Join the Bong Hive: a guide to ‘Parasite’ director Bong Joon-ho’s films

Time for some South Korean homework

Earlier this month, South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho made history by taking home four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture, for his thrilling social satire Parasite – a film that sinks under your skin and leaves you always wanting more.

Luckily for hungry fans craving more Bong, the filmmaker has been making top-tier cinema for the past 20 years. And with some fresh Academy recognition, it’s easier than ever to find Bong’s filmography in cinemas and online.

From most accessible to most obscure for the die-hard fans, here’s a breakdown of where to watch Bong Joon-ho’s back catalogue – from streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and MUBI, to screenings at London’s fan-favourite cinema the Prince Charles.

Okja

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Following the success of Snowpiercer (despite a difficult theatrical release that never even reached the UK), Netflix approached Bong with a blank check. What did he make with it? A thrilling romp about a super-pig.

Okja is more than a non-sensical thrill-ride though: the film suggests a near-future in which a corporation breeds genetically modified pigs for consumption purposes, and zeroes in on one in particular – that’s Okja, living blissfully in the mountains of South Korea with her young best friend Mija. Things go awry when employees of the multinational come to visit, and try to take Okja away.

Come for arguably Bong’s most unhinged comedy, with a glossy Netflix finish, and stay for Jake Gyllenhaal‘s most deranged performance, alongside Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun and Ahn Seo-hyun as Mija.

Where to watch: On Netflix worldwide

Like this? Try this: There are few films that exist in the same buddy comedy-cum-enviromental horror realm as Okja, but for some more impressive visual effects, why not try Jon Favreau’s live-action double-bill, The Jungle Book and The Lion King.

Snowpiercer

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In 2013, Bong Joon-ho made his English-language debut with dystopian sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer. The film, led by Captain America himself Chris Evans and Jamie Bell, takes place entirely on a train in the near-future which carries the very last human beings alive.

The locomotive is organised by class – Evans’ Curtis Everett leads an uprising from the lower section against the elite, which is where you’ll find the train’s creator, Wilford (Ed Harris) and his assistant Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton).

Bong’s scripts are so uniquely shocking that it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the filmmaker knocked heads with Harvey Weinstein after The Weinstein Company bought distribution rights. But Bong held his ground – which is probably why the film is as good as it is.

Where to watch: On Amazon Prime Video, and screening at the Prince Charles cinema (21 to 27 February)

Like this? Try this: For another claustrophobic journey with a major crime at the centre, take the original 1974 Murder on the Orient Express for a spin. Or if in doubt, as in most cases, you can’t go wrong with Mission: Impossible.

The Host

One of the greatest modern monster movies, The Host sees a young girl kidnapped by a sea creature, and her father (Song Kang-ho on terrific form) is determined to save her. This took Bong’s ability to choreograph scenes of mass panic and chaos to the next level, and saw major success – it became the highest-grossing South Korean film of all-time upon release (it has since been overtaken by Parasite, naturally).

Bong had said he was inspired to write the film after reading an article in a local paper about a civilian official with the US army who ordered the disposal of 470 bottles of the potentially cancer-causing compound formaldehyde into the Han River in South Korea.

Where to watch: On MUBI until 8 March, available to rent on Amazon Prime Video

Like this? Try this: Creature features abound, but the enormity of Bong’s monster brings to mind the mother of all sea and land scaries – Godzilla itself. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film captures an unsettling sense of dread that seems to suit Bong’s sense of humour.

Mother

While Bong loves a monster movie, the filmmaker is also highly skilled at portraying human emotion with immense, sensitive detail. Some of his best-drawn characters are women, starting with Kim Hye-ja as the unnamed matriarch of Mother.

Kim plays a mother closely attached to her 27-year-old son, a young man with learning difficulties accused of a murder she’s convinced he didn’t commit. Not to be confused with Darren Aronofsky’s psychological nightmare mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Where to watch: On MUBI until 12 March

Like this? Try this: Another mother with attachment issues, Annie from Hereditary seems like a good companion for Kim Hyee-ja’s character here. If not, Norman Bates from Psycho is always lurking in the shadows somewhere…

Memories of Murder

Arguably the film that launched Bong’s reputation into the stratosphere, Memories of Murder takes stock of the true story of Korea’s first serial murders in history between 1986 and 1991. At the time of the film’s release in 2003, the case was still unresolved – it was only last October that 56-year-old Lee Choon-jae confessed to the crimes.

The film marks the first collaboration between Bong and Song Kang-ho, who went on to star in The Host, Snowpiercer and Parasite.

Where to watch: At the Prince Charles cinema – 19 February, 2 March and 29 March.

Like this? Try this: For another serial killer thriller taking place over several years, track down David Fincher’s Zodiac.

Barking Dogs Never Bite

One for only the most dedicated followers, Bong’s debut feature Barking Dogs Never Bite is pretty hard to track down. The 2000 film follows a father-to-be pushed over the edge by a barking dog in his apartment building, leading to a sharp career change as he becomes a serial dog killer.

Bong himself notoriously called his first film “a very stupid movie” – but completists will certainly find material to enjoy in the scruffy, high-paced canine chase.

Where to watch: It’ll have to be second-hand DVDs for this one, Bong fans…

Like this? Try this: Forbidden dogs hiding in some kind of wasteland? It might have been made almost two decades later, but Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs shares more than a few common traits with BDNB.

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