If you’re looking for the best Korean horror movies to celebrate a spooky occasion like Halloween or just because, look no further. We neatly picked the scariest ones that will give you nightmares, you won’t be able to sleep for days.
Korean-made horror films make a palatable recipe for the fans of this genre like you (otherwise, you haven’t clicked this article). From ghosts, monsters, to gruesome murders, and shocking scares plus exquisite cinematography, Korean horror movies have a wide and great selection of terrifying films you shouldn’t watch alone.
Here’s our recommended watchlist of the 22 best Korean horror movies, or the scariest ones I should say. It’s time to check them out.
- A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
- Thirst (2009)
- The Wailing (2016)
- Whispering Corridors (1998)
- The Red Shoes (2005)
- The Evil Twin (2007)
- Death Bell (2008)
- Bedevilled (2010)
- Train to Busan (2016)
- Cinderella (2006)
- The Call (2020)
- Killer Toon (2013)
- Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
- Acacia (2003)
- #Alive (2020)
- The Doll Master (2004)
- The Mimic (2017)
- Hansel and Gretel (2007)
- The Host (2006)
- The Wrath (2018)
- I Saw the Devil (2011)
- Possessed (2009)
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
First on our curated watchlist of the best Korean horror movies is A Tale of Two Sisters from Director Kim Jee-woo. It is inspired by a Korean folktale that originated all the way from Joseon Dynasty era.
This 2003 film tells a horrifying and atypical ghost story, with a shocking plot twist that requires a re-watch. It follows Su-mi, who is just released from the mental asylum. She returns home to the countryside and gets reunited with her little sister, father, and cruel stepmother.
But soon she starts to witness strange things taking place around their home. She’s seeing a ghost girl under the sink and having nightmares of her dead mother.
A Tale of Two Sisters has been lauded for is frighteningly realistic horror experience to devoted fans of the genre. It is recognized as a quintessential Asian horror film that is chockfull of jump scares and tragedy altogether.
Cast: Im Soo-jung, Moon Geun-young, Kim Kap-soo, Yum Jung-ah
Runtime: 1h 55m
Director Park Chan-wook’s Thirst tells a gory but sensual tale that offers a novel take on the vampire film subgenre. This 2009 horror romance features blood-sucking creatures who simply want to be alive.
Thirst centers on Sang-hyun, a priest who clandestinely falls in love with a married woman. To reaffirm his faith, he subjects himself as the lab rat for a vaccine that may cure a dreadful virus.
The experiment goes horribly wrong, however, that turns him into a vampire. While Sang-hyun resists his new-fangled thirst for human blood, he just can’t fight it.
Thirst also has a sizzling sex scene not seen in a horror movie. Song delivered impeccable performance in a lead role. The Korean sensation once more captivates the world with his impressive acting as the poor patriarch in Oscar’s Best Picture Parasite.
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, and Kim Hae-sook
Runtime: 2h 13m
The Wailing (2016)
Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing tells a terrifying tale packed with demons, ghosts, and zombies. Within the 156-min run of this 2016 horror epic, it only gets insanely scarier.
This religious epic depicts Korean’s mysticism and rituals including exaggerated practice of exorcism that doesn’t work. It further shows not just fear of religion but also fear of an outsider.
The story revolves around the residents of Gokseong who contract a mysterious disease. When his daughter also gets infected, police officer Jong-goo becomes desperate for a cure. He seeks help from a shaman who might have the answer to the tragedy that consumes their town.
Cast: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, and Jun Kunimura
Runtime: 2h 36m
Whispering Corridors (1998)
Directed by Park Ki-hyeong, the hit Korean horror movie Whispering Corridors premiered on the big screen more than 20 years ago. Since its release, the 1998 flick has evolved into one of the classic Korean horror movies that emphasizes social issues.
The film follows the students and staff of an all-girls school who are said to be possessed by a ghost. After a teacher commits suicide, they begin to disappear, creating panic among everyone.
Whispering Corridors’ popularity has created a film franchise, with five more Korean horror movie releases. These include Memento Mori screened in 1999, Wishing Stairs in 2003, Voice in 2005, Blood Pledge in 2009, and the latest one called The Humming which came out in 2021.
