K-Drama is finally getting the recognition and audience it richly deserves. But sometimes too much choice is as challenging as too little. At the forefront of Korean entertainment in the US, Netflix hosts over 130 Korean titles at last count. On one hand, the abundance of options is amazing; on the other hand, so many choices can be daunting, if not paralyzing. For both the veteran and the K-Drama neophyte, we’re here to help. If you’re stumped on what to watch next, check out a few of our favorites.
The list is in order of release date with the most recent K-Dramas listed first.
1. Our Blues (2022)
Modern life for Koreans has some unique ups and downs. Korean women now dominate the LPGA but not all talented athletes have wealthy parents who can support the training. Many parents go deeply into debt to pay for the training required for success and such is the life Choi Han-soo, a salary man who has run out of options to borrow money and moves back to his hometown of Jeju Island.
Han-soo’s return to his hometown is a journey that is mirrored by several other characters in this expansive ensemble cast series. With over a dozen “main” leads, “Our Blues” explores what it means to go back home at different stages of life. What do love, security and family mean at pivotal moments when the odds seem stacked against you?
Featuring an all-star cast and the gorgeous backdrop of Jeju Island, “Our Blues” follows compelling characters at different crossroads. Life may get you down but you can always find a reason to celebrate if you’ve got the right people sharing your adventure.
2. Our Beloved Summer (2022)
Pretty Girl meets Handsome Boy, too bad they’re polar opposites. The plot starts with two high schoolers participating in a documentary together. Yun-Soo and Woong cannot stand each other, at first. But they are nevertheless drawn together and drawn to each other. “Our Beloved Summer” captures how a small project can turn into so much more.
3. Twenty-Five, Twenty-One (2022)
If you are looking for a retro drama that will bring back the butterflies of falling in love for the first time, you’re in luck. Hee-Do and Yi-Jin fall in love in a way you may not have seen before. Their love is pure, sweet and genuine – however, it is something that is new to both of them. This refreshing love story is worth bingeing. The ending has proven to be somewhat controversial but when the final credits roll, you’ll be glad you got to re-experience first love through the eyes of Hee-Do and Yi-Jin.
4. Juvenile Justice (2022)
A judge, with a reputation for harsh justice, finds herself newly appointed to a juvenile court. In her tough interpretation of law, there is no mercy– even toward minors. As the judge finds herself dealing with complex and challenging cases, will her attitudes and conviction remain unchanged? Juvenile Justice will leave you questioning the boundaries of your own moral compass and re-examining what’s fair versus what’s right in the eyes of the law.
5. Squid Game (2021)
This drama has earned accolades and smashed all previous benchmarks in viewership. Squid Game is a worldwide phenomenon and still claims the top spot as Netflix’s most watched series (1.65 billion hours in its first four weeks). The main protagonist, Ki-Hoon, is a man who is drowning in debt and needs a way out. He gets scouted by a strange man on a subway. Days later, Ki-Hoon finds himself playing Korean children’s games that could win him a spectacular grand prize… or cost him his life. This unflinching, and at times grisly, drama shows how far capitalism could push us. If you are one of the few who have not seen this series already, you will be hooked within the first 10 minutes.
6. Racket Boys (2021)
Teenagers, what do they know, right? Wrong. Apparently teenagers know more and think more deeply than we give them credit for. This drama follows Racket Boys, a middle school badminton team in a rural area, through their highs and lows. They are not particularly high-achieving or remarkable, but things quickly change when Hae-Kang joins the team. As you watch the drama, you will quickly find yourself cheering for Racket Boys. Come prepared to relive your teenage years through these guys.
7. Move to Heaven (2021)
A young boy with autism works as a trauma cleaner alongside his good-for-nothing uncle. It’s a dark family business, packing up dead people’s possessions and unearthing the stories attached to people no longer among the living. Along the way, they redefine what a family can be, whether they like it or not. This drama will humble and fascinate you by stretching the scope of what you think of as work and family.
8. Nevertheless (2021)
Jae-Eon is your ultimate player. He’s the guy you wish you hadn’t fallen for, but cannot resist. But wait, could he be a good guy after all? Jae-Eon and Na-Bi meet, and while the conclusion may not be a surprise, the journey is still a great ride. If you’re in the mood for a visually enriching, intoxicating love story that is based on a college campus, this one is worth checking out. And as a bonus, its soundtrack will make your ears happy.
9. My Name (2021)
If you’re up for an action-packed noir crime drama, this one will surprise you. A beautiful young woman, Ji Woo, finds herself working as a spy for an underground world of gangs after her father is brutally murdered. Vengeful and magnificent, Ji Woo is ready to do whatever it takes to find the culprit of her father’s murder. Will she succeed? You’ll have to watch to find out.
10. Hospital Playlist Season 1 and 2 (2020)
We all have our core group of friends. Now imagine working with them and playing in a band with them. This drama highlights friendship among five friends (who met in medical school) and what it means to figure out life together as adults in their 40s. The chemistry among the characters is insanely relatable even though they happen to be prestigious doctors. When not in scrubs and crocs, they rock out in a band called “Mido and Parasol.”
11. When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
Let’s imagine: you are an orphan and a single mom in the country’s oceanside. Life seems to want to grind you into dust every chance it gets. Many might be overwhelmed by such circumstances but Camelia is not like other women. This drama focuses on a young woman who is trying her best to get by when she becomes an eye witness to a famous serial killer, the Joker. Camelia navigates treacherous waters the best she can while dealing with prejudice and life itself. She is charming, sometimes pathetic, but wonderfully herself. If you are in the mood for a pick-me-up, this one will do the trick.
12. Mr. Sunshine (2018)
This K-Drama follows a Korean-born slave, Eugene Choi, who revisits Korea as a military officer at Korea’s historical turning point in the early 1900s. During his time in Korea, Eugene falls in love with a Korean aristocrat’s daughter, Ae-Shin. While focusing on the history of Korea, it unveils the harsh as well as humane parts of the culture through the lens of Eugene Choi.
13. My Mister (2018)
If you feel beaten down by the weight of life, this one will touch you deeply. Don’t let the title fool you. This K-Drama follows a recent high school graduate, Ji-An, who is doing everything she possibly can to fight poverty while taking care of her deaf grandmother. Ji-An is tough, mysterious and dark. But life becomes a little more interesting, worth living and warmer when she develops a friendship with a man who is similarly tackling the more somber aspects of life. If you feel like circumstances in your own world could not get worse, check out this drama. You may find comfort, or at least distraction, in submerging yourself in someone else’s hardship.
14. Because This Is My First Life (2017)
Two singles meet as roommates; that’s how it all starts. This duo share two common goals in life: to get married and to be homeowners. But one cannot possibly accomplish these goals alone; so why not get married and get halfway toward meeting their primary objectives? Through their journey, these two learn that marriage is more than just a title and convenience. You’ll have to watch to find out what awaits this goal-oriented partnership.
15. Reply 1988 (2015)
The year is 1988 and Korea is the place to be. The economy is booming, the Olympics are happening and dreams are being pursued. In this series, the story is set in a small neighborhood in Ssang Mun Dong. Seen through the perspectives of high school best friends and the dysfunctional families found in this tight-knit neighborhood, this drama charmingly tells a story of Korea in the 80s.
Check out our full review of Reply 1988.
Whatever mood or genre you are drawn to, this top 15 Netflix K-Drama list has something for everyone to enjoy. But be warned, there’s a high probability that you’ll be sucked into the world of K-Dramas and be left yearning for more. Thankfully the popularity of K-Dramas appears to be on the rise as studios race to keep up with demand and we’ll be back with more updates to this list.