Whether watching with friends, loved ones, or by yourself, you cannot go wrong picking a horror movie. However, there are times when you might want to change it up and watch a foreign film. That’s why we ranked the 20 best Asian horror movies of all time for your enjoyment.
1. Parasite (2019)
Korean 2h 12m IMDb
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Sun-kyun Lee, Cho Yeo-jeong
A completely unique film made by award-winning director Bong Joon Ho, Parasite is at the top of the list because it is frankly one of the best Asian horror movies of all time.
Through its 132-minute runtime, the movie takes the viewer through a gamut of emotional states without feeling incoherent at all. It is beautifully paced, directed and written, and the acting is a pleasure to watch.
All the characters are sympathetic to a degree, and the conflict the movie shows is second to none. This film respects its audience – with so many crucial details hidden in the movie.
2. Kwaidan (1964)
Japanese 3h 3m IMDb
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Stars: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe
A classic film, separated into four distinct storylines, Kwaidan is an evocative film directed by Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi. A horror anthology, the movie subverts the audience’s expectations by letting them know what to expect before it happens.
The movie does not bother with the shock factor, and many horror fans might feel the movie is not scary enough for them.
However, the film dives deeply into the conflict surrounding the soul of a person and asks questions about the hidden darkness within us all. Three hours long, bold and beautiful, Kwaidan is a must-watch for any horror fan.
3. Onibaba (1964)
Japanese 1h 43m IMDb
Director: Kaneto Shindô
Stars: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satô
Another old Japanese film, Onibaba distinguishes itself as a masterpiece in its genre. Its plot deals with themes of lust and betrayal as two women, living in 14th century Japan, as they fall deeper and deeper into a series of unforgettable events.
Like the previous entry, the movie is more of a drama than a horror. However, there are many scary sequences.
The director, Kaneto Shindo, carefully constructs a narrative rife with mystery and deception and makes us ask ourselves how we would survive if put in a situation similar to the one in the movie.
4. I Saw the Devil (2010)
Korean 2h 24m IMDb
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Stars: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook-hwan
Directed by Jee-woon Kim, this Korean horror flick deals with a police agent who wants revenge on a serial killer.
I Saw the Devil is an extremely graphic movie, and it is not recommended for those who are triggered by violence against women. However, the movie is not a slasher film – it is more than that.
The scenes of violence are not meant to be glorified, and rather show how terrible the situation of it all is. Though the movie’s plot is stereotypical for revenge flicks, it performs it in a truly dramatic fashion.
5. Confessions (2010)
Japanese 1h 46m IMDb
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Stars: Takako Matsu, Yoshino Kimura, Masaki Okada
A gripping psychological thriller dealing with a grieving mother turned killer, Tetsuya Nakamisha’s film is a truly terrifying adaptation of the book it is based on. The film purposefully confuses and startles audiences and leaves them thinking about it long after the ending credits.
A dark, disturbing movie with incredible acting, Confessions takes the Asian horror genre to the next level through its slow but revealing plot. Though critics might dismiss the film’s beginning, by the end, it will fully capture their attention. This is a must-watch by anyone’s standards.
6. Black Cat (1968)
Japanese 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Kaneto Shindô
Stars: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kei Satô
Another masterpiece by Japanese director Kaneto Shindo, Black Cat again deals with human nature during a time of war in medieval Japan. The cinematography of the movie is beautiful, painting vibrant, black and white images on the screen.
Combined with an unconventional plot delivery, Black Cat is truly a masterpiece. It will leave you scared for days on end as you consider each shot and the lush creepiness it captures on screen. Though a slow burn, the movie is worth watching, if just for the fight at the end.
7. Train to Busan (2016)
Korean 1h 58m IMDb
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Stars: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Ma Dong-seok
One of the most popular horror movies to come out of South Korea, San-ho Yeon’s zombie flick distinguishes itself by making you care about the characters and the plot, all while the action and zombie-killing never takes a pause.
The movie hits the audience with every emotion – love, hatred, fear – and never lets go. The movie even adds a social message to its plot, but does so without changing the dynamism of the film.
It is very hard not to be at the edge of your seat during the whole runtime and a more than worthy addition to the zombie genre.
8. The Wailing (2016)
Korean 2h 36m IMDb
Director: Na Hong-jin
Stars: Jun Kunimura, Jung-min Hwang, Kwak Do-won
Another Korean film from 2016, The Wailing tells the story of a mysterious illness spreading through a small town. Directed by Na Hong-jin, The Wailing is a full 156 minutes of murder and mayhem that touches upon the nature of evil.
It raises questions about why we follow certain beliefs and forces the audience to consider what’s around them and if it is truly real or not.
Though some critics say the story is difficult to follow, that is because of its complexity. The film packs a lot into itself, and it requires reflection from viewers after they are done watching.
9. Cure (1997)
Japanese 1h 51m IMDb
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Stars: Masato Hagiwara, Kôji Yakusho, Tsuyoshi Ujiki
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Cure follows a detective investigating murderers with no recollection of their killings. This simple premise evolves into a complex story, both scaring and challenging the viewer to figure out what happens next.
The cinematography is excellent and gives the film a very sparse look to it. Though the movie does leave many of the questions it asks unanswered, which might feel like a letdown to the viewer. However, it is still worth watching for its psychologically minded plot and themes.
10. Ringu (1998)
Japanese 1h 36m IMDb
Director: Hideo Nakata
Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi
Ringu is the tale of a reporter investigating a videotape that kills the viewer days after they watch it. Compared to the American-made, The Ring, which is a remake of Ringu, Hideo Nakata’s horror flick excels in every aspect.
