It’s time to check in on what my all time favorite action and crime dramas are! This is a genre that I’m very hit or miss with, but when they do it right, I love it. Of course, we all know that kdramas frequently blur genre lines, so sometimes that can make it difficult to determine the criteria for a list like this. I ultimately chose dramas that have a focus on crime in general or a strong action element mixed with other genres. So let’s dive right in!
10. Heartless City
Plot: Aided by a detective, a woman goes undercover to bring down a notorious drug ring leader, and she finds herself in a world where secrets abound and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur.
Heartless City is a thriller noir filled with moody cinematography which creates the feeling that you are in the dark underworld of organized crime. The drama has plenty of exciting twists to keep you guessing and a great pace that helps things move along quickly.
We get a riveting performance from Jung Kyung Ho that is beyond intense. It’s by far one of his best and most memorable. Heartless City had a slick production, layered characters, and plenty of action. It exceled at delivering when it needed to, and as far as crime dramas go, it’s a must see. (Heartless City Review)
9. My Beautiful Bride
Plot: When a man’s fiancé goes missing, he will stop at nothing in order to find her. But things get complicated as he finds himself deep in the hidden crime world that is full of secrets and where no one can be trusted.
My Beautiful Bride was quite a ride! The first half of the drama was suspense perfection. I so enjoyed Do Hyung’s intense and obsessive mission to find his missing fiancé. And the way the story is presented is so unique. Our main couple is very interesting with the layers of their story carefully peeled back little by little to reveal the full picture of just how deep their love is.
There’s more of a shift to bad guy power struggles in the second half, but even then I did still really enjoy it. And that says a lot since I don’t usually care for this sort of politics. My Beautiful Bride created an intricate crime world with many layered characters that made the entire journey more than enjoyable. (My Beautiful Bride Review)
8. Police Unit 38
Plot: A group of government workers and criminals team up to go after large scale tax evaders by setting up elaborate scams to catch them.
Police Unit 38 is a really solid crime drama that is a perfect example of a good show in this genre. The drama was filled with plenty of tension as our team sets up elaborate scams to trick the large scale tax evaders into giving up their money. I really enjoyed watching all that went into setting up a scam and then seeing how it would play out. It was really interesting to see the elaborate measures the team would go to in order to pull them off. Ma Dong Suk and Seo In Guk were both completely engaging.
The writing was excellent with many layers to the plot. I appreciated that the drama wasn’t episodic and was more serialized. It contains three main story arcs with each arc building upon the previous one while further developing the characters. There are also plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing. Police Unit 38 was a fantastic watch. (Police Unit 38 Review)
7. Descendants of the Sun
Plot: A special forces captain and a doctor fall in love while providing aid in a country dealing with natural disaster and civil strife.
Descendants of the Sun is a pretty exciting drama! It boasts an enormous budget, gorgeous cinematography, high quality special effects, and a star couple in Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo. Descendants of the Sun burst onto the scene in 2016 and took the drama world by storm.
There is plenty of action as one disaster after another befalls our heroes. It also give lots of opportunities for them to draw closer together while keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.
Descendants of the Sun was a nice change of pace due to the setting, army elements, and the wide range of difficulties our characters face. It had plenty of action, melodrama, and a nice dose of humor on the side. I really enjoyed Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo as a couple and getting to experience their trial-filled love story was wonderful and exciting. (Descendants of the Sun Review)
6. Time Between Dog and Wolf
Plot: A man goes undercover in Thailand to infiltrate the crime syndicate responsible for his mother’s death. What he doesn’t realize is that the woman he loves is also the daughter of the syndicates king pin.
Time Between Dog and Wolf is a classic, and it’s easy to see why. I loved the way it was filmed and the whole atmosphere of it. The drama also has such an intensity. It builds and builds as the drama progresses leaving me on the edge of my seat.
Time Between Dog and Wolf is also one of the best examples of the wide range of Lee Joon Gi’s acting abilities. His character has so many different sides to him, and Lee Joon Gi nailed them all.
This is the kind of drama that you shouldn’t think too hard about while watching. A lot of the plot elements are very over the top, and sometimes you just kind of have to go with it. With that in mind, Time Between Dog and Wolf really is thrilling and oh so fun!
5. Two Weeks
Plot: A man framed for murder must survive for two weeks in order to save his daughter with leukemia.
Two Weeks is a fun ride with a lot of excitement. Being on the run is in and of itself intense. But adding in the time constraint of having to save his daughter in a short amount of time just adds this extra layer of thrills.
It’s also another fantastic outing by Lee Joon Gi. His character goes on quite the journey of growth, and it is very moving to see. The characters are presented in a very believable way and the story is very solid. Two Weeks is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. (Two Weeks Review)
Plot: A night courier hired to investigate a woman finds that he may be involved in the mystery he is trying to uncover.
Healer is a really solid drama that has very little to pick apart. It has a little bit of everything: action, drama, mystery, and romance. The story is well developed with an interesting mystery to solve, a great cast of characters, and a leading couple with fabulous chemistry.
Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young have one of the swooniest relationships in dramaland and they really deliver all the feels. And Ji Chang Wook’s superhero-like persona Healer is just plain fun in a very exciting way! (Healer Review)
Plot: Modern day detectives communicate with a detective in the past using an old two way radio to solve crimes, but they soon learn that messing with time is a dangerous thing.
Signal was one of those dramas that blew me away and effortlessly tugged at my heartstrings with it’s brilliant writing and absolutely amazing acting by Lee Je Hoon, Kim Hye Soo, and Jo Jin Woong. A combination of this along with editing and music easily stirred up all kinds of emotions in me. This drama gave me chills and continued to wow me from start to finish.
Signal did not disappoint in any way and has certainly set the bar extremely high for crime dramas to come. It’s engaging characters and brilliantly layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others. Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come. (Signal Review)
2. City Hunter
Plot: A man seeks revenge on the corrupt politicians responsible for his father’s death by taking matters into his own hands.
City Hunter was probably the most talked about drama of 2011. It is an excellent drama with action, revenge, and a nice romance to boot. The revenge plot is well thought out and executed at a nice pace. This keeps the drama exciting throughout.
Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young have a complicated relationship with danger lurking at all times. It’s also a romance that just hits the right spots and feels very big because the stakes are always high.
City Hunter is another fun superhero type drama that makes an exciting watch, and it is great for anyone who likes a little action in their kdramas. (City Hunter Review)
1. Bridal Mask (Gaksital)
Plot: An epic story of a masked man fighting to free Koreans during the Japanese occupation in the 1930’s.
My number one favorite action drama would have to be Bridal Mask. Apparently, I really like the hidden identity/hero trope, because Bridal Mask is yet another one I love. It executes that trope to perfection and delivers a completely epic and thrilling masterpiece.
There’s so much action, excitement, and intrigue that there is never a dull moment. Joo Won is completely engaging and delivers one of my favorite performances in a drama ever. His love/hate bromance with Park Ki Woong left me speechless.
Bridal Mask was simply breathtaking. Epic, thrilling, and heart wrenching don’t even come close to describing it. I have never seen another drama like Bridal Mask, and it should not be missed. (Bridal Mask Review)
Well, that’s certainly an exciting list of action and crime dramas! It’s a great genre with a wide range of selections. If you’re looking for thrills and intensity, these dramas are a good place to start. Of course, there are a lot of other wonderful dramas in this genre out there.
So what are your favorite action and crime kdramas?
For more Top 10 Lists:
Sign Up to receive email updates of kdrama reviews, casting news, trailers, and more.