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Film / Train to Busan

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"I'll take you to Mom no matter what."

Train to Busan, otherwise known as Busanhaeng, is a South Korean Zombie Apocalypse thriller. The film was directed and written by Yeon Sang-ho, who is known for The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013), and stars:

  • Gong Yoo as Seok-woo: the protagonist, an ordinary hedge fund manager in Seoul and a rather inattentive divorced dad.
  • Kim Su-an as Su-an: the female protagonist, Seok-woo's six-year-old daughter.
  • Ma Dong-seok & Jung Yu-mi as Sang-hwa & Seong-kyeong: the male and female deuteragonists, a muscled martial arts trainer Badass in a Nice Suit and his pregnant wife.
  • Choi Woo-shik & Ahn So-hee as Young-guk & Jin-hee: the male and female tritagonists, a "not yet dating" teen couple composed of a shy baseball player and his plucky new girlfriend.
  • Kim Eui-sung as Young-suk: the human main antagonist a businessman who is hellbent on getting to Busan, no matter the cost.

Seok-woo is a busy man — busy enough that he's been recently divorced over his workaholism and badly neglects his daughter. After missing her recital again, trying to make up for it with an expensive gift only to realize he's bought the same exact present for her as last time, and hearing that his daughter really wants to see her mother once again, he tries to make it up to her by reluctantly accompanying her on a KTX train (South Korea's state of the art high-speed train) ride from Seoul to Busan to visit his ex-wife.

However, unbeknownst to them and the other passengers, a zombie outbreak has begun outside, and has made its way onto the train. As the infection spreads, Seok-woo and the other passengers are thrown headfirst into a fight to survive the journey south to Busan — supposedly one of the few cities that avoided being overrun.

Premiering at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on the 13th of May, it would eventually meet critical acclaim as the first Korean film of 2016 to break a record of over 10 million theatergoers in South Korea alone, and has grossed about 88 million US$ worldwide. The animated prequel, Seoul Station, was released less than a month later.

The movie is currently optioned for an American and a French remake; the former, titled Last Train to New York, is being produced by James Wan and directed by Timo Tjahjanto.

An Actionized Sequel called Peninsula was released in 2020.

Train to Busan provides examples of:

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  • Acoustic License: Somehow, the security guard watching the train misses one woman loudly running inside, who appears as soon as he turns his head away.
  • Action Survivor:
    • Seok-woo to a point, since he manages to survive several close encounters with zombies despite being only a scrawny fund manager. His last encounter with an infected Young-suk leaves him infected, and he is the last seen character to succumb to the infection.
    • Seong-kyeong, who survives the entire journey to Busan while visibly pregnant.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: It happens to basically everyone but Su-an and Seong-kyeong, the most significant infections being those of Young-suk and Seok-woo.
  • Anger Born of Worry: When Seong-kyeong thinks Sang-hwa is dead, but they get reunited, she immediately punches him, but after that hugs him.
  • Anyone Can Die: All but two of the characters die before the end of the movie: Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Apathetic Citizens: When the first infected walks through the cars, writhing in pain, the surrounding people do not seem to notice, let alone lift a finger for her. It might be due to the passengers being asleep, as a few were shown sleeping in the beginning.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Though It's All About Me and The Needs of the Many occur with many of the survivors, in fine contrast, all the main characters show this: Sang-hwa and In-gil are selfless from the very beginning, Seok-woo develops from someone who tells his daughter not to help others to a Papa Wolf putting himself at risk several times for the sake of others, the homeless does his best to help others despite being visibly scared the whole time. Then there are Jin-hee and Young-guk, two teenagers who still show more maturity than most adults (despite being hit more personally, as they have to witness their friends and classmates infected en-masse). And let's not forget the poor train conductor, who goes beyond his duty several times to make sure he carries as many people as he can to safety.
  • Asshole Victim: The front car passengers who throw out Seok-woo's group out of cowardly paranoia are definitely these, but Young-suk takes the cake. He's the second-to-last character to die, and his final moments are him acting as if he's still a young boy, pleading how scared he is and just wants to be with his mother. It's hard to feel sorry for him though, as he literally throws other people, including Jin-hee, to the zombies just to save his own skin.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Sang-hwa, a martial artist who's introduced wearing a nice coat. He kicks ass in and out of it. Seok-woo himself qualifies, as he gets a few good fight scenes while still wearing his fancy suit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Near the beginning of the film, Young-suk complains about a passenger behaving oddly and locking themselves in the bathroom. The audience expects this to be the infected girl who snuck onto the train, but it turns out to be our introduction to the homeless man, who also snuck onto the train and hid in a different bathroom.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Sang-hwa doesn't need weapons to fight zombies.
  • Batter Up!: The baseball team's survivors use it as a weapon of choice, and Seok-woo uses one too temporarily.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: A gender-inverted version.
    • Seok-woo (Brains) — An ordinary hedge fund manager who realizes the zombies' weakness and use effective ways to distract the zombies.
    • Sang-hwa (Brawn) — A muscled martial arts trainer who uses fists to attack the zombies and being their shield until they save Su-an and Seong-kyeong, along with other people.
    • Young-guk (Beauty) — A shy baseball player who uses his baseball bat to fend off zombies. But, he's not smart like Seok-woo or strong like Sang-hwa. Then again, he is a teenager.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: This is implied to be why Jong-gil waits until after Seok-woo and his group are forced into the next car and locked out before opening the door to let the zombies in. They risked everything to save her sister In-gil, and In-gil in turn died to save them, and thus were undeserving of the deaths she unleashes on the other passengers who caused the problem.
  • Beta Couple: There are two in the movie: Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong, an expecting adult couple, and Young-guk and Jin-hee, a boyfriend/girlfriend couple of teenagers.
  • Beware the Living: Young-suk is personally responsible for a large number of the cast, primary and secondary, dying as he tries to keep his own ass safe.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When a zombie reaches out for little Su-an at Daejeon train station and Seok-woo is too far to reach her in time, Sang-hwa shows up to punch the zombie away with his elbow.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Sang-hwa is the most physically-capable of Seok-woo's group, and the first to die.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The zombie outbreak is the day of Su-an's birthday, something she and her father talk about later on in the film.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Su-an and Seong-kyeong, two of the most endearing characters, survive and are rescued by the military in Busan, but everyone they loved or got help from is dead, and the country is still in disarray or worse, the zombie plague likely having killed or turned millions or more in just a single day.
  • Blatant Lies: The South Korean government official states that the "violent dissenters" have been contained, and that there is no reason to believe that citizens' safety may be compromised at the moment. At the same time, the newscast is showing that things are definitely not fine, and police forces are being clearly overrun.
    Government official: [as the camera pans over Seoul in flames] To the best of our knowledge, your safety is not in jeopardy.
  • Bloody Handprint: The Movie. Bloodstains and particularly bloody handprints are seen everywhere on the train.
  • Bonding Through Shared Earbuds: Jin-hee tries this when sitting next to Yong-guk on the train. He doesn't bite.
  • Book Ends: Towards the start of the film, we see Seok-woo watching a video of Su-an singing "Aloha 'Oe" at a recital he didn't attend. The film ends with Su-an singing the same song. For more info on its significance, see Chekhov's Skill and Dark Reprise below.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Young-guk slowly breaks after emerging as the only one left from his baseball team, having to fight their zombified selves, but the final nail in the coffin is Jin-hee turning, after which he just...breaks down and doesn't stop her from biting him.
