8 Best Movies to Watch by Song Kang-ho

Staff & contributors

, 2009

A thirst for love, a thirst for recognition, a thirst for sympathy, a thirst for meaning, a thirst for life, and a thirst for blood. Director Park Chan-wook and actor Song Kang-ho, two of the biggest names in South Korean cinema, join forces for the first time in a modern take on the supernatural. In present day South Korea, Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Song) volunteers himself as a human experiment during the formulation of a vaccine against a deadly virus. When the experiment fails and he is thought to be dead, he resurrects as a conflicted vampire, one whose moral code continually goes against his intrinsic desires. Along with Song and long-time collaborator cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, Park creates a riveting atmosphere that is both very scary and sad. By blending elements of horror and drama, he also achieves putting a fresh and unique spin on the time-honored vampire film.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Choi Jong-ryul, Ériq Ebouaney, Hwang Woo-seul-hye, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Moon-ee, Kang-ho Song, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Hae-suk, Kim Ok-vin, Lee Hwa-ryong, Mercedes Cabral, Natallia Bulynia, Oh Dal-su, Park In-hwan, Ra Mi-ran, Seo Dong-soo, Shin Ha-gyun, Shin Ha-kyun, Son Jong-hak, Song Kang-ho, Song Young-chang

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

This Park Chan-Wook classic is the third part of a trilogy of films around the theme of revenge, following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy. While ultimately unique, Lady Vengeance is a thriller set in a prison, in the vein of films such as the Japanese action drama Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion. After being framed and wrongly convicted for murder, our protagonist seeks out the true perpetrator of the crime –– but more than anything else, she seeks vengeance. 

This film’s run time is 115 minutes and every second is essential. There is often gratuitous violence perpetrated by men against women in film, however Lady Vengeance takes back control and for that reason it remains one of my favorite revenge films.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anne Cordiner, Bu-seon Kim, Byeong-ok Kim, Cha Soon-bae, Choe Hui-jin, Choi Hee-jin, Choi Jung-woo, Choi Min-sik, Go Su-hee, Ha-kyun Shin, Han Jae-duk, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Jun Sung-ae, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bu-seon, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Ik-tae, Kim Jin-goo, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Shi-hoo, Kim Si-hoo, Kim Yoo-jung, Kim You-jung, Ko Chang-seok, Ko Su-hee, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Yea-young, Lee Byung-joon, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Yong-nyeo, Lee Young-ae, Lim Su-gyeong, Min-sik Choi, Nam Il-woo, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Park Myung-shin, Ra Mi-ran, Ryoo Seung-wan, Seo Ji-hee, Seo Young-ju, Seung-Shin Lee, Seung-wan Ryoo, Shi-hoo Kim, Shin Ha-gyun, Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho, Su-hee Go, Toni Barry, Tony Barry, Won Mi-won, Yea-young Kwon, Yeong-ae Lee, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoon Jin-seo

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton, Dana Green, Ed Harris, Emma Levie, Ewen Bremner, Go A-sung, Go Ah-sung, Griffin Seymour, Jamie Bell, Jim High, John Hurt, Joseph Bertót, Kendrick Roger Ong, Kenny Doughty, Ko A-sung, Ko Asung, Luke Pasqualino, Luna Sophia Bar-Cohen, Magda Weigertová, Marcanthonee Reis, Octavia Spencer, Parry Shen, Paul Lazar, Peter Hallin, Robert Russell, Sean Connor Renwick, Seisuke Tsukahara, Song Kang-ho, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Tilda Swinton, Tomáš Dianiška, Tómas Lemarquis, Tyler John Williams, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Rating: R

