, you probably would know that I personally think Koreans make the best thrillers. And even within the genre of thrillers, there’s so many ways the movie can play out to be. Today, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite Korean thrillers that I believe are definitely worth checking out. I’ll be explaining some basic background info regarding the films, and giving a short synopsis/description of the movies, but won’t be giving any in-depth reviews. I believe these movies are worth going into without any spoilers or too many details. When comprising this list, I took into consideration not only my favorites thrillers, but also ones that I thought were deserving of more recognition. 

*Please remember that these are composed of MY, PERSONAL favorites. They are subjective to my biased opinions and are based on my personal taste. Just a little note, I tend to enjoy comedies with a mixture of other genres, such as action-comedy, romcom, etc., as opposed to full-out comedies. If you have differing views and opinions, please respectfully leave them in the comments or on the EonTalk Telegram group

Then without further ado, let’s get right into the list!

#10

Coming in at my #10 favorite Korean thriller is the 2014 film <A Hard Day> starring Lee Sun-Gyun and Cho Jin-Woong. <A Hard Day> has a very mysterious vibe while also giving suspense right from the start, and becomes nearly an action film near the end. The movie was directed by Kim Sung-Hoon, who also directed <Tunnel>. 

The synopsis is as follows:
Following his mother’s funeral, Detective Go receives an urgent call and leaves for the police station. On his drive towards the station, he hits and kills a man. Thinking on his feet, he puts the body in his car trunk. Needing a place to hide the body, a place where no one can find it, he decides to place the corpse in his mother’s coffin alongside his dead mother. Just when he thought he was in the clear, a man claiming he knows everything shows. 

#9

Next, the #9 spot goes to another movie with a similar tone of mysteriousness: <Memoir of a Murderer>. This movie was the most recently released film on the list, being released in 2017, and stars Sol Kyung-Gu, Kim Nam-Gil, Seolhyun, and Oh Dal-Soo. The movie was directed by Won Shin-Yeon, who also directed <The Suspect> and more recently, <The Battle: Roar to Victory>. 

The synopsis is as follows:
Byung-Soo was a serial killer in the past, but is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. After getting into a car accident, he meets Tae-Joo and discovers the same look in the eyes of Tae-Joo that he once had, and intuition hits him that Tae-Joo is also a murderer. Byung-Soo reports Tae-Joo as a serial killer to the cops, but no one believes him. After this, Tae-Joo roams around Byung-Soo, and Byung-Soo tries to find any evidence to prove his case against Tae-Joo, but his memories continue to fail him. In the midst of this, his old murder habits starts to kick in, and he falls into confusion between reality and delusion. 

#8

Coming in at the #8 spot is the 2012 film, <Confession of Murder>. I remember seeing this movie in theaters, and being very intrigued by the story, and totally shocked by the acting performance of the villain, played by Jung Hae-Kyun. His acting still gives me the chills… The film stars Jung Jae-Young and Park Si-Hoo, and was directed by Jung Byung-Gil, who also directed <The Villainess>. This has one of the most interesting storylines I’ve seen. 

The synopsis is as follows:
15 years ago, there was a case of serial killing that shook the nation. However, the statue of limitation ended before the suspect was caught. Detective Choi, the detective who was in charge of the case, was left with just a huge scar, both physically and mentally, after failing to catch the criminal. Two years later, a man named Lee Doo-Seok releases a book titled “I am the Killer,” wherein which he reveals that he was the serial killer. The book instantly becomes a bestseller, and Lee Doo-Seok, with his handsome appearance and charismatic speech, becomes a star. Detective Choi tries to connect the last incident that was left unsolved with Lee Doo-Seok, yet, is the law on his side?

#7

The #7 best thriller of Korean movies may be a little debatable, as it definitely has a different type of suspense compared to the other films on the list, and some may even not consider it a “thriller.” However, this film kept me not only entertained throughout but at the edge of my seat, and the twist it has makes it a wonderful movie. Directed by the one and only Bong Joon-Ho, <Mother> is the #7 best Korean thriller. Starring Kim Hae-Ja and Won Bin, <Mother> is a masterpiece that was gifted to us by Bong Joon-Ho, who also directed <The Host>, <Snowpiercer>, <Okja>, and most recently, <Parasite>. As with other films by Bong, the movie is not only entertaining, but has a greater message and is very thought-provoking. 

