Korean cinema is now world famous! And here’s our list of some favorite Korean action movies of all time.
From heart-stopping chases or slick fight sequences, Korean action movies sure know how to keep their audience entertained.
Starring some of the most popular Korean actors today, these movies will keep you glued to your seat.
Related: Best Korean War Movies
Related: Best Korean Gangster Movies
Related: Best Korean Thriller Movies
Top Korean Action Movies 2021
On the surface, the plot of this movie seems to be familiar, a woman seeking revenge from those who’ve wronged her!
And yes, this movie is heavily inspired by the Hollywood film La Femme Nikita (1990). But the fast pace and edge of the seat twists and turns give the Villainess a freshness to it.
The Villainess tells the tale of Sook Hee who’s been trained since birth to be a masterful assassin by a shady and powerful organization.
But Sook Hee wants more to life and seeks to escape their clutches. The movie is filled with amazing action scenes and earned a standing ovation
If you want to see an action movie where the female lead is the protagonist rather than a damsel in distress, this is a good one.
Runtime: 129 minutes
Written by: Jung Byung-gil; Jung Byeong-sik
Release date: May 21, 2017
Directed by: Jung Byung-gil
Starring: Kim Ok-vin
Where to watch – Amazon Prime, Apple TV
In the mood for a little cat and mouse chase? The Veteran is the perfect Korean movie for that.
Critics were going gaga over Yoo Ah-in’s acting chops in this movie and rightly so.
The chemistry between his reckless billionaire character and Seo Do-cheol’s honest cop is a treat to watch.
One of the best parts about this movie is the unexpected (but deeply effective) use of humor. So despite being an action movie it is a lot funnier than you think.
Reminiscent of Catch Me If You Can and Heat, this movie is a cop drama with a twist.
Runtime: 123 minutes
Written by: Ryoo Seung-wan
Release date: August 5, 2015
Directed by: Ryoo Seung-wan
Starring: Hwang Jung-min; Yoo Ah-in
Where to watch – Youtube, Apple TV, iTunes
A movie becomes several times more interesting when it’s based on real life events.
Outlaws follows a turf battle between two bloodthirsty local gangs that seek control over the Garibong-dong in the Guro District of Seoul.
The movie gains pace when Ma Dong-Seok’s character is called in to sort out the situation.
This is one of the most entertaining Korean movies in the past decade.
Based on the infamous “Heuksapa incident”, this movie will keep glued to the edge of your seat.
Runtime: 121 minutes
Written by: Kang Yoon-sung
Release date: October 3, 2017
Directed by: Kang Yoon-sung
Starring: Ma Dong-seok; Yoon Kye-sang
Where to watch – Amazon Prime
Chaser has a very interesting plotline for a Korean movie.
It follows Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok in a brilliant performance), a former cop turned pimp who’s hot on the trail of a suspected serial killer after one of his girls goes missing.
It’s another edge-of-your-seat thriller that lacks the usual over the top fight or chase sequences.
Instead chaser relies on building a dark, disturbing atmosphere and convincing jumpscares to keep you hooked.
Fair warning, some of the scenes might be too a bit too dark for some viewers. And the movie suffers from a sluggish second half.
Nevertheless, it’s a treat to watch on screen, if solely for Kim Yoon-seok acting skills. In fact, he even won the 16th Chunsa Film Art Awards for Best Actor.
The movie has even been picked up by Warner Bros for a Hollywood remake.
Runtime: 123 minutes
Written by: Na Hong-jin, Shinho Lee, Hong Won-chan
Release date: 14 February 2008
Directed by: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Seo Young-hee
Where to watch – Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, AppleTv
Related: List Of Korean Horror Movies
An ambitious project by producer Byeon Moo-rim, in the late 1990s, Shiri is a high-octane thriller not unlike a James Bond movie or Mission Impossible.
It was perhaps one of the first new-wave Korean movies that signified the country’s blooming soft power. And the plot of the movie seems deeply Korean too.
The movie is about a group of North Korean sleeper cell agents (led by the dangerous sniper Lee Bang-hee) who wreak havoc in South Korea through a liquid explosive device.
It addresses South Korean nationalism and the touchy issue of Korea’s reunification.
The name “Shiri” or stylized later as “Swiri” to be the name of fish found in the waters connecting North and South Korea.
Runtime: 125 minutes
Written by: Kang Je-gyu
Release date: February 13, 1999
Directed by: Kang Je-gyu
Starring: Han Suk-kyu, Choi Min-sik, Yunjin Kim, Song Kang-ho
Where to watch – Vudu
The Man From Nowhere
As emotionally gripping as it is action packed, The Man From Nowhere or Ajeossi (Mister) is a treat to watch.
The story revolves around a mysterious man played by Won Bin, who sets out to rescue his kidnapped neighbour So-mi, a little girl he dotes on.
So-Mi’s mother runs afoul of a few gangsters and So Mi gets caught in the crossfire. Wo Bin makes it his life’s mission to save her.
But how is he so skilled in fighting? Is he a regular pawn shop owner as he claims to be?
The mystery behind Won Bin’s identity and how it pushes his love for So Mi forms the crux of the story.
Runtime: 119 minutes
Written by: Lee Jeong-beom
Release date: August 4, 2010
Directed by: Lee Jeong-beom
Starring: Won Bin, Kim Sae-ron
Where to watch – Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Viki, Tubi
Perhaps one the most Korean movies of all time, Oldboy is one Korean action movie you cannot miss out on!
The plot is twisted, dark, and absolutely gripping. Oh Dae-su is an ordinary Korean businessman who is one day kidnapped.
He’s kept in a sealed hotel room with food delivered to him everyday. And one day, after 15 long years, Oh Dae-su finally escapes.
If you think we’re giving you a spoiler you’re wrong.
The reason behind this confinement, Oh Dae-su’s quest to find his wrongdoers, his relationship with Mi-do, and the stomach churning revelation at the end is what forms the crux of the movie.
Runtime: 120 minutes
Written by: Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Jun-hyung, Park Chan-wook
Release date: 21 November 2003
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jung
Where to watch – Netflix, Vudu
Train To Busan
Zombies? Action? And in the middle of it all a lovely father-daughter relationship. Heck yeah!
Train to Busan has got it all. So we aren’t surprised it’s so popular even out of South Korea. In fact, it even premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
The movie follows a busy man Seo Seok-woo who is recently divorced and his daughter Su-an.
Together they embark on a train from Seoul to Busan to see Su-an’s mother, but unfortunately find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak.
The fast-paced movie also boasts of an excellent supporting cast such as Yon-suk, the selfish businessman who is determined to survive at any cost, a group of high school students, and the working class couple Yoon Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong.
It’s a must-watch movie that will give you many sleepless nights! In fact, it’s one of the best Korean zombie movies out there!
Runtime: 118 minutes
Written by: Park Joo-suk
Release date: 20 July 2016
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an
Where to watch – Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube
Related: Best Korean Actors Female
Don’t be fooled with seeing Captain America on the poster, Snowpiercer is a bonafide South Korean movie.
Set in a dystopian future where all of humanity’s survivors are packed together in a never-stopping train, Snowpiercer explores the concept of class, climate change, and privilege.
Directed by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), this movie boasts of a stellar starcast led by the talented Chris Evans as Curtis, a rebel leader in a strictly segregated train.
Runtime: 126 minutes
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson
Release date: 29 July 2013
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer
Where to watch – Amazon Prime TV, Apple TV
Related: Best Korean Dramas on Netflix
Love a good twist ending? Forgotten creates a masterful one which we definitely aren’t going to spoil here!
The movie follows a young man called Jin-seok, who’s moved into a new home with his mother, father, and older brother.
But why is he haunted by violent nightmares? Where does his brother sneak out to, every night? Why doesn’t everything seem the way it is?
A true masterpiece, Forgotten’s twists and turns will leave you gasping in shock and excitement.
Runtime: 109 minutes
Written by: Jang Hang-jun
Release date: November 29, 2017
Directed by: Jang Hang-jun
Starring: Kang Ha-neul, Kim Mu-yeol, Moon Sung-keun, Na Young-hee
Where to watch – Netflix
I Saw The Devil
This is a Korean action thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Let me warn you, it gets gory. Really, really gory!
The story revolves around a National Intelligence Service agent who is searching for a serial killer that is also responsible for the murder of his pregnant fiance.
I Saw The Devil got into trouble with the Korea Media Rating Board when it first released due to its “violent content”. It initially got a restricted rating that prevented it from coming out in several theatres and home media.
The movie was also forced to undergo several cuts. Watch it if you dare!
Runtime: 141 minutes
Written by: Park Hoon-jung
Release date: August 12, 2010
Directed by: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, and Cheon Ho-Jin
Where to watch – Netflix
So what are you waiting for? Grab that remote, make some popcorn, and settle down.
These Korean action movies will keep you entertained on a dull, rainy day.