Bong Joon Ho took the mainstream filmmaking world by storm when he won an unprecedented 4 Oscars in one night, for the same film – the masterpiece which is Parasite. But, he’s certainly not a newcomer when it comes to making quality films. I’m personally in the process of watching all the feature films he’s made along the years, and so I decided to educate you about this as well. So, let’s go through his works in chronological order:
1. Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae) – 2000
This comedy was Bong Joon Ho’s first feature debut, exactly two decades ago. The story revolves around a college lecturer, who is consistently disturbed by the barking sound of a neighbour’s dog, to the point where he decides to take action. It’s not regarded as Bong’s best, but it’s a solid film to start the marathon with.
2. Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok) – 2003
This is Bong Joon Ho’s most appreciated film after Parasite, currently sitting on spot #184 on IMDb’s top rated movies of all time list, with a user score of 8.1. It’s a detective story that takes place in a small Korean province in 1986, with two detectives trying to track down a serial killer who has raped and murdered several young women.
3. The Host (Gwoemul) – 2006
This was the South Korean director’s first actual foray into the horror genre, with the protagonist of the film being a sea monster that emerges from Seoul’s Han River and starts attacking people. It was very warmly received by critics, and there’s talk about a sequel being under works, although Bong’s involvement is at this point not known.
4. Mother (Madeo) – 2009
Not to be confused with Darren Arronofsky’s film baring the same name, Mother is the second highest rated film of the bunch. It revolves around a mother who takes it upon herself to find a killer who has unjustly framed her son for the murder of a woman. This was Bong Joon Ho’s last Korean film until Parasite.
5. Snowpiercer – 2013
Snowpiercer was Bong Joon Ho’s first English language film, and featured a couple of well-known actors such as Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future which only a handful of people survive, who find themselves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe. Like Parasite, the film also deals with class, using horizontal rather than vertical metaphors.
6. Okja – 2017
Finally, we have Okja, a film about a little girl who befriends a strange creature, and does her best to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands. It’s a tale with plenty of environmental messages, and its twists and turns serve as worthy precursors of those found in Parasite. It stars a mixture of South Korean actors and a few Hollywood faces, such as Tilda Swinton (again), Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal.