All of Bong Joon Ho’s other films (and where to stream them)
You’ve seen Parasite. Now catch the rest of the South Korean auteur’s catalogue.
Curzon Artificial Eye
There’s a good chance that, unless you’re a fan of foreign language and arthouse cinema, you had no idea who Bong Joon Ho was before he beat Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino at the Oscars last night. The South Korean filmmaker, who’s been in the business for the best part of 25 years, has become known for making captivating and comical stories of social class in a manner that’s wildly watchable. Fellow directors consider him a hero. And now he's managed to shatter a decades-old rule of thumb at the most straight-edged movie awards ceremony we have.
Yup, two decades after his debut, Bong Joon Ho became the first director in Oscar history to win Best Film for a feature not in the English language. His power.
So now you’ve seen and obsessed over Parasite, what’s next? Well, here’s our breakdown of every Bong Joon Ho feature film and where to watch it.
Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)
What’s it about? This is Bong’s debut feature, rarely seen outside of South Korea until the rights for it were bought by an American distribution company in 2009. The darkly comic story is set in an apartment building in Seoul, and follows an out-of-work academic stuck inside his flat, getting increasingly irritated by the mundanity of his day-to-day life. He’s all the more irritable due to the number of barking dogs both above and below him, and so hatches a scheme to kidnap and kill the pooches to shut them up. Meanwhile, a girl who also lives in the same apartment building has noticed a spike in these mysterious doggy disappearances, and sets out to try and find the person responsible.
Where can I watch it? It’s a hard one to track down, considering the DVD has been out of print for a few years. You can grab a pre-owned copy on eBay or Amazon if you’re in the UK, or can stream it via Amazon if you’re located Stateside.
Memories of Murder (2003)
What’s it about? This was the film that made Bong Joon Ho one to watch in international cinephile circles. Based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial killer, who roamed the countryside of Hwaseong in the late 80s and early 90s, this film tells the story of two small-town cops (one of whom is played by longtime Bong collaborator Song Kang-ho) who are given the seemingly impossible task of tracking down the person responsible for a series of sexual assaults and murders in their town. They might seem out of their depth at first, but with the help of an esteemed detective who arrives from Seoul, they come closer and closer to solving the case. The film’s IRL subject evaded capture for 16 years after the film came out (30+ years in total). But in 2019, new developments in DNA lead the South Korean police to track down a prime suspect, Lee Chun-jae, leading to a resurgence of interest in Bong’s breakout film.
Where can I watch it? The film is widely available on DVD in the UK and US, and online via iTunes and Amazon. It’s not currently streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
The Host (2006)
What’s it about? Now, this is, in our opinion, Bong Joon Ho’s most entertaining beast: a smart film about a family ties frayed by… the sudden arrival of a gigantic, aquatic man-eating monster in the sewers of Seoul. The film flits between several figures in the Park family, but closely follows Gang-du, a young man who runs a snack stall by the Han River, and his little sister Hyun-seo who, when the aforementioned beast causes chaos in the streets of the city, is scooped up and stolen, forcing her family to try and find her again. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, the film was hugely hyped from the moment it first screened, and has since gone on to become a monster movie cult classic.
Where can I watch it? You can buy the film on iTunes, Amazon and every other relevant digital movie store. And the arthouse movie streaming service Mubi just added it to their very cool catalogue too.
What’s it about? A critically acclaimed masterwork that appeared on many critics’ end of year lists following its release, Mother (nope, not the J-Law x Darren Aronofsky freakout) is one of Bong’s bleakest films. Set in a small rural town in southern South Korea, it follows a lonely, unnamed widow -- who earns her money selling plants with medicinal properties and illegally performing acupuncture -- and her intellectually-challenged only son. When a girl the son is spotted with goes missing, later found dead, everybody points the finger at the boy, insisting that he must be the person responsible. But the woman knows that her son is innocent, and so embarks on a journey to prove the public wrong.
Where can I watch it? The film’s available to buy online from all the regular places, but hasn’t reached Netflix or Amazon Prime yet! Instead, it will stream on Mubi from 11 February.
What’s it about? This might be one of the best films about the destruction of the bourgeoisie 21st century cinema has seen so far. Based on the graphic novel by French artist Jacques Lob, the dystopian sci-fi is set on a train that hurtles ceaselessly round the earth, in which the structure of a social hierarchy is built from the front carriage (the rich) to the last (the poor). The film, Bong’s first foray into English language cinema, stars Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton as passengers from each end of the train, and captures the clashes as the structure starts to break down. This film was famously held from cinemas in the US because Harvey Weinstein wanted to recut the film for an American audience. Director Bong, the legend, said no. Since the dissolving of The Weinstein Company, the film has finally found its audiences internationally.
Where can I watch it? No thanks to Harvey, the film is available to stream on Netflix in the US and Now TV in the UK.
What’s it about? Who would have thought that Bong Joon Ho could transition so seamlessly from a film about a manatee-hippo-pig hybrid to one of the most scathing portrayals of social class of our time? Well, gunning for the underdog has long been a theme in his work, and his 2017’s Netflix opus Okja proved it. His second film in the English language follows Mija, a young girl who’s spent ten years raising her big cuddly pet Okja. But when a deranged CEO with shady intentions rocks up and steals Okja, Mija’s life is sent into a spiral. A wild goose chase to get her beloved pet back ensues.
Where can I watch it? Netflix all around the world!
What’s it about? In a suburb of Seoul, a struggling, out-of-work family find themselves at a dead end, folding pizza boxes for pennies. But when an opportunity for their youngest son to tutor a wealthy family’s child arises, they hatch a plan to slowly embed themselves within their lives, quietly co-opting their family unit for their own benefit. The latest film from Bong made history, as we know, as the first film not in the English language in the Oscar’s 92-year history to take home the top prize. In the UK, it’s also broken the record for the most watched non-English language feature at the box office on opening weekend, raking in over £1.3 million and selling out screenings up and down the country. Word of mouth has made his masterpiece the most talked-about film of 2020, and has us eagerly anticipating what he might create next.
Where can I watch it? It’s still in movie theatres in the UK and US. See it with an audience: it’s wild.