5 Must-See Asian Films on Netflix Instant Queue

After Oldboy, Ringu, and pretty much every Jackie Chan film dating back to the early ’80s, Asian cinema has won over audiences worldwide and shown that they mean just as much to the film industry as any American produced fare.

In the technologically advanced age we now live in, cinemaphiles and weekend watchers alike can now take full advantage of films that never could or would have occupied limited Blockbuster shelves. Among the thousands of Netflix Instant titles that exist sit a lesser exposed market of Asian films.

Understandably, the bevy of titles available can sometimes be overwhelming and cumbersome. Fortunately, we have a few we think you’d like.


New World [Korean | 신세계 | 2013]

As the first in a planned trilogy, writer / director Park Hoon-jung tackles the seedy underworld of organized crime through the eyes of undercover officer Ja-sung. After being tasked with infiltrating the biggest crime syndicate in Korea, what was supposed to be a short-term operation is now nearing a decade.

Now, as the right-hand to the syndicate’s second most powerful head, Ja-sung finds the lines beginning to blur between his life as an officer then and an important gangster. But as his undercover life begins to further climb the ladder, Ja-sung finds that there might be no end in sight.

Insanely popular among Korean action and crime fans, New World topped many ‘best of’ lists for foreign films in 2013. With an all-star cast, fast-paced and immersing story, and more intense shoot-outs than you can shake a stick at, it’s easy to understand why. Not to mention an older looking Choi Min-sik (of Oldboy fame) proves, once again, that any film billing his name will be an enjoyable one — if you have any doubt, you can marathon this and the next film on this list to judge for yourself.

If you’ve already seen New World and are looking for another Korean crime story, look no further than The Man from Nowhere and A Company Man.

I Saw the Devil [Korean | 악마를 보았다 | 2010]

Since 2003, psychological thriller filmmakers, particularly those in South Korea, aim to be compared to Oldboy. Unfortunately for most, they nowhere near hit their mark. However, that’s certainly not the case for 2010’s I Saw the Devil.

After his pregnant fiancé is mercilessly tortured and murdered, secret service agent Soo-hyun obsessively hunts down her killer. But after finding Kyung-chul, her murderer, and unraveling further gruesome deaths, Soo-hyun begins to blur the line between justice and sadistic vengeance.

Often regarded by many as being on the same level as Oldboy, I Saw the Devil garnished its admiration for more reasons than just both films’ star, Choi Min-sik. I Saw the Devil is a stomach-turning, wince-filled, jump-inducing horror / thriller from New World writer, Park Hoon-jung and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird director, Kim Jee-woon.

Although I Saw the Devil is brutally gruesome, the film’s truly stay-with-you moments come from its intelligent story-telling and psychological terror, not simply relying on shock value to keep you awake at night.

If you haven’t already, you should probably watch Oldboy or really any of the vengeance trilogy — Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance.

Camp 14: Total Control Zone [Korean | 2012]

To the average person outside of Korea, North Korea feels like a giant political joke full of gaffes and follies big enough to create its own sitcom. Unfortunately, so is not actually the case to those who have lived through it.

North Korean dictatorship rules their people through fear and despair fluidly. There is no opportunity to question the regime, nor its policies when you’re afraid your entire extended family will pay the price for your mistake. So is the case for Shin Dong-hyuk, the film’s center point, a defector from North Korea who was born in an internment camp.

Now, as a human rights campaigner, Shin Dong-hyuk opens up about the unfathomable turmoil an estimated 150,000 citizens suffer through each day. Rampant physical and sexual abuse, cannibalism, and public executions rule NK’s internment camps, and the documentary refuses to gloss over any horrifying details.

Camp 14 offers up an inside look at the harrowing details of North Korean internment camp prisoners, and is not an easy pill to swallow, but an important film to witness, nevertheless.

Want to learn more about the closed off country of North Korea? Check out The Red Chapel or National Geographic: Inside North Korea.

Dream Home [Chinese | 維多利亞壹號 | 2010]

After a life of hardships, and scraping and saving for the perfect apartment, Cheng Lai-sheung finally has enough to live her dream. But when the homeowners decide not to sell Cheng her dream home, she snaps and decides to go to extreme lengths to get what she wants.

Amidst the shock and vomit-inducing gore lies a satirical take on capitalist society that currently runs rampant in Hong Kong — not to mention much of Asia. However, the main theme of this horror film is shock and it does so quite well.

In the midst of a despicable and disgusting murder rampage, the film peppers in bits about the main character’s arduous life, creating empathy for a monster. Story-telling and shock gore rarely go hand-in-hand, making Dream Home a film that will stay with you for a longtime to come.

Fair warning: This isn’t loosely described as “shock gore”. Don’t go into this movie expecting Machine Girl or Yakuza Weapon, this is Ichi the Killer for the next generation and can be extremely disturbing. So much so that several audience members threw up and fainted at the Far East Film Festival premiere. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Drug War [Chinese | 毒戰 | 2012]

Staying with what you know is something that director / producer Johnnie To seems to live by, and 2012’s Drug War is absolutely no exception to the rule. Organized crime and fast-paced, adrenaline-inducing action sequences remain the main theme in To’s Drug War, however, the film stands out by never settling as just another tiresome action movie plot.

After a large drug trafficking raid, drug lord, Timmy Choi is given a deal from police Captain Zhang to rat out his affiliates in order to avoid the death sentence. Caught between wanting to live and not wanting his partners’ to find out he was responsible for their arrests, Choi is coerced into becoming the police force’s puppet. But the deeper they go into the undercover operation, the more Choi attempts to gain the upper hand, making the sting a clumsy and difficult effort.

Alongside To’s 2005 Chinese action epic, Election, the director best known for over-the-top action sequences has started to tone down the non-stop action thrill rides in lieu of richer story development. Don’t get it wrong, this movie is brimming with gun fights. But the filmmaker has changed his previous approach to action since the ’80s, ultimately creating an enjoyably well-rounded action movie experience.

Let’s not forget to mention that the real defining moment of this film comes by way of iconic veteran actor Sun Hong-Lei as Captain Zhang, and his astounding character depth and acting range. Truly a performance not to be missed.

Looking for more intense action from China? Try Triads: The Inside Story or The Last Tycoon.

Cover image source:


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Categories: Asian Films


Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Another Castle | Twitter: @ComradeJen

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7 Comments on “5 Must-See Asian Films on Netflix Instant Queue”

  1. 07/21/2014 at 3:08 PM #

    Reblogged this on tomtificate and commented:

    Not an article of mine but worth reading.

  2. 02/19/2015 at 5:13 PM #

    Reblogged this on Rice Cake.


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