    • We don't really see the aftermath, but given what they go through over the course of the film, which includes their loved ones being turned into zombies and sacrificing themselves for their well-being, with the fates of the rest of their friends and family unknown, it's likely that this trope applies to Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Call-Back: Seong-kyeong jokes to Su-an how her child's father has been too lazy to think of a name for "Sleepy" (her and Sang-hwa's unborn child). Sang-hwa does give her a name for the kid — just as the zombies break through as he's holding them back. He names the unborn child Yoon Sun-yun, which means "governor's perfect lotus blossom".
  • Central Theme: How apathy, social hierarchy, and self-interest manifest in dire situations. Seok-woo tries to impress the last of these — to look out for yourself — upon Su-an, who disagrees; his learning to set these tendencies aside is part of his character arc.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The moment you see a car full of baseball players, you know it's only a matter of time before some Batter Up! action ensues.
      • A Subverted case. On a one-sided phone call, Seok-woo says that he's "just a novice" and will see his interlocutor "on the field", implying that he's merely an amateur baseball player, but he can put his swing to good use against the zombies.
    • When the infected first reach them, Seong-kyeong is asked by her husband Sang-hwa, "You can run, right?" She doesn't argue. In the end, she keeps up on foot with a father carrying his daughter, outpacing a horde of zombies converging on them.
    • Su-an's rendition of "Aloha 'Oe" ("Farewell to Thee"). She selected the song for her father (who missed her recital); it saves her and Seong-kyeong from being sniped by the military, as it confirms to them that they aren't zombies.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played with in the case of Su-an. She is a gentle and polite young girl, but understands her father is a workaholic who spends zero time with his family and pegs Young-suk as a rich jerkoff who looks down on everyone below him for not having a degree after seeing through his subverted Pet the Dog attempt towards her, and can tell it's a form of Condescending Compassion.
  • Closed Circle: All the characters have to remain on board the KTX because the only known haven is the terminus, Busan. Unfortunately, they're sharing the ride with a crowd of infected, and the doors are easy to open... By normal humans. Infected will just keep pounding and pounding on the glass until it breaks.
  • The Coats Are Off: Sang-hwa removes his jacket before he, Seok-woo, and Young-guk begin to fight their way through cars full of zombies.
  • Commander Contrarian: Young-suk, who's the primary human antagonist responsible for everybody getting killed due to his selfishness.
  • Condescending Compassion: Young-suk's way of attempting to Pet the Dog during his encounter with Su-an is to deride a scared homeless man for not graduating from college and using it as an example to tell her to stay in school before giving her a pat on the head on his way back to his seat. Su-an doesn't hesitate to reply: "Mom said whoever says that is a bad person."
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Young-suk, a COOnote  of Stallion Express, is one, even more emphasized by his selfish attitude towards other survivors for his own sake. Even before the outbreak begins, he derides a scared, disheveled man as "never having gone to college" when trying to show Condescending Compassion towards Su-an in a subverted Pet the Dog moment. Later, he's indirectly responsible for getting nearly everyone on board the train, save for Seok-woo and his group, infected, directly responsible for infecting the last living train attendant by throwing him to the zombies as a distraction, and abandoning the train conductor when he falls — while the conductor was attempting to rescue him, no less. There's a sliver of humanity, though — it's implied he was heading to Busan to look after his mom, if his delirious last words begging for her is any indication.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Seok-woo turns his daughter's eyes away from the sight at the first zombie-attacked train station they pass by. The rest of the movie, Su-an has to witness the full horror of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Covers Always Lie: One poster shows Sang-hwa alongside Seok-woo, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, Jin-hee, and Young-guk running through the wreckage of a train station. In truth, Sang-hwa doesn't even make it off the train to the second stop due to his Heroic Sacrifice, and Jin-hee and Young-guk are separated pretty quickly from the other three after reaching said train station.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Seok-woo didn't show up to Su-an's singing recital because of work, and has to catch her performance on a video. She calls him out on it.
  • Damsel in Distress: At one point, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, In-gil and a homeless man are trapped in a train washroom. Seok-Woo, Sang-hwa, and Young-guk cross five zombified train cars to get to them.
  • Dark Reprise: Su-an's initial performance of "Aloha 'Oe" was at her school recital. She had practiced it with the intention of performing it for her dad, who didn't show up to the recital. She sings it loudly at the end, letting the Busan soldiers know that she's human. Fittingly, it's a farewell song — and she chose it for her dad.
  • Death Course: Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Young-guk cross five train cars full of infected in order to save their families and friends.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Young-guk breaks down into tears soon after witnessing his baseball teammates being bitten and turning into zombies. He fully crosses into this when he witnesses Jin-hee turning and lets himself get bitten by her.
    • Jong-gil becomes despondent after being separated by her sister. When she witnesses her sister getting infected and Seok-woo and the people he saved being exiled from the others, she decides she's had enough and opens the door so she and the others on the train will be overtaken.
  • Devoured by the Horde: The ultimate fate of any defenseless human going up against a horde of zombies because they react violently to the sight of a human. Case in point: Sang-hwa during his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Dirty Coward: Young-suk, so desperate to get to Busan that he regularly implores leaving others behind, putting himself first, and even using others as zombie bait. He even spends his final moments before succumbing to the infection blubbering like a baby and in vehement denial he's infected, despite his eyes having glazed over and Tainted Veins starting to snake their way across his skin.
  • Disconnected by Death: Seok-woo's mother's zombification is only heard during his final phone call with her.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: This is used as an early sign of how Seok-woo has become detached from his daughter. He asks a colleague what children like (indicating that he doesn't know Su-an's personal interests) and then buys her a video game console without realizing that she already owns the exact same one (possibly even gifted by him the last time he gave her a guilt present).
  • Double Meaning: "Aloha 'Oe" is about bidding farewell to someone, usually a loved one, until you meet again. In a movie about the dead returning back to life and everyone around you dying...
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Young-guk could have easily either fought off or abandoned a zombifying Jin-hee, but his intense despair drives him to spend her last moments embracing her, allowing her to bite him moments later.
    • Jong-gil, the elderly lady who sees her sister die and turn because of Young-suk and the other complicit passengers, and decides to open the doors to let the zombies in as payback for letting her sister die and exiling Seok-woo and his group to another car despite them risking everything to save her sister along with their loved ones.
    • It's implied that Seok-woo's underling is too, although he gets a more mundane death. His last words are tearfully asking Seok-woo to tell him it's not his fault, which he does, and after that he gives a lukewarm answer before hanging up immediately and never being heard of again.
  • Dwindling Party:
    • The group of survivors led first by Sang-hwa then Seok-woo loses its members at high speed.
    • The KTX train as a whole similarly sheds survivors rapidly, going from 8 cars of uninfected passengers after the initial outbreak is contained, to a total of 9 survivors by the time it pulls into Daegu. Ultimately, only two people out of the train's hundreds of passengers reach Busan alive and uninfected.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: Downplayed. Yong-guk thinks Sang-hwa's ringtone is tacky.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: When they pass by the first train station, there is a shot of a road full of deserted cars with a bloody teddy bear lying on the ground.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: The first infected passenger who sneaks in the train has this during her transformation sequence — she slowly rises from behind the female conductor, and takes a couple of seconds before she actually starts biting her.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: It's implied Young-suk was so desperate to get to Busan because he was going to see his mother, and right before he's fully turned, he begs to be taken to his mom. Well, though he's actually hallucinating that he's a small boy again (he calls Seok-woo "mister" and lists out his home address like a lost child would to an adult), this still shows that he loves his mother.
  • Everyone Chasing You: Towards the end, the surviving heroes who have boarded the train engine are chased by hundreds of zombies.
  • Face Death with Despair: When Young-suk is infected by one of the zombies, he looks at his hands and shakes his head before screaming, "It can't be!" The transformation is then complete, and his former personality is gone.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Seok-woo, when he is recalling his first memories of Su-an as he turns into a zombie.
    • In-gil Goes Out with a Smile and allows herself to be devoured by zombies so nobody else will be put in danger rescuing her. The same goes for her sister Jong-gil when she opens the door with the zombies after seeing her sister sacrifice herself for Seok-woo and his crew after they risked their lives to save her from the zombies, but the other passengers and Young-suk were concerned only for their own safety, leading to unnecessary deaths. Her last moments are of her reaching to In-gil in zombie form and thanking her for everything.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The surviving male attendant and the rest of the random survivors in the front of the train all turn vicious and paranoid against Seok-woo's group through Young-suk's leadership.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: After Young-suk trips while trying to catch up to the conductor in the motorman's cab, while being swarmed by zombies, the conductor takes it upon himself to jump out of the train to save him...only for the former to throw him towards the zombies and escape with the train.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Sang-hwa's phone background is a picture of Seong-kyeong's ultrasound of their child. He dies not long after we see it.
  • Final Girl: The sole survivors from the train, Su-an and Seong-kyeong, are both female. It's also implied that Seong-kyeong's fetus is female too.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Beefy Sang-hwa spends his time antagonizing the scrawny fund manager Seok-woo (at least once in front of Su-an, who does say he's right about her dad). But when Seok-woo proves himself worthy at zombie-asskicking, both become familiar enough to joke with each other. When he gets bitten, Sang-hwa entrusts Seok-woo with his family's safety, and Seok-woo holds on to his promise to look after Seong-kyeong.
  • Foil:
    • Young-suk is one to Seok-woo, if his post-infection rambling is any indication. As it turns out, both of them are white collar business-affiliated passengers motivated by the desire to protect/rejoin those close to them (fund manager Seok-woo with his daughter, COO Young-suk with his mother), and both initially put protecting their loved ones and themselves above the well-being of anybody else. The difference is that Seok-woo quickly starts working with and protecting others, not just his daughter, while Young-suk screws over and outright murders people up until the very end.
    • Sang-hwa serves as the caring, nurturing father and husband Seok-woo fails to be. He has a loving relationship with his wife, and Seok-woo's own daughter, Su-an, even quickly warms up to him. However, it's implied Seok-woo in the past was once a loving and caring father as well. It is Sang-hwa's example and eventual sacrifice that leads Seok-woo onto a more selfless path.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sang-hwa's line to Seok-woo about fatherhood being all about sacrifice is a pretty blatant one. Both of them eventually sacrifice themselves for the well-being of their loved ones.
    • Early on, people are able to make zombies back off by removing their lines of sight. This foreshadows their inability to function without daylight, or visibility in general.
    • The elderly sisters try to give each other the remaining door-side seat. While Jong-gil reluctantly takes it, Su-an offers her doorside seat to In-gil, which leads to them both seated but separated by the aisle. Both sisters are separated into cars on either side of the infected-carrying cars.
  • Friend or Foe?: The military sniper gets into this dilemma as to whether Su-an and Seong-kyeong are zombies or humans until a song manages to confirm them as the latter.

  • Genre Savvy: The homeless man overhears Seok-woo discussing a special route to the safe zone, and, knowing they would be "quarantined" at the usual checkpoint, he naturally follows Seok-woo when he quietly breaks away from the group. Sadly, this is also a case of Wrong Genre Savvy, as everyone at the safe zone is already undead.
  • Get Out!: The passengers in the front car under the leadership of Young-suk demand the newly arrived ones to get out of their car and into quarantine.
  • The Ghost: Su-an's mother is never seen nor heard from again after Seok-woo and Su-an get on the train, and by the end her fate remains unclear. Seok-woo attempts to contact her several times, but her phone is dead.
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe: Seok-woo agrees to take Su-an to visit her mother in Busan to make up for getting her a terrible birthday present.
  • Good Old Ways: Jong-gil displays this, commenting on people these days being spoiled as she sees a riot on the train's TV, saying that back in the day those "punks" would be arrested and re-educated, and she takes an instant liking to Su-an when the child politely offers her seat to Jong-gil's sister, In-gil. This comes back hard when some passengers she's with try to prevent a small group of survivors, including In-gil, from getting into their train car, resulting in In-gil sacrificing herself to the infected so the others can make it. When the passengers proceed to kick the small group out (including Su-an and Seong-kyeong, a child and pregnant woman respectively, who Jong-gil witnessed helping her sister flee from an infected earlier), essentially negating In-gil's sacrifice, Jong-gil has had more than enough, leading to the Nice Job Fixing It, Villain below.
  • Go Out with a Smile:
    • Seok-woo smiles as he dies, remembering the joy he felt holding newborn Su-an in his arms.
    • In-gil, who helped Su-An get away, smiles at her sister before she allows herself to be killed.
  • Great Offscreen War: There apparently was a major battle that occurred on the railways leading to Busan, judging by an overturned railcar, the dead zombie corpses in the river and the track, and the barricades festooned with electrified zombies (seen as Seong-kyeong and Su-an walk towards the military blockade).
  • The Ground Is Lava: Less "the floor is lava" and more "the floor is crawling with zombies." While making their way through the zombie-infested train, the protagonists find the path ahead blocked. Their solution? Crawl along the train's overhead luggage racks above the zombies' heads, while remaining silent and relying on the darkness provided by tunnels (as these zombies heavily rely on sight and sound to hunt).
  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations of a bitten person's past are implied to occur in the final stages of the infection.
    • They're first shown when Seok-woo's mother is bitten and she reverts to her suppressed resentment of Su-an's mother.
    • And later shown again when Young-suk reverts to a childhood memory of being lost and scared, asking to be taken back to his mother's house while calling Seok-woo "mister" and giving his home address like a lost child.
    • Seok-woo, on the verge of succumbing to the infection, recalls the times when he saw Su-an as a newborn. As the happiest memory of his life, Seok-woo falls off the train to his death with a smile.
  • Hallway Fight: Sang-hwa, Seok-woo, and Young-guk fighting their way through narrow cars full of zombies.
  • Hand Gagging: The train attendant hand-gags Jin-hee when she tries to scream as the heroes approach the front car to find it blocked off.
  • Happily Married: Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong, in contrast to the recently divorced Seok-woo.
  • Happy Flashback: Seok-woo dies remembering the joy he felt holding the newborn Su-an for the first time.
  • Hate Sink: Young-suk, a thoroughly selfish coward whose excessive assholery is as much of an obstacle as the zombies. His genuine love for his mom is his only redeeming quality, and even then he tries using it as an excuse for the remaining survivors to get him to safety even after he's been very obviously infected.
  • The Hecate Sisters: At one point, Su-an (a child), Seong-kyeong (a pregnant young woman), and In-gil (an old lady) are grouped together.
  • Heel Realization: Early on, Seok-woo shuts the door right in front of two people, including a pregnant woman. When berated for this, he says it was necessary for his own safety. In a later scene, Young-suk uses the exact same excuse, and Seok-woo's expression and short pause seem to be this trope. The payoff for these two moments comes even later in the movie, when Seok-woo punches Young-suk in the face for doing the same thing AGAIN and asks him what the hell is wrong with him.
  • The Hero Dies: Seok-woo throws himself off the train after getting bitten.
  • Heroic BSoD: Seok-woo breaks down crying towards the end during a rare quiet moment when washing his hands of blood.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • One of the male attendants, upon seeing his female coworker being attacked, turning, and starting to attack other passengers, rushes through the halls ahead of the growing number of infected, desperately rousing and warning the uninfected to run away as fast as he can. Tragically, this ends when he stops to get a particularly confused woman to get up and run, only to get grabbed from behind and bitten on the neck by said infected female coworker, whose very next target is the woman in question flashing a Deer in the Headlights look at the horrific attack. At least Seok-woo manages to get the message in time (and witness the outbreak firsthand when the now-turned male attendant gets up).
    • Halfway through the movie, Sang-hwa tries to hold a door closed against a horde of zombies so that his group — and particularly Seong-kyeong — can run to safety, and right afterwards the elderly In-gil stays behind to delay the infected enough so Seok-woo can close the door.
    • Much later, the homeless man charges three zombies to hold them off so that Su-an and Seong-kyeong can escape.
  • Heroic Suicide: In-gil lets the zombies plow through her in order to allow the rest of Seok-woo's group to escape safely while her sister is Forced to Watch. Later on, the homeless man does something similar to let Su-an and Seong-kyeong escape.
  • Heroic Willpower: Even while on the verge of being completely overtaken by the infection, Sang-hwa holds himself together to protect the others as long as he can.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The entire outbreak on the train could've been contained in Car 11 if the rail attendant who discovered it hadn't left the door open before running away to alert the passengers.
      • From there, none of the passengers of the rear cars get the idea to hold a door shut until the zombies make it into Car 4. By contrast, we are indirectly shown the extent of the outbreak's spread into the front of the train when the few survivors of the baseball team reappear exiting battered and bruised from Car 12. Ironically given his behavior in the rest of the movie, it's Young-suk who is the first person to realize this is a good idea.
    • Everyone unloads onto Daejeon even without getting a response from the ROK Army that it's safe to. The KTX conductor also fails to realize that the ROK soldiers not responding to his calls definitely should at least imply they're all dead.
    • Right after that, six passengers open a door to a train car without checking the window to see if it's zombie-free.
    • The paranoid survivors led by Young-suk also just believe him when he claims that Seok-woo and his group are infected, despite the fact they've seen clearly that if bitten the infected reanimate within seconds, minutes at most, after being bitten, and they lack any signs of starting to change.
    • In-gil not bothering to take the few extra steps to get to safety and instead looking at her sister.
    • Young-suk not bothering to get off his ass to stop Jong-gil by himself after realizing she's gonna let the zombies in and instead calling for someone else to do it, even though he should know that everyone is busy behind him tying up the other door.
    • Young-suk not bothering to close the doors across the trains like the train conductor did, resulting in him getting chased by the zombies from these trains across the tracks.
    • Seok-woo not just throwing Young-suk off the handrail immediately once discovering he's infected, and actually telling him he's infected, and he still didn't try to throw him off the handrail when fighting him.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: At the beginning of the movie, Seok-woo skims through several articles talking about suspicious deaths of the local fauna, since he is more focused on finding a gift for Su-an.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: The heavily pregnant Seong-kyeong doesn't get a break during the zombie apocalypse.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: No zombie children are shown. In addition, Su-an and Seong-kyeong (who is pregnant) are nearly shot, but are rescued at the last minute, and ultimately survive the film.
  • Improvised Armor: Young-guk and Sang-hwa fashion makeshift forearm guards out of belts to help block bites.
  • Irony: Young-suk assumes that the rest of the group (who they tried to abandon) are infected despite evidence to the contrary... Seok-woo later tells him the same thing when he is actually infected.
  • It's All About Me: Young-suk, who is willing to sacrifice fellow survivors (namely Seok-Woo's group being locked in the next car, the train attendant, Jin-hee, and the train conductor) just to keep himself alive until he's bitten as he runs towards the last train heedless of letting the conductor die, is this trope personified. Even prior to the outbreak, he's rude, elitist, and demanding.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Played for Drama. During his final moments, an infected Young-suk pleads for Seok-woo like a lost little boy to take him to his mother.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sang-hwa is constantly threatening to beat Seok-woo for his cowardice and endangering or abandoning passengers early in the film... and given how Seok-woo, at that point, only cares for his daughter, it's well deserved.
    • Young-suk knows that Daejeon is under quarantine orders because of his position at Stallion Express and the lack of soldiers to greet them means they are likely overrun. He advises the conductor to just keep going to Busan without checking Daejeon's status. He is proven correct, and many of the survivors are killed after encountering hordes of soldiers that were turned.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sang-hwa can come across as a rude man and does threaten Seok-woo at several points, but he clearly cares for the lives of the survivors and especially his wife, and he and Seok-woo do come to regard one another as Fire-Forged Friends. He even pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save them.
  • Just Train Wrong:
    • High-speed trains are less than ideal for escaping a zombie apocalypse because they cannot stop on a dime. Yet the engineer of the KTX continues dauntlessly even as contact with the controllers is lost, and the signals give him no indication if the line ahead is clear or not.
    • Train engines are specifically designed to pull several tons of train cars and cargo behind them, so there's no way a horde of zombies clinging onto and literally dragging behind a car would be able to slow it down, even if it is still just picking up speed. It could be given a Hand Wave in that this is meant to emphasize to the audience how much trouble the survivors are already in.
  • Karmic Death: Young-suk and the rest of the front car survivors all die and turn as a result of their paranoid and cowardly behavior, though it takes a little longer for it to catch up to Young-suk (unfortunately, as his continued cowardly asshole behavior ensures that almost all of the remaining survivors bite it too).
  • Karmic Jackpot: Seok-woo risking his life to save the homeless man pays off when he gives his life to let Su-an and Seong-kyeong escape a group of zombies. Earlier, Su-an and Seong-kyeong doing the same for In-gil to get her back on the train pays off when In-gil also gives her life to let the others in Seok-woo's group get to safety, which also saves them when Jong-gil lets the zombie horde in... but only after Seok-woo's group is forced and locked into the next car so they don't suffer the same fate as the paranoid passengers that let her sister die.
  • Kill the Cutie: Both Jin-hee and Young-guk (courtesy of Young-suk), after the former becomes infected and kills the latter. They manage to last longer than Young-guk's baseball teammates.
  • The Load:
    • Su-an doesn't do anything to help the uninfected other than follow her dad, but what can we expect of a young ordinary girl against a horde of feral zombies?
    • Young-suk, the man is a walking disaster who not only contributes nothing to the passengers' attempts to survive, but he actively ensures more to die who wouldn't have without him.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Young-guk take a minute or two to grab some Improvised Weapons, prepare some Improvised Armour, and psyche themselves up in preparation to cross five train cars full of zombies in order to save their families and friends.
  • Long Last Look: When the homeless man pulls a You Shall Not Pass! to help Soo-an and Seong-kyeong escape, the latter takes a long thankful look at him before leaving him to be Devoured by the Horde.
  • Lovable Jock: Young-guk, a sensitive and shy baseball player who cares deeply about Jin-hee. His friends are likely this trope as well, given how they hold off the horde at Daejeon long enough for survivors to get back on the train, but they're turned into zombies before we can get to know them better.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Sang-hwa takes a riot shield from a dead policeman, but gives it to Seok-woo. While it proves temporarily useful, a zombie takes it from him soon after.
  • Marionette Motion: Zombies have a tendency to move in this way, especially after their limbs are broken. A zombie soldier has his dislocated right arm hanging behind his head after getting up from a nasty fall, and in general the zombies are able to contort and get back up exceptionally fast.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The only two survivors are Seong-kyeong and Su-an, a pregnant mother and a young girl, respectively.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Zig-Zagged. Seoul is understandably wrecked, because no one at that point knows what the "rioting" really is. In Daejeon, the safe zone and the military protecting it were overrun, but Busan's defence forces have protected their city successfully.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Sang-hwa's formidable build proves vital for holding barriers together and straight up brutalizing zombies with little effort.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Analyst Kim's strange final phone call with Seok-woo has him tearfully begging Seok-woo to tell them if they had no hand in the outbreak. (Their company saved a biotech firm from bankruptcy... and said firm's continued operation unleashed a zombie plague.)
  • The Needs of the Many: Played with. Several people heroically sacrifice themselves to save more people. Less heroically, a dozen people try their best to keep a half-dozen people, including a young child and a pregnant woman, from getting into their safe car, out of fear that they are infected. Many more people die as a result than if they had just let them in in the first place.
  • Neutral Female: Due to most of the main female cast being either a very young girl, a heavily pregnant lady, or too elderly, the female characters are rather consistently portrayed as unable to physically fend for themselves and depending on the male characters for survival. For example, Jin-hee helps the survivors back into the train while her friends are more proactive (although it's justified in her case as her friends are athletes, while she isn't one). Seong-kyeong meanwhile covers a car door with wet newspapers, since zombies react only at the sight of humans, guards Su-an, and helps Seok-woo during the fight with a recently turned Young-suk.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Sang-hwa tries to hold a door closed against The Horde, Seok-woo knocks down the head of a zombie which was wriggling through the gap. This allows the zombie to bite Sang-hwa, who has to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Also, not long after, Seok-woo learns that the source of the plague is a company he saved from bankruptcy, and although Seok-woo tries to reassure his guilt-ridden colleague that the infection is not their fault, Seok-woo himself cries from the guilt, and the movie implies that he has blood on his hands.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Young-suk and the other survivors creating a barricade between them and the car Seok-woo's group are in allows the latter to survive being eaten next when Jong-gil opens the unguarded door to the car that is crawling with zombies (and Jong-gil's sister).
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Of the "cross-species disease" type. The zombie plague apparently affects other mammals as well, as shown in the beginning of the movie by a deer that is run over by a truck... only for the deer to stand back up again with clouded eyes as the truck drives away.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The train conductor leaves the safety of the train to help Young-suk, only for the latter to turn around and use the conductor as bait to get away. Seok-woo even foreshadows this trope by warning his daughter not to start doing things out of compassion during a time of crisis.
  • No Name Given: The homeless man, who is credited as such. Also, the train conductor.
  • No Object Permanence: The zombies appear to have a very "out of sight, out of mind" approach to their prey. Even if something to eat is right in front of them, the moment it gets dark or their prey ducks behind something, they immediately leave off what they were doing and idle aimlessly, whether it be a train car going dark because of a tunnel or someone blocking a window with newspaper. This can be broken, however, if they hear something loud enough to catch their attention, making them go after the noise in the dark.
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • Sang-hwa never shuts the door on anyone he sees has a chance of making it out alive, and is appalled when Seok-woo initially slams the door in his wife's face.
    • The train conductor cares deeply for all of his passengers, jumping off his train to aid a hurt Young-suk. This costs him his life.
  • Not a Zombie: The KTX passengers don't seem to realize that a Zombie Apocalypse is not only happening right now, but has already reached their train. As such, they don't think much of people behaving like rabid dogs... until those "people" start attacking them. Even before the actual incident when Su-an sees rabid citizens attacking each other at the station, Young-suk just dismisses her guess that there are zombies nearby, because he believes zombies don't exist in modern times.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Zombies are most commonly referred to as "them", although at one point the keyword "zombie" is seen trending on Naver. In addition, when Su-an sees some infected early in the movie, she does refer to them as zombies (at least in the English subtitles).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Seok-woo is talking to Su-an while driving on a very empty road in Seoul at night with no cars in sight. Then several firefighter trucks come zooming in, Su-an catches a flake of ash on her hand, and Seok-woo wonders if there was an accident. Seoul Train would eventually clarify this and what happened in Seoul.

