Are you looking for films about the Korean War or films set in Korea? You’ve struck gold! Both of these categories are covered in this list of the Best Korean War Movies, which admittedly has a lot in common.
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Over the past two decades, South Korea’s film industry has created a number of excellent war pictures. Due to its prominence in Korean culture, it’s no surprise that so many of these films deal with the conflict between the country and its northern neighbor (and the resulting tensions). Koreans fought in World War II and the Vietnam War, but they were not the only ones. Consequently, you’ll also find Korean war films on these conflicts.
In addition to a North Korean film, we’ve included the best South Korean war flicks on this list (which also makes a fair number of war films). Other battles are also included in this collection. Some of the films on this list feature a lot of violence, but others focus on the human side of conflict.
15. Steel Rain
South Korean bureaucrat (Jung Woo-sung) links up with a North Korean spy (Steel Rain) to avert nuclear war on the peninsula of Korea. Steel Rain is an amalgamation of spy thrillers and war flicks.
An uprising in North Korea sets the tone for the rest of the film. A horde of belligerent generals seizes control, igniting hostilities with a false flag attack and making nuclear weapons threats. The characters of our story must defeat the coup plotters and reinstate a more amiable regime in North Korea.
Even thoughSteel Raindoesn’t feature any mass-infantry battles, it does have a wide variety of military gear. Look out for B-1 and B-52 bombers, Aegis warships, attack helicopters, and ICBMs in the skies. Additionally, the title of the film is a reference to the “steel rain” ammo used by US soldiers on the Korean peninsula in their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
Netflix has this movie available for streaming.
14. Northern Limit Line
The narrative of this fierce seaborne engagement is told in the Northern Limit Line.
When North Korean patrol boats started shooting at the South Korean ones, a deadly back-and-forth ensued, leaving dozens of people dead or injured on both sides. Do not be put off by the lack of larger surface ships; Northern Limit Line presents one of the most gritty depictions of close quarters naval battle ever shown. You’ll also gain a new appreciation for the bravery and camaraderie of the sailors of the Republic of Korea Navy, which the film places front and center.
13. White Badge
Many people in the West are unaware that South Korea provided the second-largest foreign military contribution to the Vietnam War behind the United States. South Korea’s military dictator Park Chung-hee was in power at the time and took use of these deployments to gain American favor. Many South Korean liberals view their country’s involvement in the Vietnam War as disgraceful and terrible.
One of South Korea’s most well-known Vietnam War films, White Badge was released shortly after the country’s democratization. The film is based on an autobiographical novel by a South Korean Vietnam soldier named Ahn Jung-hyo, which explores Vietnam through intense battlefield flashbacks, while occasionally reviewing how the war’s horrors endure to this day.
Sunny, a film about the Vietnam War from South Korea, is another wonderful example of how the battle may be seen from a different perspective. Soo Ae, a Korean actress, portrays Soon-yi, a Korean woman who travels to Vietnam to find her spouse as a singer. Soon-yi adopts the stage name “Sunny” while in Vietnam, giving the film its name. This renaming is also an example of how Sunny investigates South Korea’s modernisation and cultural memory in relation to the Vietnam War.
In addition to a wealth of information on Korean history and culture, Sunnyoffers plenty of action. Soon-yi sings near the front lines, enduring artillery bombardments, Vietcong firefights, and even a brief stay in VC tunnels in her quest to find her husband.
11. Ode to My Father
Ode to My Father is, as we’ll see in a separate review, like a Korean version of Forrest Gump, in that it depicts the journey of an average citizen through Korea’s recent history. As a result, while the majority of the film does not take place during warfare, certain key scenes do (like how Forrest Gump serves in Vietnam and meets Lieutenant Dan).
Specifically, “Ode to My Father” shows not only the Vietnam War, but the Korean War, too. An exodus to safety from North Korean forces occurs during the Hungnam Evacuation, which is followed by combat in Vietnam’s flooded countryside and urban bombs there. Ode to My Father is a must-see for war movie fans and history buffs alike.
10. My Way
American paratroopers seized a German Wehrmacht uniform-wearing Asian during D-Day. Yang Kyoungjong, a Korean who was recruited into the Japanese, Soviet, and German armies during World War II, is the subject of this article.
According to Yang’s autobiography, the Korean film My Way is partially based on his life. Character Kim Jun-shik is conscripted by the Japanese, kidnapped by the Soviets at the Battle of Khalkyn Gol, pushed into the Wehrmacht just in time for D-Day and finally pressed into service. When it comes to Korean war movies, My Way is one of the most ambitious and offers a wide range of battle sequences from throughout the globe.
We’ve includedWolmido, one of North Korea’s most beloved war films, to liven things up a bit. Douglas MacArthur’s amphibious arrival at Incheon in September 1950 was the subject of this 1982 film, which portrays a different side of the tale.
Incheon’s offshore island gives its name to Wolmido. A North Korean coastal battery unit must defend the island from an American onslaught in this action-packed film. Wolmido is a fascinating look at North Korean views on the Korean War, even though it can be too dramatic and full of propaganda flare. You may also view the complete movie for free (with English subtitles) on YouTube—see the previous section for details.
8. Operation Chromite
The Battle of Incheon was also depicted in a film by South Korea. Operation Chromite, named after the landing’s codename, focuses on a small intelligence force that is tasked with scouting the landing area in a discreet manner.
