Bong Joon-ho Picks: 10 Movies Best Korean Director Thinks are Perfect

Bong Joon-ho Picks: 10 Movies Best Korean Director Thinks are Perfect
Image credit: Legion-Media, Kurosawa Films, Toho, Paramount Pictures, United Artists, Shochiku, Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors, Cinédis, Warner Bros. Pictures, Artificial Eye, Palace Pictures

Underrated classics, spectacular action movies, and horror masterpieces.

Bong Joon-ho has long been a household name, and not just in his home country. Parasite is the biggest hit of recent years, Memories of Murder is no worse than Fincher's Zodiac, and Okja was bought by Netflix.

It's time to see which films Bong Joon-ho values most, especially since many of them have directly influenced his own work.

1. The 400 Blows, 1959

François Truffaut's debut feature film and one of the most important movies of the French New Wave. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the young daredevil Antoine Doinel, who skips school, smokes cigars and wanders the streets of Paris. Truffaut made several sequels that followed the fate and growth of Doinel.

Bong Joon-ho considers Truffaut's film to be the most impressive debut in the history of cinema.

2. High and Low, 1963

Akira Kurosawa's social thriller about capitalist Gondo, who receives a phone call from unknown blackmailers claiming to have kidnapped his son. It soon turns out that they have mistakenly kidnapped his son's friend, leaving the man with a dilemma: put his career on the line or pay a ransom for someone else's child.

Bong Joon-ho often remembers High and Low when it comes to Parasite – the director borrowed the story structure and some visual solutions from Kurosawa’s work.

3. Psycho, 1960

One of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces, a black-and-white horror classic. Shot for pennies, Psycho made an impressive box office and introduced the most terrifying and influential madman in the history of cinema – a taxidermist and a handsome man.

Bong Joon-ho said that Hitchcock's movies always gave him strange inspirations. Psycho, for example, influenced Parasite a lot: Bong was inspired by the Bates house when he created a luxurious mansion for the rich.

4. Things to Come, 1936

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British science fiction based on the book by H.G. Wells, which made a futurological forecast for a century and a half ahead. In the movie, mankind was involved in endless military conflicts, experienced a new plague epidemic, rapidly regressed to a medieval way of life, and only then was reborn.

Things to Come anticipated the fashion for post-apocalyptic cinema and became one of the most original science fiction films of the 1930s. Bong Joon-ho was fascinated by Wells' works in his youth, and Things to Come struck a chord with him.

5. Vengeance is Mine, 1979

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A story about the everyday life of a serial killer, a classic by Japanese director Shohei Imamura. Vengeance is Mine is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ryuzo Saki (which in turn tells the story of the real-life madman).

At the same time, it’s a study of the moral character of postwar Japanese society and the biography of a man who became a criminal largely thanks to the chaos around him.

Memories of Murder was strongly influenced by Vengeance is Mine. The films of Bong Joon-ho and Shohei Imamura are on opposite sides of the same spectrum – one has only a detective, the other only a murderer.

6. Tess, 1979

An adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles. A girl from an impoverished aristocratic family rises out of poverty and climbs the rungs of the social ladder. The movie follows her rise and fall as she challenges society.

The director admitted that when he was a schoolboy in South Korea, there were many fans of Nastassja Kinski, who played the lead role, and the 1979 film adaptation became a huge hit.

7. The Wages of Fear, 1953

Four men living in the oil-producing region of Guatemala agree to drive two trucks full of nitroglycerin to the site of an accident at one of the wells for a good price. Henri-Georges Clouzot's film has inspired a number of thrillers, from Steven Spielberg 's Duel to George Miller's Mad Max.

According to Bong Joon-ho, this movie was his first introduction to the thriller genre, and it made such an impression on him that he had dreams about it for an entire week.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015

George Miller spent more than ten years making this movie, during which time he was able to think through every frame and every detail. Mad Max: Fury Road is a two-hour non-stop chase where each encounter with the enemy is more vivid and memorable than the one before.

Bong Joon-ho is a big fan of The Road Warrior (the second Mad Max movie, considered by many to be the best), which he has seen dozens of times. The director loved Fury Road as much as the first movies in the franchise and even cried while watching it.

9. Frank, 2014

An ironic indie comedy by Lenny Abrahamson about the strange leader of a rock band, Frank. The main character performs and lives without removing a giant papier-mâché mask from his head. A new musician, Jon, joins his band, which provokes conflict and leads to tragic consequences.

Bong Joon-ho liked the road movie for its mood and dialog, which were both funny and sad. When the director needed a co-writer with a specific sense of humor for Okja, he turned to Jon Ronson, the screenwriter of Frank.

10. Life is Sweet, 1990

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Comedy-drama about the life of a simple London family. The father works in public catering and dreams of starting his own business, the mother tries to support him, one daughter suffers from depression and the second works as a plumber.

The film was directed by Mike Leigh, one of Britain's most award-winning socialist directors, who films the lives of ordinary people.

Bong Joon-ho called Life is Sweet one of his favorite films, and also admitted that he sympathizes with British socialist directors so much that he would like to give them the rights to remake Parasite.