Cast: Choi Kang-hee, Kim Gyu-ri, and Kim Roe-ha
Runtime: 1h 47m
The Red Shoes (2005)
The Red Shoes is a 2005 film directed by Kim Yong-gyun who took an inspiration from Han Christian Anderson’s 1845 eponymous fairy tale novel. It also earns its rightful place on our list of best Korean horror movies that will spook the hell out of you.
This terrifying flick focuses on Sun-jae, an eye doctor, who has a 6-year-old daughter Tae-soo. When the two take the subway to reach home, Sun-jae finds an abandoned pair of gorgeous pink shoes and falls for them that she brings it home with her.
Soon, strange things start happening around them. Nightmares about ghosts and blood haunt her and wherever the shoes go, greed, envy, and death follow.
Cast: Kim Hye-su, Kim Seong-su, and Park Yeon-ah
Runtime: 1h 49m
The Evil Twin (2007)
The Evil Twin shows Kim Ji-hwan’s prowess as a great filmmaker. His work turns out to be one of the scariest horror pieces you’ll find on this watchlist.
This 2007 K-horror movie tells a creepy story of twin sisters who both fall into the lake and tragically, one of them drowns. So-yeon survives but falls into a deep coma for a decade.
She wakes up 10 years later without a figment of memory of her twin. Her sudden awakening leads to a series of inauspicious deaths and she soon unravels the ghastly secret about her family.
Cast: Park Shin-hye, Hee Jae, and Yang Geum-seok
Runtime: 1h 35m
Death Bell (2008)
The 2008 Korean horror movie Death Bell is written and by directed by former music video director Chang. It features Lee Beom-soo in his first appearance in a horror film and K-pop sensation Nam Gu-Ri in her acting debut.
This thriller focuses on 20 achiever students of a special class who horribly suffer torture at the hands of a sadistic killer to attain academic goals. Several sequences in the film show unnerving murder of students who fail to solve a series of puzzles.
Cast: Lee Beom-soo, Nam Gu-Ri, Ham Eun-jung, Choi In-Sook, Kim Bum
Runtime: 1h 28m
Directed by Jang Cheol-soo, Bedevilled is also hailed as one of the best Korean horror films ever made. It became famous for reviving the famous saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.
This 2010 horror-suspense film follows the story of a woman who is mentally, physically and sexually abused on an isolated island. It’s a powerful K-horror flick of revenge and getting back at her abusers.
Cast: Seo Yeong-hie, Ji Seong-won, Hwang Min-ho
Runtime: 1h 55m
Train to Busan (2016)
Train to Busan is a hit Korean horror movie that focuses on human survival from apocalyptic zombie attack. It gained global audience on its release, making it one of the top-earner Korean movies.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, Train to Busan is not your typical zombie survival film. It focuses on a father who will do anything and everything to save his daughter.
The father and daughter are aboard the train from Seoul to Busan with a woman passenger who contracted the leaked virus. Once infected, people turn into a horrifying walking dead.
Gong Yoo, who made a big name for himself in K-drama Goblin in 2016, plays the lead of Seok-woo.
The K-horror’s immense success has spawned an animated prequel Seoul Station in 2016 which is also helmed by Yeon Sang-ho.
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok
Runtime: 1h 58m
Bong Man-Dae’s Cinderella should not be confused as another rendition of Disney’s well-worn fairy tale. It so happens that it shares the same title. .
While it may have story holes, critics laud the K-horror flick for its originality and creativity in its own genre. The cast also gets an applause for delivering commendable performances.
Cinderella centers on Hyun Soo whose mom is a plastic surgeon. So, each of her friends undergoes face and eye lifts and other beauty enhancement procedure. Soon, her friends mysteriously see ghosts and die one by one, which turns out to have a link to Hyun Soo’s childhood.
This Korean horror movie shows an open criticism to South Korea’s exaggerated use of plastic surgery including its negative effects.
Cast: Ah-yung Ahn, Gyu-ryun Ahn, Do Ji-Won, So-Min Jun, Shin Se-Kyung Runtime: 1h 34m
The Call (2020)
The Call is a Korean horror movie that debuted in theaters in 2020. It’s a film adaptation of the 2011 Hollywood film The Caller.
