8 Korean Films on Netflix to Satisfy Your Hallyu Heart
Ever since it was launched in the Philippines in 2016, Netflix has excelled at bringing the big-screen experience into the homes of countless Filipinos with its diverse and extensive library of content. From major blockbuster titles to niche reality television shows, it truly is the streaming platform that has it all—which explains why its number of subscribers only continues to grow, year after year.
Its sizable catalog of Korean dramas has no doubt further endeared the service to the hearts of Asianovela-loving Pinoys all over the country. Did you know, though, that Netflix also has an impressive collection of Korean films that you can binge-watch? They include cult classics and award winners that can serve as excellent palate cleansers between your nth re-watch of Crash Landing on You or Goblin. Check out our favorites below.
200 Pounds Beauty (2006)
What does it mean to be “beautiful”? 200 Pounds Beauty is a film that aims to challenge South Korea’s notoriously cutthroat standards regarding outward appearances with the heartwarming tale of Hanna, a talented but obese vocalist whose weight has always kept her out of the spotlight. After undergoing a drastic physical transformation through head-to-toe plastic surgery, she renames herself Jenny and begins posing as a Korean-American in order to distance herself from her painful past. While enjoying the perks of becoming a “beautiful girl”—including finally landing her own recording contract—Hanna/Jenny must deal with the scrutiny of a jealous rival and the attentions of a director she’s always had a crush on, all while trying to keep her true identity under wraps as she rises to fame as a pop star. Through these experiences, she quickly discovers that being merely beautiful on the outside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The movie was a critical and commercial hit, earning numerous Best Actress awards for its lead, Kim Ah-joong. 200 Pounds Beauty’s original soundtrack was also widely praised; its title track, a Korean cover of the Blondie song Maria, continues to be an incredibly popular song choice at karaoke rooms all over Korea today.
Along with the Gods
Based on the popular webtoon of the same name, the Along with the Gods series tackles such philosophical questions as “What awaits us after death?” and “What does it mean to be a good person?” amidst a breathtaking fantasy-action backdrop.
The first film in the franchise, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, follows a firefighter named Kim Ja-hong, who is played by the endlessly charming Cha Tae-hyun. After dying in the line of duty, he is swiftly escorted to the afterlife by three grim reapers who are to defend him in a series of seven hellish trials that will determine whether the life he’s lived makes him worthy of reincarnation. Ja-hong’s retinue includes a mysterious swordsman named Hae Won-maek (played by Ju Ji-hoon from Netflix’s very own Kingdom) and the enigmatic Gang-rim, an eloquent spirit guardian that serves as Ja-hong’s attorney at these trials (played by the legendary Ha Jung-woo). Eagle-eyed viewers who enjoy K-pop should also spot EXO’s D.O. or Do Kyung-soo here in a minor supporting role.
The second installment, Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days, follows events that occur immediately after the first movie. This time, the grim reapers are tasked with defending Ja-hong’s younger brother, Soo-hong, through the same seven trials. The cast is joined by Ma Dong-seok of Train to Busan fame, here playing a divinity called God of the House. With him, the grim reapers will begin to uncover the mystery of their interconnected pasts.
Though The Two Worlds and The Last 49 Days make up only the first half of a planned four-part series, they can be watched alone and are particularly enjoyable when seen back-to-back. The films do a great job showcasing the best of what Korean cinema currently has to offer: stunning visual effects, impeccable world-building, and world-class performances from its leads. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. The Two Worlds is currently sitting pretty in its spot as the third-highest grossing film in South Korea. The Last 49 Days isn’t doing too bad either at #11.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of one of the world’s most famous K-pop idol groups? Blackpink: Light Up the Sky follows Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa’s meteoric rise to fame as YG Entertainment’s premier female act Blackpink, from their debut in 2016 with the smash hit single “Whistle” to their groundbreaking performance as the first female Korean pop group to take the stage at Coachella in 2019.
Diehard Blinks will surely appreciate the loving way with which director Caroline Suh has put this documentary together. Featuring never-before-seen footage from the group’s training days as well as glimpses into their daily lives outside of the spotlight, Light Up the Sky isn’t particularly shy about the fact that it is a piece made for especially devoted fans who just can’t get enough Blackpink in their lives. Casual viewers, on the other hand, might enjoy the insight the film provides on K-pop as a phenomenon in general.
