While most may know Korean television for its aesthetically pleasing and romantic dramas, some of the best horror movies come from South Korea — here are the best South Korean zombie movies, ranked. One of the most anticipated theatrical releases of 2020 was Sang-ho Yeon’s zombie film Peninsula, the much-anticipated follow-up to the superb 2016 hit Train to Busan but those aren’t the only great South Korean horror movies from recent years, zombie movies included. The zombie genre as a whole hasn’t lost popularity as the years have gone on, with TV shows like All of Us are Dead and The Walking Dead keeping zombies on the screen.
It may seem like a fairly niche topic, but audiences are often looking for a definitive list of the best South Korean zombie movies. Considering much of Korean horror is based on mythology and folklore, the best South Korean zombie movies often have a different spin on the undead than the typical zombie fare that comes out of the West. Nonetheless, this results in some truly terrifying films with imagery that will stick with audiences long after viewing. From anthologies to whole epic features, there may be more examples of South Korean zombie movies than most fans may necessarily realize. But which ranks as the best of them all?
10 Horror Stories (2012)
Available to stream on Tubi.
Another quartet of terrifying vignettes, Horror Stories arguably saves the most frightening tale for the final entry and it’s one of the best South Korean zombie movies. Following a home invasion story, an escaped convict story, and a cautionary parable about plastic surgery, the film ends with a mortifying zombie onslaught.
Directed by Kok and Sun Kim, Ambulance on the Death Zone features a little girl who morphs into a mouth-foaming zombie after succumbing to an unknown infection. The little girl’s mother and the paramedic she calls confront the little monster with harrowing results. The horror anthology movie was so well-received by audiences that it got two sequels, each with its own unique horror stories and ultimately becoming a franchise that lives up to its namesake.
9 Seoul Station (2016)
Available to stream on Tubi and Vudu.
Directed by Train to Busan‘s Sang-ho Yeon and released the same year, Seoul Station is an animated feature-length zombie movie that serves as a prequel to the live-action horror hit, and it’s one of the very best South Korean zombie movies. Set one day prior to the events depicted in Train to Busan, Seoul Station imagines downtown Seoul being overrun by legions of zombies.
Much of the plot revolves around Suk-Gyu (Ryu Seung-Ryong), a father desperately searching for his missing daughter, Hye-Sun (Shim Eun-Kyung), prior to the zombie pandemic. It’s an interesting chapter in the story of modern South Korean zombie movies that audiences who enjoyed Train to Busan definitely need to check out, taking a refreshing approach to the set-up and adding more lore to Sang-ho Yeon’s sprawling tale.
8 Rampant (2018)
Available to stream on Hoopla and Viki.
In Sung-Hoon Kim’s period-set zombie film Rampant, dynastic Korea finds itself under a ruthless attack from an army of blood-thirsty ghouls. One of the best South Korean zombie movies revolves around Lee Chung (Hun Bin), the Prince of Joseon who is kidnapped by the powerful Qing family with plans to appoint him the new Crown Prince.
As Lee Chung spars with Kim Ja-Joon, the Joseon Minister of War, a relentless attack of gory “night demons” threatens to annihilate the entire region. Though the movie wasn’t as big a hit as its ambitious scale implied it would be, it remains an epic example of how South Korea has put its own unique spin on zombie fiction. The film finished first place at the box office for its opening weekend, proving that a blend of the best historical K-dramas and high-stakes horror is a match made in heaven.
7 The Cursed: Dead Man’s Prey (2021)
Currently not available to stream.
The Cursed: Dead Man’s Prey is an extended version of the horror K-drama The Cursed, and it’s one of the best South Korean zombie movies. Seeing some of the cast from the original series, the occult thriller opens with a shocking murder. What’s worse, the body of the perpetrator is found next to the victim: and he’s been dead for three months. While a journalist tries to follow up with someone claiming to be the real killer, it becomes clear that sinister forces are at work.
The man claiming to be the murderer prophesies that the undead will commit three more grisly murders, it becomes a high-stakes race against the clock to figure out exactly what’s going on, and why zombies are walking among the living. The film features striking visuals and nail-biting sequences of pursuit by zombie assailants. The visuals alone are enough to give any viewer nightmares upon watching, which is why it’s one of the best South Korean zombie movies.
6 The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale (2019)
Available to stream on PLEX.
One of the best zom-coms (zombie comedies) to come out of South Korea is The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale (sometimes simply titled Zombie for Sale), directed by Lee Min-Jae, which adds a memorable degree of quirkiness into the mix. One of the best South Korean zombie movies, The Odd Family revolves around the Park family as their lives are upended when the elderly patriarch suffers a sudden zombie bite.
