It's easy to read the Kim family as either Villain Protagonist characters who are lying, cheating, and stealing from an innocent family or I Did What I Had to Do in order to survive a terrible economic situation. Certainly, they seem to start from a place where their lies are seemingly harmless before getting much darker. There's also the fact that the Kims actively sabotage and work against their fellow working-class Koreans. The director confirmed that the ambiguity of their portrayal was intentional.
The Park Family patriarchs are people who can be viewed as Asshole Victim types given their affluenza and general disdain for the poor. Certainly, they seem horribly unaware that the rainstorm nearby has caused lots of people in Seoul to be displaced from their homes. However, it's also possible to view them as Spoiled Sweet since they only fire people after the Kims have framed them. Driven by desperation or not, they're the Butt-Monkey of the movie as both their employees' families try to take advantage of them.
Is Mrs. Park a Rich Bitch and Brainless Beauty or is she just incredibly bored as well as in a Gilded Cage? When she sits down with her daughter's English tutoring lesson, some viewers interpreted her as just wanting to do something for herself.
There's an argument Mr. Park's reaction to Mr. Kim's smell is not as big a Kick the Dog moment as people think. Mr. Kim and his entire family are smokers. The subway smell he may be complaining about may well be nicotine given he and his family seem health-conscious and non-smokers. (Crossing over to Death of the Author, though, really, because it would negate the entire point of the movie, as well as make the fact that the camera focuses on Mr. Park's Stink Snub pointless.)
Aside from that, it's worth noting that the most obvious Stink Snub which triggered Ki-taek's murderous rage is likely unrelated to the "lower class" smell. Geun-sae has likely developed an incredibly bad smell due to his poor nutrition and health. This would only be made worse by spending several hours thrashing around in a blind panic and then splashing himself with large amounts of plum extract.
While both the Kim and Gook families are equally as bad and have similar, selfish motives, one can make the case that the Kims arguably have less blood on their hands as Gook Geun-Sae was responsible for triggering an epileptic seizure that nearly killed Da-song, and Moon-Gwang still enabled him to live in the Park household.
Some fans view Da-song as spoiled or thinking that he was above helping the poor as he kept receiving Morse code messages from Geun-se yet never did anything about them. At the same time, he's only six and might not have realized what was going on. It's also possible that he told someone else but was dismissed, as this happens elsewhere in the film.
Ki-woo returns to the bunker with scholar's rock in hand, but his reason for doing so has been debated. He tells his father he will take responsibility, but in what way? Did he go down there to murder the bunker couple or did he go there to offer the rock as a peace offering? His actor Choi Woo-shik asked Bong if it was the former, to which Bong replied "No, maybe it was a gift. Maybe he wanted to say sorry." Woo-shik himself also believes Ki-woo would not kill. However, the interpretation that Ki-woo attempted murder on Moon-gwang and Geun-se at the end is prevalent even on this very wiki.
Since the movie has no main antagonist, it's hotly debated among audiences whether both the Parks and the Kims deserved their own plight at the end.
Applicability: Despite being set in South Korea and dealing with exclusively South Korean issues, the movie found lots of resonance with people around the world when it comes to class conflict and the fact that it deals with capitalism which is experienced worldwide.
The film and crew racked up a hefty number of nominations and wins at the 2020 Oscars. While it made history as the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture, it also accomplished the rare, dubious feat of winning Best Picture without any nominations in the acting categories, becoming just the 12th film to do so (and just the fifth in the last 60 years, after The Last Emperor, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Slumdog Millionaire). This was especially glaring for Parasite, which has been widely praised for having a number of strong acting performances. Song Kang-ho, as an industry vet and frequent presence in Bong Joon-ho's acclaimed films, plus having received some awards from film critic groups in the lead-up to Oscar season, probably had the best chance at a nomination, but didn't get the nod. Some observers felt the film's Ensemble Cast may have worked against it, making it difficult to single out individual performances for awards. Others thought Neon, the film's US distributor, didn't push hard enough for acting nominations in their campaigning.
Some also feel Yang Jin-mo should have won Best Editing, as the sleek editing contributes majorly to the smooth flow of the film as a whole. The montage showing how the Kims got the housekeeper fired has been particularly cited as one of the most well-edited sequences of the past few years. The award ended up going to Ford v Ferrari.
While it won five Grand Bell Awards (South Korean equivalent of Academy Awards) including Best Picture and Best Director, but it didn't take home with Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing, something that garnered enough acclaim to get even Oscar nods for the latter two.
Awesome Music: While the whole soundtrack (composed by Jung Jae-il) is good, "The Belt of Faith" deserves special mention: Many viewers thought it was an actual piece of Classical Music and were surprised to discover it was specifically made for the movie.
Yes, the Kims are (Anti-)Villain Protagonists. Their criminal acts pile up as the events of the movie unfold. So do those of Moon-gwang and her husband. But the Kims are so destitute that folding pizza boxes initially becomes their only source of income (and they sometimes starve nonetheless due to how absurd the standards for box-folding are), and resort to letting themselves be suffocated by fumigation gas because they can't afford pest control. As for Moon-gwang and her husband, he's been stuck in an underground bunker for four years, losing his sanity and making an unhealthy shrine to Mr. Park as he goes mad. The affluenza and unintentional classism the Parks display ranging from trash-talking Ki-taek for smelling like a peasant and unintentionally bragging about their wealth to the recently homeless Kims culminates in Ki-taek snapping and stabbing Mr. Park in a rage when Mr. Park reflexively recoils from his smell.
Alternatively, if you find the Kims unsympathetic thanks to how they get two innocent people fired so they aren't starving, manipulate their employers without batting an eyelid, repeatedly exploit a woman's deathly allergy, and threaten to call the police on and then (unintentionally) murder Moon-gwang who has been sheltering her husband in the basement of the house, watching their plans all crumble around them towards the end can be quite satisfying.
Confirmation Bias: Some who were less impressed by the film have accused the people heaping praise on it of this, suggesting that they care less about the movie's actual merits and more about the fact that it agrees with their socio-political beliefs.
Crosses the Line Twice: The culmination of the garden party scene is genuinely shocking and gut-wrenching, but when it's followed by the shot of one of the Parks' dogs eating sausages off the skewer with Geun-sae's body still impaled on it, it's darkly hilarious.
Cry for the Devil: After all the actions that they've done, it may be hard for some watchers to actually sympathize with the Kim family during the second half of the movie. But Ki-jeong's death at the hands of Moon-gwang's husband, and the ensuing grief from losing her essentially drives the rest of the Kim family to abandon their previous ways and to make an honest living.
YouTube comment: So....am i the only person who read this movie as a parody/subversion of K-dramas (Korean soap operas)? Like, the vast vast majority of k-dramas are about class differences but usually peddle a fantasy about the elite that they're powerful, smart, and ultimately good at heart. A young woman (and sometimes a young man) will meet a rich and handsome person who will reveal their heart of gold by lifting them out of poverty. Parasite shows a more realistic scenario (in some ways) of how the wealthy and poor actually interact. I'd say it also specifically takes a lot of the visual styling from k-dramas ESPECIALLY in how the son is filmed at the end of the movie when he fantasizes about buying the house. Plus, the plot of the movie (a housekeeper whose family is secretly living in their client's basement) is the same as the drama Stars falling from the skies. The actress who plays the sister is also a pretty well-known k-drama actress (I'm not sure how big the korean film industry is and how much cross-pollination there is, that could just be a coincidence).
In a film already full of fantastic performances, Park So-dam as the cool, competent Ki-jeong has been particularly well-received, complete with her "Jessica Jingle" ("Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago...") reaching borderline meme status.
Bong's English interpreter for the full promotion cycle, Sharon Choi, became the real-life example as well.note Bong does speak English, although he tends to use Korean in foreign interviews.
Park Yeon-kyo, the ditzy matriarch of the Park family, is important in the story mainly as the Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense enabler for the Kim family. But many viewers have cited Cho Yeo-jeong's portrayal of her as a highlight of the film, giving Mrs. Park some charm as well as effectively playing her cluelessness for laughs, while also giving hints of a darker side to her personality.
With, of all movies, Joker! It helps that both films struggle with themes of morally gray characters and a subtle critique of Eat the Rich, alongside both being Sleeper Hits due to word-of-mouth. Even with Parasite winning the Oscar for Best Picture (something Joker fans wanted), the fanbase nevertheless congratulated Bong Jong-Hoo, especially for a foreign movie to succeed at such a caliber.
It's very common to come across people who also liked Shoplifters for sharing the similar premise with this movie.
When the Kim family try to get Moon-gwang fired from the Parks, they claim that she has tuberculosis rather than the peach allergy she has, and use hot sauce to fake her blood. Ki-taek's Dull Surpriselook◊ as he dramatically shows Yeon-kyo the "blood"-soaked napkin is especially icing on the cake.
While gloating about their "victory" over the Kims, Moon-gwang delivers a spot-on impersonation of the famouslyhammy North Korean news anchor Ri Chun-hee to her husband.
As soon as Geun-sae escapes the basement and begins his rampage, Da-song takes one look at the "ghost" who's apparently come back to haunt him and faints dead away in a moment of pure Black Comedy.
The infamous "Jessica Jingle" is based on "독도는 우리땅" ("Dokdo Is Our Land"), a famous national Korean song about a land dispute with Japan. The song's melody is so well known around Korea that it's used by school children to memorize information, much like Ki-jeong does here.
That steak that is cooked in with Da-song's instant noodles? That's Hanwoo, a very expensive form of beef that is only found in Korea. It's the Korean equivalent to Japan's Kobe beef, a fitting ingredient to be found in the Park family mansion. The noodle dish itself is a cheap mix of jjapaguri, a mix of Chapagetti (spicy black bean sauce) and Neoguri (seafood broth) brand noodles that is a common dish in Korea for the poor and young. In a non-Korean context, it's along the lines of putting Black Truffles onto a Big Mac, or Cheez Whiz onto a filet mignon.
Moon-gwang's impersonation of North Korean news anchor Ri Chun-hee, for those outside of Korea.
The song playing in the background when Moon-gwang and her husband are holding the Kims at the living room is "In ginocchio da te" by Gianni Morandi. In the 1960s, Morandi was a star in Italian "musicarello" movies; it was usually a comedy genre, focused on the differences between poor and rich classes.
It's already beloved in its home country, but it became an instant Sacred Cow with France's Cannes Film Festival awarding the movie their top prize but also the Oscar giving it their Best Picture award, making it the first Best Picture Oscar winner in a non-English language in history.
Even Bong commented about this as well. In the interview, he admitted that he made this movie with an exclusively South Korean point-of-view, but people around the world ended up loving it, and said that "we all live in the same country, called capitalism."
People in downstate Illinois have responded positively to the film because of the out-of-nowhere reference to Illinois State University as the supposed alma mater of "Jessica".
This movie won Palme d'Or almost a year after Hirokazu Koreeda, who's a good acquaitance with Bong and from the neighboring country of Japan, won the same award for Shoplifters, which shares the same premise of a family of petty criminals trying to survive in poverty. This led many critics and journalists to consider the former as Spiritual Successor/Antithesis of the latter.
This overlaps with Heartwarming in Hindsight. Bong Joon-ho dismissed the Oscars for being very local, meaning they only award American movies and forget foreign ones, especially those made by people of color. While many have agreed with his criticism toward the Oscars' (and the American film industry's) Anglocentrism, none of them expected him to win Best Director award and Best Picture at the Oscars. Bong referenced this during the awards, saying he wanted to have a big drink after winning Best International Film (the only award that Parasite was considered a lock on), and then as he won Best Director, joking about how he did not expect to be up on the stage again and that he will drink "until next morning". You can see the overwhelming joy on his face each time his film won huge come Oscar night.
Related to the above, Parasite was meant to be Bong Joon-ho's return to small-scale Korean filmmaking after two failed attempts to break onto the big-budget international filmmaking scene with Snowpiercer (an Acclaimed Flop outside of Korea) and Okja (a Netflix exclusive that was acclaimed, but mostly went unnoticed in the awards circuit). Against all odds, it was Parasite that instead became the breakout international hit, earning $266 million and winning big at the awards circuit, catapulting Bong into the comparative mainstream* though Snowpiercer had also developed enough of a cult following to inspire an American television remake on TNT.
