Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite took home the Academy Award® for Best Picture on Sunday night, becoming the first foreign-language movie to win the prestigious award in its 92-year history. Among its 4 Oscar® wins, more than any other movie this year, this pitch-black, modern fairytale also made history as the first South Korean movie to ever win Best International Feature (previously named Best Foreign Language Film) after knotting its country’s first ever nomination in the category.
In addition to his Best Picture win, Bong Joon-ho won the Academy Award® for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, bringing his Oscar® total to 3 in his Academy debut. For his Best Director win, