Parasite created history when it became the first non-English movie to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars.
This was particularly satisfying for many of us, who were already in love with the artistic talents of South Korean filmmakers.
Just to be clear, I have not watched a lot of Korean movies. I’ve watched the work of two directors from South Korea.
Bong Joon-Ho, the man behind Parasite. And Park Chan-Wook, the director of stunning movies such as Oldboy, and The Handmaiden. These two have been responsible for many of the best Korean movies, and movies in general.
These two directors are not hamstrung by genre. They decide on a setting and a plot, and they extract every possible bit of juice from a situation, be it romance, thrills, pain, or horror.
The acting is very natural, and cheesy. Naturally cheesy?
This post has been on my mind for a long while, and here I share movies that’ll tickle the same bone Parasite did. Here’s a quick list.
- Parasite – Stream or Buy
- Memories of Murder – Stream or Blu-Ray
- Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – Stream or Blu-Ray of Vengeance Trilogy
- The Host – Stream or Blu-Ray
- Mother – Stream or Blu-Ray
- Lady Vengeance – Stream or Blu-Ray of Vengeance Trilogy
- Oldboy – Stream or Blu-Ray of Vengeance Trilogy
- The Handmaiden – Stream or Blu-Ray
- Thirst – Stream, just stream
But first, let’s take a look at what Parasite was about.
What is the story of Parasite?
The movie is about a family of grifters who come into luck when they get a chance to stick their claws into a naive, affluent family.
It’s all fun and games at the expense of the rich family, for the first half. The grifters are played by charismatic actors, chief among them Kang-Ho Song, a staple of Bong Joon-Ho movies.
But like many movies on this list, things get murky and then dark, but somehow never losing the feeling of lightness that was set up in the first half of the film.
I’m fairly sure this was what fans in the West really liked about the movie. This way of showing moments without giving it the ‘weight’ it would normally get in most movies.
Every emotion – shock, humiliation, happiness – is shown with the edge taken off. It gives it an almost surreal feeling, as characters and plot seem to float from scene to scene.
For people who’ve seen, think back to the nonchalant kick down the stairs. That’s the perfect demonstration of the approach.
This tone is why I wanted to share more movies like these with fans of Parasite. (I’m sure many of you didn’t waste much time between watching Parasite and looking up movies from the director, props to you)
I’m going to be honest, I don’t really get the parasite movie poster, but it grabs your attention.
In summary, the movie was great, and I think it was the way the movie takes the edge off of emotions that really appealed to the Western audience or the Academy at least.
There’s an excellent poster of Parasite, that I’d rather hang on my wall instead of the official attempt.
Where can I watch Parasite?
My first question when I heard about the buzz Parasite was generating in the festival circuit, Is Parasite on Netflix or Amazon Prime?
Turns out neither, at that point in time. Something about critics having to know they’re the only ones who get to watch a movie before they can get their judgemental juices flowing.
But even when it was open season on the film, Hulu ended up with exclusive streaming rights.
It’s also on Prime Video if you’d rather pay for a movie rather than an entire subscription.
Movies like Parasite
Now we take a look at some of the best movies that adopt a similar style to Parasite. And personally, Parasite isn’t the best among the lot.
I’m not going to rank my recommendations. Frankly, it’s too painful. But if I were going to, this one might just have been #1 anyway.
It’s first on the list because it was the first one I watched from either Bong Joon-Ho or Park Chan-Wook. And after watching it, I knew I’d seen something new.
It wasn’t exciting, just new, a fresh way to look at a small town and an appropriately lean police force handling a serial killer on the prowl.
They could’ve made it overtly dark. The plot screams for the movie to be oppressively dark. But it’s not.
You feel pain and anger, but never in a way that most movies do. Not when it’s time for you to feel pain and anger, so when the bad guy falls, it feels extra good.
It’s this departure from normal movie norms, that made the movie so intriguing to me.
Apparently this movie is on something called PopcornFlix.
Frankly, the number of streaming services in play is making the whole thing a lot less convenient. Whoever said monopoly is bad, never had to sign up for 5 separate subscriptions to watch one director’s filmography.
If you’re one of them weird collector types, get your own copy, paying 5x the price of a subscription.
This 2002 movie from Park Chan-Wook kicked off what came to be known as the Vengeance trilogy.
He somehow makes the kidnapping of a child seem like a totally legitimate topic to make a light movie on. Until it isn’t.
He sets up the main characters, and why one party was justified in deciding on the kidnapping, and why the father of the kid totally didn’t deserve to have that happen to his family.
The familiar tone is here, as people just go about what they do, even if it is kidnapping or vengeance.
There are no musical cues as to when there is tragedy coming the viewers’ way or when vengeance is about to be meted out. It just happens.
There’s even a surprisingly sweet love story here, which must’ve looked like a terrible idea on paper.
If you had to stick a genre on it, it’s a crime thriller. But it really isn’t, but it technically is.
The movie happened to star Kang-Ho Song, the staple of Bong’s movies.
The 2006 Bong Joon-Ho movie is technically a monster movie. It is supposed to be in the same category as the King Kongs and the Godzillas.
But it isn’t because of 2 main reasons. The monster is hardly shown. The focus is on the effect on regular people and families.
Also, it has one of the cheapest, most non-committal origin stories for a monster. A US military base dumps chemicals down a sink before they vacate the place. It genetically screws up a freshwater fish, I guess.
There is now a monster growing. Fast-forward many years later. It’s cliched because that part isn’t really important.
The first intro of the monster is on the lakeside. Where our protagonist and his family are picnicking.
The first attack is a brilliant shot from the point of view of the picnickers. They are going about a perfectly pleasant day when this monstrosity pops out of the water and wreaks havoc.
And the havoc feels very real, very jarring. There is no music. There’s just pure terror.
The rest of the movie is how the nation and the affected citizens cope with this very surprising turn of events.
The military takes over the situation, without really knowing what to do next. The families are trying to recover. But there’s still a routine day-to-day feel about the way they go about it.
It’s not a crisis meeting followed by a daring, ultimately tragic, mission followed by a debrief where the heroes regroup. The panic, and the confusion, never truly leaves.
I believe we can relate to this particular sentiment, now more than ever.
The monster sort of falls in the bad-CGI territory now, but it is terrifying, the way it strikes, and the design they went with. It is truly alien without a coolness factor, that most monsters have in movies.
Now we come to what was the toughest watch for me, among all in this list. Oldboy, not the crappy English version with Sam Jackson and Josh Brolin, is the best revenge movie ever.
A surly man is randomly taken at night, and put in a hotel room, and kept secluded for more than a decade.
He is fed, hydrated, and given a TV for entertainment, for the duration of his ‘stay’. Then, just as randomly as he was taken, he is released.
The man has been training himself in martial arts from watching the TV, because why not, with the sole purpose of taking some seriously brutal vengeance. It’s an f-ed up grown-up version of Karate kid, and then it gets infinitely more shocking,
If you have somehow not watched either versions, English or Korean, watch the original Korean one first. Then tolerate the English one, or ignore it altogether.
Just to clarify my hatred of the English version, it starred Josh Brolin (Thanos), Sam Jackson (Fury), and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch). It was directed by Spike Lee (friggin Spike Lee).
Yet, it was hot sh*t. One could almost see how the studio execs gutted this one, and to be fair it was always going to be tough to make a marketable adaptation of this one.
If you’re interested in the Oldboy lore after the movie, you can check out the Oldboy manga series that spawned this amazing movie:
There’s also a pricey poster, that becomes way more attractive once you finish with the movie.
How does one combine a top-notch crime thriller with a heartbreaking story of a mother having to raise a special needs teenager?
Bong Joon-Ho answered this often-asked question with his 2009 movie ‘Mother’. I love Parasite. But I would rate Mother and Memories of Murder over it any day.
Think Buster and Lucille Bluth from Arrested development, but add actual empathy and a riveting crime story. You get Mother.
The role of the mother is played brilliantly by Hye-Ja Kim (of course I had to look up the name) as she steals scene after scene with equal parts madness and infectious worry for her son.
Every single character here is dysfunctional, and no exchange between them is clean.
Right from the intro, where Mother is seen dancing (boy, is the callback to this something) in a beautiful landscape, the movie is gripping.
Here too, there is no wringing of emotions from the audience. Whatever happens, happens. The impact is left to the viewer.
The final entry in the Vengeance trilogy is also its weakest. A young woman is accused of the brutal murder of a young boy.
Many years later, she is released back to society. Where there is vengeance, there must’ve been an injustice.
The woman, unsurprisingly, was not the real murderer, and she must rely on her guile, charm, and years of planning and toughening up in prison, to mete out justice.
In fact, it is probably the weakest in the whole list. It’s still a solid watch. There is a team-up element to this, that I enjoyed very much. And the ending was plain brilliant.
The indifferent feeling to shocking events or lines from the story feels a bit more forced than it did with the other entries here.
This is the most, and I promise I don’t use this word much or at all, delectable movie on the list. From its gorgeous settings in Japanese-occupied Korea to the characters’ ultra-polite way of saying or implying horrific things, the movie is straight-up beautiful to watch.
Then there is the excellent crime-thriller plot topped by some (not many) good performances, that doesn’t transcend genres like the others but excels in it.
There is a steamy romance that feels more a part of the plot, than the story of the characters in the movie. That’s a negative when it comes to this particular movie list.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing movie. It just fits better into genres than our earlier entries. The poster, for instance, is pretty but quite predictable.
Also, the original title is Ah-ga-ssi, which means ‘mistress’ or ‘lady’, the exact opposite of the English name. That irked me for some reason.
I found a great poster for the movie, that pays homage to the romantic arc in the movie.
Park Chan-Wook’s take on the Vampire genre is very watchable. It’s interesting. It has the tone that we expect of the movies on this list.
It just wasn’t great. It’s not bad. Just, not great. It has an awesome poster. It has a good character evolution for the leading lady.
But something was amiss throughout the movie, that stopped it at good. Just to clarify, this was one of the last movies I watched of these directors.
So the standards expected were pretty darn high. I mean astronomically high.
You can stream it on Prime. But really don’t get the Blu-Ray for this one.
Well, more like mentions to round off their filmography, specifically the work they did with Hollywood.
Bong Joon-Ho made the excellent Snowpiercer, which convinced me Chris Evans had a lot of talent beneath the Cap musculature.
A movie set in the dystopian future, where the entirety of the human race is on a train. Unsurprisingly, the rich people are in the front, while the poor ones are in the back, eating roa- I mean a black gelatinous substance for sustenance.
There is a rebellion, and many things are revealed along the way. It’s a good dramatic sci-fi film.
He also made the much-warmer Okja, a story about the bond between a young girl and a super-pig.
A super-pig that could, along with other others of his kind, solve the world’s eating problem. I forget if the problem was poverty or gluttony.
This bond is threatened when consumerism wants its pig back. Oh, I wonder which country they chose to portray a consumerist society. Probably Brazil, your guess is as good as mine.
Disregarding tired cliches, the movie is better than it sounds, and there are a few scenes where raindrops will randomly make it look like you’re crying.
Also, Tilda Swinton does Tilda Swinton things in the movie.
Park Chan Wook had his own Hollywood directorial, with Stoker. A weird movie, with enigmatic, f-ed up characters populating the movie. I did not like it. But I’m glad I watched it?
It’s a strange one, Stoker. You’ll have to make up your own mind on this one. It has 3 great performers in Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode (Veidt from Watchmen 2009), and Mia Wasikowska.
That should do it for this particular list. Six solid movies to watch after Parasite, two to pad it out a bit more.
I’m hoping this is a type of post I can do more often, as one movie can open up viewers to a whole new market of movies or director.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed these movies, or if you like me, felt the tone of these movies makes them quite unique in the cinematic landscape.