South Korean characters in Operation Chromite pose themselves as North Korean soldiers in order to gain valuable information such as naval mine laying charts, loosely based on the real-life Operation Trudy Jackson. To avoid giving too much away, the plan runs into problems and ends up resulting in fierce battle on both the city streets and beaches (including with armored vehicles).
Additionally, Liam Neeson stars as MacArthur, who relies on the intelligence of his troops to successfully carry out his landings.
7. A Little Pond
The No Gun Ri Massacre, one of the most heinous events of the Korean War, is examined in A Little Pond. Hundreds of South Korean refugees were killed when American soldiers opened fire on them in July 1950 (a month before the Incheon landings), believing they were concealing North Korean infiltrators.
Before 1999, no one knew about the incident until an Associated Press report based on testimony from both survivors and US servicemen was published. A book based on their Pulitzer-winning reporting, The Bridge at No Gun Ri, was published. As soon as South Koreans heard about what had happened, anti-American feelings arose, even after President Bill Clinton expressed regret for the incident.
An all-South Korean cast portrays characters based on individuals who killed in the No Gun Ri Massacre inA Little Pond. Even though this isn’t your typical combat film, it provides a rare and vital glimpse at a contentious point in the Korean War.
6. The Long Way Home
When it comes to conflict, there is both combat and friendship. Camaraderie can occur amongst foes, as depicted in some Korean war films, as some have found out via the experience firsthand. One of these films is The Long Way Home, which came out in 2015.
North Korean soldier Kim Young-kwang and South Korean conscript Jang Nam-bok are pitted against each other in this war comedy. Jang’s superiors have ordered him to hand over a highly sensitive material to the government. Although Jang loses the paperwork following an intense skirmish, it ends up in Kim’s possession. Despite the fact that they are still competing for the document, the two form an odd relationship.
5. In Love and War
In Love and War, a comedy about the Korean War, combines romance and action. A North Korean invasion of a South Korean town in June 1950 is depicted in this film. To ensure their own survival, the people treat the military with utmost courtesy.
He has a secret plan: to track down a South Korean girl he used to know before the conflict. While the Korean War rages on, the villagers’ foolish shenanigans threaten to infringe on their peaceful existence.
4. Welcome to Dongmakgol
Welcome to Dongmakgol, which is also set in a picturesque village, is possibly the most well-known film about the Korean War from the perspective of civilians. While there are certainly essential battle scenes, the film gives a more optimistic view of humanity’s ability to transcend wartime divisions..
When a US Navy pilot, South Korean soldiers, and North Korean forces crash land in the mountains of Dongmakgol, they find themselves surrounded by the locals of both countries. Because of its isolation, the village’s occupants are unaware that there is a battle going on. As a matter of fact, they’re baffled as to why two groups of masked individuals are exchanging fire with wooden sticks (weapons). Dongmakgol’s innocence is eventually realized by the military’s recent arrivals, and they must work together to defend it from certain annihilation.
Dongmakgol is an enjoyable film that you may watch again and over again. As well as funny and dramatic tensions, it also features a heartfelt tale. Additionally, the film’s soundtrack was composed by legendary Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi (who previously collaborated on Studio Ghibli masterpieces likeSpirited Away).
3. 71: Into the Fire
It chronicles the narrative of 71 student soldiers who fought hundreds of elite North Korean troops in the early days of the Korean War. 71: Into the Fire is based on true events
The Busan Perimeter held the South Korean army hostage until August of 1950. The Battle of P’ohang-dong pitted South Korean and US forces against North Korean adversaries in an effort to keep the perimeter secure. North Korea’s 766th Unit was defeated by the student soldiers71: Into the Fire celebrates in a middle school in Pohang.
The film, which stars K-pop superstar T.O.P., is known for its well-choreographed fight sequences. The young soldiers fought as though they were at the Alamo, enduring many casualties and enduring severe enemy bombardment in the defense of their middle school. As depicted in 71: Into the Fire, those student warriors were willing to die for their country.
2. The Front Line
The Korean War comes to an end in The Front Line. In 1953, North and South Korean forces battle for control of crucial hills along the 38th Parallel while armistice discussions drag on. An officer from South Korea is dispatched to the front lines to investigate a potential North Korean espionage infiltration. He discovers more than he bargained for when he gets there.
The Front Line presents combat as mindless and horrific with sweeping human wave charges, dramatic sniper fights, and severe trench fighting. However, the film does not have an ideological inclination: it concentrates solely on the soldiers in question.. They openly question why they’re fighting, yet keep doing so because conflict has become their default mode of existence in The Front Line.
Finally, we have Taegukgi, the most famous Korean military film of all time. Due to the film’s plot, which involves two brothers fighting on opposing sides in the Korean War, the subtitle “Brotherhood of War” was chosen.
This martial art is extremely massive. The film’s plot begins in 1950 and ends in 1953, with a brief flashback to 2003 thrown in for good measure. From urban warfare in Pyongyang to the 38th Parallel, this book covers a wide range of battles. In addition, the film boasts first-rate photography, effects, and performances.
Taegukgi is not only known for its epic battle scenes, but also for the social commentary it offers. Many families were torn apart during the Korean War, and it was not uncommon for brothers to serve on opposing sides. As a result, Taegukgi struck a chord with many people in South Korea, serving as a heartbreaking reminder of the ongoing effects of the country’s divide.
The film also symbolized the maturing of South Korean filmmaking.
It was with Taegukgi that South Korea made its first modern, high-budget film about the Korean War. As a result of its critical and financial success, numerous additional films on this list were able to get their start.