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These Are Doona Bae’s Best Performances, Ranked

From Hollywood to working with established Korean directors like Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, Doona Bae has done it all. She was the daughter of a stage actress, who encouraged her to study something different, as she didn’t believe she had the talent to become a great actor. In college, she became a model, and after a year of doing that, she switched to acting. Her first major role was in Bong Joon-ho’s debut Barking Dogs Never Bite. Her role in Barking Dogs Never Bite convinced her to pursue acting as her career, as she realized she wanted to become better at acting and ultimately master her craft. Her next big role would be in the first of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, the brutal Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Since then, Bae has switched over to the English-speaking world and impressed audiences globally. She appeared in Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas, then in Jupiter Ascending. She hit her stride in television, though, after getting cast in Netflix hits like Kingdom, Sense8, and the most recent hit The Silent Sea. With the rise in popularity of Korean cinema and entertainment, Bae no longer has to adhere to Western content; her shows like Kingdom and The Silent Sea are in Korean. That said, these are her best performances ranked.

Related: All of Us Are Dead: Everything We Know About the Upcoming Korean Netflix Series

7 Air Doll

Woman with white scarf sits on bench.
Asmik Ace Entertainment

In 2009, Doona Bae starred in Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Air Doll. Before working on the family dramas we know him for today, like Shoplifters and After the Storm, there was Air Doll. Bae is Nozomi, a sex doll owned by an older man. Whenever he leaves the house, she turns into a human, one who has a job, a boyfriend, and particular feelings about her situation of being a doll. Although the movie had mixed reviews among audiences and critics, there was one thing that most agreed upon: Bae’s performance held the movie together. Her character questions what it means to be human and, with the deep loneliness that her owner has, what is and isn’t okay.

6 Cloud Atlas

Two women that look alike stand side by side drinking out of juice box.
Cloud Atlas Productions

The Wachowskis’ 2012 movie Cloud Atlas is ambitious, a modern epic that refuses to look away from its initial vision. The film has six different eras where the cast reappears playing a different character, with only potential passing remarks about their previous character to tie the story together. Cloud Atlas almost didn’t happen multiple times; there wasn’t enough money to keep the production going, but the cast and crew passionately kept going and making the film. Each actor had to play multiple roles, a difficult job for only one production. This was also Bae’s debut in the Hollywood world and first collaboration with the Wachowskis.

5 Kingdom

Woman in traditional Korean dress smiles.

Kingdom is a television series that refuses to fall within a specific genre, which means it has a little something for everyone. It defies the expectations set by traditional Korean saeguks, or historical dramas, by adding something very specific: the kingdom of Joseon has become overrun by zombies after the attempted Japanese invasion. Bae plays Seo-bi, a physician that was the only survivor of the original zombie outbreak. She becomes obsessed with finding the cure and origins of the outbreak, devoting her life and research to stopping the plague. While The Walking Dead touches upon some social criticism, Kingdom unearths an entire systemic problem between the ruling class and the general populace.

4 Sense8

Woman has her arms flexed as man behind her shoots gun.

Sense8 marks Bae’s third collaboration with the Wachowskis, although this time in the realm of television. Sense8 is a science fiction series with an ensemble cast that suddenly discovers that they are linked emotionally and mentally. They try to continue their lives with this connection but soon discover they’re unable to as they’re hunted for this link. Each character lives in a different part of the world, creating a unique scenario, as they all must learn empathy and cross-cultural skills to communicate. When Netflix released their metrics for that year, it was revealed that Sense8 was one of the shows that viewers liked to binge-watch in one sitting.

3 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Man and woman sit next to each other on bed; woman is smoking.
TMS Entertainment

Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not for the faint of heart. It’s jam-packed with a particular brand of revenge violence, one that can be disturbing for its unsuspecting viewers. Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) is a deaf and mute factory worker that needs money to pay for his sister’s surgery, but when he’s laid off from the factory, he becomes desperate for money. Enter: his radical anarchist girlfriend (Bae Doona). She suggests that he kidnap the daughter of the executive that fired him, leading to a catastrophic series of events that can only be described as bloodshed. Although difficult to watch at times, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance shows the talent that Park Chan-wook would later unleash with his movies Oldboy and The Handmaiden.

Related: Best South Korean Films of the 2000s, Ranked

2 The Silent Sea

Group of astronauts pose not smiling.

The Silent Sea brings Doona Bae with Train to Busan star Gong Yoo in a world running out of water. A South Korean space agency desperately sends a team to the moon to discover what happened to a research mission and retrieve a sample of what was left behind. The mission starts rocky when the spaceship crashes on the moon, killing some members of the team, but things start to get stranger when they go onto the base and find out what happened there. With stellar acting and a script that’ll keep you on your toes, The Silent Sea is highly entertaining and worthy of binge-watching.

1 The Host

Family sits around table of food smiling.
Chungeorahm Film

Before there was Parasite, there was The Host. The Host has Bong Joon-ho’s classic dark humor, and Song Kang-ho stars as a father whose daughter has just been kidnapped by a monster that emerges from the Han River. His family (Bae Doona, Park Hae-il, and Byun Hee-bong) rallies together to try and save her, but, at the same time, the government is after them because they came in contact with the monster. Bae plays Song’s sister, a national medalist archer that utilizes her skills to try and shoot down the monster. The Host has gained critical acclaim, considered one of the best films released in the latter half of the 2000s, and Quentin Tarantino even named it one of his favorite movies.

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