The synopsis is as follows:
For a widowed mother, her son is all she has. The 28 year old son, Do-Joon, is a troublemaker that worries his mother. One day, a young girl is murdered, and Do-Joon ends up being the prime suspect. There isn’t any real evidence that points to Do-Joon, but the police throw groundless suspicion at him. The mother does whatever she can to save her son, but the cops are in a hurry to close the case, and the defense attorney is incompetent and is only after money. Without any other choice, the mother decides to take it upon herself to prove her son’s innocence.

#6

The #6 best Korean thriller goes to the 2015 film <Inside Men>. Starring Lee Byung-Hun, Cho Seung-Woo, and Bae Yoon-Shik, the film had incredible acting performances that’s still referenced to this day on TV shows and even everyday life. Directed by Woo Min-Ho, who also directed <The Spies>, <Drug King>, and more recently <The Man Standing Next>, <Inside Men> is a revenge/action/crime thriller that’s definitely worth watching if you love movies such as <Veteran> and <The Outlaws>. The movie synopsis is as follows:

The synopsis is as follows:
The leading presidential candidate, a chairman of a conglomerate, and a renowned editorial writer who has massive power to sway public opinion, plan a scheme to give the presidential candidate the upperhand. Ahn Sang-Koo plans a transaction to release records of the sponsored sludge fund, and once he gets caught, he pays the price by getting his hand chopped off. Once prosecutor Woo Jang-Hoon smells something fishy with the upcoming elections, he starts to dig into the background story of what went on with the candidate, chairman, and editor. However, the investigation is short-lived, as the record of the sludge fund was taken by Ahn. The man that wants revenge on the politically powerful, the one that wants to use Ahn to reveal the sludge fund records, and the men who need to swipe it all under the rug. Who will come out on top?

#5

The #5 best thriller is also one of the most disturbing and gruesome. However, I think that’s what makes it so much more creepy and suspenseful. This is the real genre of thrillers that Koreans do, or did, well, as we don’t really see anything like it anymore. This definitely isn’t for the weak-hearted; in fact, the whole Top 5 list isn’t for the faint hearted. The #5 spot goes to <Traffickers>. The 2012 film <Traffickers> stars Lim Chang-Jung, Choi Daniel, Oh Dal-Soo, and Cho Yoon-Hee, and was directed by Kim Hong-Sun, who also directed <The Con Artists>, <The Chase>, and the 2019 horror/thriller, <Metamorphosis>. Sidenote, <Metamorphosis> was another pretty good horror/thriller, and I have a full video movie review on it, so be sure to check it out as well.

I picked this film as the #5 best thriller because it not only has thrill and suspense, but the movie is so gruesome (some may even call it too gruesome) and disturbing, while also having a great plot. Not to mention, the amazing acting performances. This is one of the most underrated thrillers, as I’ve seen most of the other movies on this list on people’s favorites list, but this one not so much. But do check it out if you love thrillers!

The synopsis is as follows:
Amongst the many onboard the ferry bound for Weihai China are Sang-Ho and Chae-Hee, a couple that’s excited to voyage on their first vacation together. However, that excitement is short-lived. That night, Chae-Hee disappears into thin air. What brings about even greater bewilderment is that there isn’t a single picture of the two together on the trip, and all of the wife’s belongings are gone. To top it all off, she isn’t even on the list of passengers. Meanwhile, the industry leader of organ trafficking, Young-Gyu, receives an irresistible proposal; a very discreet operation to take out and deliver the “product.” But Young-Gyu is shocked when he finds Chae-Hee, the wife of Sang-Ho and a woman he knew before, lying on the surgical table. With just 6 hours left until arriving at the destination, Sang-Ho is on the pursuit to find his wife, and Young-Gyu is left in a dilemma where he can’t save nor kill Chae-Hee.

#4

The #4 best Korean thriller is also probably one of the most internationally recognized thrillers. I remember seeing people on YouTube and social media talk about this movie that aren’t even in the field of Korean movies! The #4 spot goes to the 2016 film <The Wailing>, starring Kwak Do-Won, Hwang Jung-Min, Kunimura Jun, Chun Woo-Hee, and Kim Hwan-Hee. The movie is not only a thriller, but also on borderline horror, and has extreme suspense and mysterious vibes. From the acting to the story, and everything in between, <The Wailing> was amazing. The movie was directed by Na Hong-Jin, who also directed <Yellow Sea>.

The synopsis is as follows:
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.