So far, chemical waste hasn't mutated amphibious creatures enough to create giant monsters large enough to swallow people whole… yet. This sort of monster film premise is familiar, especially for fans of 1950s sci-fi movies, but in the hands of director Bong Joon-ho, The Host transforms what could have been B-movie schlock into a drama examining the ways generations within a family, as well as generations within a country and within the world, have failed each other. As the Park family try to save their own, the actions they take feel all the more important, knowing what’s at stake on multiple levels. While at the time, there were doubts that Bong Joon-ho and the Korean film industry could pull off the monster, The Host proved that there was more to come from the then emerging film giant.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Ah-sung Ko, Bae Doona, Baek Do-bin, Bong Joon-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Choi Dae-sung, Choi Jae-sup, David Anselmo, David Joseph Anselmo, Doona Bae, Go A-sung, Hae-il Park, Hie-bong Byeon, Jeong In-gi, Jeong Kang-hee, Jung Seo-yoon, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bi-bi, Kim Choo-wol, Kim Hak-seon, Kim Jin-seon, Kim Nan-hee, Kim Roi-ha, Ko A-sung, Ko Chang-seok, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Byung-gil, Kwon Hyeok-Pung, Lee Dong-ho, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Eung-jae, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Jong-yoon, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Dal-su, Park Hae-il, Park Jin-woo, Park No-shik, Paul Lazar, Philip Hersh, Pil-sung Yim, Ra Mi-ran, Scott Wilson, Seo Young-ju, Shin Hyeon-jong, Son Jin-ho, Son Young-soon, Song Kang-ho, Yim Pil-sung, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Yeon-soo, Yoon Je Moon

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: R

For better or worse, death strikes us all, fast and unexpectedly. It’s tough enough if the death is caused by ill health or accidents, but when premeditated by another person– it can be easy to lose faith in a higher power. Secret Sunshine depicts a grieving mother trying to start a new life in the countryside, though certain events make it tough to fit in. There’s a well-meaning, long-term bachelor who’s interested in her, though she’s not ready to reciprocate, and there’s townsfolk that would like to invite her to their church, though she’s reluctant to join. There’s curious, gossipy neighbors ready to comment on her every action. Secret Sunshine reveals a darker layer to the countryside towns we retreat to to cope, but it also examines the ways we grieve, cope, and deal with forgiveness, in a community that would prioritize itself at the expense of what's morally right.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cha Mi-kyeong, Do-yeon Jeon, Go Seo-hee, Jang Hye-jin, Jeon Do-yeon, Jo Young-jin, Kang-ho Song, Kim Jong-soo, Kim Mee-kyeong, Kim Mi-hyang, Kim Min-jae, Kim Yeong-jae, Kim Young-jae, Ko Seo-hie, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Hee-jun, Lee Sung-min, Lee Yoon-hee, Mi-kyung Kim, Oh Man-seok, Park Myeong-shin, Park Myung-shin, Seon Jeong-yeop, Seon Jung-yeop, Song Kang-ho, Yeom Hye-ran, Yeong-jin Jo

Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Rating: Not Rated, NR

, 2022

Directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, the Korean film Broker is a simple but tender story about chosen family. It follows Moon So-young (IU), a young mother who decides to drop her baby off at a church, seemingly for good. But when So-young decides to return for the child, she discovers that he’s been stolen by two brokers who’ve put the baby up for adoption on the black market. She joins them in the hopes of meeting her child’s prospective new parents (and staking a claim at the payment) but the more they spend time with each other, acting like a real family on the road as they do, the more it becomes real for her, and the more she feels conflicted about the decision she’s about to make.

