When we hear the term “Korean American movie,” we may automatically think of some of Bong Joon Ho‘s famous co-productions with international companies and actors, such as Okja and Snowpiercer. This might be because Korean representation in Hollywood is so scarce. For years, Hollywood has rarely given Asian actors lead roles in films. Not to mention the many times when a script did call for an Asian actor but instead the character was whitewashed as was seen in Aloha and Ghost in the Shell. This is why it is important when Asian American films are made, especially when they are made well, to support them.

May is also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. What better way to both celebrate and educate than watch stories about Asian Americans made by Asian Americans?

Here are 10 Korean American movies to watch this AAPI Heritage month…

1. Columbus 

Columbus is the feature directorial debut of Kogonada who is best known for his video essays. He wrote, directed, and edited this drama  about a Korean man, Jin (Harold & Kumar and Star Trek‘s John Cho), who moves to Colombus, Indiana, to take care of his ill father. During this time, he develops a relationship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), who takes care of her mother.

columbus
| Depth of Field & Nonetheless Productions & Superlative Films

2. Minari

The semi-autobiographical drama Minari by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung has been making history this awards season. Youn Yuh Jung became the first Korean actress to win an Oscar for her role in the film. Set in the 1980s, Jacob (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun) moves him and his family to Arkansas to start a farm.

minari
| Plan B Entertainment & A24

3. Gook

The black-and-white film Gook is about Korean American brothers, Eli and Daniel, who become friends with an 11-year-old African American girl, Kamilla, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Justin Chon (Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior and Twilight) wrote, directed, and also stars as Eli. 

gook
| Datari Turner Productions & Birthday Soup Films & Foxtrout Studios & The Fishbowl Studios & Tunnel Post

4. Seoul Searching

Justin Chon also stars in Seoul Searching, which is directed and written by Benson Lee. Set in the summer of 1986, foreign-born Korean adolescents attend a South Korean government camp and explore their heritage.

seoul searching
| Seoul Searching & Mondo Paradiso Films & Bowery Hills Entertainment & TPS Company

5. Straight-Up

Straight-Up is an independent romantic-comedy-drama produced, directed, and written by James Sweeney. Sweeney also stars as Todd, a biracial Korean American in his 20s. The film explores topics of sexuality, love, and romance as Todd struggles with his identity. Fresh Off the Boat and WandaVision‘s Randall Park also cameos as Todd’s dad.

straightup
| Valparaiso Pictures & Particular Crowd

6. Twinsters

Twinsters is a documentary about Korean-born identical twin sisters, separated at birth. A French student in the United Kingdom, Anaïs Bordier, recognizes the physical similarity between her and actress Samantha Futerman. After realizing they have even more in common, she contacts her through social media, and they attempt to confirm that they are indeed twins.

twinsters
| Small Package Films & Ignite Channel

7. Spa Night

The drama film Spa Night focuses on closeted gay teenager David (Joe Seo), living in Koreatown, Los Angeles, who must come to terms with his sexuality. The film is especially personal to writer-director Andrew Ahn as he is a gay Korean American man like the main character.

spa night
| Nonetheless Productions & Extraordinary Renditions

8. Coming Home Again

Coming Home Again is based on a 1995 New Yorker personal essay written by Korean American novelist Chang Rae Lee, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Wayne Wang. Justin Chon stars as Changrae, who learns how to cook traditional Korean recipes from his mother, who has cancer. 

coming home again
| Center for Asian American Media

9. Never Forever

Written and directed by Gina Kim, Never Forever is a drama about an American woman Sophie Lee (Vera Farmiga), and her Korean American husband, Andrew (David Lee McInnis). When she struggles to get pregnant, she develops a relationship with undocumented Korean immigrant Jihah.

never forever 2
| Now Films & Vox3 Films

10. West 32nd

West 32nd is a mobster film in English and Korean. Directed by Michael Kang, the film focuses on the young lawyer John Kim (John Cho), who accepts a pro-bono case concerning a teenage boy who is accused of murdering a mobster.

west 32nd
| CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics & CJ Entertainment & Frontier Works Comic