Park Chan-wook is a South Korean film director and screenwriter who has gained international recognition for his dark and visually striking films.

Known for his innovative storytelling, complex characters, and exquisite cinematography, Park’s films are celebrated for their intense, violent, and sometimes disturbing subject matter.

Park has directed several acclaimed films, including the “Vengeance Trilogy” consisting of “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002), “Oldboy” (2003), and “Lady Vengeance” (2005), as well as “Thirst” (2009), “Stoker” (2013), and “The Handmaiden” (2016).

His films often explore themes of revenge, violence, and obsession, and are marked by their bold visual style and narrative twists.

Best Park Chan-wook Films

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of Chan-wook Park’s best films, their themes, cinematography, and what makes them stand out in the world of cinema.

1. Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy” is a 2003 South Korean neo-noir action thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. The film is part of Park’s acclaimed “Vengeance Trilogy” and is widely considered to be one of the greatest Korean films ever made.

The film tells the story of Oh Dae-su, a man who is kidnapped and held captive for 15 years, and his quest for revenge and to uncover the truth about his captivity.

“Oldboy” is known for its innovative storytelling, visceral action scenes, and its exploration of themes such as revenge, redemption, and the consequences of violence.

The film has been praised for its intense performances, striking visuals, and powerful soundtrack.

It won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and has been cited as an influence on many subsequent films, both in South Korea and around the world.

The film has also been remade in Hollywood, with mixed results. Overall, “Oldboy” is a must-see for fans of Korean cinema, action films, and innovative storytelling.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong (Actors)
  • Park Chan-wook (Director) - Hwang Jo-yun (Writer) - Jae-Duk Han (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

2. The Handmaiden (2016)

“The Handmaiden” is a 2016 South Korean erotic psychological thriller film directed by Chan-wook Park.

The film is inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by British author Sarah Waters but is set in Korea during the Japanese occupation in the 1930s.

The film tells the story of a young Korean woman named Sook-hee who becomes the handmaiden of a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko, with the aim of swindling her out of her inheritance.

However, as Sook-hee becomes more intimately involved with Lady Hideko, her loyalties are tested and she begins to question her motives.

The film is celebrated for its stunning visuals, intricate plot, and strong performances by its cast.

The film’s cinematography and production design create a vivid and sumptuous world of opulence and beauty, which provides a stark contrast to the dark and twisted themes explored in the film.

The film’s exploration of sexuality, power, and deceit is expertly woven into the story and creates a captivating and immersive experience for the viewer.

“The Handmaiden” received critical acclaim upon its release and was nominated for several awards, including the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

The film is widely regarded as one of Park’s best works and has cemented his reputation as a master of cinematic storytelling.

The Handmaiden
  • Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Tae Kim (Actors)
  • Chan-wook Park (Director) - Chan-wook Park (Producer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

3. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is a 2002 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook, known for his exploration of revenge and violence in his films.

The film tells the story of Ryu, a deaf-mute young man who, in an attempt to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant, gets involved in a series of crimes and ultimately seeks revenge against those who wronged him.

The film is notable for its bleak and uncompromising tone, as well as its portrayal of the harsh realities of life in contemporary South Korea.

Its themes of social inequality, economic desperation, and the struggle for survival are all woven into the plot, and the film’s violent and graphic imagery underscores the desperation of its characters.

Overall, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is a powerful and affecting film that explores the dark corners of the human psyche and the destructive nature of revenge.

It is a must-see for fans of Korean cinema and for those who appreciate challenging and thought-provoking films. However, due to its graphic violence and mature themes, it may not be suitable for all viewers.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin, Doona Bae (Actors)
  • Chan-wook Park (Director) - Chan-wook Park (Writer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Korean (Publication Language)

4. Lady Vengeance (2005)

“Lady Vengeance” is a 2005 South Korean revenge thriller film directed by Chan-wook Park.

The film tells the story of a woman named Lee Geum-ja who is released from prison after serving 13 years for a crime she did not commit.

Upon her release, she seeks revenge against the man who actually committed the crime, as well as those who were involved in framing her for it.

The film is celebrated for its intricate plot, stylized visuals, and strong performances by its cast.

The film’s themes of revenge, redemption, and forgiveness are explored in a thought-provoking and emotionally impactful way, and the film’s unique blend of dark humor and intense drama create a captivating and immersive experience for the viewer.

“Lady Vengeance” is the final installment in Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” which also includes “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Oldboy.”

The trilogy is widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern cinema and has cemented Park’s reputation as one of the most innovative and talented directors of his generation.

Lady Vengeance
  • DVD
  • Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color
  • English (Subtitled), Spanish (Subtitled), English (Original Language)
  • 1
  • 112

5. I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

“I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK” is a 2006 South Korean romantic comedy film directed by Park Chan-wook.

The film tells the story of Young-goon, a young woman who believes she is a cyborg, and her stay in a mental institution where she meets and falls in love with a fellow patient, Il-soon.

The film is a departure from Park Chan-wook’s previous works, which were known for their darker themes and graphic violence.

“I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK” is a whimsical and colorful film that explores the inner worlds of its characters with humor and empathy.


It is a film about the power of imagination and the resilience of the human spirit, and it is notable for its inventive direction, colorful visuals, and charming performances.

The film’s lead actress, Lim Soo-jung, delivers a delightful performance as Young-goon, and the film’s supporting cast includes well-known Korean actors such as Rain and Oh Dal-su.

The film was a critical and commercial success, and it won several awards at international film festivals.

Overall, “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK” is a charming and quirky film that showcases Park Chan-wook’s versatility as a director.

It is a must-see for fans of romantic comedies, as well as for those who appreciate inventive and imaginative filmmaking.

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK. Blu-Ray
  • German (Subtitle)
  • German (Publication Language)
  • AL!VE AG (Publisher)

6. Stoker (2013)

“Stoker” is a 2013 psychological thriller film directed by Chan-wook Park. The film tells the story of India Stoker, a teenage girl who is mourning the death of her father and becomes infatuated with her mysterious uncle, Charlie, who comes to live with her and her mother.

The film is celebrated for its eerie and atmospheric visuals, skillful direction, and strong performances by its cast.

Mia Wasikowska delivers a powerful performance as India, capturing the character’s complex emotions and inner turmoil with nuance and subtlety.

Matthew Goode also delivers a standout performance as Charlie, who is both charming and menacing in equal measure.

“Stoker” is notable for its exploration of themes of family, sexuality, and violence, as well as its stylistic homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

The film’s unsettling atmosphere and twisted storyline create a sense of unease and tension that keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish.

Overall, “Stoker” is a masterful psychological thriller that showcases Chan-wook Park’s skills as a director and storyteller.

Stoker /
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Kidman, Nicole, Wasikowska, Mia, Goode, Matthew (Actors)
  • Chan-Wook, Park (Director)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

7. Thirst (2009)

“Thirst” is a South Korean horror film directed by Park Chan-wook, which was released in 2009. The movie tells the story of a priest named Sang-hyun, who volunteers for a medical experiment to find a cure for a deadly virus.

The experiment fails, and Sang-hyun is infected with the virus, but he miraculously survives after receiving a blood transfusion.

However, the blood he received was from a vampire, and Sang-hyun soon discovers that he has become a vampire himself.

As Sang-hyun struggles to come to terms with his new identity, he falls in love with Tae-ju, the wife of a childhood friend.

The two begin an affair, and Tae-ju convinces Sang-hyun to turn her into a vampire so that they can be together forever.

However, as their relationship becomes increasingly dangerous and twisted, Sang-hyun must confront the consequences of his actions and the dark side of his newfound immortality.

“Thirst” received critical acclaim for its unique take on the vampire genre, as well as its blend of horror, humor, and eroticism.

It won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or.

