Best Korean Gangster Movies 2021: Reviews

by Jih Yun

Here are the best Korean Gangster movies for you to watch this season! Check it out!

Every movie industry makes Gangster movies but nobody makes them like the Koreans. The gangsters in Korean movies are almost celebrated. You get to see and feel the heart of the gangsters and empathise with them. And not to mention, they are so damn cool! 

I spend my Friday evenings with a big bowl of popcorn and a good Korean Gangster Movie to kickstart my weekend (especially now with the never-ending lockdown!). If you are like me, check out this list of the Best Korean Gangster Movies I guarantee you will enjoy watching

Best Korean Gangster Movies: Quick Summary

Best Korean Gangster MoviesDirectorEditor’s Rating
OldboyChan-wook Park8.5/10
BreathlessIk-joon Yang9/10
The Man From NowhereJeong-beom Lee7.5/10
I Saw The DevilJee-woon Kim 8/10
The OutlawsYoon-Seong Kang7/10
A Dirty CarnivalHa Yoo 7/10
A Bittersweet LifeJee-woon Kim 7.5/10
New WorldPark Hoon-jung7.5/10
The ChaserHong-jin Na8/10
Tazza: The High RollersDong-hoon Choi7/10

Top Korean Gangster Movies

Oldboy

Age Rating: 18+ Release Date: 15th October 2004 | Run Time: 2h

The first one on this list of best Korean gangster movies is Oldboy!

Oldboy has the kind of fan following that Al Pacino movies have in the West. If you haven’t already watched this movie, you must, cos otherwise you’re missing out on a masterpiece. 

The story follows the protagonist as he is kidnapped one rainy night and locked up in a windowless room with just a TV for company. For 15 years, his captors make sure he survives, yet cannot kill himself. Out of the blue he is released and is encouraged to find his kidnappers in five days. 

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One of the most creative and intriguing storylines I’ve ever come across, this movie has Choi Min-Sik playing the lead role and he’s given it his best performance. His eyes express every emotion he goes through with depth, taking you along for the ride. The acting and the wonderful direction is topped off with the most mesmerising soundtrack. 

Breathless

Age Rating: 18+ Release Date:16th April 2009 | Run Time: 2h 10m

The next one on this list of best Korean gangster movies is my favorite – Breathless!

Breathless is not for the faint hearted. There is so much stomach churning violence that I simply cannot begin to describe it. But, peel away all the violence and there is heart in the story. Abuse is never an easy topic for anyone to deal with and an extremely difficult topic to express on film. Breathless is a movie that has managed to show what domestic abuse can do to a person and has balanced this with the appropriate dark humour, emotion and vulnerability under all that steel. 

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The movie touches the raw truth, something that the society needs to stop hiding from and face. As always, the truth isn’t always pleasant. This is a powerful film that is not to be missed. 

The Man From Nowhere

Age Rating: 18+Release Date: 5th August 2010 | Run Time: 1h 59m

A Man From Nowhere is one of the best Korean gangster movies I know! There is no one formula to make a gangster movie work, but sign on a sexy, cool, badass male lead and you’re halfway there. Woh Bin is one of Korea’s best action heroes and does justice to his role in The Man From Nowhere. He plays an ex-special agent who finds himself in possession of drugs and a little girl when her mother, a drug smuggler is killed by a gang. Woh Bin presumes that the little girl is dead as well and seeks revenge on the gang. 

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The storyline has been tried and tested several times but what makes this worth watching is the exceptional direction, performance of the actors and the execution of revenge that nobody does better than the Korean movie industry.

I Saw The Devil

Age Rating: 18+Release Date: 29th April 2011   | Run Time: 2h 24m

The next one on this list of best Korean gangster movies is a movie that will stay with you for a long time!

I Saw The Devil is not strictly a gangster movie but alls along those lines. A long and much hunted psychopathic serial killer gets away with all the gruesome murders of adults and children. When the killer finally brutally murders Soo-Hyun’s fiance, he swears revenge. The hunt begins. Like most Korean gangster and action or crime movies, I Saw The Devil makes you cringe in your seat, wince at all the bloody scenes and stirs up an emotion like no other. The movie is very real, with characters you can connect with, feel their pain and empathise. 

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This is a movie for hardcore action and crime movie fans, one you will neither regret watching, nor will you forget. 

The Outlaws

Age Rating: 14+Release Date: 3rd October 2017   | Run Time: 2h 1m

The next one on this list of best Korean gangster movies is the Outlaws!

Yoon-Seong Kan’s directorial debut film is very impressive with events taken from the real life Heuksapa Incident. 

