Who among us doesn’t watch movies? The storylines combined with the dialogues and music tracks capture attention and can keep us engaged for long hours.
Each of us likes different kinds of movies and stories. Thrillers are a fan favorite as the suspense and the anticipation of what comes next keep our brains whirring and focused.
South Korean dramas and the Hallyu, i.e., the Korean wave, have taken the world by storm. Likewise, the Squid Game and K-pop are a sensation that has created an enormous fan base for South Korean content.
The Oscar winners Parasite and Minari have proved that South Koreans are exemplary in what they do and know how to reach out to the audience.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why are South Korean thrillers so good?
- 38 Best Korean Thriller Movies
- 1. Forgotten (기억의 밤), 2017
- 2. Old Boy (올드보이), 2003
- 3. Parasite (기생충), 2019
- 4. The Man from Nowhere (아저씨), 2010
- 5. The Handmaiden (아가씨), 2016
- 6. Memories of Murder (살인의 추억), 2003
- 7. Train to Busan (부산행), 2016
- 8. A Hard Day (끝까지 간다), 2014
- 9. I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다), 2010
- 10. The Yellow Sea (황해), 2012
- 11. The King (더 킹), 2017
- 12. The Chaser (추격자), 2008
- 13. New World (신세계), 2013
- 14. Mother (마더), 2009
- 15. The Wailing (곡성), 2016
- 16. The Gifted Hands (사이코메트리), 2013
- 17. Montage (몽타주), 2013
- 18. The Chase (반드시 잡는다), 2017
- 19. The Call (콜), 2020
- 20. Burning (버닝), 2018
- 21. Alive (#살아있다), 2020
- 22. Midnight Runners (청년경찰), 2017
- 23. Lady Vengeance (친절한 금자씨), 2015
- 24. Joint Security Area (공동경비구역), 2000
- 25. Pandora (판도라), 2016
- 26. No Mercy (용서는 없다), 2010
- 27. A Tale Of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련), 2003
- 28. The New World (신세계), 2013
- 29. A Dirty Carnival (비열한 거리), 2006
- 30. A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생), 2005
- 31. Voice of a Murderer (그놈 목소리), 2007
- 32. Confession of Murder (내가 살인범이다), 2012
- 33. White Night (백야행: 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다), 2009
- 34. The Age of Shadows (밀정), 2016
- 35. Bedevilled (김복남 살인사건의 전말), 2010
- 36. Midnight FM (심야의), 2010
- 37. Silmido (실미도), 2003
- 38. Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (복수는 나의 것, 2002)
- Wrapping Up on 38 Best Korean Suspense Films
Why are South Korean thrillers so good?
From learning Korean with Kpop to popular K-dramas, plenty of Korean stuff attracts people from far and wide. And when it comes to movies, nothing beats thrillers!
I say (and after you’ve watched the movies on this list, you will agree) that South Korean thrillers are not just suspense-filled. They are insane in their cinematography and dialogue delivery as well.
The dark themes are often a reflection of current or prominent social issues. As a result, it puts out to the audience in a way they relate to and evokes empathy.
Added to this are the crazy plot twists and extremely minute details that you will not realize are essential till the end when all the intensity comes crashing down at the climax.
We also know South Korean flicks for their raw, gore, and graphic portrayal of violence and dark motifs.
This may make some of you uneasy when watching them.
But, it is a way for them to show how real the story is and how the social issue is real, not just something concocted for the movie’s purpose.
Korean thrillers do precisely what they promise. They give you joy by letting you immerse yourself in their intricate and well-knit plots. The top-tier visuals, fabulous location, and engaging themes make it awe-inspiring.
Added to this is the additional benefit of a beautiful cast and superb acting and characters that look so real.
Can it help you learn Korean?
Sure, it can.
If you have the motivation to learn Korean, seeing thriller movies can be a valuable method in your language journey. It is not only effective and engaging but also fun.
These films can help you hone your listening skills and allow you to study and understand words, expressions, and sentences.
There are plenty of movies for learning Korean. Of all the choices, here we have covered thrillers movies. This will encourage you to learn new things and improve your Korean.
Where to see thriller Korean movies?
Many websites and online streaming services have a vast collection of films, dramas, and videos to get you started.
You can watch most of them on paid channels like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, Disney, and other online streaming channels. There are also some free platforms like Viu, Vimeo, and YouTube.
In your free time, you can view video streaming channels to view thriller Korean movies.