When the family learns the zombie was created due to an illegal experiment conducted by a corrupt pharmaceutical company, the Park family attempts to use the experiments for their own financial gain. With a high rating from critics, it sits above most South Korean zombie movies to rest just under the real masterpieces of the genre.
5 #Alive (2020)
Available to stream on Netflix.
Released in South Korea on June 24, 2020, Il Cho’s action-packed zombie outing #Alive quickly started turning heads and winning hearts, with Netflix picking the movie up for global distribution quite quickly. In one of the best South Korean zombie movies, the story finds a densely populated building under siege from a vicious zombie incursion borne from an unknown virus and follows Oh Joon-Wo (Ah-In Yoo), a secluded gamer who must remain hunkered down in his apartment and fend off droves of home-invading zombies.
The very positive critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes praises the acting, the horror, and the comedy, showing that Train to Busan wasn’t a one-off. Actor Ah-In Yoo’s performance was a particular highlight of the film, and his portrayal of gamer Oh Joon-Wo garnered critical attention. Due to this, he was given the Best Actor Award at the 2020 Cine 21 Awards.
4 Doomsday Book (2012)
Available to stream on Pluto TV.
A viral zombie pandemic is given a satirical edge in one chapter of Doomsday Book, a three-part horror omnibus from directors Kim-Jee Woon and Pil-sung Yim, and one of the best South Korean zombie movies. In Yim’s tale, A Brave New World, a nerdy scientist throws a contaminated apple in the garbage disposal, which in turn makes its way into the feeding trough for local cows.
The beef becomes contaminated and eaten by a man at a barbecue, setting off an infectious chain of violent zombification. It’s worth noting that popular Korean filmmakers such as Bong Joon-Ho have cameos in the film, so it’s a must-see for die-hard fans of modern Korean movies, not just zombie enthusiasts. Doomsday Book won the Cheval Noir award at the 2012 Fantasia Festival and was also nominated for a Visual Effects accolade at the Asian Film Awards.
3 Peninsula (2020)
Available to stream on AMC+.
Despite massive interest from movie fans, Peninsula is rated lower than its breakout predecessor, Train to Busan. That being said, it’s still one of the best South Korean zombie movies Both films are directed by Sang-ho Yeon, but this sequel failed to live up to the standards set by the first film, which is why Train to Busan is higher on the list.
Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang) is an ex-soldier who accepts a mission to lead his squadron into the wastelands of the South Korean Peninsula to obtain a truck full of cash only to be greeted by hordes of the movie series’ terrifying undead. Audiences who liked the original will welcome the return of the zombie action. Peninsula was nominated for five accolades at the Chunsa Film Arts Awards, winning Best Technical Award for the film’s production designers.
2 Train To Busan (2016)
Available to stream on Prime Video.
One of the best South Korean zombie movies is Train to Busan, the runaway smash hit that inspired Peninsula. In addition to being critically acclaimed, the film currently holds a 94% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72/100 Metascore. The film follows a father desperately trying to protect his young daughter on the titular overrun train as a zombie outbreak unfolds.
The distinct characters, emotional performances, and breakneck action made it an instant hit with horror audiences across the world and earned it very high marks from critics. The South Korean zombie flick has received so much attention that the USA has decided to do a remake, titled The Last Train to New York. In addition, Train to Busan has garnered 10 awards, including accolades at the Blue Dragon Film Awards, the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, and the Baeksang Arts Awards.
1 The Wailing (2016)
Available to stream on Tubi, Pluto TV, Crackle, Peacock, and Fubo TV
While Hong-jin Na’s masterful horror/thriller The Wailing has a lot more going on in it than just zombie movie influences, there’s no denying the terror conjured by the zombified, demonically-possessed ghouls in the film. More in the vein of dark cop thrillers like Se7en than a zombie romp by George A. Romero, The Wailing tracks a series of supernatural occurrences that plague a small fishing town after the arrival of a mysterious stranger, and it’s one of the best South Korean zombie movies of all time.
A viral illness begins to spread throughout the hamlet, thought to be a result of an evil spirit in the region. It’s up to local police officer Jong-goo (Do-wan Kwak) to solve the mystery with the story’s eye-watering mixture of strong cultural and genre elements making for an unforgettably bold cocktail. The Wailing sits above not just most modern zombie movies, but most modern horror movies in general. The horror film has 30 awards to its name, garnering accolades from the Blue Dragon Film Awards, the Fantasia International Film Festival, and the Asian Film Awards (among many others).
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