Oldboy: An Asian Movie Classic

Oldboy is one of my favourite films. I fell in love with it as soon as I watched it, and is probably the film I have watched the most. (Along with Shawshank Redemption). If you haven't watched it, you need to, and that's an order.

And no, I won't mention the ending, even though I want to....

Oldboy is a classic revenge thriller movie

Oldboy is a South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook and was released in 2003. It is widely regarded as a classic revenge thriller and has gained a cult following around the world. The film combines elements of mystery, drama. 

Plot Summary: The Story of Captivity and Vengeance

The film begins with Oh Dae-su being kidnapped and imprisoned in a small room for 15 years. During his captivity, he has no contact with the outside world and is only given food and water. He spends his days plotting his escape and trying to figure out who is behind his imprisonment.

After 15 years, Oh Dae-su is suddenly released and finds himself on a rooftop. He is given clothes, money, and a cell phone. Determined to find out who imprisoned him and why, he begins his quest for revenge. Along the way, he meets a young woman named Mi-do, who helps him in his search.

As Oh Dae-su delves deeper into the mystery, he discovers that his imprisonment is connected to an incident from his past. He also learns that he has been manipulated by a man named Lee Woo-jin, who seeks revenge for a past wrong. 

The film culminates in a violent and bloody confrontation between Oh Dae-su and Lee Woo-jin. In the end, Oh Dae-su is left with a choice: to kill Lee Woo-jin and seek revenge or to let go of his anger and find redemption.

Character Analysis: The Protagonist, Antagonist, and Supporting Cast

Oh Dae-su is the protagonist of Oldboy, and his character undergoes a dramatic transformation throughout the film. At the beginning, he is a reckless and impulsive man who is driven by anger and a desire for revenge. However, as the story progresses, he begins to question his own actions and the consequences of his quest for vengeance.

Lee Woo-jin is the antagonist of the film, and he is portrayed as a cold and calculating man. He is driven by a deep-seated desire for revenge, and he will stop at nothing to achieve it. Despite his villainous actions, the film also explores his motivations and the tragic events that led him down this path.

The supporting cast of Oldboy includes characters such as Mi-do, who becomes a love interest for Oh Dae-su, and Mr. Han, a mysterious man who helps Oh Dae-su in his search for answers. Each character brings their own unique perspective to the story and adds depth to the overall narrative.

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Themes and Motifs:


The film explores the destructive nature of revenge and the toll it takes on both the person seeking it and those around them. It raises questions about the morality of revenge and whether it can ever truly bring closure or satisfaction.


Throughout the film, Oh Dae-su grapples with his own guilt and the consequences of his actions. He seeks redemption for his past mistakes and tries to make amends for the pain he has caused. The film raises questions about whether redemption is possible and what it truly means to be forgiven.

The human condition 

The film explores the depths of human emotions and the lengths people will go to in order to survive or seek justice. It raises questions about the nature of humanity and whether people are inherently good or evil.


The characters are haunted by their past actions and the consequences of their choices. The film examines the tragic nature of human existence and the ways in which our actions can have far-reaching consequences.

Oldboy - Asian cinema classic

Controversies and Criticisms: 

Oldboy received critical acclaim upon its release, but it also sparked controversy due to its graphic violence and disturbing subject matter. Some critics accused the film of being gratuitously violent and misogynistic.

While the violence in Oldboy is undeniably graphic, they serve a purpose within the context of the film. These elements contribute to the overall themes of revenge, tragedy, and redemption. They are not gratuitous, but rather integral to the story being told.

Despite the controversies, Oldboy has endured, it continues to be celebrated for its innovative storytelling and powerful performances. It has been included in numerous "best of" lists and is often listed as one of the greatest films of all time.

7 Facts About Oldboy

  • Oldboy is the second installment in Park's Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and followed by Lady Vengeance (2005).

  • The film is based on the Japanese manga of the same name written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi. However, the film deviates significantly from the original source material.

  • Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su, a man who is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years and then released without explanation. Determined to find out who imprisoned him and why, he embarks on a quest for revenge.

  • The film received critical acclaim upon its release and won several awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It is often regarded as one of the greatest Korean films ever made.

  • The iconic hallway fight scene in Oldboy was shot in a single take and required three weeks of preparation. The scene features Oh Dae-su fighting off numerous assailants with a hammer.

  • Choi Min-sik, who plays Oh Dae-su, underwent intense physical training to prepare for his role in the film. He performed many of his own stunts, including the hallway fight scene.

  • The film's twist ending has become one of its most memorable aspects. Without giving away any spoilers, it subverts audience expectations and adds another layer of complexity to the story.
Have you seen Oldboy? What did you think? Check out the IMDB page as well if you haven't seen it.
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