Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece ‘Memories of Murder’ was an instant hit with both critics and audiences alike. Released in 2003, the film went on to win the prestigious Grand Bell Awards(South Korea) as well as ended being the most watched South Korean Film of the year. The film was soon warmly received by film buffs around the world, including the likes of Quentin Tarantino who had listed it in his top 20 films since 1992.
Based on a true story, the film covers the events that took place in between 1986-1991 in the rural parts of Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. In a usually calm and mundane rural environment, the peace is interrupted by a series of killings.
We follow the investigation through the eyes of some incompetent policemen. Using the characters and the subject, Bong Joon Ho perfectly manages to transform and shift his way through various different genres and themes along the way. It is fearless and spontaneous as it ranges from slapstick comedy, to suspense, to conflict etc. ‘Memories of Murders’ has been characterised by some of the critics as ‘impossible to categorize’. If you find the spontaneity and complexity of the film intriguing, here is the list of top films similar to Memories of Murder that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like Memories of Murders on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. True Detective (Season 1)
Ok! I cheated. I know I’m not supposed to include anything else apart from films on the list but this particular one rings too close to Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece. True Detective is different in a lot of ways possible, yet one can’t help but draw together the similarity in themes and tone between the two. True Detective is an excellently crafted Tv series that follows two state police detectives investigating a series of brutal murders around smaller towns in Louisiana. The two main characters here(played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) are far superior in the art of investigations compared to our protagonists in Memories of murders. But in both, the investigators are distinctly flawed and their personal problems produce obstacles and hindrance from their pursuits of their killers.
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9. The Boston Strangler (1968)
The Boston Strangler is a Neo noir film directed by Richard Fleischer, based on the true story of the ‘Boston Strangler’. The film follows an investigation of a serial killer who has been randomly murdering elderly women. The first half takes us from one suspect to another as we see the film almost entirely through the eyes of the investigator. The lack of clues, as well as inconsistencies in the cases are at times frustrating but the ambiguity and inconclusiveness also provide more realism. The film has been criticised of containing ‘distorted facts’ and ‘exploitation of the case for entertainment purposes. But almost half a century later, the film still manages to be gripping and the performances, as well as the visuals and use of sound, remain widely appreciated.
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8. Prisoners (2013)
Denis Vileuneve is easily one of the most exciting directors working today. The Canadian director has hit everything off the park so far, and ‘Prisoners’ is one of his most impressive work. The film is emotionally complex, rich in depth and provides a puzzle that is convincing once you piece it together. The suspense never lets up till the credits roll and the ending is equally gut wrenching. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Viola David, Paul Dano, it is hard to find a better cast in a psychological thriller film.
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7. Se7en (1995)
David Fincher’s ’Seven’ is a neo-noir crime thriller with an Allstar cast featuring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey. Brad Pitt portrays as young up and coming immature detective, while Freeman’s character is experienced, composed and is often the voice of reason in the film. ‘Sin’ is the motive for the killer in the film, and in a world full of violence and agony, ‘sin’ is something that causes serious distress to almost every character in the film. The performances are spectacular, especially by Pitt and Spacey. The score by Howard Shore, I feel is by far the most underrated aspect of the film.
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6. The Wailing (2016)
Next on the list is another Korean masterpiece called ‘The Wailing’ which premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and was received with a very well deserved standing ovation. The film is categorised as ‘Supernatural Horror’, but like ‘Memories of Murder’ it plays around with different themes, genres and does so quite effortlessly. ‘The Wailing’ starts off as a murder mystery and soon progresses into a full out horror film. The comedy is brilliant, and the characters are relatable despite being stupid at times(it’s a horror film, what do you expect). The setting of the film will also strongly remind you of Memories of murder.
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5. Mother (2009)
Bong Joon Ho at the very top of his game again. 6 years after the release of Memories of Murders, Ho wrote
and directed ‘Mother’ a drama that revolves around the relationship between a protective mother and her mentally challenged son. Fans of ‘thrillers & suspense’ shouldn’t shy away from this film, because despite being a drama the film has its very own share of unsettling and horrific moments. It might not consist of the twists and turns that memories of murders possess, but it does pack a heavy punch that will leave you talking or thinking about the film long after your watch it.
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4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Probably the most famous film on the list and I bet if you’re reading this list, you have already watched the film. Silence of the lambs is one of the very rare psycho thriller films that the Academy have acknowledged. It was only the third film to win Academy Awards in all the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay. Hopkins gives a career best performance as ‘Dr Hannibal Lecter’, while Jodie Foster manages to take her own stand. Yet another underrated Howard Shore score.
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3. Marshland (2014)
Marshland is a Spanish cop thriller film that follows two policemen in pursuit of a serial killer. The film is stylishly crafted as the setting and atmosphere of the milieu are perfectly captured. In fact the setting is what helps the film work to its full potential. Rural, bare, mysterious and unknown. Characters contain of Spain’s fascist past, and the film also consists of sociopolitical themes in its plot. If ’True Detective’ is what you like, this is something you definitely won’t want to miss. There are a few key plot holes, which can seem annoying but overall, it’s a well crafted film.
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2. Zodiac (2007)
I like to think that Zodiac is Hollywoods version of Memories of Murders. Of course, both are a re-enactment of two separate true stories from two very different countries, but the perpetual manhunt and everlasting mystery till the credits roll is what makes the film so much like Memories of murder.
There is no certainty to a clue, and the killer seems to be always one step ahead of everyone which leaves the detectives intellectually frustrated. The detectives in Zodiac are innately smarter and more organized, but the problem with the zodiac killer is that it’s not confined to one location or technique. Zodiac is a very complex puzzle, meticulously directed by Fincher and is guaranteed to raise the hair on your arms, as well as leave you scratching your head.
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1. The Silence (2010)
Even Director Baran bo Odar has said that Memories of Murder (2003) was a big inspiration for his movie ‘The Silence’. You will also observe once you get to watch the film, the tone, colour and setting of the film being very reminiscent to Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece. It is based on a novel also titles ‘the silence’ written by Jan Costin Wagner.
The Silence is a German crime thriller film that was released in 2010. Unlike most thrillers, it does not follow a ‘whodunnit’, rather we are presented with the culprit from the very beginning. The atmosphere is dark and chilling, the story is gripping and ‘edge of the seat’. The film’s cinematography which one will notice while watching the film pays nods to several scenes from Memories of Murders.
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