Bong Joon-ho’s three favourite movies of the 21st century

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Bong Joon-ho’s three favourite movies of the 21st century

(Credits: Far Out / Alamy)

Film

Between the thrilling Memories of Murder in 2003, excursions into English language sci-fi worlds with Okja and Snowpiercer, and the award-season sweep of Parasite, Bong Joon-ho has become not only one of the most revered directors in South Korean cinema but one of the most important contemporary filmmakers in the world. 

Snowpiercer inspired a television show reboot in 2020, while Parasite, Bong’s biggest hit, became the first non-English-language feature to win the coveted ‘Best Picture’ title at the Academy Awards in 2020. A spin-off series is also currently in the works for the latter. His movies have introduced Western audiences to Asian cinema and taken award seasons by storm, so it’s safe to say that the director knows a thing or two about the current landscape.

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This knowledge extends from his own filmography to his cinematic tastes. In a poll by Sight and Sound magazine, Bong shared his three favourite works from the 21st century, which include a classic David Fincher crime thriller, an iconic apocalyptic dystopia, and an Italian-language drama. 

Bong’s first pick is Fincher’s Zodiac. Released in 2007, it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo as they search for the Zodiac Killer, a real murderer who was at large in California in the 1960s. Full of cypher puzzles and bloody murders, it’s a sophisticated mystery which, much like Bong’s own filmmaking, is both clever and tense. It’s fitting that the auteur would name another director with a penchant for thrillers on his list. 

Bong also names George Miller’s contribution to the Mad Max series, Mad Max: Fury Road. The film starred Tom Hardy as the title character and Charlize Theron as the powerful Imperator Furiosa. Perfectly toeing the line between engaging action sequences and commentary on themes of survival and feminism, Fury Road was revered by critics and audiences alike, and Bong is no exception. 

Finally, the director named Happy as Lazzaro, a film by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher, as one of his favourite cinematic masterpieces. Released in 2018, the work was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. The drama follows the title character, Lazzaro, a peasant who helps a nobleman named Tancredi to fake his own kidnapping. With its themes of class and masterful storytelling, it’s no surprise that Bong is a fan. In an interview with the BFI, he stated that it “further probes the rift between agrarian and modern life and contains one of the most dazzling twists – and tracking shots – in recent memory.”

Expectedly, Bong’s taste in modern movies focuses on complex themes, masterful filmmaking, and thrilling but thoughtful storytelling. His own filmography contains all of these elements, so it’s apt that he would admire them in his peers. When it comes to intricate thrillers with social commentary, there are few people more qualified to provide a recommendation than Bong.

Bong Joon-ho’s favourite 21st-century movies:

  • Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  • Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)

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