The best South Korean films to stream in Australia
South Korean films have become incredibly popular thanks to streaming platforms. Care to jump on the bandwagon? We have the ultimate list of titles currently available Down Under.
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Bold and visually daring, Korean films appeal to movie buffs thanks to their unique blend of action and emotion. We live in a world dominated by Hollywood blockbusters with a huge focus on comic book adaptations, remakes and sequels.
It's slim pickings for those looking for something different from the US. However, if you expand your horizons, you'll notice that flicks coming from South Korea have gained a lot of attention in the past couple of decades, and for good reason. Experimental and entertaining, these films aren't afraid to push the boundaries of their genre. From romantic comedies and action-packed thrillers to sci-fi masterpieces, Korean cinema offers something for everyone.
Korean pop culture's growing popularity is partly due to the emergence of streaming platforms like Netflix that allow people to experience foreign content with more ease. TV shows have been gaining in popularity too – think Squid Game or All Of Us Are Dead. Even Disney Plus has been eyeing the Korean market, with Snowdrop proving to be a hit for the streamer.
That's why it's surprisingly to realise that, at the time of writing, some of the most acclaimed Korean movies aren't accessible in Australia, such as Pieta, The Handmaiden, Oldboy, My Sassy Girl, A Tale of Two Sisters, Poetry or Oasis. Still, you can find some gems on streaming services if you're willing to dig deep. We've gathered some of the best below.
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
A black comedy thriller with plenty to say about society and class, Parasite is a wonder. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2020, the movie revolves around a struggling family whose members infiltrate themselves in the life of a rich family, with unexpected results.
Boasting brilliant performances and a tight narrative that keeps you glued to the screen, Parasite is a must-watch for any serious movie buff. If you're a newbie, it's also the perfect introduction to South Korean cinema.
Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer
If you're completely unfamiliar with Korean cinema, this is also a great place to start. Snowpiercer is an English-language South Korean-Czech production, directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Chris Evans.
When a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, the survivors inhabit a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. Once the lower-class passengers revolt against the elite, prepare for a tense fight for survival.
There's plenty to love about Snowpiercer, from jaw-dropping visuals and blood-pumping action scenes to its unique sense of humour. Who's ready to get on board?
3. Train to Busan
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok, Kim Su-an, Choi Woo-shik
There's no shortage of zombie movies out there, but Train to Busan is one of the best. The story centres on a group of terrified people as they're trapped on a blood-drenched bullet train ride to Busan, a resort city rumoured to hold the dreadful zombie hordes.
Brimming with gripping action sequences and thought-provoking social commentary, this zombie flick dazzles by making great use of the cramped quarters and allowing the characters to take centre stage instead of focusing on gratuitous violence. At the end of the day, witnessing how people treat each other under these circumstances is just as interesting as finding out who lives and who dies.
Cast: Ahn Seo-hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Yoon Je-moon, Choi Woo-shik, Tilda Swinton
Directed by the same man behind Snowpiercer and Parasite, Okja centres on the deep bond between a young South Korean girl and her adorable super-pig.
After caring for Okja for 10 idyllic years, Mija is heartbroken when the American Mirando Corporation takes her pet to New York. As a result, she embarks on a touching journey to reunite with her best friend. Heartwarming and satirical, the movie is well-acted and benefits from strong visuals. It may even prompt you to give up meat.
Cast: Oh-seung Kwon, Wi Ha-joon, Park Hoon, Ki-joo Jin, Kim Hye-yoon
Midnight has the kind of exciting premise that will make you want to tune in immediately. The movie revolves around a young deaf woman and her mother who find themselves on the run from a serial killer after they interrupt one of his kills. Staying a step ahead of the criminal will prove to be a challenge.
A pulse-pounding thriller brimming with unexpected twists, Midnight delivers a gripping cat-and-mouse chase. It also introduces a heroine you'll be rooting for in no time.
Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Park Shin-hye, Lee Hyun-wook, Oh Hye-won
This virus movie came out in 2020 while the entire world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Somehow, it made for cathartic viewing.
The action is set right as a gruesome zombie virus wreaks havoc in a Korean city and follows a young man who locks himself in his apartment to stay safe. He makes contact with another survivor, but things quickly get out of hand. Will the 2 manage to escape the infected hordes outside? Tune in to find out.
