My Favourite Korean Films of 2015

Courtesy of TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

This year I watched 22 Korean films I hadn’t previously seen – all of which screened in Toronto either at a festival or in the theatres – which sadly, was less than last year. As always, I base my list of the films eligible to make my top 10 from those that first screened in Toronto in 2015 which means a couple of the films could technically be from 2014 but for the purposes of this article, let’s just go with it. There were also a couple of films I watched in 2015 but had previously seen in 2014 at another festival so they aren’t counted.

I wish more Korean films came to Toronto as of course, there were more I wanted to see namely Coin Locker Girl (차이나타운) and Madonna (마돈나) topping it. There was also one that I am still kicking myself over missing when it was here in the theatres but a bout of the flu and the holidays got in the way – The Priests (검은 사제들). Regardless, there were some decent films this year. And hopefully more come in 2016… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The films are listed in no particular order with the exception of the first two, which were my favourites. If you haven’t already, watch Veteran and Right Now, Wrong Then. You definitely won’t regret it.

My Favourite Korean Films of 2015

Veteran (베테랑) – 2015

As someone who loves action films, I’m always up for watching one. But Veteran more than exceeded my expectations – it was funny, engaging and with some superbly choreographed fight scenes. Add in amazing acting by the two leads, a villain who was truly evil and it should come as no surprise that it’s my number one film from 2015.

Want more info, check out my review.

Right Now, Wrong Then (지금은맞고그때는틀리다) – 2015

This film intrigued me even before I saw it. The concept of telling the same story twice and showing how minor differences in behaviour and what you say can really change not only the outcome but people’s perception of you was done so well. Plus it was fabulously acted and is definitely a must-see film.

Want more info, check out my review.

Seoul Searching – 2015

This Korean-American film will make you nostalgic for the 80s and if you’re a John Hughes fan (as I am), you’ll love it. Be prepared to laugh, cry and be grossed out – and yeah, it’s been a while since I used the expression ‘grossed out’ but watch the film and you’ll see why it’s appropriate… in a good way.

Want more info, check out my review or my interview with Rosalina Leigh.

My Love, Don’t Cross That River (님아, 강을 건너지 마오) – 2014

This is such a beautiful, poignant and ultimately sad yet hopeful documentary. It’s the tale of an elderly, yet still very much in love, couple that will make anyone believe in love. Bring tissues!

Want more info, check out my review or my interview with director, Jin Mo Young.

Ode to My Father (국제시장) – 2015

This is an epic film that spans several decades. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it’s an interesting look at Korean modern history through the lens of fictional cinema.

Want more info, check out my review.

Twenty (스물) – 2015

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I watched this film for the eye candy (all three of the leads are adorable) but it was so funny that I almost fell out of my seat in the theatre… several times. And I wasn’t the only one. Sometimes, we can all use a good laugh and this film will leave you happy and smiling.

Want more info, check out my review.

Assassination (암살) – 2015

Did I mention that I like action films? Add in a dose of history, a strong female lead, some beautiful costumes and enough plot twists and double crosses to keep things interesting, and yeah, Assassination was a film I quite enjoyed.

Want more info, check out my review.

Gangnam Blues (강남 1970) – 2015

A truly epic gangster film whose story and cinematography will grab your attention and not let go. I wasn’t sure Lee Min Ho () was going to make a convincing gangster but man, did he nail it. If you like thrillers and/or gangster films, you won’t want to miss it.

Unfortunately, it’s one of two films in my top ten that I didn’t review.

A Midsummer’s Fantasia (한여름의 판타지아) – 2014

A relaxed-paced film set in two acts. The first act has a documentary-like feel, is filmed in black and white, and it’s about a director exploring a town that’s almost entirely made up of elderly residents. The final act is filmed in colour and feels more fictional but is filled with such sweet emotion. The slow pace of the film enhances both tales and leaves one feeling more connected to both the film and it’s halves.

And this was the other film in my top 10 that I didn’t review, sorry.

Collective Invention (돌연변이) – 2015

It’s an interesting satire that touches on a variety of topics from youth unemployment to big pharma’s control and yet never preaches. It will make you think and that’s always a good thing.

Want more info, check out my review or my interview with director, Kwon Oh Kwang.

Biggest Disappointment of 2015

There actually wasn’t one in 2015. Of course, there were films I liked better than others, hence the top 10, but none of the ones I watched made me leave the theatre thinking, ‘damn, I paid money for that’ or ‘wow, I expected more.’ Did any of the Korean films disappoint you in 2015?

What I watched in 2015

Editor’s note: I’ve made an unofficial goal to review every Korean film I watch in 2016. I always try to do so but have only had about a 75% rate in the past.

What Korean films did you watch in 2015? Which was YOUR favourite?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

4 thoughts on “My Favourite Korean Films of 2015

  • January 16, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I agree- writing as someone who, admittedly, watched a lot more Korean films this year than you did, I was pleasantly impressed by how there were never really any major disappointments. Sure not every film was great and lots of them had glaring weak spots- but there was always something interesting to discuss.

    Looking forward to your work this year. Always great to see more discussion of contemporary Korean movies.

    • January 16, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Thanks, hopefully more Korean films come to Toronto this year so I can write more reviews. Which was your favourite film in 2015?

  • January 17, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I would probably have to say Pascha, which is kind of a jerk answer because I have no idea if it has any kind of serious chance at international distribution. Ditto with other offbeat films, like Glittering Hands and Made in China.

    Beauty Inside was the one on your list of seen movies I liked the most. I rewatched some of Gangnam Blues on cable last night and it held up much better than I was expecting. Oh, and when it comes to movies you can probably actually watch at some point, keep an eye out for The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale.

    …Now look at what you’ve done, up until now I’d managed to avoid thinking in terms of a top 10 for 2015. Grumble grumble.

    • January 17, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      lol, glad I could getting you thinking that way. I love ‘top 10’ lists 🙂 Being in Toronto does kind of restrict the number of Korean films I can see but we are getting more and more here – both at festivals and in the theatre. I just watched The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale (review up soon).

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