As with any Hirokazu Koreeda film, Broker is an affecting, empathetic story that succeeds at humanizing its misunderstood cast of characters. Admittedly, it’s not the best Koreeda movie out there, even when the category is narrowed down to stories about found families (the best in that regard would be his 2018 film Shoplifters). And Koreeda fans will find Broker somewhat scrubbed and Disney-fied for a larger crowd, lacking the edge that his previous Japanese films had. But it is undeniably heartwarming and beautiful. The road trip setup allows the characters to build their rapport naturally, and the warm crisp tones capture the seabreeze ease of the film. Regardless of your view on Koreeda, Broker is well worth a watch.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bae Doona, Baek Hyun-jin, Bek Hyun-jin, Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Choi Hyo-sang, Choi Yoon-woo, Gang Dong-won, IU, Jeong Jong-yeol, Jong Ho, Jung Ji-woo, Kang Gil-woo, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Sae-byuk, Kim Soo-hyeon, Kim Sun-young, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Doo-seok, Lee Ga-kyung, Lee Joo-young, Lee Moo-saeng, Lee Mu-saeng, Lim Seung-soo, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, Park Hae-jun, Park Kang-seop, Park Kang-sup, Ryu Ji-an, Ryu Kyung-soo, Seong Yu-bin, Song Kang-ho, Song Sae-byuk, Woo Sung-min, Yun Seul

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Boon Joon-Ho's 'Memories of murder', which was recently re-released is not too dissimilar from many of the crime-dramas that have come out of South Korea over the past two decades. Two very different detectives have to come together to solve what is turning out to be a series of murders that are all linked. The movie is based on the true story of South Korea's first ever recorded serial murderer, who raped and then killed  young girls in the late 80's. In the hands of probably the foremost South Korean director after Park Chan-Wook, this movie takes you through all ranges of emotions.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Baek Bong-ki, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Choi Jong-ryul, Go Seo-hee, Hae-il Park, Hie-bong Byeon, Jae-ho Song, Jeon Mi-seon, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Moon-ee, Jong-ryol Choi, Jung In-sun, Kang-ho Song, Kim Joo-ryoung, Kim Joo-ryung, Kim Roe-ha, Kim Roi-ha, Kim Sang-kyung, Ko Seo-hie, Kwon Byung-gil, Kwon Hyeok-Pung, Lee Da-il, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Kang-san, No-shik Park, Oh Yong, Park Hae-il, Park Hyun-young, Park Jin-woo, Park No-shik, Park Tae-kyeong, Roe-ha Kim, Ryu Tae-ho, Sang-kyung Kim, Seo Young-hwa, Seo-hie Ko, Shim Sung-bo, Shin Hyeon-jong, Shin Hyun-jong, Shin Un-seop, Shin Woon-seob, Son Jin-ho, Son Jin-hwan, Son Kang-gook, Song Jae-ho, Song Kang-ho, Woo Go-na, Yeom Hye-ran, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoon Ga-hyun

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: Not Rated

A cynical down-on-his-luck Seoul taxi driver is hired by a German journalist to go to another town called Gwangju. What seemed like an easy and overcompensated journey at first takes him into the heart of a city under siege by the military. This is in fact the student uprising that will be a very important event in South Korean history, known as 1980 Guangju Democratic Uprising. Both the journalist and the taxi driver confront life-threatening situations as they find themselves at the center of the movement. A true-story-based movie, it's a heartfelt and entertaining political drama about one of the bleakest chapters of modern Korean history. In 2018 it was the country's official submission to the Oscars.

Genre: Action, Drama, History

Actor: Cha Soon-bae, Choi Guy-hwa, Choi Gwi-hwa, Daniel Joey Albright, Hae-jin Yoo, Han Sa-myeong, Han Sa-myung, Han Yi-jin, Heo Jeong-do, Heo Jung-do, Jeon Hye-jin, Jeong Seok-yong, Jin-young Jung, Joey Albright, Jun-yeol Ryu, Jung Jin-young, Kang-ho Song, Ko Chang-seok, Kyul Hwi, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Ho-chul, Lee Jung-eun, Lee Sae-byeol, Lee Yong-i, Lee Yong-yi, Park Hyeok-kwon, Park Hyuk-kwon, Ryu Jun-yeol, Ryu Sung-hyun, Ryu Tae-ho, Seo Hyun-woo, Seok-yong Jeong, Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Uhm Tae-goo, Um Tae-goo, Yoo Hae-jin, Yoo Hai-jin, 许政度

Director: Hun Jang, Jang Hoon, Jang Hun

Rating: Not Rated