There is something for everyone because of the ease of internet access and the ample supply of OTT platforms.
38 Best Korean Thriller Movies
Below are my picks of what I consider to be the very best Korean thrillers ever made.
Of course, this is pretty subjective, and there isn’t a list with all the top names. But you will find most of the big hits and popular ones.
This list is an excellent starter for those new to thriller cinema or unfamiliar with some of these flicks.
And so here are some of the best Korean Thriller movies that will leave you enthralled and wanting more. These films will challenge your mind and make you think.
1. Forgotten (기억의 밤), 2017
Directed and written by Jang Hang-jun, Forgotten is a 2017 mystery and psychological thriller.
The movie keeps you guessing and engaged until the finale, when the entire mystery is revealed. The story talks about Jin Seok, who witnesses the abduction of his elder brother and is troubled.
However, 19 days later, his brother returns with no recollection of what had occurred to him. Jin Seok is now trying to find the truth about his brother’s disappearance.
I don’t want to give too much away on this one. But this is the one that will keep you at the edge throughout the movie.
2. Old Boy (올드보이), 2003
A classic and must-watch is the movie Oldboy. Based on a popular Japanese manga of the same title, it is a spine-tingling thriller exploring revenge’s intense side.
It tells the story of a man who is Oh Dae-Su. He was abducted and held captive in a windowless hotel room for fifteen years.
After years of captivity, someone unexpectedly released him, with his captor giving no reason for his detention or subsequent release. Also, his kidnapper gives him five days to figure out why he’d been imprisoned.
Oldboy is a quintessential thriller film. If one has to pick the most famous South Korean thriller movie ever made, this surely deserves to be on the list.
It has everything from action and cliffhanger plots to a new-noir revenge drama. If you are looking for a great cinematic experience in a mystery, this is not one to be missed.
3. Parasite (기생충), 2019
This was apparent on this list. Most of you probably have already watched this one, but who stops you from watching it again?
I think it is just as thrilling as watching it for the first time. The film perfectly blends suspense, dark humor, and a never-ending tense storyline.
The Parasite is the first non-English movie to win the Oscar for best film at the 92nd Academy Awards.
This is the most recognized film for Korean learners on the global stage. The film shows the separation between two distinct groups of people living in Seoul.
It revolves around a needy family, victims of class discrimination and ridicule. Ki-Woo learns from his friend (Park Seo-joon) that she has an English teaching job in Korea. It can help her earn a good amount of money.
So, the Kim family creeps and exploits a wealthy family out of greed. The unraveling consequences take a heavy toll on both families alike.
This one will leave you disturbed (positively) by its accurate and raw portrayal of society. But who is the actual parasite here? The crafty Parks or tricky Kims? Watch to find out.
4. The Man from Nowhere (아저씨), 2010
Directed and written by Jang Hang-jun, Forgotten is a 2017 mystery and psychological thriller.
The movie keeps you guessing and engaged until the closing when the entire mystery is revealed. The story talks about Jin Seok, who witnesses the abduction of his elder brother and is troubled.
However, 19 days later, his brother returns with no recollection of what had occurred to him. Jin Seok is now on a mission to find the truth about his brother’s disappearance.
I don’t want to give too much away on this one. But this is the one that will keep you at the edge throughout the movie.
5. The Handmaiden (아가씨), 2016
This film, directed by Park Chan Wook, is full of romance, sensual scenes, retribution, friendship, and unexpected turns.
It is a well-known brand in the country. The plot follows a Korean con artist who hires a thief to work as a maid for a wealthy Japanese heiress.
The con artist intends to defraud the heiress and steal her entire fortune. However, the plot turns when the maid and the heiress develop feelings for each other.
The Handmaiden requires a second watch to catch its complex story fully. Yet, you will surely enjoy this one with plenty of black humor and erotic tension.
6. Memories of Murder (살인의 추억), 2003
Memories of Murder is my best Korean thriller of all time. In fact, it is my favorite across all the genres.
The Parasite director’s previous is based somewhat on the actual story of South Korea’s first confirmed serial killings. The Hwaseong serial murders remained unsolved until recently. Then finally, the suspect was perhaps caught many years later.
Three detectives, Park, Kim Roi-ha, and Seo, seek to track down the rapist and sadist killer. The victims of this unknown perpetrator were in a tiny Korean region in the 1980s.
Three increasingly desperate detectives attempt to solve the violent mind. It was a futile effort to crack the case. And all looked haunting and upsetting.