This K-film blends horror with fantasy and drama that makes it an enthralling and entertaining horror movie. It’s a pure frightening experience that gets into the viewers’ mind even without jump scares or typical stunts used for this film genre.
In this movie, a young woman is back at a house where she grew up. Upon her arrival, she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming that she is being tortured. What is eerie about this phone call is it was done from the same house 20 years ago.
It is also noteworthy that the cast’s performance is in equal parts outstanding and remarkable. Directed and written by Lee Chung-hyeon, the K-drama also wowed fans and critics, receiving a high audience score and critic rating.
Cast: Park Shin-Hye, Jeon Jong-seo, Kim Sung-ryung, Kim Min-ha
Runtime: 1h 35m
Killer Toon (2013)
Filmmaker Kim Yong Gyun is recognized the first Korean director to make a movie with webcomic concept called Killer Toon. He also helmed another hit K-horror flick The Red Shoes.
Although it doesn’t have plenty of jump scares, this film boasts superb use of cartoon techniques and effects. This elevates vicious and frightening scenes in entirety of the movie.
Killer Toon revolves around the famous manga artist Ji-Yun who’s extremely affected by cryptic death of her editor-in-chief. A series of horrible murders followed after just as the webcomic predicted that baffle the investigators.
This psychological horror thriller is a 2013 box office hit that shares the same theatrical success with Death Bell, selling over 1 million cinema tickets.
Cast: Lee Si-young, Uhm Ki-joon, Kim Ji-young, Moon Ga-young
Runtime: 1h 44m
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum has found a K-horror phenomenal success in the found footage film genre. It is the second highest-grossing Korean horror film next to A Tale of Two Sisters.
What’s unique about this scary K-horror flick is it’s set in the real-life setting of the forsaken Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province. This abandoned facility is known as one of Korea’s most haunted locations. CNN Travel further pinned it as one of the world’s creepiest places.
The film’s story focuses on a horror web series crew who go to the asylum for a live broadcast purposely to get high viewership. But soon, they find them trapped in a nightmarish experience inside the haunted old building.
Cast: Wi Ha-joon, Yoo Je-Yoon, Lee Seung-Wook, Ye-Won Mun
Runtime: 1h 34m
Acacia is an unnerving Korean horror movie from director Park Ki-Hyung. The film has received praises for its astonishing cinematography and soundtrack that add flare to the over-all mood that the film sets out for the viewers.
The film tells the story of a happy couple residing in a suburb. Being childless, the two decide to go to the orphanage and adopt Jin-Seong. However, things change as soon as their first child was born, which made him leave and disturbing occurrences start happening.
The main cast delivered outstanding performance in their respective role. Child actor Mun Oh-Bin, particular, gave a compelling and eerie performance.
Cast: Shim Hye-jin, Kim Jin-geun, Moon Woo-bin
Runtime: 1h 43m
When it comes to scariest Korean zombie apocalypse classic, #Alive is the next best thing to Train to Busan. It took the internet by storm on its release in 2020 right when the Covid-19 broke out across countries.
The movie’s story is quite relevant to what was happening at the onset of the pandemic. Lockdowns were imposed to prevent the spread of the virus. In the same way, the main character struggles to protect himself from infected zombies.
#Alive offers viewers a frightening experience from the horrors of horde of walking dead chasing after you. But as opposed to Hollywood-made Z movies, this film shows zombies that run quite fast.
Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Park Shin-Hye, Lee Hyun-Wook
Runtime: 1h 39m
The Doll Master (2004)
As the title suggests, The Doll Master is a Korean horror movie about dolls. Filmmakers make use of this nightmare material in creating horror pieces that make viewers scream at the top of their lungs.
The film’s story follows a bevy of strangers who receive an invitation to be models for a doll maker in an isolated doll museum. The museum is uncanny with some ghastly doll collection while the hosts obviously reek of dark-kept secrets, like a man in chains in the basement.
The Doll Master sets a lowly mood for the viewers and features creative, unimaginable deaths.