  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Sang-hwa thinks Seok-woo is this due to his job occupation as a fund manager, which is something Su-an agrees with. At least Seok-woo isn't a Corrupt Corporate Executive like Young-suk.
  • Oh, Crap!: All of the protagonists get this moment at Daejeon Station when they realize that the entire military contingent stationed there have been infected too.
  • Ominous Crack: Twice in the movie is a breaking glass wall preceded by a cracking sound and a spiderweb of cracks expanding through the glass.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: A handful of survivors could've potentially reached the military blockade, were it not for Young-suk throwing literally everyone under the bus (or train) to futilely try and save his own neck.
  • On Three: Seok-woo tells the homeless man to retreat to the next car on three. The former counts up, but before saying three, the latter steps on a can and alerts the zombies. Seok-woo shouts "three" and starts running. Both make it out in time.
  • Our Zombies Are Different:
    • Zombies behave more rabid than undead.
    • They are fast-moving and tend to have crazed, leering expressions.
    • They turn after only a few seconds after getting bitten, seemingly without having to die first. They are blind in any sort of darkness, but can still be attracted to noise.
    • They're also not usually interested in devouring flesh — they typically bite until their victim is turned and run to the next target.
    • However, the prequel Seoul Station does show that the zombies will devour the flesh of dead victims, such as a zombie eating a deceased victim's arm. This was apparently either Retconned or simply not shown here.
    • Also, despite behaving rabid, these zombies do demonstrate feats that imply that they are undead, such as literally never tiring, being completely immune to pain, and surviving impacts that would have killed a human being, e.g. hordes of zombies crashing through windows and falling through them down to the hard metal of the train car roof and then taking a second fall down to the hard rocky ground during the scene where the survivors try (and most of said survivors succeed) to escape from the Daejeon train station, the zombies surviving the two hard falls that would have killed living humans.
    • Another piece of evidence that these zombies are undead are that the broken glass from the aforementioned crashing through the windows never hurts the zombies aside from causing them wounds that they literally cannot feel and never even impedes them either.
    • Also, the prequel Seoul Station also shows that the zombies have a little bit of intelligence, such as a zombie noticing a car's seatbelt holding its arm in place and then slowly releasing itself from said seatbelt.
  • Papa Wolf: Seok-woo, fights his way through several train cars full of zombies to save his daughter Su-an. This is one of the things that makes him more similar than he initially thinks to Sang-hwa, who's also fighting tooth and nail to protect Seong-kyeong and their unborn child.
  • Parental Neglect: Seok-woo is rather emotionally inattentive towards Su-an, although he clearly regrets it and shows he's willing to tango with hordes of zombies to keep her safe.
    • This context of neglect makes it even harsher when he has been infected and he needs to throw himself off the train to protect his daughter from himself, even as she's crying and asking him to stay over and over again. It's the one time when the only thing he can do for her is leave her, even though he can see she's too young and scared to understand.
  • Party Scattering: In the finale, a Runaway Train on fire crashes into the train, separating Young-guk and Jin-hee from the rest of the group. They don't survive on their own.
  • Plague Zombie: A biological agent (manufactured by a company aptly named "Biotech") is responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Prophet Eyes: All of the zombies have these.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Su-an is implied to be mostly cared for by her grandmother after her parents' divorce and being in the custody of her workaholic father.
  • Raising the Steaks: The deer at the very beginning. It is later implied to be one of the first to be infected by the organisms from the biotech company's breach, if not one of those organisms itself.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Sang-hwa provides most of the ass-kicking in the movie... and just so happens to do so while wearing a pastel blue tweed jacket and an absolutely fabulous beige scarf during the first act of the movie.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Su-an delivers one to her father, stating that he only thinks about himself and that's why her mother left him. It shakes him enough to trigger Character Development.
  • Room Full of Zombies: Several train cars are opened only for them to be full of zombies. Daejeon is a train station full of them.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Young-suk directly sacrifices Ki-chul, Jin-hee, and the KTX conductor to save himself from the zombies.
  • Safe Behind the Corner: A zombie on the train comes close to the heroes hiding behind a set of seats, but stops right before making visual contact and retreats.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: The first stopover of the KTX train, Daejeon — the train captain is told to stop and disembark here, and Seok-woo is promised a safe zone by his corporation. Unfortunately, the army and police deployed to that area have all been infected, and the survivors are forced to run back to the train, which leaves just a small carful of people. On the other hand, Busan remains a safe zone at the end of the movie.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot:
    • When the zombies invade the train car full of survivors, Su-an is mercifully spared the sight of the people being killed by the zombies because the doors are covered in vapor. However, she still sees the shadows of the people futilely struggling to open the door and then being turned into zombies.
    • Seok-woo throwing himself off the train after he's bitten is shot this way.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Jin-hee is introduced as a feisty semi-delinquent who gets her way... and her way is a soft-spoken, shy athlete named Young-guk who initially wants nothing to do with her.
  • Shock-and-Switch Ending: The last two survivors are spotted by the guards of a military barricade that, due to the darkness and unsteady gait of the survivors, are preparing to shoot them. A few minutes of the soldiers preparing to open fire is stopped when one of the survivors tearfully sings a song she dedicated to her late father.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Young-suk spends the whole movie throwing every character he comes across under the bus all in the name of visiting his sick mother. Unfortunately for him, it amounts to nothing, as he ends up being bitten and is put down by Seok-woo.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The zombies act nearly identically to the film version of World War Z: fast, swarm over each other in groups, are easily duped into thinking others are zombies, and only bite to infect, not eat flesh. One swarming of zombies completely plugs up a train car almost like a wave, much like how the infected behavior in World War Z was visually similar to ocean waves. Sang-hwa even duct-tapes his forearms, just as the protagonists did in the film.
    • The ending is a big one to the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), down to the mistaken identity and sniper. However, unlike that film, the soldier hesitates to shoot long enough to realize the last two survivors are human.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: If Seok-woo's ex-wife had not implored him to accompany Su-an to Busan, Su-an would have certainly died without his protection, and Seok-woo would have probably met the same fate in Seoul, no better a person either.
    • The KTX conductor spends most of the movie in his cabin, which is already important enough, being the one conducting the titular train, but later on he also gets out to find another train, which is the only reason anyone in the cast manages to survive to movie.
  • Sole Survivor: Young-guk is eventually all that remains from his high school baseball team. He could have kept forging on, but Jin-hee's death finally breaks him and he lets himself join his friends.
