Best South Korean Action Movies of All Time – 21 Must-Watch

Here is a list of the best South Korean action movies of all time that you should watch. Korean action movies offer intense emotions, gripping story line, and very realistic fight scenes. Korean action movies have a large fan following all over the world, and a number of actors of Korean origin enjoy immense popularity in Hollywood too.

This list of the best South Korean action Movies is quite researched and each of them has different reasons to watch be it action, drama, suspense or climax! So hold tight and lets rock and roll on this South Korean roller coaster.

Intruder (2020)

Intruder is a 2020 South Korean mystery thriller film. Intruder was originally set to be released on March 12, 2020 but was postponed because of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Although the number would be modest by normal standards, the figure marks the highest number of first-day moviegoers achieved by any film since the COVID-19 outbreak began disrupting daily life in South Korea.

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion (2018)

best korean action movies

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion is a 2018 South Korean revenge thriller and mystery action film written and directed by Park Hoon-jung. the director of I Saw the Devil and gangster epic New World. The film’s action sequences and visuals keep you invested in the story and what comes next. The movie picks up very slowly to the story line and sometimes it may confuse you for a thriller but your patience will pay off in the later part of the movie and specially climax scene and action sequences.

The Battleship Island (2017)

It is a 2017 South Korean period action film about an attempted prison break from a forced labor camp on Hashima Island. Set during Imperial Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea during World War 2, a group of over 400 Koreans endure harsh forced labor on Hashima Island and risk their lives to attempt a daring escape. The film is notable for its massive lifelike sets.

The Battleship Island holds a 55% approval rating on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. It was the first time in the country that a movie had been released on more than 2,000 screens. Over 4 million tickets were sold in the first five days.

The Villainness (2017)

best korean action movies

The Villainess received a four-minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival. With pure kinetic thrills to satisfy genre enthusiasts the Villainess is a must watch for action lovers. Superfast action, crazy stunts mixed with bullets and knives, gripping story, top performance, and this movie is breathless exiting in which top assassin becomes a sleeper agent for South Korea’s intelligence agency. Must add this into your list of the best south Korean action movies to watch.

The Age of Shadows (2016)

best korean action movies

South Korean period action thriller film, It was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. The film has received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 100%. With gripping story and stylish period visuals, it is a fantastic treat for period movie lovers.

Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan is a South Korean action horror film and the best zombie movie. The film set a record as the first Korean film of 2016 to break the audience record of over 10 million theatergoers. It became the highest-grossing Korean film in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Rotten Tomatoes critics rating is 94% and an average rating of 7.57/10. The film has some resemblance to World War Z, however, it is emotionally very strong. Story follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak while trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to Busan, a southern resort city that has managed to hold off the zombie.

The Wailing (2016)

Commercial and critical success, The Wailing is a South Korean horror and mystery film. It’s running time is longer than average: 156 minutes; yet you could never describe it as a slow burn. This is a horror film that jumbles up ghosts, zombies, body horror, Eastern exorcism, Christian mythology, demonic curses, creepy children, and a lot more into one sustained narrative. The film centers on a policeman who investigates a series of mysterious killings and illnesses in a remote Korean hamlet. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% and an average rating of 7.92/10. Bone chilling…

Add this into your list of the best south Korean action movies to watch.

Inside Men (2015)

Inside Men

Inside Men is a 2015 South Korean political crime-action film. It reflects upon the corruption within Korean society. It is the top grossing R-rated movie of all-time at the Korean Box office.

Assassination (2015)


Assassination is a 2015 South Korean espionage action film. The film is currently the eighth-highest-grossing movie in Korean film history. It was filmed in both Shanghai and Seoul. It is a long movie. Assassination holds an 88% “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. Many praised the film’s action scenes as well as its entertainment value. A good tick for your thirst of Korean action movie.

Veteran (2015)

Veteran is a South Korean action comedy film, it is the 4th all-time highest-grossing film in South Korean cinema history. It is partially inspired by Lethal Weapon (1987).

