ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on January 15th, 2010 at 3:20 am

ROK Drop’s Top 10 Korean Movies of the Decade

Over at Korea Pop Wars, reporter Mark Russell has a posting on the Top 10 Korean movies of the past decade. Considering Mark’s significant background on reporting on Korean cinema this is definitely a list to take seriously.  On the other hand my list of the Top 10 Korean movies of the decade may not have Mark’s solid credentials behind them, but I hope everyone finds the list of interest anyway.

1. Memories of Murder (2003) – The best movie of the decade I am in total agreement with Mark Russell, which is Memories of Murder.  This isn’t just a great Korean movie, but one of the best crime movies I have ever seen.

2.  Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) – The beautiful Lee Young-ae stars in this movie as a woman falsely imprisoned for murder who long plots her revenge from prison against the person that framed her.  The plot, characters, and acting in this movie I found to be excellent.

3. The Way Home (2003) – This movie about a modern spoiled boy left to live with his elderly mute grandma is rural Korea really shows on film the differences between modern and old Korea, but how these differences can be overcome though love and understanding.  A really touching movie that probably no ajumma can resist crying after watching.

4.  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) – This Buddhist fable told by the changing of the seasons seperated by the passing of many years is beautifully shot in the mountains of rural Korea and supported by excellent acting and an engaging story .

5.  Old Boy (2004) – Another great revenge thriller by director Park Chan-wook that is ultra-violent, disturbing, and fun to watch all at the same time.

6.  Silmido (2003) – This action movie with a totally unbelievable plot really grips viewers simply because it is based off the true story of the secret ROK military commandoes that revolt and fight there way through the streets of Seoul to kill South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee.

7.  Chunhyang (2000) – This is a period drama that was masterfully filmed by master director Im Kwan-taek by switching from a talented pansori performance to the live acting to tell the classic Korean tale of the beautiful and loyal Chunhyang.

8.  Marathon (2005) -Touching story about a autistic boy with a love for running as well as a loving mother that always believes in him despite his learning disability.

9.  The President’s Last Bang (2005) – This movie was highly controversial when it was released due to its political overtones, but after watching it I was left wondering what all the fuss was about?  For a movie that theatrically shows the last hours of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee’s life, I was taken by surprise by the dark humor and great storyline that made this movie highly entertaining.

10. Taeguki (2004) – This one makes the list for being the best Korean War film out there in a category of films that is admitedly quite weak.

Some honorable mentions for me on this list would be Friend, The King and the Clown, JSA, Musa, and The Good, the Bad, & the Weird.

For those wondering my all-time favorite Korean movie is The Taebak Mountains (1994) with honorable mentions going to Attack the Gas Station (1999), Sopyonje (1993), and Shiri (1999).  Did I overlook a movie that should have been in the Top 10?  Well let me know in the comments section.


To keep up to date on everything that is happening in Korea please consider becoming a subscriber to the ROK Drop by entering your e-mail address below:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Tags: ,
  • guitard
    12:02 am on January 15th, 2010 1

    Have you ever seen the movie 깊고 푸른 밤 ? (I'm not sure what the English title is…maybe something "Deep Blue Night" or "Deep, Dark Night"). It came out in the mid-80s and was one of the first Korean movies to be filmed in the US. It stars 안성기.

    I thought that was an excellent film that was ahead of its time in terms of the quality of the videography and cinematography.

  • The Korean
    12:56 am on January 15th, 2010 2

    Not that I like the genre, but I notice the absence of any chick flicks :)

  • Korean American
    5:52 am on January 15th, 2010 3

    My Sassy Girl?

  • Other great movies a
    6:31 am on January 15th, 2010 4

    Achi and SSipak, Failan, Windstruck, and 3 iron to add few..

  • Chris In Dallas
    7:26 am on January 15th, 2010 5

    The only ones on the list I've seen is Taeguki and Silmido. I enjoyed them. On the honorable mention list, I found JSA boring and Shiri stupid. I don't go for over the top martial arts scenes and NKPA agents going through ROK's best like a hot knife through butter had my eyes rolling.

    I saw Haeundae in the theaters a couple months ago. Its one of the best disaster movies I have ever seen. BEWARE: Use caution if you purchase a Haeundae DVD and aren't capable of understanding conversational Korean. I bought one and the subtitles were absolutely HORRIBLE!

