10 Underrated Korean Movies

Hello everyone and welcome back to another content by EonTalk! As the title makes clear, today’s post will be on “Underrated Korean Movies.” 

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Before getting into the list, I’d just like to put out a few disclaimers. First, these movies are based on my personal perspectives. This means that these movies are “underrated” in my point of view, and are films that I believe are worth the watch, but haven’t received much attention. Of course, you may have seen these movies and may think they aren’t underrated, but keep in mind that I compiled this list in a macro sense, looking at the global audience. 

Also, this list will contain 10 movies, but aren’t necessarily in the order of rankings and listed in a way that I just felt was appropriate. Of course, there are many, many more underrated movies than these 10, so if you would like a Part 2, I can make a part 2, so let me know by commenting!

That being said, let’s get into today’s list of 10 Underrated Korean Movies.


To begin the list, the first movie is the 2012-released film, <Dancing Queen>.

Directed by Lee Seok-Hoon, who also directed <The Himalayas>, <The Pirates>, and <Two Faces of My Girlfriend>, this comedy-drama stars the likes of Hwang Jung-Min, Uhm Jung-Hwa, Lee Han-Wi, Jung Sung-Hwa, and Ra Mi-Ran. I must say, the title of the movie, as well as the trailers and posters, don’t do the movie justice. I saw this movie appear on my Netflix account many times, but refrained from watching because I thought it’d be a film about sports dancing or something. Not trying to bash on sports dancing, but it’s just not my cup of tea when I look for a new film to watch. And even with Hwang Jung-Min, one of my favorite Korean actors, as the main lead, I found myself not inclined to watch. However, upon watching the movie, the movie was nothing like I thought it’d be, and actually thoroughly enjoyed the movie. This was another film where I felt that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a movie by its poster/trailer in this case).

The synopsis is as follows:
The once “Madonna of Shinchon,” Jung-Hwa, who’s always dreamed of becoming a singer, receives a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire her dreams. However, her hopes of accomplishing her dreams are threatened when her husband announces he’ll be running for the mayor of Seoul. Can Jung-Hwa pursue her dreams of becoming a K-Pop singer with her husband running as the candidate of Seoul’s mayor?


Next, the second movie is the 2017 film, <I Can Speak>.

<I Can Speak> was directed by Kim Hyun-Seok, who also did <C’est Si Bon>, <11am>, <Cyrano Agency>, and <Scout>, and as with the first film, is another movie you can’t judge based upon the poster or trailer. Starring the likes of Na Moon-Hee, Lee Je-Hoon, Park Chul-Min, Yum Hye-Ran, Lee Sang-Hee, Lee Ji-Hoon, Jung Yeon-Ju, and Kim So-Jin, <I Can Speak> is a movie that really opens your eyes to the elderly, and a film you can learn about the comfort women of the dark times of Korean history. I have a written review of the film, so you can read more about the film here

The synopsis is as follows:
Na Ok-Bun has a secret she needs to tell the world. Known as the “Goblin Grandma,” Na was a despised elderly woman in her community, filing over 8,000 petitions and complaints on the tiniest problems to the local government office for over 20 years. When a new public servant, Park Min-Jae, starts working at the office, Na and Park go through several problematic interactions. The “Goblin Grandma” begins to learn English, as she has a message she would like to get out to the world. However, she finds it extremely difficult to progress her English skills. Just then, she finds out that Park has profound skills in the language, and starts wanting him to be her tutor. She begs him to help her out, and Park eventually gives in and the two come to a mutual agreement. And that’s when their relationship begins to grow, learning more about each other and each others’ circumstances. Park becomes curious as to why Na is trying so hard to learn English, and finds out her true purpose. Na’s underlying aspiration and reason is of critical importance, clarifying all of her past actions.


Moving along, the third movie of the list is the 2019 film, <Underdog>.

<Underdog> has two directors of Oh Sung-Yoon and Lee Choon-Baek, who both were the animation directors of <26 Years>, and is an animated feature film. Korean cinema isn’t well-known for animations, but this film makes you wonder why, as it was a great watch. I personally love animated movies, as the “Toy Story” films and basically all of Pixar’s works are some of my favorite films, and <Underdog> was an amazing animated Korean movie. The movie features the voices of D.O. of EXO, Park So-Dam, Park Chul-Min, and Lee Jun-Hyuk, amongst others, and I’ve got a review of this movie as well, if you’d like to learn more. 

The synopsis is as follows:
“Moong-Chi” lived a happy life with his owners ever since he was brought home when he was just a puppy. However, that all changes and his life is flipped upside down. Going on what he thought was another car ride, Moong-Chi is left stranded in the middle of a forest when his owner abandons him. Unable to accept reality at first, Moong-Chi denies that his owner deserted him. Once he meets “Jjanga” and his pack, a group of dogs that were also abandoned by their owners, they are able to get him to realize the truth, and their story of survival begins. As they start to become accustomed to the street life, their new home becomes on the brink of destruction. An adventure in pursuit of a new doggy life begins!


