[I get requests for recommendations all the time so I thought I’d make a few posts that would at least attempt to answer those. Keep in mind, these are MY recommendations. My favorites are not always the most popular so, please, take it with a grain a salt. I’ll start with the dramas (separated by country). Later on I will post Movie Recommendations (will also be separated by country). Enjoy!!]
KDramas (by year):
Autumn in My Heart (2000) - Serious tearjerker but a classic nonetheless. This series started the careers of MANY Korean actors. I feared for my tear ducts after watching this one but a classic like this one should never be missed. Ever.
Beautiful Days(2001) - CLASSIC. VERY angsty. But a classic that can’t be missed.
Winter Sonata (2002) - Words are unnecessary. Any drama viewer worth their salt has/will watch this. You can’t claim to be drama fan without watching this. You just…can’t. Winter Sonata is universal.
Ruler of Your Own World (2002) - This was one of those early 2000s, “Generation X” series that was simply about being, well, the ruler of your own world. In other words, it spoke/still speaks to the younger generation that is desperate to break free from the beaten path that society has laid out for us. It also touches on the fact that it is never too late to change your life and refusing to be defined by your past mistakes. It’s melodramatic but the overall series is wonderful. I warn you now that it’s not a constant stream of happiness but if you want something that is thought provoking I would turn this one on. Also, the acting is AMAZING.
Attic Cat (2003) - Try not to fall in love with Kim Rae-won in this series. You won’t be able to do it but you can try. This isn’t your typical drama so some of you may get frustrated with the pace while watching but it’s very funny.
Love Story in Harvard (2004) - Classic romance. Kim Rae-won was charming. Kim Tae-hee was beautiful. You will hate them by the time you finish this one. But only because you’ll love them so much.
Full House (2004) - A drama that doesn’t need to be explained. A classic that must not be missed.
Sorry I Love You (2004) - Dramatic but definitely a classic. I was a little burnt out on the melodramas when I watched the first time but when I watched it the second time around and I was completely enthralled.
Lovers in Paris (2004) - The first chapter of the Lovers trilogy and also my favorite. Both Kim Jung-eun and Park Shin-yang were charming together and because Park Shin-yang’s character was so direct the romance itself felt honest. While the other characters had secrets, the main couple had none and that was refreshing. I still watch this one from time to time.
My Girl (2005) - Funny. Charming. Romantic without being cheesy. The second Hong Sisters drama. You’ll love Lee Da-hae. You’ll lust Lee Dong-wook. A MUST SEE.
Delightful Girl, Choon-hyang (2005) - I never feel like there’s a need to explain why this makes my recommendation list so I’ll just say if you haven’t seen it yet, see it. ASAP. Jeez, 2005 was a good drama year!
My Lovely Sam-soon (2005) - Any recommendation list I make starts with this series and only because this is the series that started my drama obsession. It also remains my favorite Korean drama. Kim Sun-ah remains my favorite actress while Hyun-bin remains my first Hallyu crush. For me, everything leads back to My Lovely Sam-soon.
Goong (2006) - Do I really need to explain this one? I usually recommend this one for beginners but I think anyone who watches dramas should have this on their seen list. A MUST SEE.
Couple of Fantasy (2006) - This wasn’t my favorite Hong Sisters series but it was VERY funny. I went in with low expectations but I was quickly surprised with how funny it was.
Bad Family (2006) - If you like dysfunctional families of the Arrested Development persuasion (like me), then you’ll like this one. It also helped that it had a stellar cast of seasoned actors that excelled in comedic timing. If it helps, it also stars Hee-chul (of Super Junior fame) who was actually quite funny.
Goodbye Solo (2006) - It’s rare to find people that name this as one of their favorites but I have a soft spot for dramas that try to convey a deep message about excepting yourself and finding others that except you for who you are. Do I want to be preached to all the time? No. But between the writing and the acting (especially Chun Jung Myung) I enjoyed this series.
Evasive Inquiry Agency (2007) - A little off kilter and not nearly as popular as I wish it was but very funny. If you have some time to kill and are looking for something different, check this one out.
The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (2007) - This series is also one that doesn’t need an explanation. I will say that while this is not my absolute favorite drama I hold a soft spot for this series for three HUGE reasons: 1)the music, 2)Gong Yoo, and 3) Lee Sun-kyun. As far as I’m concerned, those three reasons are enough to include this drama in any recommendation list.
Dal Ja’s Spring (2007) - GREAT romantic comedy. I fell in love with Chae-rim during this series. A MUST SEE.
Que Sera Sera (2007) - I LOVE Eric Mun. No, I LUST Eric Mun. Before he left to serve his military service he starred in this series and, frankly, I hate him for it. As soon as it built you up, it tore you back down. It was emotional and it dealt with the pain that comes with love and that is not what we usually watch dramas for. It left me an emotional wreck and, even after it was done, I wanted more. Between the great actors, the great music selection, and the great script it became an instant favorite of mine. He better come back and make up for the emotional distress he left me in. That’s all I’m saying.
Last Scandal (2008) - Surprisingly funny. I remember that I had no plans to watch this and then one quiet night I found it and I was immediately hooked. If you like lovingly bickering couples then I would watch this one.
Beethoven Virus(2008) - This was very popular and for good reason. I won’t say too much about it because you could do a simple search and thousands of results will pop up but just know that it’s very good. Between the production and the acting, it deserved all the attention and awards it got. Also, any drama with Jang Geun-suk is always welcome.
Boys Before Flowers (2009) - I can’t say this is my favorite version in the Hana Yori Dango franchise but I watched it and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I don’t think the series matches the unparalleled popularity it has received but it got MANY people to start watching dramas and I can appreciate that. It also made me a fan of all of the F4 actors. I usually recommend this one for drama beginners so if you fall under that category I’d check it out.
City Hall(2009) - I’ve already mentioned I LOVE Kim Sun-ah so this was automatically on my watch list before it began. It’s a great romantic comedy. Not only because it was written by Kim Eun-sook (The Lovers Trilogy, Hello! Miss, On Air) but also because the chemistry between Kim Sun-ah and Cha Seung-won was ELECTRIFYING. The excessive political dialogue might feel overwhelming but, give it time, that starts to calm down as time goes by.
Iris (2009) - Between the drawn out hype, the ridiculous budget, and the HOT actors, I had no choice but to watch this one. And I’m glad I did. Hot guys, explosives, plot twists, and bad ass female characters…you now have no reason not to watch Iris.
Shining Inheritance (2009) - I LOVE Shining Inheritance. LOVE. It was one the biggest surprises of the year for me. It was well written and well executed. Han Hyo-joo and Lee Seung-gi were wonderful as the main love interests and this series made me a bonified fan of both of them.
You’re Beautiful (2009) - I have to admit that I COMPLETELY underestimated this one. I don’t know why. I’m well aware of the Hong Sisters and their talent in writing. I think it was because the clips that I saw were so cheesy that I was instantly turned off. Little did I know that that same cheesiness was what would make the series so charming and hilarious. I think it was promoted a little too much and it suffered from overexposure but I consider this an entertaining series. Plus the young cast was so much fun!! Especially the guys. Although, they were more fun to look at if anything : )
Invincible Lee Pyung Kang (2009) - Another series that wasn’t as popular as I wish it had been but I had a lot of fun watching it. It’s pure fluff and very predictable but Nam Sang-mi and Ji Hyun-woo were hilarious together. If you have the time make sure to check it out.
Oh! My Lady (2010) - If you’re already following FYAD then this is no surprise. It’s slightly predictable and it doesn’t pick up until episode 3 or 4 but it’s VERY entertaining. You will be shocked (because I was) at how well Choi Si-won does with his first leading role. While his character is immensely selfish, Choi Si-won is charming enough to make you like him even before the inevitable transformation begins. Kim Rae-won needs to come back soon if he wants to keep his title of “Drama’s Most Charming Actor”.
