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7 Movies like Oldboy (2003): Visceral Cinema

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Andy_McKendry_itcher_contributor When Korean cinema is discussed it’s often thanks to Oldboy (2003). It’s an influential film, it has a challenging and dark narrative, and it presents a story that’s intoxicating yet frightening. If you want more twisty mind bending cinema then here are some movies like Oldboy. ~ Andy McKendry

Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy (or the original film) is much better than the recent remake. It’s chilling, violent, and at times stomach churning but it has a narrative that is full of surprises – although often unpleasant ones.Here are some visceral films similar to Oldboy for you to enjoy.

‘Berberian Sound Studio’ (Peter Strickland, 2012)

A homage to Italian Giallo horror films from the 1970s, Peter Strickland directs a creepy and twisted tale led by a strong performance from Toby Jones. Berberian Sound Studio is an unconventional film full of twists and tropes associated with the horror genre.

The story follows a sound engineer who tortures people to get the sounds he needs for the films that he makes. It’s a psychological film and although there is a definite subtext (and allusions to other texts) Berberian Sound Studio can be enjoyed at its surface value.

A similar fish out of water tale, Berberian Sound Studio interrogates the line between fantasy and reality with horrifying consequences.

‘Holy Motors’ (Leos Carax, 2012)

This surreal French film joins Oldboy on this list because of its strange and uncertain narrative. The story navigates the streets of Paris in a semi-scripted state and it finds a challenging edge as the film progresses.

Beautiful and mesmerising, Holy Motors flits from emotion to emotion and it changes its tone just as quickly too. It’s a journey into a strange melancholic world, one that seems to exist in the half-light, and although it’s a confusing piece of cinema it’s also fulfilling.

Holy Motors shares a similar tone to Oldboy and its narrative follows a similar journey into the darker places that humanity hides within.

‘Enter the Void’ (Gasper Noe, 2009)

In Tokyo a young American drug dealer is killed by the police and his soul drifts around the city in a disembodied form. That’s the plot of Gaspar Noe’s delirious Enter the Void and it deals in equal parts with the notion of physical death and death in a more abstract sense too – that of the ego.

Noe focuses his narrative on the illusory world of DMT suggesting that our drug dealer’s after death experience is a form of tripping. Our bodies produce DMT when we die and this forms the backdrop for Enter the Void’s narrative.

A film that documents life (however brief) after death and sharing a similar metaphorical journey of rebirth as Oldboy, Enter the Void is a sensory filmic experience like no other.

‘Altered States’ (Ken Russell, 1980)

Starring William Hurt, Altered States is a trippy movie with a muddled narrative, atmospheric score, and a reliance on unusual plot developments. It’s a film that leaves viewers less informed as it progresses and its hallucinogenic sequences are designed to induce a similar perspective to the protagonist’s.

It’s an extravagant film and one that doesn’t really make much sense. But that’s sort of the point and you should approach Altered States as a sensory experience rather than a narrative film.

A claustrophobic film similar to Oldboy, Altered States questions reality rather than explores human action and reaction.


If You like Oldboy You’ll like…

I’ve considered some films that are akin to Oldboy but I’ve shunned the revenge genre. Instead I’ve deliberately focused on its strange narrative and it’s mind bending twists and turns. Let’s consider some other movies like Oldboy that are similar on an even more tangential and visceral level.

‘Eraserhead’ (David Lynch, 1977)

This early Lynch film is deeply unsettling in its weirdness and its edgy soundtrack doesn’t make things any more palatable either.

Eraserhead will make you uneasy with its black and white imagery, bizarre plot, and horrific soundtrack.

‘Sev7n’ (David Fincher, 1995)

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star as two cops chasing a serial killer.

The third act of Sev7n is much the same as Oldboy’s – the truth comes out and it’s evil.

‘I Saw the Devil’ (Kim Jee-woon, 2010)

A vicious little film, I Saw the Devil is overtly violent – and it revels in it.

A tale of revenge meted out with cold calculation and sadistic violence ensures that I Saw the Devil is very similar to Oldboy in terms of narrative structure.


My Thoughts

As a Film graduate I can’t help but look at film through a critical lens and the above recommendations are all (in my opinion) great films to watch.However for me one stands out and it’s Gasper Noe’s Enter the Void. Its story of a DMT induced vision of Tokyo, its stunning visuals, and its sublime camerawork mark it out as a clever and truly innovative piece of cinema.

Let me know your thoughts with a comment below.



I’m a writer. It’s what I do and what I′ve always done. As a child I wrote on walls with a crayon. Now I write for websites. I write for my blog where I post reviews of films, TV, and occasionally write short stories and I also run a writer and illustration collective. Whatever I do involves words, and plenty of them. I’m an avid cinephile, a screenwriter, and I love telling stories. I have an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, UK, and I work on a freelance basis and drink far too much coffee.
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