The movie places far more emphasis on its scenery and atmosphere, building a truly creepy mood, than it does violence. It is another slow burn and requires the viewer to stay engaged throughout the film.
Made on a low budget, it nonetheless exceeds every expectation coming into it. The film has some terrifying moments which will leave viewers with feelings of dread and creepiness that will haunt them long after they finish.
11. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Korean 1h 54m IMDb
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Stars: Lim Soo-jung, Jung-ah Yum, Kim Kap-su
A story about a family haunting due to a terrible home life, A Tale of Two Sisters, directed by Jee-woon Kim, is a strong entry in this list because to its darkness and frightening images.
This South Korean horror film is filled with incredible acting performances in an eerie, house setting. The plot of this movie is incredibly well-structured and shows how guilt can destroy a family.
12. Thirst (2009)
English 2h 14m IMDb
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Hee-jin Choi
Thirst, by Park Chan-wook, deals with a failed medical experiment that leaves a priest infected, turning him into a vampire. The movie is known for its eroticism, as it deals with the priest leaving his old ways behind and falling in love with another vampire.
The cinematography of the movie is very evocative, as befits the director, who also made Oldboy. Thirst is not for the faint of heart, and the film is rife with feelings of insanity and madness.
13. Audition (1999)
Japanese 1h 55m IMDb
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
A film about a widower who wants to find a new wife, Audition is truly chilling. The viewer is led to believe that the movie, directed by Takashi Miike, will go one way, when in fact, it goes the completely opposite way.
Grisly and psychological, the film looks at the effects of isolation and loneliness on men and women. Not for the squeamish, the Audition becomes incredibly disturbing during its climax, and 23 years after its release, it has lost none of its ability to truly terrify audiences.
14. The Host (2006)
Korean 2h IMDb
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il
A Bong Joon Ho film about a monster in a Korean river, The Host combines monster horror with a political message – adding a little comedy along the way to spice things up.
The film switches between these three genres effortlessly. The fast-paced plot grabs the viewer from the minute the movie begins, never letting go until the closing credits. This movie must be on the watch list for fans of monster horror and of movies with deep symbolic meaning.
15. Shutter (2004)
Thai 1h 37m IMDb
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Stars: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana
The first Thai movie on this list, Shutter follows a photographer who discovers shadows in his photographs and investigates the incidents with his girlfriend. Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Shutter might adhere to a standard movie plot, but does it in a way that it never gets boring.
This might be the reason why the movie has spawned three remakes – it has been heralded as one of the great Asian films of the century.
16. Noroi (2005)
Japanese 1h 55m IMDb
Director: Kôji Shiraishi
Stars: Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, Tomono Kuga
Blending the supernatural with lost footage, Noroi might feel like the Blair Witch Project, but it is actually much grander in scope, featuring a larger ensemble cast and longer runtime.
The movie, which was directed by Koji Shiraishi, follows a documentary filmmaker investigating a mysterious ancient demon.
The movie is extremely creepy and relies more on a sensation of dismay than it does on traditional scares. Noroi is a definite contender for best found footage movie of all time.
17. Three… Extremes (2004)
Chinese 2h 5m IMDb
Director: Fruit Chan(segment Dumplings), Park Chan-wook(segment Cut), Takashi Miike(segment Box)
Stars: Bai Ling, Lee Byung-hun, Kyoko Hasegawa
An interesting anthology of horror films by directors Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook and Takashi Miike, Three… Extremes does not fall for the same traps that stimy other anthology films, and instead engages the viewer with three extremely scary stories.
The visuals in the movie are striking, to say the least, making audiences freak out. Each of the three stories is very different from the other two, meaning horror fans of all types are likely to find something they enjoy in Three… Extremes. This is an example of a movie truly living up to its name.
18. The Eye (2002)
Chinese 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Chun Pang
Stars: Angelica Lee, Chutcha Rujinanon, Lawrence Chou
A film about a blind girl, who after a cornea transplant, realizes she can see ghosts, The Eye was so good it also spawned a Hollywood remake.
Directed by Chung brothers, Danny and Oxide Chun Pang, The Eye has been criticized by some for falling more into the mystery genre than the horror genre.
However, the movie is plenty scary, from its unsettling atmosphere and imagery to its great acting performances, surely pleasing fans of ghost stories. This movie is recommended for anyone with a taste in hauntings.
19. The Sadness (2021)
Chinese 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Rob Jabbaz
Stars: Berant Zhu, Regina Lei, Ying-Ru Chen
Directed by Rob Jabbaz, this Taiwanese flick is the story of a couple who try to get back together in the midst of a plague that turns average people into bloodthirsty killers. Inspired by the Covid-19 Pandemic, The Sadness is gory to the extreme, explicitly not for sensitive folks.
A 99-minute onslaught of violence and terror, The Sadness constantly pushes and exceeds the limits of just how disturbing a movie can get. If you want something that will leave you truly speechless, then look no further.
20. Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)
Japanese 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Teruo Ishii
Stars: eruo Yoshida, Yukie Kagawa, Teruko Yumi
The last entry on this list, Horrors of Malformed Men follows a medical student who escapes an insane asylum, finds a doppelganger of himself, investigates, and is led to an island filled with deformed men and their creator.
Directed by Teruo Ishii, Horrors of Malformed Men might be old, but the plot is refreshing with all its twists, turns and intricacies. It is a movie both worthy of your attention and of closing this list.
The Asian film industry has produced high-quality horror movies since its inception, with many films attaining international acclaim. We hope you enjoyed this list of the 20 best Asian horror movies. With any luck, this list is a starting point for you to jump into the genre of Asian horror.