It's easy to see why "The Host" was, for a time, the highest-grossing South Korean movie of all time.
The movie centers on a dysfunctional family trying to save one of their own from a vicious monster living in the Han River. It's also a political critique of Americans who invade other countries without regard for the locals, and the inept bureaucracies that make every problem worse.
At its heart, though, it's a moving, funny, and thrilling story about finding family in the most unexpected places.
3. "Snowpiercer" (2013)
Bong's sci-fi masterpiece has all of the class-warfare ideas he refined in "Parasite." But here, they're scaled up to the level of a blockbuster. Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, and Tilda Swinton, "Snowpiercer" has only gotten more socially relevant with time.
It takes place in a future wrecked by climate change, where all life survives on a single train circling the globe. The poor are in the back, feeding on scraps and fighting to live. In the front are the wealthy, partying away on the last days of the planet.
With its violence, humor, and moral righteousness, it's Bong at his best.
2. "Memories of Murder" (2003)
The movie, based on a true story, is about a pair of mismatched detectives trying to crack the case of Korea's first serial killings, in the 1980s.
It established the director as a master of tonal shifts. The movie has the odd-couple comedy you'd expect. But more than that, it's a gripping procedural that digs deep into the anguish of the families of those killed and the despair of the officers unable to save the victims.
The movie was also Bong's first time working with Song Kang-ho, who later starred in "The Host," "Snowpiercer," and "Parasite."
The case was still unsolved as Bong made the movie, but South Korean authorities said they found the killer as he was campaigning for "Parasite" in September.
1. "Mother" (2009)
Bong's "Mother" is his funniest — and riskiest — endeavor. A decade later, it holds up as his best movie.
Like "Parasite" and "Memories of Murder," it takes place on a smaller scale but has Bong's signature vicious wit. In a small South Korean town, a young man with an intellectual disability is accused of murder. His mother, an elderly woman with an unlicensed acupuncture practice, tries to clear his name. The movie also had a small role for Lee Jung-eun, who later memorably played the housekeeper in "Parasite."
Bong pulls off the tricky balance of making a movie featuring a character with an intellectual disability, the righteous rage at a society that doesn't take his needs seriously, and a caring mother whose love is the beating heart of the story.
"Mother" remains his crowning achievement.