Korean films have slowly been creeping up into the mainstream. With their excellent cinematography, in-depth commentary, and incredible casting, it’s no surprise they are as popular. With this list of 15 Best Korean Action Movies, you can get the heart-racing movie experience.
1. Oldboy (2003)
Korean 2h IMDb
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong
Coming from the mind of Director Park Chan-wook, Oldboy centers around the release of Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik). Being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, he must find the perpetrator and the truth. With his unquenchable thirst for vengeance and answers, he must face off an increasing number of enemies.
Oldboy is one of the highest-rated films in Korean cinema. It has everything you want in an action film: excellent choreography, story, and cinematography. If you want to see one of the Korean classics, this film is an incredible option.
2. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)
Korean 2h 20m IMDb
Director: Je-kyu Kang
Stars: Jang Dong-Gun, Won Bin, Eun-ju Lee
Wars and action flicks can be commonly seen together due to their highly similar nature. This 2004 film by Director Je-kyu Kang is not here to showcase extremely well-shot action scenes but also to tug at your heartstrings. Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War marks its place in the early 2000s cinema through the incredible acting and well-choreographed battle scenes.
The period film revolves around the journey of two brothers: Jin-Tae and Jin-Seok. As the two of them get drafted into the 1950s Korean War, their relationship tangles and twists ending in a tragic and heartwrenching end.
3. Joint Security Area (2000)
Korean 1h 50m IMDb
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Lee Yeong-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho
A politically charged action film, Joint Security by Park Chan-wook, tackles the undeniable tension between South and North Korea. Through the lens of two parties and a neutral Swedish investigation team, they must conclude what happened in the shooting between the borders.
Joint Security Area revolves around the death of two North Korean soldiers on the border. With the South Korean as the prime suspect, a neutral investigation must be made to ease the tension. As the research grows, the answer reveals a tragic and devastating truth about the nature of the murders.
4. The Chaser (2008)
Korean 2h 5m IMDb
Director: Na Hong-jin
Stars: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Yeong-hie Seo
With the prostitutes he pimps go missing, ex-detective Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yeon-Seok) must find the culprit. Using his investigation skills, he stumbles upon the mysterious customer the girls last served. Joong-ho must solve the mystery once and for all through the series of deaths and brutal violence.
The Chaser is one of your run-of-the-mill brutal films. However, the erratic nature of the cinematography and incredible storytelling makes it a film-watching experience like no other. If you want a darker twist to your action films, The Chaser is a must-watch.
5. I Saw the Devil (2010)
Korean 2h 24m IMDb
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Stars: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook-hwan
I Saw the Devil revolves around the murders of a serial killer. With a sociopathic man on the run, Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-hun) finds himself on the journey of seeking revenge. Through a game of cat and mouse, he must end the monster by becoming the monster himself.
This heart-pounding action-crime film by Lee-Joon Kim will leave you hanging by the edge of your seat. The chase scenes and subsequent deaths will have you wanting more. It’s bloody and packed with many thrilling scenes, earning various film awards.
6. The Man from Nowhere (2010)
Korean 1h 59m IMDb
Director: Jeong-beom Lee
Stars: Won Bin, Kim Sae-ron, Kim Tae-hoon
Directed by Lee Jung-beom, The Man from Nowhere has many of the classic action tropes. This film serves many gut-punching action scenes from a hard-boiled protagonist to the drug-ridden environment. It’s an excellent revenge flick with many heart-racing sequences.
The film follows Tae-Sik, a timid pawnshop keeper with a violent past. Tae-Sik finds comfort by befriending a little girl from the neighborhood. With his only friend kidnapped, he must go to bloody and brutal challenges to save her life.
7. New World (2013)
Korean 2h 15m IMDb
Director: Park Hoon-jung
Stars: Lee Jung-jae, Choi Min-sik, Hwang Jung-min
Undercover cops, gangs, and underground crime seem to be the primary essentials for action movies. In this 2013 film by Park Hoon-Jung, New World deals with the intricacies of gangs and police forces. You can ensure incredible action and drama scenes with many great actors from Korean cinema, such as Lee Jung-Jae and Choi Min-Sik.
The film revolves around Ja-Seoung, an undercover cop tasked to infiltrate the renowned gang Goldmoon.’ With his life on the line, he must decide between his duties or the camaraderie he found amongst the gang members.
8. Train to Busan (2016)
Korean 1h 58m IMDb
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Stars: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Ma Dong-seok
Train to Busan is a worldwide hit, earning $92 million at a budget of $7.5 million, making it a commercial success. It’s no surprise that the film is as popular as it was. The combination of action, horror, and drama brings out the best of the story.