The fourth movie is the most recently released film on this list, <By Quantum Physics: A Nightlife Venture>.

Directed by Lee Sung-Tae, who’s responsible for <Derailed>, <By Quantum Physics: A Nightlife Venture> is a crime film that has oddly similar elements as the real-life scandal that shook the nation of Korea last year, the Seungri/Burning Sun scandal. I can’t say it’s the same, but the story and the timing of the movie made me feel like there were some overlapping components. You can read more about this in my written review. The film stars Park Hae-Soo, Seo Ye-Ji, Kim Sang-Ho, Kim Eung-Soo, Byun Hee-Bong, Kim Young-Jae, Lee Chang-Hoon, Lim Chul-Soo, Hyun Bong-Shik, and Son Jong-Hak.

The synopsis is as follows:
Lee Chan-Woo, the king of nightlife entertainment, firmly believes the quantum physics theory that “thoughts create reality.” One day, he notices a famous celebrity partaking in a party with illegal drugs. For the man that believes the industry needs to innovate without illegal activities, he passes along this intel to a long-time friend who’s the Chief in Criminal Intelligence. However, what they thought was merely a small scandal involving a celebrity and drugs turns out to be much, much bigger. Prosecutors, politicians, and other highly influential individuals are also involved, and now Chan-Woo must go against these extremely powerful people. With the help of the Chief and a colleague who has massive connections, they attempt to close this case, once and for all.


Next, the fifth movie is the 2018 film, <Little Forest>.

This movie was directed by Lim Soon-Rye, who also did <The Whistleblower>, <South Bound>, and <Forever the Moment>, and stars Kim Tae-Ri, Ryu Jun-Yeol, Moon So-Ri, Jin Ki-Ju, and Jang Jae-Hee. I highly recommend this movie if you want to escape from your busy life, and need some healing. Upon watching this film, I found myself reflecting upon my life, and the important things in life. To put this movie in a single sentence, <Little Forest> is a film that’ll heal your soul. 

The synopsis is as follows:
Between exams, dating, and finding a job, Hye-Won gets extremely exhausted with her mundane life, and decides to put everything on hold and go to her countryside home. There, she meets her oldtime friends, Jae-Ha and Eun-Sook. Jae-Ha, who left his busy city-life to live the life he wants, Eun-Sook, who dreams of also breaking away from her everyday life, and Hye-Won spend their time day by day, making meals out of crops they personally grew. As they live their life appreciating each day, the cold winter concludes and spring finds them; And soon after, the hot summer ends and the leaves fall as autumn greets them; And the cycle comes full circle as winter finds them again. As she spends a year, meeting each of the four seasons, Hye-Won realizes the true reason why she came back home, and gets ready for the flowers to bloom again.


Moving along to the sixth movie, the sixth movie is the 2015 film, <Untouchable Lawmen>.

Directed by Shin Jae-Ho, who’s responsible for <Days of Wrath> and <Gate>, <Untouchable Lawmen> is an action film starring the likes of Lim Chang-Jung, Choi Daniel, Lim Eun-Kyung, Jang Kwang, Lee Kyung-Young, and Jung Han-Bi. The main lead duo of Lim Chang-Jung and Choi Daniel were also the stars of one of the best Korean thrillers, <Traffickers>, and <Untouchable Lawmen> was another film they had great chemistry. This movie was like the K-drama “Save Me” mixed with <Midnight Runners>, and is a good watch if you love action-thrillers.

The synopsis is as follows:
“Jung-Jin,” the profiler who uses physical abuse to catch criminals; and “Yoo-Min,” the homicide detective who became a cop to seduce girls; These two are South Korea’s craziest police, and are called upon the Special Investigations Headquarters for a special mission. With the belief of “the crazy needs to be caught by the crazier,” this duo is given the mission to catch the boss of the nation’s most notorious criminal organization. The two are ordered to catch the target no matter what it takes.


Coming in next is the 2018 movie, <Be With You>.

<Be With You> was the only directorial work by Lee Jang-Hoon, and this movie is an extremely, extremely emotional movie. Based on the Japanese movie of the same title released in 2004, <Be With You> stars So Ji-Sub, Son Ye-Jin, Kim Ji-Hwan, Go Chang-Seok, Lee Yoo-Jin, Kim Hyun-Soo, and Lee Jun-Hyuk. This is a great example of a sad, emotional movie that’ll bring you tears without forcing it. 

The synopsis is as follows:
Before Soo-Ah passed away, she promised she’ll return on a rainy day. A year later on a summer day, as the rainy season began, Soo-Ah miraculously appears. However, Soo-Ah can’t remember who Woo-Jin, her husband, is. Nonetheless, Woo-Jin is just happy that his wife has returned to his side, and starts to share the story of their love story. As Soo-Ah hears the story of her and Woo-Jin’s first meeting, first date, and all their first moments of happiness, she begins to fall in love for her husband all over again.