South Korea has undoubtedly made a name for itself for producing some of the most chilling thriller films of our generation. Released in 2020, The Call is no exception. The movie stars Park Shin-hye (best known for her roles in idol dramas such as You’re Beautiful and The Inheritors) as Kim Seo-yeon, an ordinary young woman who suddenly finds herself in extraordinarily creepy circumstances when she starts receiving calls on an old cordless phone, which are coming from inside the same house she’s staying at.
To say any more would be going into spoiler territory, so we’ll stop here. The film currently holds a 79% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and has been described as “engaging,” “enthralling,” and “suspenseful,” which should be a good sign. It should definitely scratch the itch for any viewer looking for a film that can keep them on the edge of their seat.
Friend is one of those films that can be difficult to categorize. On the surface, it appears to be a straight-up action flick, one that features school gangs, street fights, and mobsters. Dig deeper, though, and audiences may find it closer to a drama instead—and a male-focused one at that, which definitely makes it quite rare.
Recognized as one of the first classics to come out of the Korean wave, this 2001 film follows four childhood friends: leader Joon-seok (Yu Oh-seong), Dong-su (Jang Dong-gun), Jung-ho (Jung Woon-taek), and Sang-taek (Seo Tae-hwa). Over the course of the film, the boys grow into men, begin to follow deviating paths, and ultimately reflect on the consequences of their increasingly violent actions.
At the time of its release, Friend became the highest-grossing South Korean movie of all time—a record it held for 2 years. Audiences back then were drawn to its honesty and the heartfelt way its story was presented, but its themes of friendship and brotherhood are timeless and will surely resonate with people even today.
Released in 2006 and directed by the acclaimed Bong Joon-ho, The Host is credited for starting the monster film craze in Korea in the mid-2000s. The movie was a commercial and critical success. It broke the record for the highest-grossing South Korean film at the time of its release, earned multiple awards and nominations from prestigious local and international film festival awards, and was mentioned in several top ten lists of the best films in 2006 and 2007.
The Host serves as a political commentary and features a mutated monster, but at its center is an eccentric family. Song Kang-ho, a frequent collaborator of the director, plays a man on a mission to save his daughter, who’s been abducted by a creature that reportedly serves as host to a strange and deadly virus. Go Ah-sung plays the lead character’s daughter in her full-length film debut, a role that earned her best actress, best new actress, and best young star awards in 3 different awarding ceremonies. This filmis a perfect option if you’re looking for a wild yet intellectually satisfying monster movie.
The 2017 film The Bros delves into the intricacies of traditional and modern Korean culture and values while delivering a healthy dose of well-timed comedy alongside family drama. Elder brother Lee Seok-bong (Ma Dong-seok) is a deep-in-debt history teacher who dreams of finding buried treasures, while younger brother Lee Joo-bong (Lee Dong-hwi) is an ambitious executive who’s determined to build a highway on the family land for the construction firm that employs him. Estranged for years following their mother’s funeral, the brothers are brought together by the death of their father. As they reluctantly travel back to their hometown and their very traditional family, they hit a woman, Oh Ro-Ra (Lee Hanee), who suffers from amnesia.
While The Bros doesn’t feature a musical number, it’s based on the musical Brothers Were Brave, which was also helmed by the film’s director Chang You-jeong. And while the eponymous brothers returned to their ancestral home with self-serving goals in mind, they are presented with an opportunity to learn more about their family, relationships, and themselves.
Train to Busan
Zombie movies are all the rage in the past decade, but Train to Busan manages to stand out from the rest of the undead horde with its fully realized characters, thrilling action scenes, and social commentary. The movie received overwhelmingly positive responses from critics and regular viewers alike and has earned its place in the list of top-grossing films in Korea. It also earned plenty of accolades and nominations from local and international film festivals and award-giving bodies. Train to Busan is directed by Yeon Sang-ho and stars the charismatic Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, and Jung Yu-mi.
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