Cast: Kim Nam-gil, Kim Young-ae, Kim Ju-hyeon, Jung Jin-young
When an earthquake affects a Korean village that houses a nuclear power plant, it exposes the inhabitants to radiation. The movie zooms in on a man who risks his life to save the country from a sure-fire catastrophe.
Pandora is a disaster blockbuster you don't want to miss, with exciting action and solid performances. Get the popcorn ready and settle in for a wild ride.
8. BLACKPINK: The Movie
Cast: Kim Jisoo, Jennie Kim, Roseanne Park, Lalisa Manoban
A documentary about one of the most successful K-pop groups in the world might not seem like essential viewing for lovers of Korean cinema. That being said, if you're a fan of BLACKPINK, this engaging film delivers big-time.
With archival footage and never-before-seen interviews, BLACKPINK: The Movie is a celebration of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa. It's also a love letter to their fanbase, highlighting the group's most important performances to date.
Cast: Esom, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Deok-moon, Kim Jae-hwa
In the mood for something bittersweet? Enter Microhabitat, which centres on housekeeper Mi-so. She loves cigarettes, and when she can't afford them anymore due to rising prices, she decides to give up her flat to keep indulging her smoking habit. Mi-so then has to manage as a houseless person and often crashes with old friends.
Microhabitat is about financial insecurity and the compromises people are forced to make for money. It's absorbing and timely. It's also the kind of movie that will stay with you for a long time.
Cast: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Jin Goo, Yoon Je-moon
Mother seamless blends family drama, comedy and horror. The result? An exquisite hodgepodge of a movie that will delight anyone willing to give it a shot.
The plot revolves around a mother whose mentally challenged son is accused of a brutal murder. She decides to prove his innocence by investigating the crime herself. Mother is dark, sad and moving. Consider yourself warned.
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Go Na-hee, Park Jung-min
A South Korean superhero film? Yes, please! Psychokinesis follows a father who acquires telekinetic abilities. He decides to use them to help his estranged daughter stand up to an evil construction company that wants to demolish her small business.
The movie is directed by Yeon Sang-ho, also responsible for Train to Busan. If you're a fan of the genre, this one is a must-watch given that it offers a refreshing take on superheroes. It's inventive, violent and wonderfully weird.
Cast: Hyun Bin, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Eui-sung, Jeong Man-sik
You might think you've seen all sub-genres of zombie films possible, from action to comedy to romance. But have you ever seen a period zombie film? Enter Rampant, which follows a prince who bands together with his compatriots to fight demon-like creatures in ancient Korea.
The movie takes a bit to get going. Once the spectacular battles start, you'll be unable to look away. Add some great character development into the mix and Rampant is worth the time investment.
13. Space Sweepers
Cast: Song Joong-ki, Kim Tae-ri, Jin Seon-kyu, Yoo Hae-jin
Space Sweepers is an epic space opera set in the year 2092, when the Earth has become nearly unhabitable. The movie centres on a team of space sweepers who collect and sell space debris floating in Earth's orbit. When they stumble upon a wanted human-like robot, they decide to hold it for ransom. Too bad they slowly begin to grow attached to the robot.
A moving found-family tale with plenty of action, Space Sweepers is engaging from start to finish. If you love Cowboy Bebop, this one should be right up your alley.
14. Tune in for Love
Cast: Kim Go-eun, Jung Hae-in, Kim Gook-hee, Jung Yoo-jin
Set in the 90s, Tune in for Love is about a young man and woman who fall in love while exchanging stories on a radio station. Despite their paths crossing on a regular basis, the timing for them to get together is never right.
Will they eventually manage to work things out? You need to find that out for yourself. The movie will sweep you off your feet.
15. The Call
Cast: Park Shin-hye, Jeon Jong-seo, Kim Sung-ryung, Lee El
A riveting psychological thriller, The Call revolves around 2 women from different times who connect through a phone. When they try to change their fates based on the information they gather from each other, things get increasingly complicated.
This is the kind of movie you don't want to know a lot about going in. Instead, buckle up for a wild story that will keep you guessing.
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