The film’s ending sequence shows the incompetent officials letting such atrocities go unsolved. It was a failure against the darkness of the crime committed.
This film blends the crime genre with desperation, dark humor, gripping, aggravating, neo-noir, and sarcasm. The fantastic performances, superb photography, and suspenseful story make this cliffhanger flick essential to view.
7. Train to Busan (부산행), 2016
The movie from South Korea, Train to Busan, is more on the horror side but is a must-watch for all zombies and apocalypse fanatics. Besides keeping you on the edge of your seat, it will leave you in tears.
The story is about a divorced father, Sok-woo, who tries to get his daughter to meet her mother. But they get stuck on the train from Seoul to Busan in a zombie apocalypse.
Once the train departs, an infected woman-turned-zombie runs inside, and chaos follows. The father and other survivors on the train try their best to reach the safe zone at the other end of the country.
During this outbreak, passengers even battle against one another to survive. It is one of the best Korean zombie thrillers that will scare and entertain you until the end.
It has tons of gripping actions, heart-wrenching scenes, and heart-pounding suspense. It is well known for its star cast and screenplay, Train to Busan is South Korea’s favorite and pride.
8. A Hard Day (끝까지 간다), 2014
A Hard Day is a film involving a man trying to solve the mystery of a call he receives. It has everything from drama, suspense, and mystery.
This film depicts a detective who collides with a guy on the road while driving from his mother’s burial, killing him. He then tries to get rid of the body by hiding it in his mother’s coffin on the day of her funeral, fearing the consequences.
However, he receives a phone call threatening him, claiming that some anonymous person had witnessed his actions. So now it’s up to the detective to figure out what’s going on.
This picture is exciting because of the grey characters and unique hero-villain roles. This one will surely sort you out if you’re into action thrillers.
9. I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다), 2010
I Saw the Devil is yet another South Korean classic. Directed by Kim Jee-woon and written by Park Hoon-jung, this action thriller will keep you in a nail-biting thrill till the end.
It is about a deranged murderer who faces violent retribution for killing a woman. Soo Hyun, her fiancé, and a covert agent resolve to search for the serial killer himself.
Instead of finishing his revenge with death, he played a twisted game of catching the dangerous killer and torturing him. And only to set him free and then repeat the same pattern.
The game of cat & mouse has lots of turning points. Initially, the film appears to be a war between good and evil.
But, as the retribution operation progresses, the lines between the two get increasingly blurred. It leaves the audience to question who the wicked one is.
I Saw the Devil is one of the best Korean revenge-thrillers ever made. The last few scenes will make you think who actually won? Or were both lost? Watch out to discover it!
10. The Yellow Sea (황해), 2012
Directed by Na Hong-jin, The Yellow Sea is a flick fully packed with gory, violence, and thrill.
The Yellow Sea is an action-packed suspense thriller about a desperate cab driver who becomes caught up in a nefarious plot after promising to assassinate South Korea.
In Yanji City, Gu-Nam (Ha Jung-woo) is a taxi driver. Yanji City, in northeastern China, is home to over 100,000 Chinese-Koreans known as Joseonjok. They live between North Korea and Russian borders.
But, as he prepares to assassinate his victim, a series of unanticipated events transpire. Then, nothing went as planned, and everything went terribly wrong.
It all leaves him desperate for a way out. Now, he had to run for his life. The climax will leave you astonished, and it is totally worth it!
11. The King (더 킹), 2017
Starring Ryu Jun-yeol, Jo In-sung, Jung Woo-sung, and Bae Seong-woo, The King is a political thriller. The narrative is powerful and dramatic.
The film is about a young prosecutor who becomes entangled in organized crime and politics and sees the dark side of both.
Tae Soo enrolls in law school and works as a prosecutor. But, just as he is about to join the world as a powerful prosecutor ready to fight the good fight, he discovers the top 1% of Korean prosecutors who have complete control over the country.
The higher someone rises, the more dangerous a fall becomes. The drama, legal thrillers, quirky comedy, and twisting tales make this film full of entertainment.
12. The Chaser (추격자), 2008
The Chaser is a Korean suspense thriller. This is loosely based on the real-life serial killer Yoo Young-chul.
The movie depicts a serial killer who comes to the notice of the protagonist. When one of his ladies goes missing, a police officer turned brothel boss pledges to find her.