No Tears for the Dead (2014)


No Tears for the Dead is a 2014 South Korean action film. A fast paced action movie, the film revolves around a professional hitman. To prepare for his role, star actor of the movie Jang Dong-gun underwent physical training for four months at a film action school in Seoul and combat training in the United States.

Upon release movie had a tough competition with Hollywood blockbusters X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow.

The Suspect (2013)

It was a box office hit. The film currently holds a 75% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Action scenes are explosive and promise to send thrills to your nerves.

The Berlin File (2013)

It is a 2013 South Korean action thriller film tells the story of a North Korean agent in Berlin who is betrayed and cut loose when a weapons deal is exposed.

The Thieves (2012)

The Thieves is a heist film. It is currently the eighth highest-grossing film in Korean film history. It is Korean version of Ocean’s Eleven (2011) in Korean style. it is visually stunning with the blend of humour, romance and jaw dropping stunts.

The Man from Nowhere (2010)

It was South Korea’s highest grossing film in 2010. The film follows the story of a mysterious and shady man who embarks on a bloody rampage when the only person who seems to understand him, a little girl, is kidnapped. The Man from Nowhere has received positive reviews from English-language critics, holding a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

Mother (2009)

Mother is a 2009 South Korean thriller film. The plot follows a mother who, after her intellectually disabled son is accused of the murder of a young girl, attempts to find the true killer in order to get her son freed. It received very positive reviews from critics, who praised performances, the direction and the film’s uniqueness.

Mother became the 6th most attended domestic film of 2009. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 96% with an average rating of 7.88/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “As fleshy as it is funny, Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother straddles family drama, horror and comedy with a deft grasp of tone and plenty of eerie visuals.” 

The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)

It is a 2008 South Korean western action film. It was inspired by Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It was the second highest grossing Korean film in 2008, and one of the highest grossing films of all time in South Korea.

The Host (2006)

The Host film poster.jpg

The Host is a 2006 South Korean action monster film directed by Bong Joon-ho. It was released on a record number of screens in its home country on July 27, 2006. By the end of its run on November 8, 13 million tickets had been sold, making it (at the time) the highest-grossing South Korean film of all time. The film was in part inspired by an incident in 2000, in which a Korean mortician working for the U.S. military in Seoul reported that he was ordered to dump a large amount of formaldehyde down the drain causing environmental concerns. The Host received critical acclaim. It holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 151 reviews with an average rating of 7.7/10.

A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Organic, essential, beautifully staged and refreshingly realistic, this critically acclaimed stylish action film portrays the Korean ultra-violence genre that will have genre fans nailed to their seats. The best film of 2005, on Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 100% rating, with an average score of 8.1 out of 10 based on ten reviews. Empire named it third in a poll of the “20 Greatest Gangster Movies You’ve Never Seen. The 2007 Indian film Awarapan contained plot elements similar to the film.

Oldboy (2003)


Oldboy is a 2003 South Korean action thriller and a strange, powerful tale of revenge film co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook. The film won the high praise from the director Quentin Tarantino for its action sequences, most notably the single shot fight sequence and has been well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 82% based on 147 reviews with an average rating of 7.38/10. Jamie Russell of the BBC movie review calls it a “sadistic masterpiece that confirms Korea’s current status as producer of some of the world’s most exciting cinema.” In 2008, Oldboy was placed 64th on an Empire list of the top 500 movies of all time. The same year, voters on CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made.  In a 2016 BBC poll, critics voted the film the 30th greatest since 2000.

Its climax may shock you for sure. Don’t forget to add this into your list of the best south korean action movies to watch.

Shiri (1999)

Shiri was the first Hollywood-style big-budget blockbuster Korean film. The total budget of the film was US$8.5 million, at the time the single biggest budget allocated to a Korean movie, part of the budget was covered by the Samsung. The film was a critical and financial success in Korea and broke box office records.

Gautam Trehan

Would love to hear from you! You can write/ask me anything! at [email protected] Happy Reading!