K-Film Top 100

If you thought coming up with a list of the best 500 (!) dramas I've seen (out of a total of a little over a thousand) was difficult, try to limit me to a hundred K-films -- when I've probably watched 80% of what's readily available on VHS, DVD, Bluray, or was broadcast on Korean TV, which would put the total at around 3,000. That's a lot of films to choose from, even though the vast majority would barely register a blip in this kind of list -- particularly the so-called "Golden Age" of the 1960s, which like today's Chungmuro had plenty of copycats but very few jewels in retrospect. There's also a little extra detail to ponder before you go ahead with the list: film theory is a lot more divisive than people might think, and it can depend a lot more on the whims of a single person than the realm of TV dramas can. I'm what those in the business would call an auterist, someone who believes that the best films reflect their director's artistic vision first and foremost, which is why I tend to contextualize them with auteur theory in mind. Some critics -- famously Pauline Kael -- believe that is elitist fluff that means very little (more because she argued that filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and not the "let's review everything in a vacuum, as if cinema was born yesterday" vibe that moves many a cheerleader to do a nearly complete tabula rasa after every film and drama), so your mileage might vary.

And this list might change down the line quite a bit. You know how lists go.

As always: Original Title (International Title) Date-Of-Release Director's Name in Korean (Romanization) Average Score/100

  1. 살인의 추억 (Memories of Murder) 2003-04-25 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho) 95/100
  2. 오발탄 (The Aimless Bullet) 1961-04-13 유현목 (Yu Hyeon-Mok) 94/100
  3. 94 - 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) 2005-07-29 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook)
  4. 하녀 (The Housemaid) 1960-11-03 김기영 (Kim Gi-Young) 93/100
  5. 92 - 지슬 (Jiseul) 2013-03-21 오멸 (Oh Myeol)
  6. 올드보이 (Oldboy) 2003-11-21 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook) 91/100
  7. 꽃잎 (A Petal) 1996-04-05 장선우 (Jang Sun-Woo) 90/100
  8. 90 - 박쥐 (Thirst) 2009-04-30 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook)
  9. 지구를 지켜라 (Save the Green Planet!) 2003-04-04 장준환 (Jang Joon-Hwan) 90/100
  10. 서편제 (Seopyeonje) 1993-04-10 임권택 (Im Kwon-Taek) 90/100
  11. 아름다운 청년 전태일 (A Single Spark) 1995-11-13 박광수 (Park Gwang-Soo) 90/100
  12. 남부군 (North Korea's Southern Army) 1990-06-02 정지영 (Jung Ji-Young) 90/100
  13. 시 (Poetry) 2010-05-13 이창동 (Lee Chang-Dong) 89/100
  14. 89 - 그때 그 사람들 (The President's Last Bang) 2005-02-03 임상수 (Im Sang-Soo)
  15. 89 - 마더 (Mother) 2009-05-28 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho)
  16. 밀양 (Secret Sunshine) 2007-05-23 이창동 (Lee Chang-Dong) 88/100
  17. 복수는 나의 것 (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) 2002-03-29 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook) 88/100
