Thriller Korean movies 

We all know that Korean thriller dramas such as Sweet Home (2020) and Signal (2016) are bussin’, and thriller is one of the genres that the Korean drama scene excels in. But Korean thriller movies – phew – they’re something else. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into the world of Korean movies, perhaps our hand-picked list of thriller flicks is a good place to start. 

1. Midnight (2021) 

Thriller Korean movies - midnight
Image credit: TVING

Main Cast:

  • Wi Ha-joon as Do-shik
  • Jin Ki-joo as Kim Kyung-mi

Starring Wi Ha-joon of Squid Game fame, Midnight is a spine-chilling movie that follows a psychopath and a hearing-impaired woman.

Kim Kyung-mi is hard of hearing, so she makes ends meet by working as a sign language counsellor at a call centre.

Her life completely changes after she witnesses a woman getting stabbed by Do-shik, a psychopathic killer.

Following that incident, Kyung-mi becomes Do-shik’s new target. As a result, a game of tag begins between the two protagonists.

You can watch the trailer here:

Video credit: TVING

2. The Call (2020)

Thriller Korean movies - the call
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Park Shin-hye as Kim Seo-yeon
  • Jeon Jong-seo as Oh Yeong-sook

Imagine getting a call that can either correct your past, or put your life on the line. 

Kim So-yeon receives an anonymous call one day when she returns home to nurse her ailing mother. Strangely enough, she learns that the recipient is Oh Yeong-sook, a woman living 20 years apart from her. 

Simply put, they’re living in the same house but during different time periods. So-yeon is living in 2019, while Yeong-sook is living in 1999. 

As the frequency of their calls increases, they become good friends and begin to share more about their lives with each other.

It turns out that Seo-yeon is living with her mother as her father died in a fire, whereas Yeong-sook was adopted by a shaman. 

But what started off as an amiable call slowly morphs into a life-and-death matter after Seo-yeon finds out that Yeong-sook is a serial killer.

Don’t miss out on the trailer:

Video credit: Netflix Asia

3. Time To Hunt (2020)

Thriller Korean movies - Time To Hunt
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Je-hoon as Joon-seok
  • Choi Woo-shik as Gi-hoon
  • Ahn Jae-hong as Jang-ho
  • Park Hae-soo as Han
  • Park Jung-min as Sang-soo

Set in a dystopian world, Time To Hunt takes you on a journey from the execution of a casino heist to running away from being caught red-handed.

Following his release from prison, Joon-seok plans a heist with his friends Gi-hoon, Jang-ho, and Sang-soo.

Joon-seok is desperate to execute the heist as Korea is on the brink of a financial crisis.

However, their plans come to a halt when Han, a contract killer who used to be a police officer, begins to hunt them down.

Will Joon-seok and his friends succeed in fleeing from the man who’s paid to kill them?

Catch the teaser here:

Video credit: The Swoon

4. Deliver Us From Evil (2020) 

Thriller Korean movies - Deliver Us From Evil
Image credit: CJ Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Jung-jae as Ray
  • Hwang Jung-min as Kim In-nam
  • Park Jung-min as Yoo-yi

One of Lee Jung-jae’s best works till date, Deliver Us From Evil is an action-packed thriller that will leave your heart racing throughout the film.

Kim In-nam used to work for the National Intelligence Agency. Now, he murders people for a living.

After accomplishing his final mission as a contract killer, he receives the news that a little girl named Yoo-min was kidnapped in Thailand.

This kidnapping case is closely related to In-nam as he finds out that she’s his daughter. Years ago, he was madly in love with Yoo-min’s mother, who is now dead.

Inevitably, In-nam goes to Thailand to rescue his daughter with the help of Yoo-yi.

However, things get even more complicated when Ray seeks revenge from In-nam after finding out that his sibling was killed by the contract killer.

Check out Lee Jung-jae’s badass acting here:

Video credit: Movie Trailers Source

5. The Divine Fury (2019) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Divine Fury
Image credit: Lotte Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Park Seo-joon as Yong-hoo
  • Woo Do-hwan as Ji-shin
  • Choi Woo-shik as Priest Choi
  • Ahn Sung-ki as Father Ahn

The legendary trio – Park Seo-joon, Choi Woo-shik and Woo Do-hwan – takes you on an emotional rollercoaster in The Divine Fury with their top-notch acting.

Yong-hoo is known as the best MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter in Korea, but no one knows that his successful career was driven by his parents’ tragic death.

At the peak of his career, Yong-hoo is stumped by an inexplicable change in his body. Reluctant yet desperate, he turns to Father Ahn and Priest Choi for help.

They realise that Yong-hoo has a special divine ability to ward off evil forces. Hence, the three of them embark on a journey to fight against demonic forces.

Watch the trailer here:

Video credit: Movieclips Indie

6. My First Client (2019) 

Thriller Korean movies - My First Client
Image credit: Lotte Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Dong-hwi as Jung-yeop
  • Yoo-sun as Ji-sook
  • Choi Myung-bin as Da-bin

Tackling heavy topics such as child abuse, My First Client will make your heart ache for the innocent children who are exploited and destroyed by irresponsible adults. 

Following his graduation from law school, Jung-yeop is in search of a job at a law firm. However, the job market hasn’t been kind to him, and he struggles to secure a position in a law firm located in Seoul.

He decides to work at a child welfare centre while waiting for a job opening. Little does he know that his time there would be life-changing, thanks to Da-bin.

He meets Da-bin for the first time at a police station. The 10-year-old girl claims that Ji-sook, her stepmother, abused her and her younger brother.

It pains Jung-yeop to know that there’s nothing he can do to help, besides spending time with the kids at the child welfare centre.

One day, he finally gets hired as a lawyer. He moves to Seoul with an eager heart, until he receives the news that Da-bin killed her younger brother.

Jung-yeop is certain that she didn’t kill her brother. In order to prove her innocence and uncover the truth, he takes charge by being Da-bin’s lawyer. 

Check out the trailer:

Video credit: Lotte Entertainment (International)

7. Door Lock (2018) 

Thriller Korean movies - door lock
Image credit: Megabox Plus M

Main Cast:

  • Gong Hyo-jin as Cho Kyung-min
  • Kim Ye-won as Oh Hyo-joo
  • Kim Sung-oh as Detective Lee

What would you do if you found out that the monster under your bed is a man whom you’ve never met in your life?

Based on the Spanish movie Sleep Tight (2011), Door Lock is a nerve-racking thriller that follows the story of the victim instead of the perpetrator. 

Cho Kyung-min is a banker who lives alone in the comfort of her studio apartment.

One day, she returns home to see that her door lock cover has been left open. Bewildered by this occurrence as it has never happened before, she changes her password immediately. 

That night, she almost falls asleep, until she hears a stranger trying to unlock her door.

Who could this man be, and why is he invading Kyung-min’s privacy? 

Don’t miss out on the trailer: 

Video credit: megabox.plusm

8. The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion (2018) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion
Image credit: Gold Moon Film Production

Main Cast:

  • Kim Da-mi as Ja-yoon
  • Choi Woo-shik as Nobleman
  • Jo Min-su as Dr. Baek
  • Park Hee-soon as Mr. Choi
  • Go Min-si as Do Myung-hee

Before Our Beloved Summer (2021), Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik actually worked together in The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion.

Ja-yoon was the product of a mysterious lab experiment run by two men, who are referred to as Dr. Baek and Mr. Choi.

Following a deadly incident at the lab, Ja-yoon escapes and runs for her life. She ends up on a farm, where she meets her adoptive parents. 

She lives an ordinary life for the next decade, until she participates in a singing contest. The judges find out that Ja-yoon has the psychic ability to move the microphone without touching it.

Upon seeing this, Dr. Baek and Mr. Choi send a group of men to retrieve Ja-yoon.

Fun fact: the sequel is slated to be released this summer.

Here’s the trailer for those who are interested in the plot:

Video credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

9. The Drug King (2018) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Drug King
Image credit: Showbox 

Main Cast:

  • Song Kang-ho as Lee Doo-sam
  • Bae Doona as Kim Jeong-ah
  • Jo Jung-suk as Kim In-goo

As the title suggests, this thriller is centred on a drug king, who creates a lucrative business by smuggling drugs.