He has only twelve hours to discover the murderer, and the ensuing tension is stunning and mind-boggling.
This film is complex because of the characters and their depth. It offers the viewer what they want to watch. The impressive performance by the lead actor Kim Yoon-seok and the bone-chilling plots will amaze you.
The film’s concluding sequence is undoubtedly its greatest and one of the most shocking in the genre’s history. If I have to pick the top 3 Korean thrillers ever made, The Chaser will undoubtedly be on the list.
13. New World (신세계), 2013
New World is a tense criminal thriller with typical violence, anti-heroes, stunning action sequences, sophisticated gangsters in their suits, and plot twists.
Through the film, Ja-sung, an undercover officer, infiltrates South Korea’s most prominent criminal organization but is caught between his responsibilities.
It shows the delicate balance that governs relationships, continually shifting in a game of death where nothing is implausible, as the film’s end so beautifully emphasizes.
There are plenty of fine performances that make it a must-watch. It also evokes tons of mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end.
14. Mother (마더), 2009
Woman, another smash success from filmmaker Joon-ho, follows the story of a mother and her 28-year-old son, Do-Joon, who live in a tiny village.
Do-Joon, who is crippled, is accused of murdering a girl when she is discovered brutally dead. But the mother was convinced of her son’s innocence.
She then went to find the truth, and nothing got in her way. So now it’s up to his mother to track down the real culprit.
Mother is a tense mystery thriller that you must see. The performance and cinematography are at their best.
It is heartbreaking, surprising, and interspersed with well-considered comedic relief. Plus, the film gives a novel twist on a well-worn narrative line, revitalizing a genre by challenging standard murder mystery tropes.
15. The Wailing (곡성), 2016
Again tending more towards horror, this South Korean movie will give you the chills. The bone-rattling climax is a must-watch and has everything to take you to an extreme level.
They set the story in Gokseong, a small village in the Korean mountains. A mysterious pandemic occurs soon after a foreigner arrives in the town. As a result, a series of mysterious deaths and killings follow.
A policeman, Jong-goo, investigates the truth behind the mysterious infection and the killing. He also wants to save his daughter from becoming a victim.
In the end, the villagers got really sicker. Then, the policeman comes across a strange woman who asks if the foreigner is responsible for this or if evil forces are at work in the village.
You have to see this shocking suspenseful flick to know this! With its chilling story and beautiful screenplay, this movie will be a thrill ride.
With a runtime of 156 minutes, you enjoy the perfect blend of black comedy, bizarre situations, and terrifying scenes.
16. The Gifted Hands (사이코메트리), 2013
Gifted Hands is a suspense thriller. It is about a detective, Chun Dong, assigned to investigate the kidnapping and death of a little girl. She was then confronted with a sequence of occurrences.
When the detective was investigating the case, he found a mysterious painting on the wall. This shows the actual crime scene.
He encounters a man with the extraordinary skills of “Psychometry” while researching the case. The investigator then used him to apprehend the kidnapper.
A mix of thriller, mystery, and supernatural will keep you entertained till the end. You could watch this film again and again. See and find out.
17. Montage (몽타주), 2013
Montage is a must-watch cliffhanger thriller that stars Uhm Jung-hwa, Song Young-chang, and Kim Sang-kyung.
It is a mystery thriller about a crime and investigating a case about to be closed when it was discovered. A kidnapper vanished 15 years ago.
Someone puts a flower at the crime site five days before the case’s statute of limitations ends. Then, a few days later, another crime is committed against a comparable victim using the same manner.
Three characters: a mother who lost her child, a detective with a guilty conscience, and a kidnapper hiding something. Traumatized by the case, the three personalities try to solve it before it’s too late.
Will they solve it? Watch this must-see film and find out.
18. The Chase (반드시 잡는다), 2017
The Chase is a 2017 thriller involving a serial killer who is repeating his eerie and creepy modus operandi 30 years later again. It has two veteran actors, Baek Yoon-sik and Sung Dong-il, in the lead.
Sim Deok-soo runs a run-down apartment complex and is a grumpy landlord. Then, suddenly, his tenants start to vanish under mysterious circumstances.
He and an ex-detective with Alzheimer’s disease work together to bring down the serial killer. It is an action-packed crime thriller about two men chasing a serial killer.
They are not taken seriously as they are both old men people don’t like because of their personalities.
This was the first film by the filmmaker Na Hong-jin. Yet, he made a suspenseful that hooks you on the screen for the entire movie. Unsurprisingly, it won many awards, like Best Film and Best Director in Korea.
