At the 2020 Academy Awards, history was made. Parasite, the genre-bending, class-examining, “metaphorical” masterpiece from Bong Joon Ho and his incredible cast, won the Oscars for Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. Not only was this the first time any non-English language film won Best Picture, it was also the first time any South Korean film was honored at the Oscars in any way. If you saw Parasite, saw it get honored the hell out of at the Oscars, and are thinking to yourself, “I want more,” boy howdy am I excited to share the following list with you.
First: As many folks smarter than I have already observed, it is a bit reductive and Western-centric to collapse all of South Korean cinema together. “South Korean cinema” is not a genre, it is a country’s mode of artistic expression, and there are tons and tons of genres, different directors, and points of entry therein. However, the goal of expanding a film fan’s purview to other countries is, I believe, a noble one — particularly when examined within South Korea’s history moving tumultuously from authoritarian rule to democratic independence, resulting in part in what’s oft-referred to as the Korean New Wave, an explosion of cinematic freedom resulting in some uniquely unified expressions of filmic experimentation and quality. As such, I’ve done my best to curate this list with an eye on variety and representation, while acknowledging this country’s particular history and national experiences.
Without further ado, film fans: Here are the 20 best South Korean films to watch if you couldn’t get enough of Parasite. And if you loved these — go find yourself some more! It’s an entire country’s film industry, don’tcha know!