Prior to building his drug empire, Lee Doo-sam smuggled diamonds in the early 1970s. However, he was kept captive after getting caught by the police.

Following his release, Doo-sam begins to smuggle and export drugs. His business becomes a huge success after he meets Kim Jeong-ah, a lobbyist who has a wide network of affluent and influential people.

In the midst of running his business, Doo-sam gets addicted to drugs. 

Doo-sam’s seemingly smooth sailing life becomes turbulent when Kim In-goo, a prosecutor, looks into a drug case that not only involves the drug king, but also a web of prominent figures.

Click on the trailer to find out more: 

Video credit: PLAYYMOVIE

10. High Society (2018)

Thriller Korean movies - High Society
Image credit: Lotte Entertainment

Main Cast:

  • Park Hae-il as Jang Tae-joon
  • Soo Ae as Oh Soo-yeon
  • Yoon Je-moon as Han Yong-suk
  • Lee Jin-wook as Shin Ji-ho
  • Ra Mi-ran as Lee Hwa-ran

High Society explores the desire to be part of the elite, and the repercussions that follow.

Jang Tae-joon is a professor, while his wife Oh Soo-yeon works as the chief curator of an art gallery. 

Despite their reputable jobs, they yearn to climb the social ladder and ultimately become members of high society.

Perhaps dreams really do come true – the couple is given a golden opportunity to elevate their social status.

But little do they know that this stepping stone will soon become a stumbling block.

Here’s the trailer for all curious folks:

Video credit: 롯데엔터테인먼트

11. Forgotten (2017) 

Thriller Korean movies - Forgotten
Image credit: Megabox Plus M

Main Cast:

  • Kang Ha-neul as Jin-seok
  • Kim Mu-yeol as Yoo-seok
  • Na Young-hee as The Mother
  • Moon Sung-keun as The Father

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be a complete stranger?

Jin-seok isn’t in the pinkest of health, so his family moves to a new place in the hopes of improving his well-being.

However, there’s something about the new house that bothers Jin-seok.

After moving to the new place, Jin-seok witnesses Yoo-seok, his older brother, being abducted by a group of unknown men.

Fortunately, Yoo-seok returns home after being away for close to three weeks. But something is off about him – he doesn’t seem to recall being abducted. To make matters worse, his mannerism and personality are no longer the same.

Gradually, Jin-seok becomes certain that Yoo-seok has been replaced by someone else who looks identical to his brother.

Check out the trailer here:

Video credit: 서울신문 TheSeoulShinmun

12. The Outlaws (2017) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Outlaws
Image credit: Megabox Plus M

Main Cast:

  • Ma Dong-seok as Ma Seok-do
  • Yoon Kye-sang as Jang Chen

Based on real-life events, The Outlaws follows the life-and-death fight between two gangs and a detective.

The two gangs originate from Korea and China respectively. Due to heightening tensions between the two, police officers have to constantly meddle in their fights to prevent injuries and deaths.

Jang Chen, the leader of the Chinese gang, is a loan shark who shows no mercy when it comes to money.

The gang fight escalates into a grisly battle between Jang Chen and detective Ma Seok-do, and both of them put their lives on the line to protect what is deemed important to them.

Fun fact: the sequel is confirmed to be released in May 2022.

Prep yourself for the hair-raising trailer:

Video credit: PLAYYMOVIE

13. Missing (2016)

Thriller Korean movies - missing
Image credit: Megabox Plus M

Main Cast:

  • Uhm Ji-won as Lee Ji-sun
  • Gong Hyo-jin as Han Mae / Kim Yeon
  • Kim Hee-won as Park Sung-ho

Missing tells the story of a one-year-old baby who goes missing under the care of her babysitter.

Lee Ji-sun is an ambitious career woman who works at a PR company. But her marital life is a complete mess as she decides to split with her husband and fight for custody over their only daughter, Da-eun.

Since Ji-sun has to handle both work and mother duties, she hires a Korean-Chinese nanny named Han Mae to look after her daughter. 