  • Staking the Loved One: When Young-guk has to fight through his former zombified baseball teammates, he can't bring himself to hurt them even though they are attacking him and the rest of the group. It also gets him killed when he can't bring himself to kill or get away from Jin-hee upon seeing her turning from her infection.
  • Super Cell Reception: Cellphones and fast Internet connections continue to work for a surprisingly long time, considering that even a mundane earthquake can tie up the lines for days or weeks in real life, and millions of people trying to reach their loved ones at the same time should have brought the network on its knees. Conveniently, only the connections to Busan are cut to maintain the tension of what awaits the protagonists at their destination.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While Su-an's The Load, it can be said that she could be the film's actual protagonist, with the majority of her father Seok-woo's actions and death shown from her viewpoint.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: One of the best elements of the film is its portrayal of how civilians caught up in an unexpected crisis would react or make the most of the situation, so do not expect lots of guns and survivalist tactics. Examples include:
    • A fast-reacting virus (only a few minutes at most from infection to turning), that turns people into fast and aggressive zombies will spread like wildfire, especially in a small contained area.
    • No matter how strong it is, a glass door will eventually break under the pressure of several people or sustained attacks with enough force.
    • In the event of a quarantine against zombies, without making some indication of your humanity, the military will probably shoot first, test later.
      • However in a subversion of the above, no matter how battle-hardened a solider is, they will still hesitate to shoot a little girl and a pregnant woman.
  • Synthetic Plague: Courtesy of Biotech, a company that Seok-woo's hedge fund firm saved from bankruptcy.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Sang-hwa's Last Request to Seok-woo is for him to take care of Seong-kyeong and their baby. Seok-woo eventually gets her and Su-an to Busan but at the cost of his own life, passing care of Su-an over to Seong-kyeong as well.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Jong-gil has a notable one after watching In-gil die.
  • Thriller on the Express: Most of the film's plot takes place on trains or train stations filled with zombies — but it's the only way to get to safe haven Busan, so the survivors have to stay on it.
  • Throwing the Distraction: After learning that the zombies can only rely on their hearing while in darkness, the group uses audio distractions to lead them away.
  • Together in Death:
    • Jong-gil allows herself to be killed, joining her sister, In-gil.
    • Young-guk allows himself to be killed by Jin-hee, broken by her zombification.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • It's understandable, due to being in a real hurry and assuming that Seok-woo and the others were crushed by another train, but Jin-hee and Young-guk really should've closed that train door before trying to break open another.
    • Of course, this wouldn't have been as much of a problem had Young-suk done the same on a few occasions instead of just running in a blind panic and selfishly throwing Jin-hee into a zombie's grasp; bonus points because he could have shut the door that time too and achieved the same results, and of course because this leads to him becoming infected.
    • Probably the worst instance of this is when the other survivors, at Young-suk's insistence (notice a pattern yet?) take their time securing the door of the compartment they've forced Seok-woo's group into... while leaving the door with the actual zombie horde on the other side, completely unattended.
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: The characters are stuck on a high-speed train full of zombies and need to get to the terminus, Busan. They actually evade them in pretty interesting ways. A still from the movie is the current trope image, as well.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fate of Seok-woo's ex-wife is unknown. All that is known of her is that nobody ever picks up her cellphone after the outbreak on the train happens.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom/For Want Of A Nail:
    • Had the guard monitoring the KTX train heard the bitten woman run onto it at the last minute, the train probably wouldn't have been overrun with zombies so quickly.
    • The hedge fund company that Seok-woo and Kim work for indirectly caused the Zombie Apocalypse because the company saved a biotech corporation from bankruptcy, allowing it to continue its research and accidentally suffer a breach, leading to the outbreak. Whoops!
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The homeless man offers only mutterings of how "everyone is dead," clearly shaken by what he has seen. The others brush his behavior off as the ramblings of a deranged nobody.
  • Vehicle Title: Unsurprisingly, all the action takes place on the Train to Busan.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Seok-woo maintains contact with his colleague Kim with his cellphone, who informs him of critical information such as Busan being a safe zone and Daejeon being already overrun by the infected.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Zombies are a) not very smart, and b) almost completely sight hunters. This means that a sudden loss of light (not even that much; their eyes seem to be fairly weak) will cause them to completely forget you exist, even if you're six inches away from them and they were just about to chow down. The protagonists mostly exploit this using train tunnels, and in one instance temporarily neutralize a zombie by throwing a jacket over its head.
  • We Need a Distraction: Seok-woo uses Sang-hwa's mobile to distract the zombies.
  • Wham Line: When analyst Kim tells Seok-woo that the survivors would be "quarantined" at a checkpoint, Seok-woo becomes visibly worried and falls silent for a bit, hinting that he knows the military would kill any remaining survivors.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: The surviving humans could have easily been in the double digits with most if not the entirety of the main cast included had Young-suk not turned the other passengers against Seok-woo and his crew when they were trying to get to safety.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Seok-woo is so caught up in his work that he's rarely physically there for his daughter, and it's the primary reason he and his wife split. He gives thoughtless (but expensive) presents to her, like a Wii... but it turns out she already has one.
  • White Shirt of Death: Seok-woo's white dress shirt becomes more and more blood-splattered over the course of the movie. He eventually becomes infected, and throws himself off the train in order to save Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Su-an is very precocious and mature for a girl of six.
  • Working-Class Hero: Sang-hwa comes from a humble background and is generally one of the more benevolent members of the main group.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Seok-woo receives a final phone call from his mother who succumbs to an infected bite as he listens, implying that Seoul has been overrun.
  • You Shall Not Pass!:
    • A bitten Sang-hwa keeps dozens of zombies at bay, using the last of his strength to keep them from reaching Seong-kyeong and the others before finally succumbing to the horde.
    • The homeless man throws himself at the horde to buy time for the others to escape.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: It's heavily implied everything north of Busan is kaput... and we don't hear anything about other countries. The sequel reveals that, barring both Koreas, the rest of the world is fine.
  • Zombie Gait: Infected people stumble and lurch as they move, but they are also capable of running — very fast. Their broken bones often cause them to contort into unnatural positions as they move.


Video Example(s):


Oh dear, a zombie deer

A deer that was previously run over by a truck starts jerkily standing up. A close-up on its head shows blood and cloudy white eyes.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / RaisingTheSteaks

Media sources: