If “Squid Game” has you looking for more Korean movies on Netflix to check out, we’ve done a little research for you. Korean noirs and thrillers reel in viewers to explore the darker side of human nature. Audiences relish in their cynical plots and adrenaline rushes while also connecting with the characters through sympathetic moments.
Following the success of “Parasite,” a film directed by Bong Joon-ho that was awarded the Academy Award for the Best Picture in 2020, Korean thrillers and noirs have been attracting more attention from global audiences, especially with the pandemic that “pushed many people to try new types of shows and features that they wouldn’t have attempted before.”
The Korean wave has spread worldwide, and with this demand comes a more diverse selection of Korean movies on Netflix worth checking out. Netflix has invested US$700 million from 2015 to 2020 to facilitate the popularity of Korean content. So, read on for our recommendations for thriller Korean movies on Netflix to add to your watch list.
This film-noir tells the story of a police officer working undercover within one of Korea’s biggest crime organizations, Goldmoon. Lee Jung-jae of “Squid Game” plays undercover officer Lee Ja-Sung, who is desperately trying to get reassigned before being discovered by the gangsters he’s been gathering intel on. Hwang Jung-min also stars as one of Goldmoon’s key members, and Choi Min-sik plays Chief Kang, who is in charge of the project New World.
Lee Ja-Sung has been undercover in Goldmoon for eight years working on the project New World, and he is now recognized as a key member of the organization. However, once suspicions arise that a police officer is undercover in the group, Lee Ja-Sung faces a difficult situation.
Although Chief Kang had promised to take him off the project, he doesn’t follow through and instead threatens to expose him as an undercover agent. Lee Ja-Sung must decide his loyalty between the corrupt chief holding him hostage or the criminal organization he’s been trying to bring down.
Andrew O’Hehir reviews the film in Salon, saying, “In any movie this conspicuously artificial, the rewards come from a satisfying plot, distinctive characters and a series of memorable showpieces, and Park handles all three demands well.”
“Night in Paradise”
“Night in Paradise” tells the story of an ex-gang member attempting to escape the wrath of another criminal gang. Park Tae-goo (Uhm Tae-goo) turned down an offer to join the rival Bukseong gang. This rejection led the Bukseong gang to take the life of Park Tae-goo’s younger sister and nephew, fueling Park Tae-goo’s need for revenge.
After fleeing to Jeju-island, he meets Jae-Yeon (Jeon Yeo-been), a terminally ill woman, and builds an emotional connection with her. However, he must continue to hide from the coldblooded hunt of Executive Ma of the Bukseong gang.
Anthony Kao from the Cinema Escapist praises the film, saying, “Jae-Yeon plays a key role in the movie’s explosive climax” and “provides a new injection of welcome energy into the K-gangster drama.” Koreans perceive Jeju-island as “akin to Hawaii for the US,” but the film becomes “ironic by contrasting with those preconceived notions.”
However, despite these intentions, there are mixed reactions to the film, which point out that international audiences may “miss the irony” without knowing the cultural references. Nevertheless, keeping this in mind, you can appreciate the intended meaning that the director, Park Hoon-jung, wanted to convey.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, “The Call” will deliver. Kim Seo-yeon (Park Shin-hye) and Oh Yeong-sook (Jeon Jong-seo) are interlinked through a phone that connects different periods 20 years apart. They become good friends, calling each other frequently as they share insights and experiences.
Kim Seo-yeon realizes that with the help of Oh Yeong-sook, she could prevent her father’s death. Then, Kim Seo-yeon’s entire life shifts, and all looks good. However, things are quick to turn when Kim Seo-yeon warns Oh Yeong-sook that her stepmother will murder her during an exorcism. We’re not going to give too much away, but as the trailer reveals, this triggers Oh Yeong-sook to begin a killing spree. It’s up to Kim Seo-yeon to take action in stopping Oh Yeong-sook.
Jeong Jong-seo’s portrayal has been highly praised, with Melissa McGrath of Hollywood Insider calling her “something of a wild card,” and describing her acting as “a unique batter of precarious and silly, highlighted by an almost lackadaisical aloofness that distinguishes her from being pigeon-holed as the stereotypical damsel in distress or the vapid villain.”
“Train to Busan”
“Train to Busan” is one of the first movies that brought Korean zombie movies into view worldwide, garnering US$38.8 million in the first five days of screening in Korea as well as US$2.2 million in the United States and Canada. Korea’s first zombie blockbuster movie, “Train to Busan” is a heart-wrenching story depicting people’s escape from Seoul to Busan in Korea amid a zombie apocalypse.
The zombies are brought to life by director Yeon Sang-ho, who hired a dance team to inform their movements. In an interview with Dylan Kai Dempsey, Sang-ho says, “We had our actors learn some very strange dances, with unnatural movements like having broken elbows.”
Although there are some heartwarming moments, the film highlights the darker side of human nature when it comes to survival. As Dempsey points out in his review: “Along with likable monsters, his film offers a powerful allegory, an undercurrent of economic inequity and corruption that indicts both Korea and the rest of the world. Not only are his characters reflections of ‘everyman,’ but they also embody humanity’s vices.”
“The Host” is a horror/action monster film by Bong Joon-ho in 2006. Creating the monster with CGI that “holds up well” still today, it wasn’t “just a typical series of superficial CGI moments and one-liners.” Inspired by a real-life case of hazardous chemical dumping in South Korea’s Han River, the monster appears as a byproduct of the event, preying on civilians.
With no outstanding protagonists that we come to admire, the film doesn’t follow a typical monster movie plot. Your not-so-hero-like yet relatable family ultimately fights the monster and becomes aware of the deeper political secrets intertwined with the monster’s existence.
As Ying-Di Yin elaborates in his review, director “Bong focuses on humanizing the ‘loser’ family rather than the otherworldly monster to elicit powerful drama and to create unlikely heroes of the flawed, complex and ultimately relatable Parks who hold the moral compass.”
Manifesting the consequences of human greed through the monster, although comparable to Hollywood monster films in terms of the scale of destruction, the film depicts the fear of a monster as is. Not just a metaphor, “the hardest part about surviving something so extreme is recognizing that it’s real and responding in kind,” explains David Erlich.
Chillingly relatable to our situation with the pandemic over the last two years, this film is eerie to watch now.
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