All goes well, until Ji-sun returns home one night to find out that her daughter and Han Mae have disappeared without a trace.

Who is Han-mae, and why did she take Da-eun away?

Catch the trailer here: 

Video credit: PLAYYMOVIE

14. The Chronicles Of Evil (2015) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Chronicles Of Evil
Image credit: CJ Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Son Hyun-joo as Choi Chang-sik
  • Ma Dong-seok as Detective Oh
  • Choi Daniel as Kim Jin-gyu
  • Park Seo-joon as Cha Dong-jae

Remember that nursery rhyme about an old woman who ate a spider to catch a fly that she accidentally swallowed, and then a bird to catch the spider? The Chronicles Of Evil is about committing a crime to cover up a mistake, and an even bigger crime to cover up the previous crime.

Choi Chang-sik is a homicide detective. He’s adept at his job, and in just a few days, he’ll be promoted.

His life is picture-perfect, until he meets a taxi driver who attacks him with a knife.

Chang-sik inadvertently kills the taxi driver while trying to defend himself. He almost reports the incident to the police, until he’s reminded of his upcoming promotion.

Hence, he covers up the crime and moves on with life – or so he thought.

The next day, Chang-sik is in disbelief as he watches the news and sees the dead body of the taxi driver hanging from a construction site.

To make matters worse, he’s assigned to take charge of the murder case.

Don’t miss out on the trailer:

Video credit: CJ ENM

15. Office (2015) 

Thriller Korean movies - Office
Image credit: Little Big Pictures

Main Cast:

  • Bae Seong-woo as Kim Byung-kook
  • Go Ah-sung as Lee Mi-rae
  • Park Sung-woong as Jong-hoon
  • Ryu Hyun-kyung as Hong Ji-sun
  • Kim Eui-sung as Kim Sang-gyu

As the title indicates, Office is a thriller that takes place within a corporate building.

Kim Byung-kook is recognised as a highly capable section chief and a devoted family man. 

Since he lives such an ordinary life, everyone was in utter shock when they were informed that he had vanished after murdering his entire family. 

Jong-hoon, the detective in charge of Byung-kook’s murder case, tries to get some hints about his whereabouts by questioning his colleagues.

Everyone is unable to assist Jong-hoon in investigating the case, except Lee Mi-rae. Jong-hoon gets a feeling that she knows something about the murder case, but she keeps her mouth shut.

As a result, Jong-hoon has to rely on CCTV footage in hopes of getting some clues on where Byung-kook might have fled to.

Odd enough, the footage shows Byung-kook entering the building, but never leaving the place. Where could he be hiding?

Watch the suspenseful trailer here:

Video credit: Dark Dreams

16. A Hard Day (2014) 

Thriller Korean movies - A Hard Day
Image credit: Showbox 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Sun-kyun as Ko Gun-soo
  • Cho Jin-woong as Park Chang-min
  • Shin Jung-geun as The Chief
  • Park Bo-gum as Lee Jin-ho
  • Jung Man-sik as Choi Sang-ho

Ko Gun-soo is neither an exemplary detective, nor a filial son. He even left his late mother’s funeral halfway through after he’s informed that the police force is being investigated for an internal bribery case.

As he drives to the police station, his car accidentally crashes into an unknown man. Not knowing what to do, Gun-soo puts his dead body in his car trunk and continues driving.

Later, he surreptitiously places the dead man’s body into his mother’s coffin so that no one would be privy to his crime.

However, the dead man turns out to be a fugitive who committed murder, and the police force is desperately looking for him. 

You can watch the trailer here:

Video credit: Movieclips Indie

17. Hide And Seek (2013) 

Thriller Korean movies - Hide And Seek
Image credit: Next Entertainment World

Main Cast:

  • Son Hyun-joo as Sung-soo
  • Jeon Mi-seon as Min-ji
  • Moon Jung-hee as Joo-hee

On the surface, Sung-soo seems to have it all: a stable career and a happy family. But deep down, he resents his brother, Sung-chul, also known as the biological son of his adoptive parents.