  • lollabrats
    7:30 am on January 15th, 2010 6

    I've seen only about two dozen Korean films so far, including most mentioned above. Here's my all-time ranking:

    1) Oldboy

    2) Seo-pyeon-je

    3) Mal-ju-kkeo-ri Jan-hok-ssa (Spirit of Jeet Kune Do: Once Upon a Time in High School)

    4) Dal-kom-han In-saeng (A Bittersweet Life)

    5) A-hop Sal-in-saeng (When I Turned 9)

    6) Geu-ttae Geu-sa-ram-deul (The President's Last Bang)

    7) Wang-ui Nam-ja (The King and the Clown)

    8) Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

    9) Bi-yeol-han Geo-ri (A Dirty Carnival)

    10) Mu-sa (The Warrior)

    The Taebak Mountains is hard to track down, unfortunately.

  • Whtard
    8:12 am on January 15th, 2010 7

    My favorite movie from the 00's is Peppermint Candy. Another one you don't mention is Secret Sunshine (Milyang), which I also enjoyed.

    I would also add Urideul-ui haengbok-han shigan (Maundy Thursday), I liked a lot despite t seems it's not well known. And maybe because I'm not Korean like Kim Ki Duk's movies, specially Iron 3.

  • Burma Bob
    10:50 am on January 15th, 2010 8

    "Save the Green Planet" certainly deserves at least an honorable mention. The most original and bizarre thing I've ever seen come out of Korea.

  • Kalani
    8:54 pm on January 15th, 2010 9

    Why no comedy category?

    I would nominate my favorite comedy flick of all time — Gangster Wife. Sequel 2 and 3 sucked, but I love to periodically rewatch #1 because it is SO funny when she gets piffed. A perfect farcial comedy up to having scissors as her gangster weapon and a wimp of an unsuspecting husband. Unfortunately, the female lead has only one expression, but it was perfect for this movie.

  • Tom
    4:37 am on January 16th, 2010 10

    The Chaser (추격자)

    The best film of 2008, by far. I thought I read somewhere it's showing in the US somewhere, and Hollywood is doing a remake.

    Trailer here.

  • Gary
    7:15 am on January 16th, 2010 11

    How did Chingu not make this list? Classic gangster film. Also, A Dirty Carnival and A Bittersweet Life are good, more recent gangster movies. The second being something like the Korean Scarface. Beastie Boys is another good one, these guys are players to the fullest, gives me something to aspire to.

  • lollabrats
    10:41 am on January 16th, 2010 12

    GI Korea listed "Chin-gu" on his honorables list under its English title, "Friend."

  • tellos
    1:26 am on January 19th, 2010 13

    Nobdy like the Chaser??? :sad:

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    2:25 pm on January 20th, 2010 14

    I haven't seen The Chaser yet but have heard a lot of positive feedback from it. I have actually just ordered it from Amazon. I'll let you know what I think.

  • Top Korean Films of the decade | London Korean Links
    1:01 am on January 26th, 2010 15

    [...] of films of the decade – in which the biggest shock was that there was no Park Chan-wook. GI Korea also has a list, which redresses the balance somewhat. So here is [...]

  • Philip
    8:43 am on January 28th, 2010 16

    Yes, I'd kind of forgotten about Friend. Another one to watch again.

    Taebak Mountains is an interesting choice. Not one of his easiest, but very rewarding. From recollection, what struck me was that after all the division caused by the troubles of modern times, it was the shaman who brought healing.

    But I never related to Attack the Gas Station – a genre-bend too far: too much violence along with the madcap humour.

    Some good choices in all.

    My own choice of neglected film from the 90s: An Affair / Jeong Sa by EJ Yong.

  • Dr.Yu
    2:27 am on February 8th, 2010 17

    One of my favorite Korean movies, “The king and the clown” is not in the list. So sad …

    Now what really made me sad was that Hollywood gave up the remake of OLDBOY. I was so eager to see how a western director would adapt the OLDBOY manga to the western audience.

    We lost a good chance to see how different cultures could deal with madness and revenge in an artistically way.

  • Jeff
    7:00 pm on March 10th, 2010 18

    For me would be Brotherhood of war , Attack the gas station , Welcome to dongmakgol , My Sassy Girl(All time fave), Oldboy .

  • phillip
    9:43 am on April 3rd, 2010 19

    Fighter in the wind is an amazing movie!!!

  • Thomas Lee
    1:34 pm on April 3rd, 2010 20

    White Badge is a good movie revolving around a couple of Korean Army Vietnam War vets.