The film revolves around the father-daughter tandem of Sok-woo and his child, Soo-Ahn. A zombie virus broke out as they embarked from Seoul to Busan. With their lives on the line, the two must do everything to reach Busan to survive.
9. Lady Vengeance (2005)
Korean 1h 55m IMDb
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Nam-mi Kang, Jeong-nam Choi, Hye-Sook Go
Action films with female leads can be sparse, but this 2005 film by Park Chan-wook ensures that every watching time is accounted for. The film stars an excellent cast, such as Nam-mi Kang, Jeong-Nam Choi, and Hye-Sook Go. With excellent screenplay and acting, the film has had many awards and nominations since its release.
Lady Vengeance revolves around the release of Lee Geum-Ja from prison. Wrongly accused of murder, she must face her abandoned child after she is forcibly taken from her. With her newfound freedom, Geum-Ja seeks revenge on those who wronged her.
10. Hunt (2022)
Korean 2h 11m IMDb
Director: Lee Jung-jae
Stars: Lee Jung-jae, Jung Woo-sung, Heo Sung-tae
Hunt is an espionage action film and directorial debut of the Netflix-renowned actor Lee Jung Jae. With the fight between South and North Korea, both countries are hot on each other’s trails. With a mole in the agency, two Korean CIA agents must know who it is before endangering the state secrets.
The film hasn’t been released worldwide, so reviews are sparse. The film is new to the theaters, but it’s already a contender at The Cannes Film Festival. As a starter, the film garnered a standing ovation from the crowd and marked its first step.
11. Assassination (2015)
Korean 2h 20m IMDb
Director: Dong-hoon Choi
Stars: Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo
The Japanese occupation of Korea is the most influential part of their history. This action and espionage film written by Dong-Hoon Choi and Ki-Cheol Lee will give you a more entertaining and action-packed look into the era. It has everything you want in a spy-thriller movie, including a mole in the system.
With the Korean dissatisfaction rising, various rebels form a plan to kill the Japanese commander. With their best sniper, Ahn Ok-Yun, in prison, they must do everything to get her out and do the impossible task.
12. The Outlaws (2017)
Korean 2h 1m IMDb
Director: Yoon-Seong Kang
Stars: Ma Dong-seok, Yoon Kyesang, Jo Jae-yoon
The Outlaws by Yoon-Seong Kang is a story based on the “Heuksapa Incident.” It revolves around the fights between the Korean versus local Chinese gangs. Through the series of violent battles, the police get involved in bringing peace to the Garibong-dong.
This film mixes a bit of everything in its storytelling. Along with the incredible fight scenes and excellent acting, the movie shows its story through humor. With many awards under its belt, this cop versus gangs flick will keep you wanting more.
13. The Host (2006)
Korean 2h IMDb
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il
Fighting in an action movie is mainly limited to humans. However, this action-horror film by Bong Joon-Ho mixes the two genres perfectly. Of course, what is more, terrifying than an unidentified giant monster going for your village?
Through the illegal dumping of toxic waste, sea life started mutating and creating a monster. Panic and fear quickly spread as people die off. When the Parks find their youngest family member in the monster’s grasp, they set out on the mission to save her.
14. Extreme Job (2019)
Korean 1h 51m IMDb
Director: Byeong-heon Lee
Stars: Lee Dong-yong, Kim Eui-sung, Myoung Gong
Want some comedy twist to your action film? Extreme Job by Byeong-heon Lee is here to deliver. With five undercover police on the hunt for the local drug traffickers, they must go undercover as a small restaurant owners. Wacky and action-packed hijinks ensue, leading them closer and closer to the crime.
Extreme Job is amongst the most prolific films in 2019. It earns wide acclaim not just with the audience but with critics as well. The lighthearted yet gripping action-comedy film won various awards and is a commercial success.
15. Veteran (2015)
Korean 2h 3m IMDb
Director: Seung-wan Ryu
Stars: Hwang Jung-min, Yoo Ah-in, Hae-Jin Yoo
This film by Seung-wan Ryu dabbles in a revenge and justice-seeking plot. Through the mix of genres, Veteran is a blend of action, comedy, and crime flicks in one intricate story. The movie stars famous Korean actors like Yoo Ah-in and Jung-min Hwang.
Veteran revolves around the battle of wits between a justice-seeking cop and a wealthy man with an extensive criminal record. With the crime becoming increasingly violent, Jo Tae-Oh still manages to slip through with his money and influence. Detective Seo Do-Cheol made it his mission to get Tae-Oh in jail once and for all.
Whether you love a mix of comedy, crime, or espionage flick in your film, these 15 Best Korean Action Movies will have you at the edge of your seat. You can ensure that you have the best introduction to the Korean action genre through the incredible cinematography and fight choreography.