The criminal underworld of prostitution, gambling and moneylending is set as the backdrop as the plot takes us through the gang turf wars between the gang that runs Garibong-dong in Guro district and the Chinese Heuksapa gang from Yanbian. The leader, played by Yoon Kye-Sang is as ruthless as they come. 

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The police steps in led by the strong and firm, yet man with a kind heart and strong conscience, Ma Dong-Seok. Ma Dong-Seok has a unique way of maintaining peace and balance in the society which doesn’t always sit well with the others. The stark difference in the way the two men are portrayed is interesting and when they butt heads, is engaging to watch. 

A Dirty Carnival

Age Rating:   |  Release Date: 15th June 2006   | Run Time: 2h 20m

Next up on this list of best Korean gangster movies is A Dirty Criminal

Just because a person is a gangster or a thug, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a soft heart and a family he cares deeply for. A Dirty Carnival has a very intriguing storyline about Kim Byung-Du, played by the Korean heart throb, In-Sung Jo. He is a small time criminal who has an ailing mother and siblings to take care of. With no father or strong male figure in the picture, Byung-Du is the one the rest of the family relies on.

best korean gangster movies

There’s a lot of financial stress on him which forces him to take up an assignment for a corrupt prosecutor. On the other side, Byung-Du’s friend requests him to consult for the direction of his movie, and that’s where all the trouble begins. 

A Bittersweet Life

Age Rating: 18+Release Date: 20th January 2006 | Run Time: 1h 59m

You’ll love this movie next on this list of best Korean gangster movies!

What initially drew me to this movie was Lee Byung-Hun, but what kept me hooked was the actor and much more. Lee Byung-Hun is a familiar face, thanks to his exceptional acting in popular Hollywood movies. 

A Bittersweet Life has Byung-Hun playing the role of a hotel manager who reports to a crime lord. He is given the responsibility of shadowing the romantic partner of the crime lord and end her life if she cheats on him. Things go from bad to worse when he disobeys his boss’ orders and decides to let her go instead of killing her. 

korean gangster movies 2021

The movie starts off very classy with a strong plot supported by the talented skills of the artists. The second half, however, could be considered quite cliché with the expected chases, fights and other action scenes, but it does not bore you. The scenes of revenge are shot brilliantly, keeping you at the edge of your seat.

New World

Age Rating: 15+ Release Date: 21st February 2013 | Run Time: 2h 15m

The next movie on this list of best Korean gangster movies has everything the perfect movie needs!

Drama, Action, Crime, Superb shots, realistic storylines. This is what every good Korean gangster movie brings to the table. Pair those with some totally good looking bas-ass actors and you have a loyal audience. New World is all of this and more with a plot that seems like something that’s been tried and tested, but surprises you as you keep watching. 

best korean gangster movie of all time

Ja-Seoung is an undercover cop who is instructed to join a project to take down one of Korea’s biggest crime organisations, GoldMoon. Ja-Seoung struggles to choose between following his boss’ orders, fulfilling his responsibilities as a cop and staying loyal to the crime organisation’s leader. 

The Chaser

Age Rating: 18+Release Date: 19th September 2008 | Run Time: 2h 5m

The next one on this list of best Korean gangster movies is Chaser. 

The Chaser is certainly not just another dirty cop movie. This is about an ex-policeman turned pimp who has to now use all of his detective skills to investigate and solve the mystery of his prostitutes who have vanished without paying their dues. 

What has me hooked to Korean Gangster movies, and keeps me coming back for more is the various layers of the storyline. For instance, this movie starts off as pretty straight forward, with a super rude, heartless protagonist (or should I say antagonist?) but as the plot develops, it reveals deeper about his personality- to such an extent that at one point, the audience sympathises with him. 

The Chaser has everything a good movie should – action, drama, a little bit of comedy and a pace that is necessary to keep the audience engaged from start to finish. 

Tazza: The High Rollers

Age Rating: 13+Release Date: 28th September 2006 | Run Time: 2h 19m

As we come to the end of this list of the Best Korean Gangster Movies, I’m going to leave you with one that is a fun gangster movie. Tazza: The High Rollers will have you in splits, yet keep you at the edge of your seat with it’s very stylish, flashy and action filled plotline of a young, budding gambler’s climb to the top. The Korean card game that this movie revolves around is as intriguing as the story itself, with lessons at every point laced with risks a gambler must face as he steps into the dark world. 

Movies on gambling is a fairly new concept in the Korean movie industry, but the direction by Dong-hoon Choi does justice to the topic. 

Also Read:

  1. Best Korean Dramas on Netflix
  2. Top Korean Web Series on Netflix

Breathless

Director: Ik-joon Yang

Date Created: 2009-04-16 00:00

Editor's Rating:
9

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