He doesn’t keep in touch with his brother, but things change when he receives a call notifying him that Sung-chul is missing.

Now, Sung-soo has no choice but to visit his brother’s apartment. This marks the beginning of a string of mysterious events.

When he arrives at Sung-chul’s apartment, he notices unfathomable symbols on every door.

What makes Sung-chul’s disappearance even more perplexing is that fact that Sung-soo finds the underwear of a murdered woman named Eun-hye in his brother’s drawers.

Here’s the trailer for those who are interested in watching Hide And Seek: 

Video credit: Movieclips Indie

18. New World (2013) 

Thriller Korean movies - new world
Image credit: Next Entertainment World

Main Cast:

  • Lee Jung-jae as Lee Ja-sung
  • Choi Min-sik as Kang Hyung-cheol
  • Hwang Jung-min as Jung Chung
  • Park Sung-woong as Lee Joong-gu
  • Song Ji-hyo as Shin-woo

Known as one of the most well-loved Korean thrillers ever, New World stars some of the best actors in Korea: Lee Jung-jae, Hwang Jung-min, and Choi Min-sik.

Lee Ja-sung works at the National Police Agency, and he’s tasked to infiltrate the biggest crime organisation in Korea, Goldmoon.

During his time in Goldmoon, he gradually earns the trust of Jung Chung, also known as the leader of the organisation.

Just when Ja-sung thinks that his duty in Goldmoon is done, Kang Hyung-cheol gives him another mission. The operation’s code name is “New World”.

Now, Ja-sung finds himself torn between loyalty to Jung Chung and responsibility to accomplish his given task. 

Don’t forget to catch the trailer:

Video credit: Movieclips Trailers

19. Silenced (2011)

Thriller Korean movies - Silenced
Image credit: CJ Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Gong Yoo as Kang In-ho
  • Jung Yu-mi as Seo Yoo-jin

Based on a true story, Silenced grapples with issues such as sexual assault and child abuse. The public became enraged after a book pertaining to these true events was published in 2009.

Kang In-ho is hired as the art teacher in a school for hearing impaired students. Initially, he goes to work with an eager heart to teach and nurture the kids. 

But he notices something strange about how the school is run, and how reserved the students are.

Gradually, the kids reveal the truth to In-ho, and it leaves him in complete disbelief.

It turns out that the school principal and teachers are wolves in sheeps’ clothing: they have been taking advantage of the students by abusing them sexually and physically.

The decision to unveil the truth comes with a heavy responsibility that one must be ready to shoulder, and yet In-ho works to the best of his ability alongside human rights activist Seo Yoo-jin.

Watch the trailer here:

Video credit: CJEntertainmentUSA

20. The Man From Nowhere (2010) 

Thriller Korean movies - The Man From Nowhere
Image credit: CJ Entertainment 

Main Cast:

  • Won Bin as Cha Tae-sik
  • Kim Sae-ron as Jung So-mi

Known as Won Bin’s best movie to date, The Man From Nowhere revolves around Cha Tae-sik and Jung So-mi.

Tae-sik and So-mi live in the same neighbourhood. Everyone addresses Tae-sik as “ahjussi” because they don’t know anything about him.

So-mi is a young girl raised by her mother, Hyo-jeong, who’s not in the right state of mind to nurture her daughter as she’s addicted to heroin.

One day, Hyo-jeong steals a bag of heroin and visits the pawnshop run by Tae-sik for safekeeping reasons.

Despite her efforts to hide the bag of drugs, crime boss Oh Myung-gyu finds out about the theft in a matter of days.

Myung-gyu observes how Tae-sik cares for So-mi like his own child. Hence, he sends a group of men to kidnap her as a way to retrieve the bag of drugs from Tae-sik.

Check out the trailer here:

Video credit: CJ ENM

Korean thriller movies packed with suspense & surprise 

Once you embark on your thriller movie journey, there’s no such thing as a stop sign. We can promise you that there will be something on this list to tickle your fancy, be it the plot, character development, or brilliant performances by some of the best Korean actors and actresses.

Also check out: 

Cover image adapted from: Megabox Plus M, Netflix and Lotte Entertainment 

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