  • DVD
  • Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color
  • English (Subtitled), French (Subtitled), Spanish (Subtitled)
  • 1
  • 134

8. The Moon Is… The Sun’s Dream (1992)

“The Moon Is… The Sun’s Dream” is a poetry book written by the contemporary American poet and novelist, Mary Ruefle. It was first published in 1992 by Wave Books.

The book consists of a series of short, surreal poems that explore themes of love, nature, identity, memory, and the human experience.

The title poem, “The Moon Is… The Sun’s Dream,” is a meditation on the relationship between the sun and the moon, and how their cyclical dance reflects the cycles of life and death.

Ruefle’s poetry is known for its dreamlike imagery, fragmented syntax, and playful wordplay. She often combines humor and absurdity with profound insights into the human condition, creating a unique and memorable poetic voice.

“The Moon Is… The Sun’s Dream” has received critical acclaim for its inventive use of language and its ability to capture the strangeness and beauty of the world.

It is considered one of Ruefle’s most important and influential works, and has been widely studied and anthologized in the years since its publication.

THE MOON IS THE SUN'S DREAM / Moon Notebook: 6x9 in 110 "to do list" pages/Matte cover/Moon lovers/Moon Diary/ Moon Journal
  • New Notebooks, MCF Brand (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 110 Pages - 07/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

9. Three… Extremes (2004)

“Three… Extremes” is a 2004 horror anthology film featuring three short films directed by three of Asia’s most celebrated directors: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, and Takashi Miike. The three films are tied together thematically and explore the dark and twisted corners of the human psyche.

Park Chan-wook’s contribution to the film is a segment called “Cut,” which tells the story of a successful film director who is held captive by a disgruntled extra on his film set.

The extra forces the director to play a sadistic game of life and death, while the director’s wife is also held captive and tortured in another part of the building.

The film is a gripping and suspenseful thriller, notable for its inventive direction and dark sense of humor.

It features standout performances by its lead actors, including Lee Byung-hun and Lim Won-hee, who deliver intense and powerful performances.

“Three… Extremes” is a must-see for fans of horror films and for those who appreciate innovative and boundary-pushing filmmaking.

It is a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience that showcases the talents of some of Asia’s most daring and visionary filmmakers.

However, due to its graphic content and mature themes, it may not be suitable for all viewers.

  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Ling Bai, Byung-hun Lee, Kyoko Hasegawa (Actors)
  • Chan-wook Park (Director) - Bun Saikou (Writer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

10. Joint Security Area (2000)

“Joint Security Area” is a 2000 South Korean mystery-drama film directed by Chan-wook Park.

The film is based on the novel “DMZ” by Park Sang-yeon and tells the story of an incident that takes place in the Joint Security Area (JSA) between North and South Korea, where two North Korean soldiers are found dead, and a South Korean soldier is the prime suspect.

The film explores themes of politics, ideology, and national division, as well as the personal relationships and conflicts that arise between the soldiers from the two Koreas who are stationed in the JSA.

The film features strong performances from its cast, including Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun, and Song Kang-ho.

“Joint Security Area” was a commercial and critical success in South Korea, and helped to establish Chan-wook Park as one of the country’s most prominent and talented filmmakers.

The film was praised for its nuanced and complex portrayal of the political and social tensions between North and South Korea, as well as its engaging and suspenseful plot. It remains one of the most acclaimed and widely watched Korean films of all time.

JSA - Joint Security Area (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho (Actors)
  • Park Chan-wook (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

11. If You Were Me (2003)

If You Were Me” is a collection of short stories written by Irish author, Maeve Binchy.

The book was first published in 2003 and features 12 stories that explore the lives of a variety of characters in different situations.

Each story in “If You Were Me” is set in a different location around the world, including Spain, Italy, and Thailand, and features characters who are dealing with various challenges and conflicts.

Binchy’s writing is known for its ability to create vivid, fully-realized characters who face relatable, human struggles.


Some of the themes explored in the book include love, loss, family, identity, and cultural differences. Binchy’s writing is often praised for its warmth, humor, and sensitivity, and “If You Were Me” is considered one of her most successful works.

The book has been well-received by both readers and critics, and has been translated into several languages. It is often recommended for fans of contemporary fiction, particularly those interested in stories with a strong sense of place and character.

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12. Trio (1997)

“Trio” is a British television series that aired in 1997. It was a comedy-drama anthology series featuring three different stories, each with its own cast and director.

The stories were linked by the theme of the three main characters, all women, who were all involved in some way in the entertainment industry.

The first story, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” was directed by Nadia Tass and starred Brenda Blethyn as a struggling actress who takes a job as a hospital clown.

The second story, “The Night on the Golden Step,” was directed by Sarah Pia Anderson and starred Jane Horrocks as a makeup artist who falls for a rock star.

The third story, “Piggy Bank,” was directed by Sarah Harding and starred Imelda Staunton as a bank manager who discovers a hidden talent for stand-up comedy.

The series was well-received and praised for its strong performances and the way it explored the lives of women in the entertainment industry.

It was also notable for the all-female creative team, with each story being directed by a different woman. “Trio” was later released on DVD and has become a cult favorite among fans of British television.

TRIO 1997
  • Audio CD – Audiobook
  • Japanese (Publication Language)
  • 09/22/2012 (Publication Date) - 地底レコード (Publisher)

3 Characteristics of Chan-wook Park Films

Chan-wook Park is a South Korean filmmaker known for his innovative, provocative and stylized approach to filmmaking. Here are three characteristics that can be found in many of his films:

Exploration of revenge: Chan-wook Park’s films often deal with themes of revenge and the destructive nature of obsession.

His characters are often driven by a deep desire for retribution, and their actions lead to violent and often tragic consequences.

Inventive direction: Park is known for his bold and daring approach to direction, which often includes the use of unusual camera angles, innovative editing techniques, and striking visual imagery.

His films are marked by their vivid and memorable visual style, which is often unsettling and provocative.

Complex and layered storytelling: Park’s films often feature intricate and non-linear narratives that challenge the viewer to keep up with the twists and turns of the plot.

He weaves together multiple storylines and themes to create rich and layered works of cinema that are both thought-provoking and emotionally affecting.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Chan-wook Park Films

Sure, here are three reasons why you should watch Chan-wook Park films:

Creative storytelling: Chan-wook Park’s films are known for their unique and creative storytelling techniques, which often involve non-linear narratives, unexpected plot twists, and complex character development.

His films will keep you on the edge of your seat and challenge your expectations of what a movie can be.

Stunning cinematography: Chan-wook Park’s films are visually stunning, with meticulous attention to detail and a keen eye for composition.

His films often feature beautiful landscapes, vibrant colors, and striking imagery, which create a cinematic experience that is both immersive and visually captivating.

Thought-provoking themes: Chan-wook Park’s films often deal with complex themes such as identity, revenge, and morality.

His films explore the human psyche and challenge viewers to think deeply about their own beliefs and values. Watching his films can be a thought-provoking and emotional journey that leaves a lasting impression.

Best Chan-wook Park Films – Wrapping Up

Chan-wook Park is a celebrated South Korean filmmaker who has directed many critically acclaimed and award-winning films. Here are some of his best films:

Oldboy (2003): A violent and twisted revenge story that follows a man’s quest to find his captor and unravel the truth behind his imprisonment.

The Handmaiden (2016): A psychological thriller set in Japanese-occupied Korea, which tells the story of a con man and a wealthy heiress who plan a scam to steal her fortune.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005): The final installment of Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” which follows a woman’s quest for revenge against those who wronged her.

Thirst (2009): A horror-romance film about a priest who becomes a vampire after receiving a blood transfusion.

Joint Security Area (2000): A drama about an investigation into a shooting incident at the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006): A romantic comedy-drama about a young woman who believes she is a cyborg and her experiences in a mental institution.

These films showcase Park’s unique visual style, complex characters, and unconventional storytelling techniques.

They have gained a following both in South Korea and around the world, and have cemented Park’s place as one of the most innovative and exciting filmmakers working today.