  18. 88 - 달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life) 2005-04-01 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon)
  19. 해피엔드 (Happy End) 1999-12-11 정지우 (Jung Ji-Woo) 88/100
  20. 박하사탕 (Peppermint Candy) 2000-01-01 이창동 (Lee Chang-Dong) 88/100
  21. 고래사냥 (Whale Hunting) 1984-03-31 배창호 (Bae Chang-Ho) 88/100
  22. 범죄와의 전쟁 (Nameless Gangster) 2012-02-02 윤종빈 (Yoon Jong-Bin) 88/100
  23. 88 - 형사 Duelist 2005-09-08 이명세 (Lee Myung-Se)
  24. 남영동 1985 (National Security) 2012-11-22 정지영 (Jung Ji-Young) 88/100
  25. 만다라 (Mandala) 1981-09-12 임권택 (Im Kwon-Taek) 88/100
  26. 오아시스 (Oasis) 2002-08-15 이창동 (Lee Chang-Dong) 87/100
  27. 칠수와 만수 (Chilsoo and Mansoo) 1988-12-26 박광수 (Park Gwang-Soo) 87/100
  28. 개그맨 (Gagman) 1989-06-24 이명세 (Lee Myung-Se) 87/100
  29. 화녀 (Woman of Fire) 1971-04-01 김기영 (Kim Gi-Young) 87/100
  30. 8월의 크리스마스 (Christmas in August) 1998-01-24 허진호 (Hur Jin-Ho) 87/100
  31. 돌아오지 않는 해병 (The Marines Who Never Returned) 1963-04-11 이만희 (Lee Man-Hee) 87/100
  32. 초록 물고기 (Green Fish) 1997-02-07 이창동 (Lee Chang-Dong) 87/100
  33. 공동경비구역 JSA (Joint Security Area) 2000-09-09 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook) 87/100
  34. 87 - 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal) 2005-05-19 임필성 (Im Pil-Sung)
  35. 은교 (A Muse) 2012-04-25 정지우 (Jung Ji-Woo) 87/100
  36. 괴물 (The Host) 2006-07-27 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho) 86/100
  37. 86 - 추격자 (The Chaser) 2008-02-14 나홍진 (Na Hong-Jin)
  38. 꽃섬 (Flower Island) 2001-11-24 송일곤 (Song Il-Gon) 86/100
  39. 넘버 3 (No. 3) 1997-08-02 송능한 (Song Neung-Han) 86/100
  40. 자유부인 (Madame Freedom) 1956-06-09 한형모 (Han Hyeong-Mo) 86/100
  41. 돼지가 우물에 빠진 날 (The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well) 1996-03-18 홍상수 (Hong Sang-Soo) 86/100
  42. 무사 (Musa: The Warrior) 2001-09-07 김성수 (Kim Sung-Soo) 86/100
  43. 설국열차 (Snowpiercer) 2013-07-13 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho) 86/100
  44. 하얀전쟁 (White Badge) 1992-07-04 정지영 (Jung Ji-Young) 86/100
  45. 반칙왕 (The Foul King) 2000-02-04 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon) 86/100
  46. 우리들의 일그러진 영웅 (Our Twisted Hero) 1992-08-15 박종원 (Park Jong-Won) 86/100
  47. 신세계 (New World) 2013-02-21 박훈정 (Park Hoon-Jung) 86/100
  48. 이어도 (Io Island) 1977-10-04 김기영 (Kim Gi-Young) 86/100
  49. 장화, 홍련 (A Tale of Two Sisters) 2003-06-13 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon) 86/100
  50. 86 - 청연 (Blue Swallow) 2005-12-29 윤종찬 (Yoon Jong-Chan)
  51. 바보들의 행진 (The March of Fools) 1975-05-31 하길종 (Ha Gil-Jong) 86/100
  52. 86 - 영원한 제국 (Eternal Empire) 1995-01-28 박종원 (Park Jong-Won)
  53. 터치 (Touch) 2012-11-08 민병훈 (Min Byung-Hoon) 86/100
  54. 짝패 (The City of Violence) 2006-05-25 류승완 (Ryu Seung-Wan) 85/100
  55. 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome to Dongmakgol) 2005-08-04 박광현 (Park Gwang-Hyun) 85/100
  56. 똥파리 (Breathless) 2009-04-16 양익준 (Yang Ik-Joon) 85/100
  57. 태백산맥 (The Taebaek Mountains) 1994-09-17 임권택 (Im Kwon-Taek) 85/100
  58. 바람난 가족 (A Good Lawyer's Wife) 2003-08-14 임상수 (Im Sang-Soo) 85/100
  59. 여자, 정혜 (This Charming Girl) 2005-03-10 이윤기 (Lee Yoon-Gi) 85/100
