20 Amazing South Korean Movies You Must See Before You Die

19. Shiri

Train To Busan
Imagine Pix

Partially funded by Korean electronics corporation Samsung, the release of Kang Je-gyu's Shiri in 1999 marked a new era for Korean film productions with high budget genre movies that hoped to compete with those being imported from abroad.

Drawing heavily on the fast paced, high energy style of Hong Kong actioners from the likes of John Woo, Shiri is a slick spy movie which also engages with the still controversial issue of the split between North and South Korea and the potential for reunification.

Shiri features secret agents, assassin sleeper agents transformed by plastic surgery, and terrorists plotting to blow up an international football match, not to mention a bunch of fish metaphors, all of which add up to a story which both embraces 90s action movie cliches but also uses them to say something about the specific divide that exists within the two Koreas.

There is also plenty of kinetic, high octane action, from a highway heist to the absolute carnage of a shootout in an aquarium.

Shiri smashed the box office record for cinemas in Korea, previously held by Titanic, and ushered in a far more ambitious era in the country's approach to homegrown blockbusters and even today it still represents some of the best cinematic action the country has to offer.


Loves ghost stories, mysteries and giant ape movies