December 27, 2011

The Best Korean Movies of 2011 (Sort of)

For me, 2011 was a year of thrillers, providing me with at least one heart-pounding high per month. But since this is a top ten list, not a top twelve, thrillers that could've made the cut (Tell Me SomethingMy Friend and His Wife) got axed, especially since Im Kwon-taek's small-moments, big feelings Hanji and Kim Ki-duk's oddball musical Breath refused to be elbowed off. Herewith the top ten Korean movies I saw in 2011...

1. The Man From Nowhere (2010): It's not a better movie than Lady Vengeance -- nothing is  -- but I was so deliriously happy watching The Man From Nowhere (hot loner protects young kid) that I can't stop myself from granting it the top slot. Me = Irrational. Movie = Sensational.

2. Lady Vengeance (2005): Watch a Park Chan-wook revenge fantasy, experience Korean filmmaking at its best. As a brilliant vigilante racked by guilt, Lee Yeoung-ae gives the most memorable performance of the year in the role of a lifetime.

3. Going by the Book (2007): A heist movie that isn't a heist movie -- it's a comedy about a bank robbery simulation gone awry -- ends up the smartest heist movie you'll ever see. For me, a star was born in Jeong Jae-yeong who plays the muddle-headed mastermind.

4. Another Public Enemy (2005): Deep inside I have a secret need for martial arts movies. Another Public Enemy takes care of that need while also delivering a top-notch police procedural drama. In short, director Kang Woo-suk, lets you get your combat fix with good plot.

5. I Saw the Devil (2011): To catch a serial killer you have to think like a serial killer which means you end up just as crazy as a serial killer. In this case, you might even have to get a little crazier, since those serial killers can sometimes work in tandem. I saw it. I loved it.

6. Hanji (2011): Could anything be more boring than the process of traditional paper-making? Hey, don't judge so quickly. Im Kwon-taek's drama about the seismic shifts that happen in people's lives when they brush with the historic is nothing short of sublime.

7. Secret Love (2010): Pure, unadulterated noir, from its kinky sexed-up storyline -- a woman in love with identical twins -- to its final denouement -- one sibling survives against all odds. What starts like a woman's movie ends up as everyone's guilty pleasure, especially mine.

8. Blades of Blood (2010): No one does this kind of sweeping, Shakespearean medieval tragicomedy like director Lee Jun-ik. Blades of Blood might not be as good as The King and the Clown but it's a perfectly entertaining fable nevertheless.

9. Breath (2007): Oh, Kim Ki-duk, you never cease to surprise me. Here, you're experimenting with the musical by having a jilted spouse sing karaoke to a man on death row that she doesn't even know. Somehow, it works!

10. A Better Tomorrow (2010): John Woo's original pic about two brothers and a best friend who fight each other and bad guys is a classic of Hong Kong cinema. Time will tell whether Song Hae-sung's remake emerges as a classic for Korea, too.

Click here to see the top ten Korean movies I saw in 2010.
Click here to see the top ten Korean movies I saw in 2009.
Click here to see the top ten Korean movies I saw in 2008.


  1. wow great list you got here..i'll check this list online for downloads..

  2. Let me know if you have a recommendation for me.