Korean dramas released in 2021 were an eclectic mix of melodramatic mysteries, dark fantasies, revenge stories, and fluffy romance. My list of the best dramas includes some hits and some dramas you might have missed. dramas likesquid gamemiHometown Cha-Cha-Chait dominated the charts and needs no introduction, but viewers may not have picked up on some of the things that follow yet.
1.true beauty.Can makeup videos teach you to love your bare face? Ju-kyung, played by Moon Ga-young, is bullied at school and develops an inferiority complex about her appearance. When she learns makeup and transfers to another school, she becomes popular enough to attract two handsome students, played by Hwang In-yeop and Cha Eun-woo. But would you love her if you saw her face without her adornment? Why Watch: Moon's comic book-loving character, ripped straight from a web comic, is hilarious.
2.Beyond evilStar Shin Ha-kyun won the Best Actor award at the 2021 Baeksang Awards for his brilliant performance in this dark drama about a serial killer and his complicated ties to a small town. Yeo Jin-goo plays the detective who believes that Shin, a fellow detective, is complicit in the murders. The story explores the definition of evil, slowly revealing the ways in which the villagers are linked to crimes. Why watch: Shin's facial expressions are terrifying.
3.navillera. Is there an age limit for your dreams? Not for Shim Deok-chul, 70, played by Park In-hwan. He wants to learn ballet, so he approaches Lee Chae-rok, played by Song Kang, a talented young dancer who is discouraged with his own career. Why watch it: A scene where Park dances in the snow may be one of the most adorable scenes ever filmed in dramas. It is one of many moving scenes.
4.VincenzoAt first it's hard to know what to do withVicente,a story about a Korean lawyer working for the mafia, but that's part of what makes it addictive. The drama joyfully switches genres multiple times while paying cinematic homage toThe Godfather, Carrie, Birdsand other movies. Why see it? The drama contains many scandalous scenes that are both over the top and dramatic. Song Joong-ki, Jeon Yeo-been, and Ok Taecyeon embody their cartoon characters, and the eccentric supporting cast is quite funny.
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5.sell your haunted houseit wins a mention due to the clever premise. There are people who exorcise ghosts and there are people who fix up real estate for a quick sale, but Jang Nara's managed real estate finds out why ghosts make a property unsaleable, so he dumps them and makes a sale. She hires a con man who claims to see ghosts, played by Jung Yong-hwa. Why see it? Jang Nara as a woman living with the ghost of her mother is very relatable, even if you don't believe in ghosts.
6.move to the sky. The ex-con played by Lee Je-hoon thinks he's headed for an easy street since he inherits everything from his older brother, but what he inherits is his autistic nephew, skillfully played by Tang Joon-sang, and his business, which they clean up the remains of the sometimes anonymous dead. Why see it? There is something very moving about the respect with which Tang's character helps resolve the stories of the departed.
7.than youthThis drama takes place against the backdrop of the Gwangju Uprising. In 1980, student protests broke out in Korea and were tragically met with violence. Kim Myeong-hee, played by Go Min-si, goes on a blind date as a surrogate for her rich friend and meets Hwang Hee-tae, a medical student played by Lee Do-hyun. They're perfect for each other, but they have little chance of being together before they get caught in the crossfire. Why watch:than youthputs a human face on the tragic aftermath of the uprising, while telling a universal story.
8.Miit's a dark fairy tale as well as a highly stylized mystery. Lee Bo-young plays a popular actress who has married into a chaebol family. She's just as cheerful as Snow White, but the other family members are alternately lazy, greedy, quarrelsome, and downright mean. When someone is killed, there are so many possible villains. The chaebol family lives in a museum-sized mansion, filled with lots of red apples and poisoned relationships. The curse of wealth and power threatens the romance between the prince of the family and Cinderella's maiden. Why see it? The designer clothes that Lee and Kim So-hyung wear are enviably stylish and expensive. It's a fun mystery and also a story of sisterhood and female empowerment.
9.My roommate is a gumiho. This sweet and cute drama might remind youBeauty and the BeastoTwilight,Korean style. While the supernatural story explores the tried-and-true k-drama cliché of very different people, or in this case, a human and a gumiho, being forced to live together, it does so with a light touch and a great cast. Why see it? There is attractive chemistry between the leads Jang Ki-yong and Lee Hyeri. Supporting actors Kang Han-na, Bae In-hyuk, and Kim Do-wan laugh a lot. It's obvious everyone had fun filming.
10The Devil's Judgetakes place in a dystopian future, a time when corruption is rampant and the poor definitely feel abused. Sounds familiar? That's why The show takes place in the future, when a televised court hands down unexpected verdicts against the rich and powerful, drawing massive public support. Ji Sung plays the so-called "evil judge" and GOT7's Jinyoung is a fellow judge who begins to doubt his ethics. Why see it? Strong performances and the parody of some political realities too close for comfort make it worth it. The drama offers a glimpse into a dystopian future filled with giant screens that eerily echo the present.