Cast: Kim Yu-Mi, Eun-kyeong Lim, Hyung Tak Shim
Runtime: 1h 30m
The Mimic (2017)
The Mimic also makes it to our list of the best Korean horror movies that premiered in 2017. Written and directed by Huh Jung, this small-scale horror thriller film has similar veins of The Wailing and is our perfect kind of classic ghost story.
The plot focuses on a small family who are exposed to sinister supernatural forces. A mother who lost her child met a wandering little girl in the forest that she takes her in as her own. What’s strange, however, is that she eerily has similar voice of her dead daughter and legend has it that there is a creature in this place that mimic human voices.
The Mimic is not for horror fans who want action and in-your-face scares, however. But it’s melodramatic, creepy, and spine-chilling nonetheless.
Cast: Jung-ah Yum, Hyuk-kwon Park, Jin Heo, Rin-Ah Shin
Runtime: 1h 40m
Hansel and Gretel (2007)
Just like the famous bedtime storybook, Hansel and Gretel also has candies, cake, and a cottage. But the story in this Korean horror movie is definitely not for kids.
The reimagining of the Grimm’s fairy tale is as beautifully magical. But it also depicts a disturbing atmosphere and plays out a haunting nightmare.
Hansel and Gretel focuses on Eun-soo meeting a car accident where a little girl came to his rescue. She brings him home to her family in the forest but as soon as he wants to leave, he finds out about a dreadful truth.
Cast: Jeong-myeong Cheon, Eun Won-jae, Shim Eun-kyung, Hee-soon Park
Runtime: 1h 57m
The Host (2006)
Director Bong Joon-ho has gained international fame when his thriller drama Parasite became the first foreign film in history to bag an Oscar for Best Picture. Before all that, however, he created one of the best Korean horror movies called The Host in 2006.
In this film, a monster appears from Han River and starts to attack people. Its opening scene reflects a real issue of the US military dumping toxic chemicals into the river. It further criticizes its own government and issues of pollution including the presence of Americans in Korea.
This K-horror comedy is all in all funny, tragic, and suspenseful with much depth and relatable cast in their impeccable performance.
Cast: Bong Joon-ho, Ha Won-jun, Baek Chul-hyun, Choi Yong-bae, Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong
Runtime: 1h 59m
The Wrath (2018)
Directed by Yoo Yeong-seon, The Wrath is set during Korea’s Joseon era. It particularly focuses on the cursed household of a high-ranking official in the Joseon Kingdom.
The 2018 film tells the tale of the enigmatic deaths of his three sons on their wedding night. A young woman pregnant of his third son’s child soon discovers the evil spirit that’s behind the obscure horror.
The Wrath is a good choice for horror fans who are into South Korean cinema’s possession genre.
Cast: Seo Young-hee, Son Na-eun,Park Min-ji, Lee Tae-ri, Son Seong-yoon
Runtime: 1h 35m
I Saw the Devil (2011)
I Saw the Devil is an action thriller movie by Kim Jee-woon that came out in 2011. The horror film received praises from critics and fans, some calling it as the best serial killer film since Silence of the Lambs.
It has a terribly dark and twisted plot that centers on NIS agent Lee Byung-hyeon. He vows to exact revenge at the psychopathic serial killer who raped and brutally murdered his pregnant fiancée.
I Saw the Devil is considered a masterpiece for its gorgeous cinematography, gory action, and ruthless murders that makes it a completely thrilling movie to watch.
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Oh San-ha, Kim Yoon-seo, Jeon Gook-hwan
Runtime: 2h 24m
Released in 2009, Possessed is an enjoyable well-made Korean horror movie that is not too scary. This film, also known as Living Death, is helmed by filmmaker Lee Yong-ju.
Presenting a claustrophobic apartment horror, the movie’s narrative follows college student who returns home when her younger sister goes missing. Their overly religious mother complicates the search, believing in the power of prayer and refusing to work with the police on the missing case. But when their neighbors begin to die, suspicions grow that their deaths is connected with her sister’s disappearance.
Possessed has won Lee Best New Director at the 10th Busan Film Critic Awards.
Cast: Sang-mi Nam, Shim Eun-kyung, Bo-yeon Kim
Runtime: 1h 52m