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List Of Korean Gangster Movies | Reviews And Rankings 2021

by song-i
list of Korean gangster movies

Gangsters might be a scary bunch in real life, but it’s just so much fun to watch them on screen. The style, the action, the clothes, it’s all so larger than life and interesting. I’ve made a list of Korean gangster movies that will fulfill all your mafia movie needs.

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Gangster movies have always held a special appeal to me. Ever since watching Hollywood movies like Goodfellas, Heat, and of course, the Godfather trilogy, mafia-style movies have been a guilty pleasure.

And I recently discovered that the South Korean movie industry isn’t far behind when it comes to making edge-of-the-seat movies involving crime and gangsters.

So naturally, I binged the most popular Korean gangster movies out there!

Since I found them so very interesting and entertaining, I thought I’d make a list of Korean gangster movies for you to enjoy!

Korean Gangster Movies 2021

In no particular order, here is the list of Korean gangster movies that have been my absolute favorites in the past years. 

New World

New World is one of those epic Korean gangster movies that can rival even the Hollywood classics. 

The movie follows an undercover cop Ja-sung who spends eight years of his life infiltrating the biggest crime syndicate in South Korea. 

In a twist of fate, Ja-sung’s loyalty is called into question when the head of the crime syndicate dies suddenly.

New World is one of those action movies that doesn’t just keep you gripped to your seat, but also makes you question “what on earth just happened?” right after you finish it.

I won’t spoil anything more, you’ll have to simply watch it to understand!

  • Year of Release: 2013
  • Starring: Jung-jae Lee, Choi Min-sik, Jung-min Hwang, Park Sung-woong
  • IMDB Rating: 7.6

The Outlaws

Do you know what I find most interesting about gangster movies? Sometimes, they’re based on a true story, just like The Outlaws.

The movie follows two rival gangs in Seoul and the police’s efforts to maintain the peace between them. 

It will amaze you to know that the local Garibong-dong gang and the Chinese Heuksapa gang actually existed and their turf war in 2004 inspired the plot of this film.

The Outlaws is a slick action movie that manages to be quite hilarious at times.  

  • Year of Release: 2017
  • Starring: Ma Dong-Seok, Yoon Kye-sang, Jo Jae-Yoon, Gwi-Hwa Choi
  • IMDB Rating: 7.2

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

Is this list of Korean gangster movies even complete without Ma Dong-Seok. This Korean actor has mastered the art of playing cops and robbers on screen!

And The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil isn’t just your run-of-the-mill thriller too. It was very critically acclaimed and premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival too.

I especially loved how the plot moves away from the usual cop vs. mafia. In this movie, the cop and the mafia are both hunting a serial killer (the devil in the title presumably!)

  • Year of Release: 2019
  • Starring: Ma Dong-Seok, Kim Sungkyu, Mu-Yeol Kim, Jeon Bae-soo
  • IMDB Rating: 6.9

A Bittersweet Life

The movie, A Bittersweet Life is just like its title. It combines gore and violence with a noir-style approach to film.

And the result is fantastic and makes for a gripping watch!

This Korean gangster film is about a hitman names Sun-woo who is assigned the task of trailing a gangster’s mistress.

His boss Kang suspects his mistress Hee-soo of having an affair and orders Sun-woo to kill both her and her lover if discovered. 

Grappling with self-doubt and loneliness, Sun-woo makes a different call.

  • Year of Release: 2005
  • Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Yeong-Cheol Kim, Jung-min Hwang
  • IMDB Rating: 7.5

Breathless

Loved Leon: The Professional? You’ll also love Breathless as it deals with similar themes.

A grouchy old gangster Sang-Hoon strikes up an unlikely friendship with a verbally abused girl Yeon-Hee while he battles his own demons concerning his past relationship with an abusive father.

Breathless isn’t just a fun watch. It’s a critically acclaimed movie that has won awards in the Singapore International Film Festival, Tokyo Filmex, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and the 30th Blue Dragon Awards too.

  • Year of Release: 2008
  • Starring: Kkobbi Kim, Hwan Lee, Ik-Joon Yang, Jeong-soon Park
  • IMDB Rating: 7.6

The Man From Nowhere

Won-Bin stars in this hugely popular and financially successful movie that had a blockbuster worldwide release.

The movie The Man From Nowhere follows Cha Tae-sik a pawn shop owner with a mysterious past and So-Mi a neglected girl whose mother is Hyo-jeong, Tae-Sik’s neighbor. 

When Hyo-jeong gets involved in a crime, Tae-Sik has to do all he can to protect So-Mi, even if it means getting dragged into a violent gang war. 