  60. 그 섬에 가고 싶다 (To the Starry Island) 1993-12-25 박광수 (Park Gwang-Soo) 84/100
  61. 84 - 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown) 2005-12-29 이준익 (Lee Joon-Ik)
  62. 인정사정 볼 것 없다 (Nowhere to Hide) 1999-07-31 이명세 (Lee Myung-Se) 84/100
  63. 용서받지 못한 자 (The Unforgiven) 2005-11-18 윤종빈 (Yoon Jong-Bin) 84/100
  64. 피아골 (Piagol) 1955-09-23 이강천 (Lee Kang-Cheon) 84/100
  65. 소름 (Sorum) 2001-08-04 윤종찬 (Yoon Jong-Chan) 84/100
  66. 강원도의 힘 (The Power of Gangwon Province) 1998-04-04 홍상수 (Hong Sang-Soo) 84/100
  67. 그들도 우리처럼 (Black Republic) 1990-11-10 박광수 (Park Gwang-Soo) 84/100
  68. 아름다운 시절 (Spring in My Hometown) 1998-11-21 이광모 (Lee Kwang-Mo) 84/100
  69. 헐리우드키드의 생애 (Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid) 1994-07-30 정지영 (Jung Ji-Young) 84/100
  70. 선택 (A Road Taken) 2003-10-24 홍기선 (Hong Gi-Seon) 84/100
  71. 삼포가는 길 (A Road to Sampo) 1975-05-23 이만희 (Lee Man-Hee) 84/100
  72. 부러진 화살 (Unbowed) 2012-01-18 정지영 (Jung Ji-Young) 84/100
  73. 친구 (Friend) 2001-03-31 곽경택 (Kwak Kyung-Taek) 83/100
  74. 플란다스의 개 (Barking Dogs Never Bite) 2000-02-19 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho) 83/100
  75. 가족의 탄생 (Family Ties) 2006-05-18 김태용 (Kim Tae-Yong) 83/100
  76. 휴일 (Holiday) 1968-04-14 이만희 (Lee Man-Hee) 83/100
  77. 조용한 가족 (The Quiet Family) 1998-04-25 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon) 83/100
  78. 행복 (Happiness) 2007-10-03 허진호 (Hur Jin-Ho) 83/100
  79. 비열한 거리 (A Dirty Carnival) 2006-06-13 유하 (Yoo Ha) 83/100
  80. 83 - 주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist) 2005-04-01 류승완 (Ryu Seung-Wan)
  81. 바보선언 (Declaration of Fools) 1983-10-29 이장호 (Lee Jang-Ho) 83/100
  82. 한공주 (Han Gong-Ju) 2014-04-17 이수진 (Lee Soo-Jin) 83/100
  83. 와이키키 브라더스 (Waikiki Brothers) 2001-10-27 임순례 (Im Soon-Rye) 83/100
  84. 파닥파닥 (Padak) 2012-07-25 이대희 (Lee Dae-Hee) 83/100
  85. 원더풀 데이즈 (Wonderful Days) 2003-07-17 김문생 (Kim Moon-Saeng) 82/100
  86. 지옥화 (A Flower in Hell) 1958-04-20 신상옥 (Shin Sang-Ok) 82/100
  87. 마의 계단 (The Evil Stairs) 1964-07-10 이만희 (Lee Man-Hee) 82/100
  88. 화분 (The Pollen of Flowers) 1972-04-07 하길종 (Ha Gil-Jong) 82/100
  89. 오!수정 (Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors) 2000-05-27 홍상수 (Hong Sang-Soo) 82/100
  90. 마리이야기 (My Beautiful Girl, Mari) 2002-01-18 이성강 (Lee Sung-Gang) 82/100
  91. 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Destiny) 2005-09-23 박진표 (Park Jin-Pyo) 82/100
  92. 봄날은 간다 (One Fine Spring Day) 2001-09-28 허진호 (Hur Jin-Ho) 82/100
  93. 알포인트 (R-Point) 2004-08-20 공수창 (Gong Su-Chang) 81/100
  94. 최종병기: 활 (War of the Arrows) 2011-11-10 김한민 (Kim Han-Min) 81/100
  95. 깊고 푸른 밤 (Deep Blue Night) 1985-03-01 배창호 (Bae Chang-Ho) 81/100
  96. 나도 아내가 있었으면 좋겠다 (I Wish I Had a Wife) 2001-01-13 박흥식 (Park Heung-Shik) 81/100
  97. 깃 (Feathers in the Wind) 2005-01-14 송일곤 (Song Il-Gon) 81/100
  98. 접속 (The Contact) 1997-09-13 장윤현 (Jang Yoon-Hyun) 81/100
  99. 80 - 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 (The Good, The Bad, and The Weird) 2008-07-17 김지운 (Kim Ji-Woon)
  100. 80 - 혈의 누 (Blood Rain) 2005-05-04 김대승 (Kim Dae-Seung)
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