Park So-Damnote last-name-first naming convention plays Kim Ki-Jeong, who cons a family named Park!
Jang Hye-jin (Chung-sook) and Park Myung-hoon (Geun-se)'s roles as antagonistic, struggling poor South Koreans in this film, because later that year they would play bickering but loving siblings and members of North Korean high society in the internationally popular drama Crash Landing on You.
Jerkass Woobie: Moon-gwang and her husband. Upon realizing that they have been tricked out by the Kim family through some very unsavory acts, they are truly justified to be truly angered for what they've done and decide to blackmail the Kims for tricking them out.
Say it with us now: "Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago, classmate Kim Jin-mo, he's your cousin."note 제시카 , 외동딸, 일리노이, 시카고, 과 선배는 김진모, 그는 네 사촌 (Jessica, oedongttal, Illinois, Chicago, gwa seonbaeneun Kim Jin-mo, euneun ne sachon)
Bong d'Ornote Coined by film critic Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times, it's a portmanteau of Bong's name and Palme d'Or.
"Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."note Bong's acceptance speech (translated by his interpreter Sharon Choi) for receiving Golden Globe for Best International Film. Many internet denizens interpreted this as a Take That! to American public's disdain for subtitled international movies. Oddly enough, it become a popular thing to quote around since Americans tend to cringe at Hollywood remakes of non-American movies. Likewise, it has been used by anime fans to justify their instance on the Subbing vs. Dubbing debate.
Check Your Basementnote Based on its infamous twist where a housekeeper's poor husband lived in the Park family's house bunker for years, people use this as a response to rich people tweeting about their first world problem or sharing photographs of their expensive homes and flaunting their wealth. Similar catchphrase to "Check your privilege."
Ki-taek drivingnote Reaction image macro based on a scene where Yeon Kyo discussing his smell on the phone as Ki-Taek, who just lost his home from the flood, drives her. Online, people use the image of Ki-Taek driving her to express feelings of class resentment.
During the thunderstorm, the Kims' home floods with sewage water. Ki-taek, Ki-woo, and Ki-jeong wade through filthy water to salvage a handful of possessions.
During the flood, Ki-jeong enters the semi-basment's flooded bathroom, where the toilet is spewing black sewage. She sits on the toilet cover and smokes a cigarette in a futile effort to prevent more sewage from spewing into the room.
The Parks have sex while in full view of their son's tepee in the yard, only a few dozen feet away. Dong-ik convinces his wife to go along with it by saying that they can just remove their hands if their son reappears.
Da-hye, a girl of 15-16, is lusted after by two men in their twenties who serve as her tutors, both angling to ask her out once she attends university. Ki-woo starts a relationship with her early, all the while reading her diary and lying to her.
During a period of torrential rain, the Kim family sans Chung-sook return to their home only to find it almost completely submerged in water. Geun-sae and Moon-gwang aren't better off either, as Moon-gwang is seriously wounded by Choong-sook and Geun-sae is trying to alert the Parks about the situation below via hitting the light switch for the manor, to no avail.
The death of Moon-gwang, with her powerless husband Forced to Watch while he can't help her.
The death of Ki-jeong. Her devastated parents are not able to save her, especially intensified when her father says that he can't think about her without crying.
The ending. Ki-woo realizes his father is alive and sending Morse code signals from the former Park mansion, but must stay there for arguably the rest of his life. Ki-woo sends his father a letter, stating he will one day finally have enough money from a good education to buy the house and free him from that prison, with a Hope Spot where we see Ki-woo and Chung-sook looking over the newly bought property and reuniting with Ki-taek after he leaving the bunker...only to this be a simple Tragic Dream by Ki-woo, still living in their small basement home. It's also been sadly confirmed by Bong Joon-ho that despite Ki-woo's good graces, there is no way he would be able to acquire the house.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character!: Park Da-hye is shockingly underdeveloped compared to the rest of her family. She could have shown another side of the spoiled upper-class family the Park family represents like "first-world teenage problems" that would puzzle someone like the Kim family. Instead, she starts a relationship of Questionable Consent with Ki-woo, and everything she does in the movie is because of her attraction to Ki-woo.
