“The Handmaiden” was without a doubt one of the best films from 2016 and probably competes with “Oldboy” for the title of best Park Chan-wook film.
This tale of revenge from 2016 – which could easily be considered a fourth installment in The Revenge Trilogy that has “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002), “Oldboy” (2003) and “Lady Vengeance” (2005) – has powerful performances by Min-hee Kim and Tae-ti Kim and one of the best scripts of this decade.
The film follows the story of Sookee (Tae-ti), a girl who wants to help a criminal to steal the fortune of a Japanese woman during the Japanese occupation in Korea in the 1930s. She is hired to be the handmaiden for this Japanese heiress, but Lady Hideko (Min-hee) does not know she is part of a plan to steal her fortune. As they get closer, will Sookee be able to proceed with her plan?
“The Handmaiden” approaches many themes and has so many layers that this list will try to recommend films that might dialogue with this film in one or more of them. Revenge, love, unreliable narrators, violence and many others are present in the films recommended on this list as it is in “The Handmaiden.”
It is important to keep in mind that many aspects interfere in the choice of the titles present on this article but, as usual, memory and personal preferences are the main factors. If you think any other film should be on this list, please leave it as a recommendation in the comments section below.
So, here are 10 movies you should watch if you liked The Handmaiden.
Author’s note: As an article to recommend films that have some of the themes and approaches of “The Handmaiden” could be very similar to the article I wrote about “Oldboy,” no movie that appeared on that list appears on this one, even though a few movies from that list could be on this one and vice versa. If you want to check out the list about 10 Movies You Should Watch if You Liked Oldboy, click here.
10. Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock)
Well, Alfred Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense for a reason.
This Oscar-winning film follows the story of a woman (Joan Fontaine) who’s tormented by the memory of Rebecca, the first wife of her husband who died in a tragic accident one year before. When she moves with Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) to Manderley after they get married, she starts to notice that everybody in their house still has an unusual connection with Rebecca.
With great performances from Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, the movie won two Oscars at the 13th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Cinematography (Black & White), and was the film that opened the 1st Berlin International Film Festival.
“Rebecca” is also the first American project by director Alfred Hitchcock and one of the best in his career. For being further proof of how much of a master Hitchcock was, and being an important mark in the career of the Master of Suspense, “Rebecca” is a movie that should definitely be watched.
9. Belle de Jour (1967, Luis Buñuel)
Luis Buñuel’s possible masterpiece, “Belle de Jour” is a classic from the 1960s starring Catherine Deneuve in one of her most iconic roles.
The movie follows Severine (Deneuve), a woman married to a doctor who cannot be intimate with him physically. She has many fantasies to satisfy her sexual desires and, even though she loves her husband, she really cannot be intimate with him. Staying chaste in her marriage, one day she starts to work in a brothel in the afternoon.
With an amazing performance by Deneuve, a great storyline and many, many psychological layers in it, “Belle de Jour” is definitely a masterpiece from European cinema that is really mandatory for any cinephile. One of cinema’s greatest classics.
8. All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
One of the best movies from the 1950s, “All About Eve” is a drama written and directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz that happens in the backstage of New York’s theatre scene.
The movie follows the story of Eve (Anne Baxter), a young woman who finds her way into the company of an acclaimed actress and her friends from the theater. But perhaps her apparently innocent intentions are not as innocent as people might believe.
With amazing performances from Anne Baxter and Bette Davis, the movie has amazing dialogue scenes and a great way of alternating the chronology of events by intercalating the scenes from an awards event where Eve is being honored, with the scenes that show how she became the actress she was at that date.
“All About Eve” is a movie that won the Jury Prize and the Best Actress Award for Bette Davis at the Cannes Film Festival and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is definitely among the greatest of the 1950s and should without a doubt be checked out.
7. Volver (2006, Pedro Almodóvar)
After directing the Oscar winning film “Talk to Her” (2002) and the amazing “Bad Education” (2004), Pedro Almodóvar released in 2006 another film that definitely is among the greatest of his career: “Volver.”
Having all the colorful atmosphere that contrasts with the somber traces of his stories (as usual) “Volver” has amazing performances by Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, Lola Dueñas and Chus Lampreave. These actresses were all awarded with the prize for Best Actress at the 59th Cannes Film Festival – as was Almodóvar’s screenplay.
Approaching themes like death and sexual abuse, the plot of “Volver” appeared in an Almodóvar’s previous film, “The Flower of My Secret” (1995), as a rejected novel in the story. “Volver” is one of the best films in the career of one of Spain’s greatest filmmakers, a powerful film that should definitely be checked out.
6. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
This brilliant film directed by German master Rainer Werner Fassbinder is on this list for the powerful performances from Margit Carstensen as Petra von Kant and Hanna Schygulla as Karin Thimm, for its impressive dialogue, and for the ability Fassbinder has in conducting a story so full of nuances in basically a single location.
“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” is adapted from Fassbinder’s own play and follows the story of a famous and arrogant fashion designer who mistreats her secretary, who also lives with her. One day, Petra’s cousin Sidonie (Katrin Schaake) introduces her to Karin, a beautiful 23-year-old woman. Petra falls in love with Karin and from that moment on, the movie follows their affair and its outcome.
Filmed with long scenes in a way that this story, which is focused exclusively on dialogues between the characters, is able to occupy every inch of the apartment they’re at, “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” is definitely a movie worth watching for being one of the best works of one of Germany’s greatest directors.