The 25 Best South Korean Movies to Watch Online

Updated May 20, 2024 • Staff

With hallyu, or the Korean pop culture wave, taking the world by storm thanks to global media phenomena like Parasite and Squid Game, South Korea has become an even greater premier destination for art and entertainment. Korean cinema and television has always been a popular export from the country, but now the trademarks of its movies and shows have become eminently recognizable. Be it their emotionally powerful romances and melodramas, their oddball comedies, or their vicious and violent thrillers, Korean filmmakers have found their own expressive language that resonates across all demographics.

And with the sea of Korean content available to us today, some of their great films might be buried under the algorithms. So here we've selected 10 movies to help keep your hallyu fixation fresh.

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25.

Jaane Jaan (2023)

Jaane Jaan is one of those thrillers where you hope that the main characters would get away with murder. Based on the 2005 Japanese novel, the Hindi adaptation still has the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the relentless detective and math genius protecting the suspect, along with their elaborate chess-like mind games. However, the film changes a major plot point from the novel, and without spoiling too much, it turns the math teacher, now named Naren, into a less sympathetic character. Given today’s sensibilities, it’s easy to understand why the change was made. After all, just because someone’s a genius, it doesn’t mean that they’re someone to be admired. Jaane Jaan still keeps up the exciting thrills and suspense of the original novel, but in making its changes, it becomes unclear who the film is rooting for.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Jaideep Ahlawat, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karma Takapa, Lin Laishram, Naisha Khanna, Saurabh Sachdeva, Suhita Thatte, Ujjwal Chopra, Vijay Varma
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Rating: R
24.

Secret Sunshine (2007)

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.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
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
23.

Burning (2018)

Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience. Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story. Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.) This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against. Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one - a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Ah-in Yoo, Ban Hye-ra, Cha Mi-Kyung, ChoI Seung-ho, Jang Won-hyung, Jeon Jong-seo, Jeon Seok-chan, Jeong Da-yi, Jong-seo Jun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Shin-rock, Kim Shin-rok, Kim Sin-rock, Kim Soo-kyung, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Joong-ok, Lee Soo-jeong, Min Bok-gi, Moon Sung-keun, Ok Ja-yeon, Song Duk-ho, Soo-Kyung Kim, Steven Yeun, Yoo Ah-in
Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong
Rating: Not Rated
22.

Right Now, Wrong Then (2016)

In the West, South Korean film is largely defined by the ingenious (oft violent) bombast of directors like Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), but there is a quieter tradition championed by director Hong Sang-soo that is just as imaginative and worthy of your time. This fascinating film serves as a perfect entry point to a director whose filmography is full of similar riches.

A film director arrives in town to deliver a lecture, and having some time to kill, ends up sharing a day with a stranger. This simple set-up recalling Before Sunrise leads down a charming and quietly romantic route that would be delightful on its own, but Right Now, Wrong Then is about much more than just a chance encounter. It’s a film more concerned with how little moments here and there can change everything, and how much our lives are governed as much by chance and timing as the choices we make.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Choi Hwa-jeong, Gi Ju-bong, Go A-sung, Go Ah-sung, Jae-yeong Jeong, Ju-bong Gi, Jung Jae-young, Ki Joo-bong, Kim Min-hee, Ko A-sung, Ko Asung, Min-hee Kim, Seo Young-hwa, Youn Yuh-jung, Yu Jun-sang, Yuh-jung Youn
Director: Hong Sang-soo, Sang-soo Hong
21.

Han Gong-ju (2013)

This South Korean coming-of-age story, an award-winning debut from Lee Su-jin, is centered around a high school student named Han Gong-ju. There's a dark aura surrounding our teenage protagonist, as she avoids making new friends and closes herself off from the world. More than anything, she is afraid that people will discover the secret behind her shy persona, and the past events that changed her life forever. This is an intricate and truly devastating tale, sensitively told, and is likely to leave even the most hardened viewers filled with rage at those who have wronged Han Gong-ju.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Baek Ji-won, Baik Ji-won, Beom-taek Kwon, Chun Woo-hee, Dong Hyun-bae, In-seon Jeong, In-sun Jung, Ji Soo, Jo Dae-hee, Jung In-sun, Kim Hyun-joon, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Jung-pal, Kim So-young, Kimchoi Yong-Joon, Kwon Beom-taek, Kwon Bum-taek, Lee Young-lan, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, So-young Kim, Son Seul-gi, Woo-hee Chun, Yeong-ran Lee, Yim Dong-seok, Yoo Seung-mok, Young-lan Lee
Director: Lee Su-jin, Su-jin Lee
Rating: R
20.

Yellow Door: ’90s Lo-fi Film Club (2023)

Given a budget from Netflix to make a documentary on Korean film, some would have chosen instead to make one for big Korean filmmaking personalities like Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, who is featured here. However, director Lee Hyuk-rae instead creates Yellow Door, a love letter to the ‘90s film club that inspired a generation. The warm way each member tries to remember the club made decades ago, and the handy, almost cheeky, animations makes it feel like we’re there in the club with them, just listening to friends reminisce about the way they obsessed about film, even if it wasn’t the major they were studying in. It’s so nostalgic and sentimental, and in shifting its focus, it celebrates the lovely experience of finding a community of like-minded people that’s just obsessed with film as you are.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Bong Joon-ho, Choi Jong-tae, Ju Sung-chul, Kim Hye-ja, Kim Hyung-oak, Lee Hyuk-rae, Woo Hyeon
Director: Lee Hyuk-rae
Rating: PG-13
19.

The Host (2006)

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.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
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

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Host (2006) on Hulu for free
18.

On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)

There’s an intriguing meta appeal to this drama, the plot of which is a thinly veiled reference to the scandal that erupted around South Korean director Hong Sang-soo and star Kim Min-hee’s extramarital affair. Here, Kim plays an actress who flees to Germany amidst a media storm swirling around a similar relationship and then returns home to skirt prying questions from friends and — maybe — confront her now-distant lover.

But beyond its references to salacious real life, On the Beach at Night Alone is also a fascinating conversational movie, one that explores with gentleness all the messy feelings that Kim is having in her physical and professional exile (offers of acting roles having dried up because of the scandal). That tone isn’t permanent, though, because the film reaches a violently emotional crescendo with two extremely raw and strange outbursts at dinner parties — a strangeness echoed by the lightning bolts of surreality that break up what is otherwise a naturalistic film (and filmography, for Hong). This might make an unconventional entry point if you’ve never seen a Hong film before (he’s averaged two films a year since 2017, so there are plenty of other options), but it’s an illuminating introduction for newcomers all the same, and a fascinating evolution for confirmed fans.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, Gong Min-jeung, Han Ja-i, Han Jae-yi, Jung Jae-young, Kang Tae-u, Kim Min-hee, Kwon Hae-hyo, Mark Peranson, Moon Sung-keun, Seo Young-hwa, Song Sun-mi
Director: Hong Sang-soo
17.

Ballerina (2023)

Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller
Actor: Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Yeong-ok, Kim Young-ok, Kwak Jae-min, Lee Jae-joon, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Yu-rim, Shin Se-hwi
Director: Lee Chung-hyun
Rating: R
16.

Snowpiercer (2014)

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.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
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

Free Watching Options:

Watch Snowpiercer (2014) on Fubo for free

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