Winning streak: The Moon Is… The Sun’s Dream (1992), Trio (1997), Joint Security Area (2000), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006), Thirst (2009)
Even if you've never seen Park Chan-wook's cult favorite Oldboy, there's a strong chance that you've at least heard of the film. And if you are part of that inexperienced bunch, do yourself a favor and consult Netflix immediately.
In addition to having one of the best movie twists of all time, Oldboy fires on all cylinders as a visceral, emotional, and punishing examination of redemption gone wrong; for every poignant moment of catharsis for its protagonist, a man freed from a wrongful imprisonment and on a war path to hurt those who set him up, Chan-wook lets actor Choi Min-sik have it, via a brilliant one-take hallway fight sequence and a grisly marriage of scissors and a tongue.
As Oldboy makes clear in every frame, Chan-wook is a fearless director, and it's that same lack of self-limitation that effectively pervades the perennially underrated South Korean filmmaker's oeuvre. It's there in Oldboy's "Vengeance Trilogy" counterparts, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and it's also present in his stabs into other genres, like 2006's bizarre rom-com I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK and the nifty vampire comedy/love story Thirst.
Admit it, you weren't expecting to see Park Chan-wook on this list. It's cool, his time under the mainstream's spotlight has yet to come, though it may very well be on the horizon. Chan-wook's next film will be his English-language debut, Stoker, starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode (Watchmen), and Dermot Mulroney (American Horror Story). Expect tons of critical adoration and well-deserved Hollywood exposure for its shotcaller.