Pasta (2010) - Another non-shocker. In my opinion, this is one of the best dramas of this year so far. They took a simple plot, gave it a great script, wonderful actors, and, most importantly, two leads (Gong Hyo-jin & Lee Sun-gyun) that were chock full of chemistry. The fact that they are great actors only solidified their inevitable spot as one of the best drama couples ever. Some may feel that the simplicity of the plot made the series itself feel redundant, but if you appreciate quality dramas then I would watch this one.
Personal Preference (2010) - Just…watch it. I have no words for how good it is. All I can say is watch it.
Coffee House (2010) - The ratings may be slowly rising but I’ve been hooked on this one since the beginning. It’s clever, funny, charming, and I find that I find immense joy in guessing where the (so far) unpredictable writers will go next. I’m REALLY enjoying guessing which characters will ultimately make a connection.
Bad Guy (2010) - I believe the mystery that envelopes this drama makes it the great watch that it is so I think it’s only fair to follow it’s example by simply saying WATCH IT.
I Am Legend (2010) - I was going to skip this series because Kim Sun-ah (aka my fav actress) had to drop out of this drama as the lead. Although, it is genuinely entertaining. The plot is engrossing, you become emotionally invested in the main characters because they are so likable, and, most importantly, it is inspiring. It also has some GREAT music. I HIGHLY recommend this one.
My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox (2010): The Hong sisters have done it again! Not only did they write a solid romantic comedy, but the chemistry between their leads, Lee Seung-gi and Shin Min-ah, made this series charming and engrossing from start to finish. I warn you now that your attempts to guess the ending will be exhausting, but, trust me, it’s all worth it in the end.
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010): Many viewers were interested in this series because it starred TVXQ’s Micky Yoochun, but, even if you go in a fan, you’ll soon realize that the series, as a whole, is quite entertaining. This series is actually based on a very famous novel and, while many dramas based on novels have a tendency to fall short, this series does not disappoint. It also helps that the young cast’s awesome comradery they share in real life shows in the series.
Dae Mul (2010): I won’t lie to you: The political terminology may kill you if you are not fluent in Korean. I usually watch these series without the subs, but I was forced to wait for the subs because the dialogue was so complicated. That being said, this is an excellent drama. Great acting, great writing, and definitely worth the watch if you want something to get emotionally invested in. While the series is based on the manga of the same name that was published in the eighties, it actually deals with present day issues. If you are new to the drama world, I would hold off before watching this one. While it is definitely a “must watch”, it may scare you a little into thinking it’s heavy plotline and heavier dialogue are typical of a drama. It’s not, but the quality found in this drama should be applied to every drama produced.
Secret Garden (2010): Immensely popular and for good reason. This series was the perfect series to end 2010, a year that didn’t exactly offer memorable dramas. Helmed by the same team behind The Lovers Trilogy, On Air, and City Hall, this series combined romance, comedy, fantasy, and melodrama. This many genres in one drama could have caused some serious damage, but the series managed to come out entertaining and, most importantly, addictive. The cast was amazing (the chemistry between Ha Ji-won and Hyun Bin was electric) and series offered memorable scenes in every episode. Expect some gut wrenching angst towards the end, but, overall, this series was all fun.
I think the Four Seasons dramas set the stage for all subsequent kdrama cliches. At the time it was quite addicting, despite an ending that made contemplate murder. Such a delicious love triangle, and Won Bin is everything a second male lead needs to be to steal the show - charming, romantic, utterly in love, heartbroken - all while looking like a male model.
Also, side note - Moon Geun Young delivered one of her best as the child actor here - all fans need to check it out.
I fell in love with Won Bin’s character in Autumn in My Heart years ago, but that was way before I was into obsessing over hot asian guys and asian music, entertainment, and etc. Back then, I was just into the drama for the story and I remember how much I cried watching that. I wasn’t even aware of kpop or korean actors and actresses back then. Years later after getting in the “Hallyu Wave” as they say, and on an impulse, I rewatched it and cried my heart out yet again…
And after seeing his bad-ass side in The Man From No Where, how he interacts with the little girl off screen, his cfs, and other movies… I have officially fallen head over heels for this “ahjussi.” He is so dreamy, sexy, down-to-earth, and an amazing actor. And look at that smile! Who wouldn’t love him?