19. The Call (콜), 2020
The Call is a 2020 movie featuring the famous actor Park Shin-hye. Finally, Seo Yeon returns home after a long time away.
The 2011 British and Puerto Rican supernatural horror The Caller inspired the film. The film revolves around Seo-yeon and Young-sook.
She calls a stranger Yeong Sook on an old phone she found in the house. Seo Yeon discovers Yeong lives in the same place as her, even though they are 20 years apart. And then the two become friends from there.
Then, one day, Seo Yeon and Yeong Sook make a small decision that would drastically alter their lives in the present. Watch out to find out what happens in the end. But that would be worth the wait!
20. Burning (버닝), 2018
Burning is a 2018 romantic thriller directed by Lee Chang-dong. The film is based on “Barn Burning,” one of Haruki Murakami’s short stories from “The Elephant Vanishes.”
The filmmaker centers this psychological mystery drama on a young girl and her childhood friend. Jong-soo aspires to be a writer but works part-time as a delivery man for a distribution company.
He runs into Hae-mi (Jeon Jang-seo) while working. They moved in together. Hae-mi asked Jon-Soo to take care of her cat while she tours Africa.
She returns with Ben (Steven Yeun), a man she met on her trip. As the story advances, Ben reveals his hobby to Jong-Soo.
The plot will surprise you with countless twists and turns. Thanks to this mind-bending thriller drama, prepare to be on the edge of your seat.
21. Alive (#살아있다), 2020
This is another one on the list that portrays the zombie apocalypse. With many positive reviews, the filmmaker released this film globally via Netflix in 2020.
The story shows the story of Joon-woo, who stays in isolation by luck. At the same time, a gruesome epidemic wreaks havoc on the Korean metropolis.
Just when he thinks he’s lost hope, he comes upon another survivor. Somehow they could reach each other. They try all ends to survive and escape from the attack of zombies through a suspense-filled plotline.
Will they both survive? Watch it for yourself.
If you love zombie thrillers, you might miss his one. Alive is a perfect mix of humor, thrill, and horror.
22. Midnight Runners (청년경찰), 2017
Directed and written by Joo-hwan Kim, Midnight Runners is an action and crime motion picture. This is good suspense, which gives us ample enjoyment.
This story is about two friends studying at the Korean National Police University. After witnessing a kidnapping on their way back from an evening outing, they informed the local police station.
The police were busy with other cases and could not help. Knowing the urgent need, both Ki Joon and Kee Yeol jump into action to solve this case. They use their training knowledge to rescue and capture criminals.
But the thugs prove to be too much for the inexpert cops. But, despite being beaten and failing to help the victims, they didn’t give up.
Will these two rookie cops be able to bring down one of the country’s most heinous crime cartels? Watch to find out.
23. Lady Vengeance (친절한 금자씨), 2015
Directed by Park Chan-wook, Lady Vengeance is another South Korean psychological thriller.
This is the third and last part of Park’s Vengeance Trilogy. The previous two were Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Oldboy (2003).
Geum Ja (Lee Young-ae) is imprisoned for kidnapping and murdering a boy. After serving 23 years for the crime she did not commit, they finally released her.
She joins a group of friends she met in prison to clear her name. And also to find the daughter she was forced to leave behind. Finally, she took things into her own hands.
The flick narrates her story of revenge against the actual murderer. This thriller with an excellent plot, just as good as its cast and cinematography.
24. Joint Security Area (공동경비구역), 2000
This is another thriller by Park Chan Wook in which a military disaster sparks an investigation.
The film occurs in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. A neutral Swiss/Swedish investigation has been launched following the murder of two North Korean troops on the border.
The matter became more complicated when both parties gave contradictory accounts to the investigator. One alleges he shot in self-defense, while the other claims the attack was pre-planned.
Joint Security Area (JSA) is a brilliantly written war-related movie. The story alone is spectacular. You can bet on that.
25. Pandora (판도라), 2016
Starring Kim Nam-Gil, Pandora is a Korean disaster movie directed by renowned director and screenwriter Park Jung-woo.
This movie is about a nuclear power plant disaster and how it was averted. This suspenseful thriller is jam-packed with action, love, corruption, and thrill.
A nuclear power plant in a small town exploded because of an unexpected earthquake, releasing hydrogen gas. To prevent the spread of the gas, Jae Hyuk enters the place to save everyone.
The film is as exciting and spine-tingling as you can imagine. Trust me; you won’t be able to take a break while viewing this one.
26. No Mercy (용서는 없다), 2010
The story revolves around a forensic scientist about to retire but gets the last case. Here, they catch the criminal; the case is almost over, as this is a nearly proven murderer.
Then comes the twist! The pathologist’s daughter is kidnapped, and he must protect the culprit and get him bailed out to save her daughter.
It has many shocking and twisted scenes you cannot miss. You won’t be able to sleep after watching this one.
It has many shocking and twisted scenes you cannot miss. You won’t be able to sleep after watching this one.
27. A Tale Of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련), 2003
Written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, A Tale of Two Sisters is a Korean psychological horror drama. The film is based on the folktale Janghwa Hongryeon jeon from the Joseon dynasty.
The film is initially perplexing, but things eventually make sense.
Two sisters, whose mother is no longer alive, return home from a mental institution. Their stepmother welcomed them and continued to live with their father.
Their stepmother, on the other hand, is constantly bothering them. Supernatural occurrences occur, but there is a catch.
This is the most famous and highest-grossing Korean horror movie of all time. It will not disappoint. Unexpected twists, frightful sounds, and growing tensions will keep you on the edge of your seats.
28. The New World (신세계), 2013
The New World is a 2013 Korean crime drama that involves gangsters. It resembles Hollywood’s The Departed or Internal Affairs to a large extent.
The film tells the intriguing story of an undercover cop torn between loyalties.
Ja-sung, an undercover agent, infiltrates South Korea’s largest criminal network and spends eight years moving up the ranks. But he is pulled between his commitments when the organization’s leader is killed.
If you are searching for a nail-biting thriller throughout, this is what you should watch. The action-packed crime drama will entertain you to the fullest.
29. A Dirty Carnival (비열한 거리), 2006
Directed and written by Yoo Ha, A Dirty Carnival is a 2006 Korean neo-noir action flick.
A small-time thug who collects debts for the local triad is torn between his criminal ambitions and his love for his family.
Byung-Doo (Zo In-Sung) is a small-time thug. He can hardly take care of his family. His boss doesn’t give profitable jobs to him and passes them to other members of this gangster organization.
Byung-Doo tries to change his fate by risking his own life with no other option. He does something to impress his boss and help his family.
The acting was phenomenal, and the action scenes looked real. The film has nearly everything to make it a delightful gangster mob drama.
30. A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생), 2005
A Bittersweet Life is another South Korean neo-noir action flick. Directed and written by Kim Jee-woon, it stars Lee Byung-hun as Sun-woo.
The film is about a gangster, Lee Byung-hun, who started a violent rivalry with his leader, Kim Yeong-cheol. This happened because he refused to kill his boss’s cheating girlfriend.
They filled the flick with tons of tension, suspense, fighting, and violence you’d expect from a Korean thriller. Kim Jee-woon skillfully crafts a dreadful action that carries through the film.
After watching this trailer, click ‘play movie’ immediately.
31. Voice of a Murderer (그놈 목소리), 2007
Voice of a Murderer is a South Korean crime thriller drama film released in 2007. It is based on a real-life kidnapping case from 1991.
The film’s plot revolves around a famous news anchor. Someone kidnapped his only son, a 9-year-old boy.
During their conversation, the kidnapper clarifies to the father that there will be dire consequences if the police are involved. Thus, the father must now assume responsibility for his only child’s safety.
The rest of the story revolves around whether or not he succeeds! Voice of a Murderer is a must-watch for its suspense and tension that remains intact throughout.
32. Confession of Murder (내가 살인범이다), 2012
Starring Jung Jae-young and Park Si-hoo, Confession of Murder is another powerful action thriller.
After the time limit on the murders he committed expires, Lee Du-seok writes an autobiography. He describes all of his murders in full detail.
Detective Choi, who investigated Lee’s killings 15 years ago, reopened the inquiry. Han Ji-soo vows revenge after losing her daughter to Lee.
In the meantime, another serial murderer appears, casting doubt on Lee’s identity as the actual serial killer.
The critical factor is how the story mixes the truth while explaining the characters’ complex relationships. This is dark and puzzling, as it is a magnificent thriller.
33. White Night (백야행: 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다), 2009
White Night is a 2009 mystery thriller starring Han Suk-kyu, Go Soo, and Son Ye-jin. The film is inspired by Keigo Higashino’s Japanese novel Journey Under the Midnight Sun.
