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How we made the 100 Greatest Korean Films Ever list

158 international film critics from 28 countries and every continent in the world except Antarctica told us their greatest Korean films ever so we could form our list. Here's how we made it happen.

To the best of our knowledge, our 100 Greatest Korean Films Ever poll is the largest of its kind on Korean cinema ever undertaken. The poll was created by asking each critics to name their five greatest Korean films ever. Their replies were unranked, but each reply represented a single vote towards inclusion. The final 100 represents a ranking based on all of these votes, with the highest frequency films at the top and the lower frequency film nearer the bottom. There were no issues of divisions in which films made the top 100, nor any issues with separating the films in the top half of the ranking. For some minor ties in the lower part of the table, which film came first was decided by a sub-committee of accredited film critics which separated them. To reiterate, this process had no impact on if any films made the 100 or any of the films in the top half of the list, it merely separated lower ranked films with the same number of critics’ votes. 

What do you mean by ‘greatest’?
It is possible to ensnare yourself in an etymological loop of definitions and meanings. The word ‘greatest’ is in itself a broad term. The definition we sent to all invited critics was as followed: 

In terms of how to define 'greatest', that is down to your interpretation. You might pick films based on their importance and impact, or your personal view of their respective qualities.

How we selected the critics
The 158 international film critics were from 28 countries and every continent in the world except Antarctica. The critics have contributed to titles including the BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, LA Times, The Korea Times, South China Morning PostDer Spiegel, Sight & Sound, Total Film, Empire, Little White Lies, Variety, Time Out and New York Magazine.

We gathered this cohort of critics from five primary sources: 


  • Members of film circles around the world

  • Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes accredited critics

  • International film festival critics 

  • The Time’s Up Critical database

  • KoreanScreen.Com expert picks

The purpose of this approach was that we wanted critics from the first four categories to be officially accredited as legitimate film critics by another process and organisation. The fifth category – KoreanScreen.Com expert picks – allowed us to focus on inviting film critics that we knew had specialist knowledge of Korean cinema.

Critics’ circles
A critics’ circle – a professional body for active film critics of either a specific location, form of film criticism or type of film critic – was particularly useful in identifying poll participants. We invited the members of these film critics’ circles to vote, sending requests to critics’ circles around the world. We are particularly grateful for highly active participation from the Online Association of Female Film Critics, the London Film Critics' Circle and the Film Critics Circle of India.  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes accredited critics
The highly popular – and influential – film review aggregation websites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes were a valuable source in identifying suitable critics for our poll. There is an accreditation process for both sites which ensures that only legitimate film critics are included. Further to this, as we can see which critics are linked to which films, we could ensure that only critics who had watched suitable degrees of Korean cinema were invited.     

International film festival critics
While the Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes accredited critics process identified several suitable film critics which know Korean cinema well, there is a large English-language focus on those sites. This meant that several critics from the UK, US and Australia were identified. However, to provide a more international focus to our list, we utilised the directory from the Berlin International Film Festival. The Berlinale was running at the time and it provides a directory of accredited attendees, including those attending as film critics. The Berlin directory was truly international and enabled us to add critics from Africa, Asia, South American and across Europe. 

The Time’s Up Critical database
Concerned by creating a critics’ cohort that was truly representative of wider society, we requested and were allowed access to the Time’s Up Critical database. This database – created in 2018 – provides details of film critics from groups underrepresented in film criticism such as female critics, people of colour, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and gender non-binary individuals. We contacted all those listed as film critics on this database and invited them to contribute. 

KoreanScreen.Com expert picks
This final avenue to identifying film critics effectively represents a ‘captain’s pick’ route for us. This was us inviting active film critics that we know to have vast specialist of Korean cinema. This was predominantly film critics on other Korean or Asian specific cinema sites, including, Han Cinema, Modern Korean Cinema, Hangul Celluloid, AsianFilmFan and Asian Movie Pulse. This was an important process in ensuring the list was created with a large selection of film critics with a profound understanding of Korean cinema.    

Who were the final critics?
In alphabetical order of surname, the 158 critics who voted in the poll are listed below. Publications listed do not necessarily signify a current full-time role at that title, but rather a contribution in terms of film content at some point of their career. 

Beth Accomando (KPBS) - Siddhant Adlakha (The Village Voice, New York Magazine) - Kerem Akca (Posta, FIPRESCI) - Rob Aldam (Backseat media) - Jeffrey M. Anderson (San Francisco Examiner, Common Sense Media) - Giulia Angonese (Paper Street) - Oliver Armknecht ( - Michael Atkinson (Sight & Sound, The Guardian, Film Comment) - Sean Axmaker (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, - Marta Balaga (Cineuropa) - Nicolas Bardot (Le Polyester) - Björn Becher (Filmstarts), Jason Bechervaise (Screen International) - Paolo Bertolin ( - Jason Best (Marie Claire) - Anne Billson ( - Anton Bitel (Projected Figures) - Andreas Borcholte (Der Spiegel) - Dwight Brown (NNPA Syndication) - Thomas Caldwell (Cinema Autopsy) - James Cameron-Wilson (Film Review Daily, ShareRadio) - Katie Carter (Katie at the Movies) - Jorge Ignacio Castillo (Planet S, Darpan Magazine), Ali Catterall (, Movie Rush) - Sara Clements (Next Best Picture) - Dustin Chang (Floating World) - Aseem Chhabra ( - Pin Chia (Pin Film Reviews) - Erik Childress (eFilmCritic) - Michelle Cho ( - Jeremy Clarke (Dmovies, Reform Magazine) - Laura Clifford (Reeling Reviews) - Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall) - Valerie Complex (Variety, The Playlist) - Pierce Conran (Modern Korean Cinema, South China Morning Post) - Deirdre Crimmins (Rue Morgue Magazine, That Shelf) - Patryk Czekaj (Screen Anarchy, Modern Korean Cinema) - Piotr Czerkawski (Odra) - Philip De Semlyen (Time Out) - Jérôme d'Estais (La Septième Obsession) - Ernesto Diezmartinez (Letras Libres) - Rashmi Doraiswamy (Asian Film Journeys: Selections from Cinemaya) - Russell Edwards (Variety, Empire) - Toussaint Egan (Paste, A.V. Club) - Hossein Eidizadeh (24) - Joseph Fahim (Middle East Eye) - Miguel Faus (Jot Down) - Ben Flanagan (Cinema Year Zero) - Rodrigo Fonseca (C7nema) - Federico Furzan (Screentology) - Laura Garnier (Dawn of the Tapes) - Michael Gasch ( - Tom Giammarco (Seen In Jeonju, - Sean Gilman (The End of Cinema, MUBI Notebook) - Pavlos Gkougiannos (Move It) - Matt Glasby (Total Film, GQ) - Jason Gorber (That Shelf, Point of View) - Philip Gowman (London Korean Links) - Carlos Ibarra Grau (Cultural Resuena) - Marianne Gray (BBC, The Spectator) - Eon Ha (Eon Talk) - Kate Hagen (The Black List) - Adam Hartzell ( - Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (ABC Radio Australia) - Andre Hereford (Metro Weekly) - Barry Hertz (The Globe and Mail) - Phil Hoad (The Guardian) - Tom Huddleston (Time Out, The Guardian) - Allan Hunter (Screen International) - Gonzalo Hurtado (Cine Oculto) - David Jenkins (Little White Lies) - Alicja Johnson (Mediaversity Reviews) - Kaan Karsan (Eksi Sinema) - David Katz (The Film Stage) - Peter Keough (Boston Globe) - Kim Kyu Hyun ( - Lukasz Knap (Vogue Poland) - Maja Korbecka (Eastern Kicks) - Panos Kotzathanasis (Asian Movie Pulse) - Peter Krausz (Movie Metropolis) - Lars Ole Kristiansen (Montages) - Martin Kudlac (Screen Anarchy), Kwak Yeon-soo (The Korea Times) - Maggie