  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Starring: Won Bin, Sae-ron Kim, Kim Tae-hoon, Hee-won Kim
  • IMDB Rating: 7.8

Oldboy

Even if you’re not a fan of Korean gangster movies or South Korean movies in general, it’s unlikely that you haven’t heard of Oldboy.

This movie is a classic! And there are several remakes of it in Hollywood, Bollywood, and several other languages. 

Dae-Su Oh is imprisoned for 20 years by an unknown captor. When he finally manages to escape, he wows to find the man responsible for his incarceration and make him pay.

But is all that as simple and straightforward?

  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Starring: Won Bin, Sae-ron Kim, Kim Tae-hoon, Hee-won Kim
  • IMDB Rating:7.8

The Chaser

The Chaser is a thrilling mafia movie about an ex-police detective Joong-ho, who is now a gangster and a pimp. 

As Joong-ho finds that several of his prostitutes have gone missing, he begins to suspect Yeong-min a frequent customer of trafficking the girls.

What he doesn’t know is that Yeong-min is a serial killer and that he has just send one of his prostitutes Mi-Jin into danger.

The fact that this movie was shot in a real location called  Mangwon-dong in the Mapo District of Seoul gives it an added sense of realism.

  • Year of Release: 2008
  • Starring: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Yeong-hie Seo, Kim Yoo-jeong
  • IMDB Rating: 7.8

The Yellow Sea

Funnily enough, the two leads of the previous movie The Chaser reunite in this thrilling noir movie. 

In this movie, however, Kim Yoon Seok plays the antagonist and Ha Jung Woo plays the main lead, a 180 from their roles in The Chaser.

The movie follows a hardworking Korean cab driver in the Yanji City of China. Riddled with debt, he decides to turn assassin for a gangster. 

Unfortunately, the hit goes wrong and he is now pursued both by the local police and the gangster who assigned him his task. 

  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Starring: Ha Jung-woo, Kim Yoon-seok, Jo Sung-ha, Cheol-min Lee
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3

I Saw The Devil

This movie is perhaps one of the scariest Korean gangster movies out there. I will suggest you watch this only if you have a strong stomach for violence.

Jang Kyung-chul masquerades as a harmless bus driver by day but is in fact, a serial killer. 

He is pursued by Kim Soo-hyun, a member of the National Intelligence Service afterKyung Chul murders his pregnant fiancee.  

  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook-hwan, Ho-jin Chun
  • IMDB Rating: 7.8

A Dirty Carnival

This neo-noir movie quite meta. It’s about Kim Byung-doo, a small time ruffian who accepts an assignment to assassinate someone from the president of the crime syndicate he works for.

At the same time Byung-doo manages to reunite with his high school friend Min-ho who is now a movie director and planning to make a gangster movie. 

And who better than Byung-doo to show him how things work. 

  • Year of Release: 2006
  • Starring: Jo In-sung, Lee Bo-young,Namkoong Min, Jin Goo, Chun Ho-jin
  • IMDB Rating: 7.3

Extreme Job

Now this one is not like the others on my list of Korean gangster movies. Its equal parts action and comedy. So if you’re not into dark, noir films like Oldboy or The Chaser, this is a fun watch.

It follows the story of a team of bumbling detectives lead by Captain Ko who buy a failing restaurant to go undercover in a drug operation.

Problems arise when the rib marinade made in the restaurant becomes extremely popular with patrons, causing the detectives to now manage with running a restaurant and catching the bad guys.

  • Year of Release: 2019
  • Starring: Lee Dong-yong, Myoung Gong, Shin Ha-kyun, Lee Hanee
  • IMDB Rating: 7.1

Coin Locker Girl

Coin Locker Girl is another of the Korean gangster movies that managed to make to the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie revolves around an abandoned baby girl found in a coin locker who is sold to Mother, the head of an organ trafficking syndicate.

She’s awed by the perseverance and skills and raises her to take over her business.

Things change when Il-young, the now grown up girl strikes up a friendship with Suk-Hyun, a young boy who is to be Il-young new target.

  • Year of Release: 2015
  • Starring: Lee Dong-yong, Myoung Gong, Shin Ha-kyun, Lee Hanee
  • IMDB Rating: 6.8

The South Korean movie industry has always produced gems, even if they aren’t very popular in the west. 

These Korean gangster movies have all the ingredients that make a good mafia thriller – action, style, witty dialogues, and a slick plot.

So when you find yourself looking for new flicks to scratch your mafia movie itch, these Korean films will do just fine. 

Happy watching!

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