By the same token, for many viewers the final attempts to earn sympathy for the Kims and Moon-gwang and Geun-se don't work as well as might have been intended, since ultimately they get everything that was coming to them, with three of them being outright murderers.
The Parks leave for a camping trip a few hours before a thunderstorm. They clearly didn't check the weather forecast before departing for their trip!
The Parks go camping outdoors (because Da-song insisted on it), and Chung-sook is left in charge of the house on the promise that only she will be in the house. The Kim family then throw a celebration party inside the Parks' house eating up their food, drinking their wine and using their bathtub, TV and Wi-Fi. But Then: Rain occurs. Plus lightning. You'd Expect: The Kims to pull an Oh, Crap! reaction, realize that the Parks will cancel their camping trip because of rain, quickly clean up their own mess and for Ki-Taek, Ki-woo and Ki-jeong to hide since they're not allowed in the house outside of their jobs. Instead: They just admire the rain as a sight of beauty and keep discussing on their scheme on how to keep the Parks' house to themselves in the future such as by suggesting to Ki-woo that he marry Da-hye. This of course leads to the trouble of their old housemaid Moon-gwang knocking on the door begging to be let in. You'd Then Expect: For them to simply ignore Moon-gwang and not acknowledge her, since she poses an immediate threat to their scheme to live off the Parks' own house and money, and it was hard enough getting her kicked out of the Parks' in the first place.note Granted, the Kims were pretty drunk and relaxed at this point and no one would ever have expected anything like Moon-gwang's shocking secret. Instead: Kim Chung-sook allows Moon-gwang into the house during the rainstorm. Moon-gwang takes her to the hidden part of the house to show her The Reveal of her husband hidden underneath. Youd Expect: The rest of the Kim family to stay upstairs and hide. It is INCREDIBLY dangerous to get caught by anyone, and that includes Moon-gwang. They had good reason to be curious about what Moon-gwang was revealing, but surely they could have been patient and waited for Kim Chung-sook to tell them later after the coast was clear. Instead: They all hide in the stairwell to overhear the conversation, even worse, clumsily leaning over one another to get a closer listen. Unsurprisingly, once one of them leans in too close, the entire family tumbles down the stairs and lands in a heap directly in front of Moon-gwang. And Then: Kim Wi-woo says dad in response to his injury, revealing that they are all connected as a family to Moon-gwang. Granted, one cant control what they say by impulse from an injury, but the point is that they shouldnt have taken that risk to overhear the conversation in the first place when the stakes were so high. From there, it only goes From Bad to Worse as absolutely everything falls apart.
The Woobie: Da-song can be one with Geun-sae traumatizing him and putting him in a bad seizure on his birthday, twice.
Woolseyism: Some of the jokes and references are changed in the English subtitles.
The underground home the Kims are living is called "반지하" (Banjiha) in Korean, which literally means "semi-underground". This is translated in English subtitles as "semi-basement". The same happens in the Japanese translation, and in fact, the Japanese subtitle of the film is named Banchika no Kazoku ("Semi-basement-dwelling family").
KakaoTalk, a messaging app that's predominantly used in South Korea, is translated as the more internationally recognized WhatsApp.
After Ki-jeong forged a Yonsei University certificate for her brother, Ki-taek asks if Seoul National University, a prestigious university in South Korea, has a major in document forgery. This is translated as "Does Oxford have a major in document forgery?".
In original Korean, the pastry that Geun-sae sold at his bankrupted shop was a Taiwanese-style Castella, a cake that originated in Portugal that's popular in Japan. In the English subtitles, this is translated as "Taiwanese cake".
Jjapaguri (짜파구리), a Korean comfort food that combines two instant noodle packages (Jjpaghetti + Neogurri) into one stoner-inspired meal served with a strip of sirloin, is translated "ram-don", a portmanteau of ramen and udon.