  • asdf
    8:02 am on April 9th, 2010 21

    very good

  • Andrew
    7:36 pm on April 11th, 2010 22

    Save The Green Planet!!!

  • Mike McStay
    6:09 pm on April 14th, 2010 23

    My top 50 list and I have a few Korean Films on it.

  • Jodo Kast
    4:49 am on April 17th, 2010 24

    Deep Blue Night was excellent, for the portrayal of sociopathic behavior.

  • Rachel
    9:20 pm on April 30th, 2010 25

    The Host not being mentioned at all is a travesty! It's one of my favorite movies of all time, let alone Korean movies.

  • jonathan
    6:23 pm on May 6th, 2010 26

    I cannot believe there's nothing about MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER

    I've seen it yesterday night, I had so much fun, I laughed so bad alone in front of my screen. Some pot makes it even more enjoyable..

    I also will remember Oldboy forever, so weird..

    The chaser was nice too.

    If you want to have fun and laugh and be touched all at the same time,

    Again watch MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER.

  • joe
    9:35 pm on May 8th, 2010 27

    I would say that the difference in our backgrounds may be why you did precluded Friend (친구) from your list. And, yea, it was meant for a domestic audience. Of course no mention of chick flicks, lol, though My Sassy Girl (엽기적인 그녀) should definitely be up there…

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    12:50 am on May 9th, 2010 28

    Both Friend and My Sassy Girl are both good movies however, the movies I have on my list are ones I would watch again. Friend and My Sassy Girl I have watched once and really don't feel a need to watch all over again. Also Chunhyang is a bit of chick flick that has enough other things going on to make it enjoyable for guys to watch as well.

  • Hans Brinker
    10:51 am on May 26th, 2010 29

    I cannot believe there’s nothing about MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER

    You're telling me! I loved that franchise — i.e., No's 1-3. All of them were quite entertaining! Having said that, doesn't anyone care for any of the Korean mafia films or the 조폭/건달 genre?

    Am I the only one predisposed to the "Marrying the Mafia" I-III franchise, which were a hoot and a half? I can't believe not one of these films even got an honorable mention from you people. For those interested, I did write my own vain-glorious review for "MM3" if anyone cares to read it:

    Other worthy mentions (in no particular order):

    다세포 소녀 "Dasepo Girls"

    동갑내기 과외하기 "My Tutor Friend"

    두사부일체 "My Boss My Hero"

    투사부일체 "My Boss My Teacher"

    동해물과 백두산이 "North Korean Guys"

    내 여자친구를 소개합니다 "Windstruck"

    데이지 "Daisy"

    나의 결혼 원정기 "The Wedding Campaign"

    그녀를 믿지 마세요 "Too Beautiful to Lie"

    클래식 "The Classic"

  • Rei
    12:09 am on May 29th, 2010 30

    I agree that Memories of murder is the best crime movie and I wish that more ppl (especially Americans) would watch it because it has a very strong message against the using of torture. :cry:

  • Rei
    12:10 am on May 29th, 2010 31

    Also, you should try Welcome to Dongmakgol which is one of the very greatest war movies.

  • zoy
    2:05 am on August 5th, 2010 32

    i love my sassy girl,it made me interested in Korean movies.

    i am going to check some more and by the way "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring" is a great movie for relaxing ;-)

  • tHaU-cHeNg-cHa
    5:10 pm on August 12th, 2010 33

    The Classic

    My Sassy Girl

    3 Iron

    A Tell of Two Sisters

    Joint Security Area


    Lovephobia ???????????????????????????

    where they are?????????? :evil:

    though i'm not korean…..but i've seen lots of koreean movies…..i like them….and like to thank them for making such kind of great movies……..anyway,try these movies….you'll love them……..

  • Pierce Conran
    12:55 pm on August 31st, 2010 34

    Great decade for Korean cinema! Memories made it to the top of a lot of lists, very happy to see that.

    1. Memories of Murder
    2. Peppermint Candy (technically ’99, but I can’t bring myself to exclude it)
    3. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
    4. Save the Green Planet
    5. My Sassy Girl
    6. Mother
    7. The Power of Kangwon Province
    8. A Bittersweet Life
    9. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring
    10. Sad Movie

    Honourable mentions:

    Oasis, The Chaser, 3-Iron, The Host, Oldboy, Chunhyang, Public Enemy, The Coast Guard, Once Upon a Time in High School, A Moment to Remember, Friend, Failan.