Lee (Variety) - Ann Lewinson (ARTnews, cléo) - Rouven Linnarz ( - Adam Lowes (CineVue, HeyUGuys) - Violet Lucca (Harper’s Magazine, Sight & Sound) - James Luxford (City AM, BBC) - Łukasz Mańkowski (Asian Movie Pulse) - Ieda Marcondes (Folha de S.Paulo) - Jaschar Marktanner ( - The Massie twins (Gone with the Twins) - Michael McKinney (Fan Bolt, WUPA-TV), Yasser Medina (Cinemaficionados) - Fung Ka Ming (Hong Kong Academy for Performance Arts) - Louisa Moore (Screen Zealots) - James Mudge (Eastern Kicks) - Lynnette Nicholas (Common Sense Media, Stage Buddy) - Marius Ochs ( - Wilfred Okiche (MUBI Notebook) - Joseph Owen (The Upcoming) - Beatrice Pagan (Bad Taste, Movieplayer) - Rebecca Pahle (Boxoffice Pro) - Darcy Paquet ( - Rachel Park ( - David Parkinson (Parky At the Pictures) - Caillou Pettis (Film Threat, Cultured Vultures) - Guilherme de Alencar Pinto (La Diaria) - Andrew Pope (WhitlockAndPope) - Simon Popek (Ekran) - Ray Pride (Newcity) - Paul Quinn (Hangul Celluloid) - M. K. Raghavendra (Firstpost) - Arline Ramirez (Last Full Show) - Jordan Raup (The Film Stage) - Carrie Rickey (The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle) - Peter Rist (Offscreen) - Tim Robey (The Telegraph) - Matthew Robinson (Dark of the Matinee) - Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) - Baptiste Roux (Positif) - Piyush Roy (The Indian Express, Hindustan Times) - Jamie Russell (BBC, Total Film) - Erik Samdahl (Film Jabber) - George Savvides (Parikiaki: The London Greek Weekly) - Hayley Scanlon (Windows on the World) - Christoph Schelb ( -  Oliver Schiffers (FILMtabs) - Shelly Schoeneshoefer (Currents Magazine) - William Schwartz (Han Cinema) - Dennis Schwartz (Ozus’s World Movie Reviews) - Laura Sirikul (Movie View Weekly China, Red Carpet Report TV) - Josh Slater-Williams (Sight & Sound, Variety) - Katie Smith-Wong (Flickfeast) - Kate Stables (Sight & Sound, Total Film) - David Sterritt (Cineaste) - Brian Stewart (AsianFilmFans) - Mohamed Hashem Tawfik (The New Arab) - Meredith Taylor (FlimUforia) - Robert Thomas (The Capital Times) - Johnson Thomas (Midday, Free Press Journal) - Tommaso Tocci ( - Elien Valcke (Geekster, Medium) - Alexandra Vazquez (El Espectador Imaginario) - Shikhar Verma (High on Films) - Ard Vijn (ScreenAnarchy) - Pablo Villaça (Cinema em Cena) - Gareth Von Kallenbach (Skewed 'n Reviewed) - Katie Walsh (Tribune Content Agency, LA Times) - Damon Wise (Empire) - Adam Woodward (Little White Lies) - Clint Worthington (The Spool) - Robin Write (Filmotomy) - Manu Yáñez (Film Comment, Otros Cines Europa) - Soo Youn (The Washington Post, The Guardian) - Neil Young (Screen International, Sight & Sound) - Rhythm Zaveri (Asian Movie Pulse) - Gloria Zerbinati (Cineforum).

Of invited critics, 50% were female and 50% were male, though this balance was not repeated in the final response rate of 24% female and 76% male. Time’s Up Critical notes that 79% of critics are male, so our list provides a mildly better representation of society than that.

As with all such polls, they are victims to bias and circumstance in terms of who replied and what they decided to reply that day. 

Perfection does not exist, but lots of great Korean films do. We hope you enjoy the list!

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