The plot focuses on two murder cases 14 years apart and their connection’s secrecy.
As the plot of the murder mysteries deepens, new surprising facts emerge. Then, the police are shocked to discover the perpetrator was behind the murders.
This is a must-see for its mystery and plot twists, which remain constant throughout the flick.
34. The Age of Shadows (밀정), 2016
This is a South Korean period action thriller film directed by Kim Jee-woon. They released it in 2016.
The Age of Shadows, made in the late 1920s, follows a cat-and-mouse game between a team of guerrilla fighters and Japanese agents.
They attempt to bring explosive materials from Shanghai to damage the vital Japanese facilities in Seoul. Meanwhile, the Japanese tried to stop them.
The 140 minutes long classic drama has everything from an impressive story to fantastic acting to entertain you.
35. Bedevilled (김복남 살인사건의 전말), 2010
Bedevilled is a 2010 Korean thriller and horror film starring Seo Young-hee and Ji Sung-won.
Hae-won, a self-centered clerk, agrees to visit an old friend, Bok-nam, on a remote island. But unfortunately, she discovers that Bok-nam works as an enslaved person for the other residents.
When tragedy strikes, she strives for revenge on all of her oppressors. But if Hae-won cannot assist her escape, she may require to take things into her own hands once and for all.
Will she be able to survive? Watch and find out.
36. Midnight FM (심야의), 2010
This is a 2010 Korean action thriller by Kim Sang-man starring Yoo Ji-tae and Soo Ae.
On the last day of her job, a famous TV announcer and midnight DJ’s life is turned upside down when somebody who claims to be her fan kidnaps her family.
The caller demands that she play the last broadcast according to his specifications and threatens that she can’t tell anyone.
The film focuses on a ruthless fan who aspires to be a hero inspired by the 1976 feature Taxi Driver and the powerlessness of a mother who works tirelessly to guarantee her family’s safety.
Hold on to your seats for K-drama fans as you witness a fascinating thriller. Within the first few minutes, you know the film will be promising.
37. Silmido (실미도), 2003
Kang Woo-suk directed Silmido, a 2003 Korean action drama movie. This is based on the 1999 Baek Don novel, which is rooted in the authentic story of Unit 684.
It is based on the true story of the Korean Republic Army’s plot to kill North Korean President Kim Il-sung in 1968. 31 lawbreakers and death row inmates are hired for highly classified training on the island of Silmi.
They must submit to the highest mental and physical abuse for two years before canceling the task and dissolving the unit.
Renewing a genre by typical action mystery stereotypes, the film offers a fresh take on an overused plotline. You’ll find out.
38. Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (복수는 나의 것, 2002)
“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is a South Korean thriller directed by Park Chan-wook. It was released in 2002 and is the first film in Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” followed by “Oldboy” (2003) and “Lady Vengeance” (2005).
The film tells the story of Ryu, a hard-of-hearing factory worker desperate to raise money for his sister’s kidney transplant. And when he is fired from his job and unable to afford the transplant through legal means, he turns to a group of criminals who promise to pay him for participating in a kidnapping scheme.
The plan goes awry and leads to a tragic chain of events involving Ryu’s ex-girlfriend, her anarchist boyfriend, and a ruthless businessman seeking revenge.
The film explores themes of revenge, class struggle, and the consequences of desperation. It received critical acclaim for its raw and powerful storytelling, stunning cinematography, and bold social commentary. However, it is also known for its graphic and disturbing violence, which can be challenging for some viewers.
Wrapping Up on 38 Best Korean Suspense Films
These films are a must-watch for suspense, tension, war, crime, horror, psychological, noir, and mystery fans. If you love this broad genre, nothing beats Korean thriller movies.
This list of 38 films will undoubtedly keep you reaching for more popcorn while your eyes can’t move away from the screen (what if you miss a clue!).
Of course, this isn’t a complete list. In fact, there cannot be one because Korean studios and moviemakers always make tons of thrillers.
I’ve curated this list by taking the most acclaimed films, awards, box office collections, and success. I also considered ratings and reviews on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and Google.
I have seen most of these films. Thus, the list also reflects my liking and opinions.
I hope this list of the all-time best Korean thriller movies can provide you with a crucial starting point. You can then dive deep into the incredible world of Korean cinema!
Do you have suggestions for thrillers that are not on the list? Share your views in the comment below.