  • Hallyuwooder
    3:22 am on September 11th, 2010 35

    Great list! These are some of my favorite Hallyuwood movies! Speaking of love stories, a movie you can't turn down is the film FAILAN starring Hallyuwood actor Choi Min-sik… I'm sure you'll love it!

  • JK
    4:41 am on September 25th, 2010 36

    Nice list! Need to include "Fighter in the Wind". One of my favourite martial art/drama movies without the use of CG or 'nonsense' flying cables. Check it out and let me know your thoughts. :smile:

    All the best,


  • somenicefilms
    10:59 pm on January 23rd, 2011 37

    The Good The Bad The Weird!!!!

    (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈, Joheun nom nabbeun nom isanghan nom)

  • somenicefilms
    11:00 pm on January 23rd, 2011 38

    I agree about Memories of Murder. It is an absolutely amazing film!

  • setnaffa
    2:56 pm on February 28th, 2011 39

    Korean movies I liked included a few of your choices and hated others. Which ones aren't important. I also liked some you didn't mention: Reptilian/Yonggary 1999, The Host, 2009 Lost Memories, and 71: Into the Fire.

    I think a movie is good if I feel better after seeing it. A movie is great if I want to see it again. Thank God we don't all like the same movies! The lines would be too long!!

  • Ravi
    2:02 am on May 19th, 2011 40

    I’ve got a list of my own at

    Though my list doesn’t have half of the movies on yours, but I still think the list above has extremely fine Korean movies. Guess that’s what makes new Wave Korean cinema so exciting. Cheers !!

  • Orbit
    9:39 am on May 19th, 2011 41

    I saw the devil is the best Korean movie.

  • DissonanceMan
    11:19 am on May 31st, 2011 42

    I really think A Dirty Carnival (street) should be on this list, but I still have to watch some of these

  • rednavi42
    9:09 am on August 14th, 2011 43

    i love korean movies and really enjoy them.
    heres a list of my own

  • a
    7:41 pm on September 12th, 2011 44

    1. say your name ten times.
    2. say your mom’s… name five times… See More… See More… See more… See More… See More… ………………See More… See More… See More… See More… See Mor…e… See More… See more… See More… See more… See More
    3. say your crus……hes three times
    4. paste this to four other groups.
    If you do this, your crush will kiss you on the nearest Friday.
    But if you read this and do not paste this, then you
    will have very bad luck.

  • riddhi chakraborty
    9:01 am on October 23rd, 2011 45

    why doesn’t anyone mention The millionare’s first love and The classic.. I fell in love with korean films for these two wonderfull movies..

  • Paul
    11:40 pm on December 18th, 2011 46

    I can’t believe nobody mentioned Shiri. Great film.

  • Krista
    1:08 am on March 1st, 2012 47

    Omo!! I cannot believe the man from nowhere hasn’t been mentioned at all O.O it is amazing, and won bin brings that movie to life so beautifully <3 my favorite movie of all times :D check it out!

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    5:08 am on March 1st, 2012 48

    @47 – Below is a link to the review I did for Man From Nowhere:

    This was a very good movie and I enjoyed it quite a bit and it was in strong consideration to be on the list.

  • William
    3:23 pm on April 23rd, 2012 49

    Guns and Talks (킬러들의 수다)

    Tons of epic one liners. The police breaks in the killers’ house and leaves “I Never Miss”as the screen saver. The killers’ leader and the crew wonder what is up. State that no one in the house is capable of writing such a long sentence in English and study their brains out what it means. Halarious.

    My wife is a Gangster (조폭 마누라)

    The part where the dude – macho woman has to train herself to look and act like a pretty woman her age is off the chain. She consults a Madam on how to attract men. The Madam sez to rotate left/right shake her breasts and say OooooBbbbbaa in a fashion typical of a woman trying to drop a heavy hint. The Madam doing it is funny and the Mafia woman trying out that line and failing is simply hilarious.

    Both these movies are must-see.

  • William
    1:40 am on June 30th, 2012 50

    i like history movies and sci fi and martial arts for the most part.
    one movie i like is about a Korean dr by name of Yi who wrote on surgery and it depicts his whole life..
    then there is Soldier a story about a monk ..
    another was about a Korean Admiral …
    another about a Space ship Admiral ..these are smpme of my favorite movies from and about Korea Hero OCN is new style sci fi that is pretty decent in its portrayal of possible future.


RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URI

By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.

Bad Behavior has blocked 57392 access attempts in the last 7 days.