#3

The #3 movie of the best Korean thrillers is another film directed by Na Hong-Jin, the directed of the #4 movie <The Wailing>. The #3 movie is <The Chaser>, starring Kim Yoon-Seok and Ha Jung-Woo. This film has one of the most memorable lines, scenes, and stories of all Korean movies, not only within the thriller genre. It’s the movie that really marked Ha Jung-Woo as an incredible actor (at least for me), and although the movie is on the older side now, being released in 2008, it still is an amazing movie even til this day. The famous “4885” line is also one of the most recognized movie lines in Korean cinema.

The synopsis is as follows:
Joong-Ho is a former cop that now operates an on-call prostitution business. Several of the women that work for him start to disappear, and he soon finds that the customer that called for Mi-Jin has the same number as the missing girls’ last call. He tries to get in contact with Mi-Jin right away, but it’s too late, as he cannot reach her either. As he goes out to find Mi-Jin, he runs into Young-Min. He discovers blood on Young-Min’s clothes, and realizes right away that he’s the guy he’s been looking for, and starts chasing him down. After a long chase, he eventually captures him and reports him to the police. At the station, Young-Min, ever-so calmly, confesses that he killed all the girls, leaving everyone shocked, and the police station turns upside down. Amidst all the chaos, Young-Min says with a chilling smile that Mi-Jin is probably still alive. However, there isn’t a single solid evidence that could keep Young-Min in possession. The authorities put all focus on finding evidence, rather than finding Mi-Jin, and Joong-Ho, who still believes Mi-Jin is alive, puts all focus on finding her. 

#2

The #2 spot goes to another very, very gruesome and disturbing movie of Korean cinema, <I Saw the Devil>. <I Saw the Devil> stars Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Min-Shik, and just the lead actors itself is a reason to go and watch this movie. The acting performances are phenomenal, and the revenge story mixed in with action, suspense, and gore made this movie a must-watch thriller. The movie was directed by the incredible Kim Ji-Woon, who also directed <The Age of Shadows>, <Illang: The Wolf Brigade>, <The Good, The Bad, The Weird>, <A Tale of Two Sisters>, and <A Bittersweet Life>. He’s definitely an experienced director.

The synopsis is as follows:
After Soo-Hyun, an NIS Agent, loses his fiancé in a brutal murder, he feels extreme shame, guilt, and anger that he wasn’t able to protect the woman he loves. Thus, he commits to taking revenge in the most gruesome way he can think of. After discovering that Jang Kyung-Chul is the culprit, he starts to inflict severe pain on Jang, just right up until he actually dies, and lets him go. He repeats this process, over and over, to show Jang the same level of pain he had to go through after losing his love.  However, Jang, a more vicious killer than the devil himself, starts to fight back, enjoying the equal appearance of an adversary that he’s never met before in his life.

#1

And now, we are left with just one, single movie. THE best Korean thriller, according to me. If you are a fan of Korean movies and have been watching Korean cinema for a while, I think you could guess the #1 Korean thriller of my Top 10 list. The #1 spot goes to the amazing film directed by the amazing director Bong Joon-Ho, <Memories of Murder>. This movie tops the list for not only “best Korean thriller” for a lot of people, but 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 understand why, as this is a definite must watch.

The synopsis is as follows:
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, comprised of Captain Goo, detectives that are natives to the town Park and Cho, and detective Seo from Seoul, is placed in the area of the incidents. As a possible suspect was arrested and closure of the case seemed to be in sight, the suspect denies the crime in at the on-site verification scene, where there’s heavy media coverage. The scene becomes a total mess, and thus Captain Goo is dismissed from his position. The criminal is known for leaving no traces of himself, to the extent that leaves the investigators dumbfounded. The only clue he leaves is the fact that he uses items that were worn by the victims to kill and tie them up. Even in cases where he raped the victims, he left no traces of himself on the bodies. As the new Captain, Shin, joins the team, the investigation starts to pick up steam. With not a single hair to go off of, Park Doo-man searches nearby locations to find possible suspects, and Seo, who was reviewing case files, finds a connection in that the victims were all women in red clothes, and that the murders happened on a rainy day. Thus, the detectives plan a trap by planting a cop in red clothing on a rainy day. However, 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. 

 

Conclusion

That concludes today’s video on my list of best Korean thrillers. I know some movies you expected may not have been included in this list, such as <The Host>. However, as mentioned in the beginning of the video, this list was comprised of not only critically acclaimed films and my PERSONAL tastes, but also for movies that I thought were deserving of more recognition. If you have differing views, please respectfully leave a comment, or join the EonTalk community on Telegram, and I’d love to further discuss! Once again, thank you to everyone, and I’ll see you guys in the next one!

Check out the Video Version:

Disclaimer
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.