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20 Korean Psychological Thriller Movies That Will Mess With Your Mind & Make You Question Humanity

Korean psychological thriller movies

Korean dramas and movies have been gaining recognition in recent years for their unique and stimulating storylines, from fun, romantic features to horror movies that will keep you awake for nights. If you are getting tired of typical Korean rom-coms, here are 20 Korean psychological thriller movies that will keep you on the edge of your seat at all times. 

1. Recalled (2021)

Korean psychological thriller movies - recalled movie poster
Image credit: CGV Arthouse

Main Cast:

  • Seo Ye Ji as Soo Jin
  • Kim Kang Woo as Ji Hoon

After surviving a near-fatal accident, Soo Jin loses all her memories. She returns to her home to recover under the care of her loving husband, Ji Hoon, after she is discharged from the hospital. 

As she tries to regain her memory, she begins getting visions of events, only to discover that they are not flashbacks of the past but horrifying insights to her neighbour’s future. 

To make matters worse, she finds wedding pictures of herself with another man who is not her husband, and she starts questioning the true identity of her husband. 

Watch the trailer here: 

Video credit: 815 Pictures

2. Svaha: The Sixth Finger (2019)

Korean psychological thriller movies - Svaha: The Sixth Finger movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Lee Jung Jae as Pastor Park
  • Park Jung Min as Na Han
  • Lee Jae In as Geum Hwa

Svaha: The Sixth Finger begins by introducing a young girl, Geum Hwa, and her evil twin sister who is believed to bring bad luck to those around her. 

Pastor Park, who works to expose religious cults, is hired to investigate a suspicious group called “Deer Mountain”.

Concurrently, the police begin investigating a murder case and soon come to realise that there’s a connection between the case and a member of the cult.

As the story unravels, the correlation between Geum Hwa, the murder case, and religious cults become apparent to the characters.

Svaha: The Sixth Finger is a film that encompasses horror, mystery, and thriller themes, and presents the grim consequences of becoming obsessed with religious cult groups. 

Catch the trailer here:

Video credit: The Swoon

3. Parasite (2019)

Korean psychological thriller movies - parasite movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Song Kang Ho as Kim Ki Taek
  • Jang Hye Jin as Choong Sook
  • Lee Sun Kyun as Park Dong Ik
  • Cho Yeo Jeong as Choi Yeon Gyo

There are few people who don’t know the plot of Parasite, the first Korean film to win not just 1 but 4 Oscars. 

The Kim family is part of Korea’s population that lives below the poverty line. Their home is a small, pest-infested semi-basement apartment in a rural area of Seoul, and they work temporary jobs folding pizza boxes.

When the son of the family gets offered a well-paying job as a private tutor to 1 of the members of the wealthy Park family, the Kim family sees this as an opportunity for them to finally escape their life of poverty. 

But soon, they realise that biting off more than one can chew often leads to dire consequences. 

Check out the trailer for the history-making film: 

Video credit: IGN

4. The Vanished (2018)

Korean psychological thriller movies - the vanished movie poster
Image credit: Kidari Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Kim Sang Kyung as Woo Joong Sik
  • Kim Kang Woo as Park Jin Han
  • Kim Hee Ae as Yoon Seol Hee
  • Han Ji An as Hye Jin

Yoon Seol Hee, who is born into a conglomerate family, dies of a heart attack. 

On the day of her funeral, her corpse disappears from the morgue. 

Woo Joong Sik, a deadbeat cop, is assigned to investigate the mysterious case. 

As the police seek clues of her disappearance, Seol Hee’s husband, Park Jin Han, is convinced that his late wife is actually still alive and has escaped on her own. 

The reason he believes is because he was the one who poisoned his late wife in order to kill her and be with his mistress, Hye Jin. 

In The Vanished, there is more than meets the eye, so be sure not to jump to conclusions too soon.

Don’t miss out on the trailer: 

Video credit: SGCloverFilms

5. Burning (2018)

Korean psychological thriller movies - burning movie poster
Image credit: CGV Arthouse

Main Cast:

  • Yoo Ah In as Jong Soo
  • Steven Yeun as Ben
  • Jun Jong Seo as Hae Mi

Jong Soo, who performs odd jobs in Paju, reunites with a childhood friend, Hae Mi, one day while making a delivery. 

She is going to make a trip to Africa soon, and asks him for a favour to help her feed her cat, Boil, when she is away. When Jong Soo goes to pick Hae Mi up from the airport, she arrives with Ben, whom she met during her trip. 

Ben reveals to Jong Soo that he has a strange hobby: every 2 months, he burns down an abandoned greenhouse. 

How will this absurd hobby of Ben’s eventually affect the fate of Jong Soo and Hae Mi? 

Watch the trailer here:

Video credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

6. Bluebeard (2017)

Korean psychological thriller movies - bluebeard movie poster
Image credit: Lotte Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Cho Jin Woong as Byun Seung Hoon
  • Kim Dae Myung as Jung Sung Geun
  • Shin Goo as Jung Sung Geun’s father

After the bankruptcy of his clinic, Byun Seung Hoon finds another job at a hospital run by his friend in an endoscopy clinic in a rural village. In the village, he lives in a small flat, where his landlord owns a butcher shop.

One day, the landlord’s father visits Seung Hoon’s clinic for an endoscopy. 

During the procedure, the patient, who received anaesthesia, starts mumbling about the procedure to mutilate a body.

Concurrently, news of a headless torso of a woman found at a construction site is broadcasted. 

After several strange interactions with the landlord’s family, Seung Hoon begins suspecting them of being a family of serial killers. 

The plot thickens as he tries to prove that his landlords are the suspects behind the recent murder case, yet it is hinted that Seung Hoon could just be hallucinating and was making up a story to hide his own secret…

Catch the trailer here: 

Video credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

7. The Wailing (2016)

Korean psychological thriller movies - the wailing movie poster
Image credit: 20th Century Fox

Main Cast:

  • Kwak Do Won as Jong Goo
  • Hwang Jung Min as Il Gwang
  • Jun Kunimura as Japanese man

When a Japanese man suddenly arrives at a small village in the mountains, an epidemic of strange events begin occurring, and a curse which causes the villagers to murder their own families breaks out. 

Suspicion of the Japanese newcomer being the culprit starts running through the habitants. 

When Jong Goo’s daughter catches the strange curse that plagues the village, it is up to Jong Goo to save her and stop the one behind the horrifying happenings in the small town. 

Check out the trailer here: 

Video credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

8. The Handmaiden (2016)

Korean psychological thriller movies - the handmaiden movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Kim Min Hee as Lady Hideko
  • Kim Tae Ri as Sook Hee
  • Ha Jung Woo as Count Fujiwara

The Handmaiden is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

Lady Hideko is a young heiress who inherited a fortune from her family.

Count Fujiwara is a con-man who hires Sook Hee, a pickpocket, to become Lady Hideko’s maid. On his end, he is planning to robe Lady Hideko of her fortune under the guise of persuading her to elope with him.

What is meant to be a simple scam becomes complicated when romantic feelings and erotic desire get involved. 

Watch the trailer to the critically acclaimed film here:

Video credit: Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

9. The Silenced (2015)

Korean psychological thriller movies - the silenced movie poster
Image credit: Lotte Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Park Bo Young as Cha Joo Ran
  • Park So Dam as Hong Yeon Duk
  • Uhm Ji Won as Principal

The Silenced is set during the Japanese Occupation in Korea. 

Cha Joo Ran is a sickly child who is sent to an all-girls boarding school to get treatment. Here, all students have to take an unknown medicine daily due to their poor health. 

Joo Ran becomes friends with Hong Yeon Duk, who is considerate and takes care of her. 

When strange occurrences, such as sudden fits of aggression and seizures that lead to memory loss, start happening to the female students in the school, Joo Ran and Yeon Duk are determined to find out the hidden secret of the institution. 

Yeon Duk is also curious about why things that once happened to her now-missing friend are eerily occurring to Joo Ran again.

Don’t miss out on the trailer: 

Video credit: Lotte Entertainment (International)

10. Scarlet Innocence (2014)

Korean psychological thriller movies - scarlet innocence movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Jung Woo Sung as Shim Hak Kyu
  • Esom as Deok Yi

After being embroiled in a sex scandal, Professor Shim Hak Kyu is forced to leave his job at Seoul National University and has to teach in a small and rural town until the scandal tides over. 

While at the town, he is unable to curb his own lust and gets involved in an immoral relationship with his student, Deok Yi. 

When his sex scandal is resolved, Hak Kyu is excited to return back to being a lecturer at a top university, only for Deok Yi to break the news that she is pregnant with his child.

After forcing Deok Yi to undergo an abortion, Hak Kyu leaves to go back to his glamorous life. But 8 years later, Deok Yi returns to Hak Kyu’s life with a new persona and a revenge plan.

Watch the trailer here: 

Video credit: CJ ENM

11. Hide and Seek (2013)

Korean psychological thriller movies - hide and seek movie poster
Image credit: Next Entertainment World

Main Cast:

  • Son Hyun Joo as Sung Soo
  • Jeon Mi Sun as Sung Soo’s wife
  • Moon Jeong Hee as Joo Hee

At first glance, Sung Soo is a successful man: he runs a cafe with a booming business and lives in a luxurious apartment complex with his wife and 2 children. 

He only has 2 flaws: his compulsive obsession with cleanliness, and an estranged older step-brother whom he framed for a crime. 

When Sung Soo finds out that his older step-brother has gone missing, he sets out to his rundown apartment complex to investigate. 

He discovers that the people there are hostile towards him and are even afraid of his step-brother, whom they believe is a peeping Tom. 

What’s even stranger is that Sung Soo notices that there are bizarre shapes on the front of every house: a square for a man inhabiting the flat, a circle for a woman, and a triangle for a child.

Catch the trailer here:

Video credit: FilmIsNow Movie Trailers International

12. Montage (2013)

Korean psychological thriller movies - montage movie poster
Image credit: New Entertainment World

Main Cast:

  • Uhm Jung Hwa as Ha Kyung
  • Kim Sang Kyung as Chung Ho

Almost 15 years ago, Ha Kyung’s daughter was kidnapped, and despite Detective Chung Ho’s efforts to rescue her, she is found dead and the kidnapper goes scot-free.

In present time, with only 5 days till the statute of limitations of the case expires, Detective Chung Ho revisits the crime scene and discovers a white flower left there. 

No one apart from himself, Ha Kyung, and the perpetrator would know the location of the crime scene.

A few days later, a kidnapping of another child occurs. When Detective Chung Ho discovers the eerie similarities between the 2 abduction cases, he is once again thrown back into working the case and finding the culprit. 

Check out the trailer here: 

Video credit: Dark Dreams

13. Helpless (2012)

Korean psychological thriller movies - helpless movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Lee Sun Kyun as Jang Moon Ho
  • Kim Min Hee as Kang Sun Young
  • Cho Seong Ha as Kim Jong Geun

Soon-to-be-married couple, Jang Moon Ho and Kang Sun Young, are taking a road trip to Moon Ho’s hometown to meet his parents when Sun Young suddenly disappears after taking a phone call. 

Unnerved, Moon Ho sets out to investigate the unexplained disappearance of his fiance, only to find out that the call Sun Young received was about a bankruptcy filing from her past. 

Desperate to find her, Moon Ho engages his cousin and former police officer, Kim Jong Geun, in the search. 

The shocking truth is revealed by Jong Geun: Moon Ho’s fiance is not the real Sun Young, and his fiance had stolen someone else’s identity. 

Don’t miss out on the trailer: 

Video credit: CJEntertainmentUSA 

14. No Mercy (2010)

Korean psychological thriller movies - no mercy movie poster
Image credit: Cinema Service

Main Cast:

  • Sol Kyung Gu as Kang Min Ho 
  • Ryoo Seung Bum as Lee Sung Ho
  • Han Hye Jin as Min Seo Young

Kang Min Ho is a top forensic pathologist at Korea’s National Institute of Scientific Investigation. 

When he decides to retire to spend time with his daughter, the case of a young woman’s dismembered corpse becomes his last task.

Environmental activist Lee Sung Ho promptly confesses his crime, and reasons that his motivation is to protest construction work that will split a nearby river into 6 parts. 

Sung Ho also tells Min Ho a blood-curling fact: Min Ho’s daughter has been kidnapped by him. 

In order to save her, Min Ho tampers with evidence from the dismemberment case and releases Sung Ho from custody. 

However, Min Ho will soon come to realise that his history of meddling with evidence will come to bite him. 

Watch the trailer here:

Video credit: CJEntertainmentUSA

15. Mother (2009)

Korean psychological thriller movies - mother movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Kim Hye Ja as Mother
  • Won Bin as Do Jun

In Mother, famed director Bong Joon Ho cleverly weaves the greatness of a mother’s love for her child into a psychological thriller film. 

Mother is an unnamed widowed character played by actress Kim Hye Ja. Her only company is her son, Do Jun, who is intellectually disabled. 

When the murder of a high school girl occurs in their neighbourhood and Do Jun becomes the prime suspect in the crime, it is up to Mother to prove her son’s innocence. 

She will go to any length to free her son from a 4-year detention, even if it means sacrifices need to be made. 

Catch the trailer here: 

Video credit: Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

16. Lady Vengeance (2005)

Korean psychological thriller movies - lady vengeance movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Lee Young Ae as Lee Geum Ja
  • Choi Min Sik as Mr. Baek

Lee Geum Ja was framed for the kidnapping and murder of a young schoolboy, and had wrongfully served 13 years in prison for it. 

After being released on parole due to good behaviour, she is determined to take revenge on the real culprit, a school teacher, who framed her. 

Geum Ja is hell-bent on avenging herself for three main reasons: the murder of an innocent child, her imprisonment that caused her own child to grow up without a mother, and for wrongful imprisonment.

This movie is riddled with scenes of brutality and violence, and is not for the faint-hearted. 

Check out the trailer here: 

Video credit: Filmzie

17. Antarctic Journal (2005)

Korean psychological thriller movies - antarctic journal movie poster
Image credit: Showbox

Main Cast:

  • Song Kang Ho as Choi Do Hyung
  • Yoo Ji Tae as Kim Min Jae

Antarctic Journal centres on an expedition of 6 Korean men on a journey across The Antarctic without supplies. 

In the midst of their exploration, they discover a journal of a British expedition from 1922. 

They realise parallels between the situations and drawings in the journal with their own journey, and start to get a bad premonition during their trek. 

You’ll be left anxiously wondering if the journal merely recorded the experiences of a previous expedition, which has some coincidental similarities to the current group, or if it’s a warning to the Korean crew to not repeat their footsteps.

Don’t miss out on the trailer: 

Video credit: Ostkreutz

18. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Korean psychological thriller movies - a tale of two sisters movie poster
Image credit: Cheongeoram

Main Cast:

  • Lim Soo Jung as Bae Soo Mi
  • Moon Geun Young as Bae Soo Yeon
  • Yum Jung Ah as Heo Eun Joo

The tragic death of their mother causes Bae Soo Mi and Bae Soo Yeong to be admitted to a mental institution for treatment of their trauma. 

After the pair is discharged, they return home and reunite with their stepmother, Heo Eun Joo, whom they believe is heinous and has ill intent. 

Strange and nightmarish things start happening within the house, and the sisters also have to defend themselves against their supposedly abusive stepmother. 

The dark secret that holds the family captive and haunts the 2 sisters is revealed in a shocking plot twist at the end of the film. 

Watch the trailer here: 

Video credit: Arrow Film

19. Memories of Murder (2003)

Korean psychological thriller movies - memories of murder movie poster
Image credit: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Song Kang Ho as Park Doo Man
  • Kim Sang Kyung as Seo Tae Yoon
  • Kim Roe Ha as Cho Yong Koo

Memories of Murder is loosely inspired by the true story of Korea’s first serial murders that happened at Gyeonggi-do. 

The film begins with the discovery of a young woman’s body underneath a ditch. The body, which was brutally raped and then bound and gagged, was first found by Detective Park Doo Man. 

As more bodies of young women are discovered in the same circumstances, the police and general population begin to suspect the possibility that these cases are carried out by the nation’s first-ever serial murderer.

A special task force made up of 2 local detectives, Park Doo Man and Jo Young Goo, and a Seoul detective, Seo Tae Yoon, are created to solve the cases. 

Catch the trailer here: 

Video credit: NEON

20. Oldboy (2003)

Korean psychological thriller movies - old boy movie poster
Image credit: Show East

Main Cast:

  • Choi Min Sik as Oh Dae Su
  • Yoo Ji Tae as Lee Woo Jin
  • Kang Hye Jung as Mi Do

After a drunken night, Oh Dae Su wakes up in a private prison where he is then locked into for the next 15 years. 

The quarters are fairly comfortable for one to live in, and through a television installed in the room, he realises that he was framed for the murder of his wife. 

After being released, he makes it his mission to find out who the mastermind behind his imprisonment is and why they framed him for the crime.

He has 5 days to find out the truth, and his suffering might not even stop with his discovery of this person’s identity. 

Check out the trailer here: 

Video credit: Arrow Video

Give your brain a workout with these Korean psychological thriller movies

Korean psychological thriller movies promise suspense, engaging cinematography, and good acting. For movie buffs eager to put on their thinking caps, plot twists from these films will ensure your mind doesn’t remain lax during the duration of a few hours. 

Those who want to expand their repertoire of Korean entertainment content should also check out these 6 Korean Netflix movies to watch in 202320 thriller Korean movies, or 24 best Korean horror movies. To rebalance your emotions after watching these heart-racing movies, you might also want to indulge in these 11 romantic Korean movies.

Cover image adapted from: CJ Entertainment, CJ Entertainment, CJ Entertainment