11Lost,starring Ryu Jun-yeol and Jeon Do-yeon, it didn't get the ratings it deserved because the plot was so melancholy for so long that many viewers lost hope. This is ironic because it is a story about people who have lost hope and how a random personal encounter eventually makes their lives worth living. Why Watch: The melancholic romantic drama packs some luscious cinematic scenes and memorable lines, as well as great performances from the stars.
12A woman.This daring story about a tough-talking prosecutor raised by mobsters begins with a pretty incredible premise. After a car accident, Honey Lee's character wakes up and she believes that she is the rich woman she always dreamed of being. To complicate matters, her chaebol's new family also thinks the same. Lee's charming comedic chops make even the wildest scenario believable, and she strikes up great chemistry with her co-star Lee Sang-yoon. Why watch: Honey Lee takes down a gang without breaking a fingernail. Lee's side eye is memorable.
13DPexplores hazing in the South Korean military, a topic that has received renewed attention since 2011. Jung Hae-in plays a soldier who enlists to hunt down deserters, partly in an effort to avoid being bullied. In his military role, he must chase down some soldiers who are fleeing from bullying. Why Watch: The drama painfully documents what can drive some military personnel to defect. Jung Hae-in gives a thoughtful performance as a man determined to do his duty despite his own doubts.
14Melancholiais the story of a math prodigy traumatized by his past. Mathematics is the most exciting thing imaginable for him, but he is afraid to be good at the subject in which he is talented. A kind math teacher, played by Lim Soo-jung, changes her life at the expense of her own reputation. She's been a good teacher, but when the two talk about math, it's hard not to see sparks fly. Why Watch: Lee Do-hyun gives a subtle performance as the math prodigy and viewers will love to hate the drama's many rich and quirky characters.
15.reflection of youat the beginning ofreflection of you, a painter, played by Ko Hyun-jung, throws a body into the river. The melancholic mystery of beauty makes you wonder what the character's body is and keeps you wondering. It is Shin Hyun-bi, who plays the former friend and current enemy of the painter. Or is it Choi Won-young, who plays her husband, deceptively nice of her? It could also be Kim Jae-young, her impulsive ex-lover. Why see it? Great acting overall, including Choi who was so good as a dangerous husband inMy dangerous wife.Also,wuthering heightsfans may find it deliciously dark.
sixteen.red sleeve. This year there were a lot of funny historical dramas, historical dramas with zombies, demons, royal inspectors and princesses in costumes, butred sleevereinterpreted the story of some royal royals.red sleevetells the story of King Jeongjo and his concubine Uibin Sung, who came to the palace as a lady of the court. The king's father, Prince Sado, was sentenced to starve to death in a rice chest, accused of murdering members of the court. In addition to dealing with the trauma of his father's death and the erratic behavior of his grandfather, the future King Jeongjo, played by 2PM's Lee Jun-ho, is hated by a secret society of court ladies. His only true friend is a highly intelligent court lady, played by Lee Se-young. Why Watch: Both actors create likeable and relatable characters. Lee Se-young's character transcends the limited options of women during the 18th century.
17police universityoffers an upbeat story about second chances. B1A4's Jinyoung plays a young hacker who gets into the police academy due to his crush on a female colleague, played by Krystal Jung. He was pardoned for his crimes by a hot-tempered policeman, comically played by Cha Tae-hyun. Cha's character turns out to be his master and he is determined to be tough on him. Why see it? While this drama unfortunately spends too much time on product placement, it still offers plenty of good old fashioned, catch the bad guys and redeem yourself fun.
18Hola.The comedy asks you to consider what you can say to your 17-year-old self. And imagine what that 17-year-old me might think of the older version of you. Would the 17-year-old be satisfied with the result or completely disappointed? Choi Kang-hee plays a woman whose life is in disarray until a freak accident finds her taking care of her younger self. That younger self, played by Lee Re, isn't impressed, but ends up helping her older self get her life back on track. Why see it? In addition to the deliciously silly premise, there's a hilarious performance from Eum Moon-suk as a jaded celebrity.
19here is my plan. With only four episodes, this MBC drama might have been easy to miss, but it had a lot to say. The series stars Kim Hwan-hee as a petty criminal who is a high school dropout. Ryu Soo-young plays the owner of a chicken restaurant, who decides to help the troubled teenager, but is convinced that he is his father and his life must be destroyed. Helping her may be more difficult than he thought. If this sounds like a Disney animated sitcom, it's not. Changing your life is hard. Why see it? The script won the Outstanding Work Award at the 2020 MBC Drama Script Contest. It features fresh camera work, a fun soundtrack, and a great performance by Kim.
20Doctor Brain.This highly stylized sci-fi mystery is the first original Korean content produced for Apple TV+. Lee Sun-kyun plays a scientist trying to access the memories of the deceased. While this can be useful, it is also dangerous, as the experiments transfer more than just memories. Lee's character becomes convinced that his son, who supposedly died in an accident, is still alive. The only way to find it is through brain synchronization. Why See: The cinematographer's underwater color palette is gorgeous, and the plot is a quirky mix of comics. Be careful. For a k-drama.brain doctorfeatures an unusual amount of shooting.
This list only includes dramas that were ongoing as of mid-December 2021.