Here are just 10 of our favourite South Korean action-thriller movies:
1.The Chaser (2008)
Inspired by a real-life serial killer, this Korean action-thriller is a must on our list. Yoo Young-chul is a South Korean serial killer, sex offender and self-confessed cannibal.
He admitted to having killed 20 people, mostly prostitutes and wealthy old men.
In this movie, actor Ha Jung-woo is particular impressive in his role as psychopath killer Je Yeong-min who is loosely based on Young-chul.
The story circles around a disgraced police Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) who became a pimp. He notices his girls keep on disappearing. After some time, he realises that all of the missing girls shared the same last customer. And that customer is Yeong-min.
This fictional character and the real life killer Young-chul have a couple things in common.
For instance, they both target prostitutes. Secondly, they both use a hammer as the main murder weapon.
In Young-chul’s case, it was the pimps who started to feel suspicious when their girls failed to show up. And they all connected the disappearances to the same phone number. They then notified the police which eventually led to the capture of Young-chul.
In terms of action, the movie offers a handful of hitting, smashing, kicking and various other forms of physical assault while the thriller part, basically a cat and mouse game between Joong-ho and Yeong-min.
Overall, The Chaser (2008) was a successful movie, becoming the third most popular film in South Korea in 2008.
2.The Yellow Sea (2010)
Speaking of The Chaser (2008), the film is directed by Na Hong-jin.
As the director of The Yellow Sea (2010), Noh reunites with his two lead actors in The Chaser, Ha Jung-woo and Kim Yoon-seok.
However this time, their roles are reversed. In The Yellow Sea, Jung-woo plays the protagonist while Yoon-seok plays the antagonist.
It revolves around a cab driver who agrees to carry out a hit in exchange for getting his debts paid.
After the hit goes wrong, he is chased by both the police and the gangster who assigned him the job.
3.The Suspect (2013)
KajoMag listed this as one of our favourite Korean movies about North Korean espionage.
Ji Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea. Suddenly, he is abandoned during a mission. Additionally, he finds out that his wife and daughter murdered.
Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation.
After one bad thingafter another, the CEO is brutally assassinated and Dong-chul is the main suspect.
Now, he is on the run again. Accused of murder and wanted for treason, Dong-chul begins to hunt for the truth.
Won Shin-yun, the director of The Suspect (2013) is a former stuntman before making his directorial debut through The Wig (2005). Hence, you can expect him pushing his actors through all kinds of stunts especially Gong Yoo in this movie.
4.The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil (2019)
What happens when a crime boss is targeted by a serial killer?
The most logical thing to do is to turn to the police. Even a gangster wants to stay alive right?
The story follows the gangster Jang Dong-soo (Ma Dong-seok) who barely survives a violent attack by an elusive serial killer.
He then forms an unlikely partnership with local detective Jung Tae-seok (Kim Moo-yul) to catch the sadistic killer known as ‘K’.
The movie reportedly based on real events from a decade ago. However, there is no clear mention which part of this story is true.
In 2019, Sylvester Stallone announced that he would be producing the remake of The Gangster, the Cop, The Devil. Will Ma Dong-seok be reprising his role?
5.A Hard Day (2014)
Are you having a bad day? We bet your day is not as bad as the one the main character of this movie is having.
A Hard Day (2014) follows the story of corrupt cop Detective Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun). In the middle of his mother’s funeral, Gun-su is told that his squad is being investigated by internal affairs for bribery.
He decides to walk out in the middle of the funeral. Later, Gun-su crashes into a homeless man who wanders onto the road, killing him.
Instead of reporting it, he hides the body in his trunk. Then, Gun-su returns to his mother’s funeral and does the ‘unthinkable’. He seals the body inside his mother’s coffin.
Little that he knows, somebody is watching and using that to blackmail him.
This Korean action-thriller film is a classic tale of revenge. It revolves around a father who becomes a fugitive while he hunts down his daughter’s rapists and killers.
Lee Sang-hyeon (Jung Jae-young) lives a quite life with his 15-year-old daughter Su-jin. His world turns upside down her after dead body is found in an abandoned bathhouse with evidence of sexual assault.
Since the investigation into his daughter’s case is not progressing as fast as he wants, he decides to take charge.
After receiving an anonymous text with information about the case, he goes to the address that was given to him.
There, he finds a man laughing as he watches a video of Su-jin’s rape.
In a fit of rage, Sang-hyeon accidentally kills the man and finds there is a second accomplice.
Now, the police is hunting him and Sang-hyeon is hunting the second accomplice.
7.The Target (2010)
In movies – whether they are produced in Korea or Hollywood – retired professional killers tend to be depicted like bears going into hibernation. Disturb them when they hibernate and you will be running for your life.
The Target follows ex-mercenary killer Yeo-hoon (Rye Seung-ryong) who is now leading a normal life.
That normalcy ends when he is framed for the death of a prominent CEO. Yeo-hoon manages to escape but winds up in a hospital.
After a doctor at the hospital whose name is Tae-joon (Lee Jin-wook) decides to help him, Tae-joon’s pregnant wife is kidnapped.
Now, the two men are on the hunt to rescue her and find out who is responsible behind the fiasco.
8.Midnight FM (2010)
This is the South Korean action-thriller film which earned actress Soo Ae her Best Actress award at the 31st Blue Dragon Film Awards for her performance.
She plays the role of Ko Sun-young, a popular television announcer and midnight DJ.
Sun-young decides to resign from her jobs and moved to the United States after her daughter Eun-soo requires heart surgery there.
On her last day of work, her sister Ah-young babysits Eun-soo at Sun-young apartment.
While she is on air, Sun-young receives a call from Han Dong-soo who claims to be her fan.
As it turns out, Dong-soo after hearing about Sun-young’s retirement, holds her family hostage and threaten her to use her final broadcast for his own agenda.
9.Cold Eyes (2013)
This Korean action-thriller film is a remake of 2007 Hong Kong film Eye in the Sky.
It follows a group of detectives from the surveillance team of a special crime unit who work together to take down a bank robbing organisation.
It stars Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung, Han Hyo-joo, Jin Kyung and Lee Jun-ho.
One of the best parts of this film is the cameo of Hong Kong actor Simon Yam, the original cast of Eye in the Sky.
10.No Mercy (2019)
How about a Korean action-thriller starring a woman?
Former professional boxer/actress Lee Si-young is the perfect cast for In-ae. She is a female bodyguard who went to jail after stabbing out the eye of a politician.
(Don’t feel bad for the politician; he raped In-ae’s sister Eun-hye.)
While In-ae is in jail, Eun-hye is bullied at school and frequently raped.
Even after In-ae is released, Eun-hye does not tell her of what happened.
Then one day, Eun-hye is abducted by a group of human traffickers. When the police refuse to do anything, In-ae goes on a one woman hunt to rescue her sister.