Koreans are known for their pho and their movies. (We’re not going to mention Gangnam Style). This tiny country with just over a population of 51 million are known to produce some of the best romance and horror films.
However, it was the crime drama that propelled Korean cinema to international status. In the last thirty years, Korean filmmakers have set the tone for some of the best films around the world.
Korean Crime drams are a highlight of cinema with some of the best action, plot twists and character development. These films excel in all major categories from acting, writing, cinematography, resulting in highly entertaining outcomes that also have great depth and artistic value, in contrast to the general rule of the genre.
The following are a few of the best among them.
1. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
The first part of “The Revenge Trilogy” a deaf-mute factory worker is desperate to arrange a kidney transplant for his dying sister. The worker gets in touch with criminals who strike a deal with him. He can sell his kidney to them in return for 10 million dollars to get her sister the life-saving operation. But he has no money to pay for his own surgery. That is when his street-smart girlfriend gives him the idea to kidnap his boss’s daughter for extortion money. But things predictably go wrong and set him on a path of vengeance.
2. Memories of Murder (2003)
A serial rapist murderers his victims by gagging them with their underwear and then torturing them to death. To catch the serial killers, two unintelligent but audacious detectives come start working the case. But the lack of judgment makes them miss out on a valuable clue which could have solved the murder mystery easily. With master execution and fantastic visuals, this movie is one that you should not miss.
3. Silmido (2003)
Based on a true story about the tension between a divided country – North Korea and South Korea. On Simido Island i, 31 criminals are being trained to get inside North Korea and kill North Korean leader Kim II-Sung. But then suddenly, peace talks start happening between the two countries which leads to the termination of the criminals. However the criminals have different plans and stage a revolt.
4. The Man from Nowhere ( 2010)
A small pawnshop lives a quiet and lonely life. His sole company is a little girl named So-mae. Her mother, who is a drug addict, steals drugs from a dealer and hands them over to the girl without him knowing. When the dealer’s gang discovers the perpetrator, they kidnap her and her daughter and turn against the pawnshop owner.
5. Memories of Murder (2003)
Based on Korea’s first real serial murder in modern history, the movie follows the investigation of the rape and murder of two young girls. However when they realize the murders are connected to other they quickly realize they are in over their head.
This film is masterfully constructed with its intense violent scenes, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat as the mystery of the crimes are slowly uncovered.
6. A Bittersweet Life (2005)
The film follows the life of a low-level gangster whose life takes a drastic turn when he rejects his boss’s instructions to kill his cheating girlfriend. The gangster has to go on the run, escaping the wrath of his boss. Now the gangster has to live up to the wrath of his powerful boss and his whole life goes upside down. The movie did extremely well at the box office and Empire Magazine named it third on their poll of the 20 greatest gangster films.
7. Oldboy (2003)
This is the best known (partly due to its Hollywood remake) and maybe the best Korean crime drama on this list. It is also the most successful South Korean movie ever made. The intensity of the movie can be assessed by the plot twists and turns as the viewer is slowly revealed what is happening with a surprise ending. The film follows a drunken man who wakes up and finds himself in a cell where he remains for 15 years. When he escapes he tries to track down the people responsible for holding him captive and must find out their motive.
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