Next, the #8 movie is the 2014-released film, <Man on High Heels>.

<Man on High Heels> is a noir action film directed by Jang Jin, who also directed <We Are Brothers>, <Romantic Heaven>, and <Good Morning President>, and revolves around a topic that’s rarely tackled in Korean cinema: sexuality and the hardship of transgenders. Although the LGBTQ community and the social stance on this has improved in Korea, this is still a theme that’s not mainstream, and <Man on High Heels> did a great job at bringing the issue to light. The movie stars the likes of Cha Seung-Won, Oh Jung-Se, Esom, Song Young-Chang, Kim Eung-Soo, Go Kyung-Pyo, Lee Yong-Nyeo, Lee El, and Kim Min-Gyo, and I think the casting was done wondrously. Cha Seung-Won is, I believe, one of the best actors that could’ve played the main character, and he executed the performance incredibly.

The synopsis is as follows:
Ji-Ok is a violent detective with all the conditions of a perfect man. He’s a legendary figure not only amongst the police, but also within the criminal organizations, as he has incredible skills when catching criminals. Ji-Ok has a secret deep down in his heart: A desire to be a woman. In order to hide his true feelings, he lived his life deliberately being even more masculine. However, Ji-Ok is now ready to accept his true self, and start to live the life that he’s always wanted, but will the social situations allow him to be who he really is?


The #9 film is the 2019 movie, <My First Client>.

Directed by Jang Gyu-Sung, who also directed <I am the King>, and <Small Town Rivals>, <My First Client> was my and the EonTalk community’s pick for the most underrated movie on the 2019 EonTalk Movie Awards. The movie features the main cast members Lee Dong-Hwi, Yoo Sun, Choi Myung-Bin, Lee Joo-Won, Go Soo-Hee, Seo Jung-Yeon, and Won Hyun-Jun, and one of the best part about this film was the acting performances by the cast. Furthermore, this was a very powerful movie that goes over many social issues. You can read more about <My First Client> on my written review.

The synopsis is as follows:
Jung-Yub was a lawyer with only one ambition in life: to become successful and rich. That is, until Da-Bin and Min-Jun came into his life. Da-Bin and Min-Jun were two children that were basically neglected and extremely abused by their parents, and they found comfort in Jung-Yub when he was temporarily working at the local child protection services office. Jung-Yub found the two young siblings to be quite annoying as they continuously went to meet him everyday, and he couldn’t wait to leave the civil job for a high-paying lawyer position. And when he finally does land the job at an extremely well-paying law firm, he learns that there had been a terrible incident: Da-Bin, the older sister, had allegedly killed her 7 year old brother, Min-Jun. This shocks Jung-Yub, as he knows how close the two siblings were, and he feels extreme guilt for betraying the two children and leaving them for money. He takes on the case as the lead lawyer, representing Da-Bin, and starts digging into the mother of the children, and what really went on on the night of the death.


And finally, the #10 movie of the Underrated Korean Movies list is the oldest film on this list, which is probably a big reason why a lot of people haven’t seen it: <The Big Swindle>.

<The Big Swindle> was directed by Choi Dong-Hoon, who’s responsible for other amazing works such as <Assassination>, <The Thieves>, and <Tazza: The High Rollers>, all incredible films. <The Big Swindle> was the base of Choi Dong-Hoon’s works that followed, as you definitely get the vibes of <The Thieves> and the first “Tazza” film in this film. There are many different layers to the story, and so there’s so many ways the film can go, making it that much more enjoyable. The movie stars Park Shin-Yang, who plays 2 characters, as well as Baek Yoon-Shik, Yum Jung-Ah, Lee Moon-Shik, Chun Ho-Jin, Park Won-Sang, and Kim Sang-Ho.

The synopsis is as follows:
A month after he’s released from prison for fraud, Choi Chang-Hyuk starts to scheme another scam. The plan is to rob the Bank of Korea, and 5 members are called to form the robbery team. In the team are Chang-Hyuk, the planner; Mr. Kim, the godfather of con artists; the boisterous Ul-Mae; Je-Bi, the flirt; and the counterfeit technician, Gasoline. There’s just one problem: The members don’t trust each other. They all have the same goal, but all have different motives. Will they be able to successfully accomplish their mission?



That concludes today’s list of underrated Korean movies. I’d love to hear which of these movies, that I believe are underrated, you’ve watched, and will be watching, so please comment down below the ones you’re interested in! You can also join the EonTalk Telegram group and discuss further with me and other K-film enthusiasts there. 

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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.

2 thoughts on “10 Underrated Korean Movies”

  1. Watched little forest after reading this, made me so hungry! That’s the thing with korean movies or dramas, more often than not I end up craving for korean food after 🙂

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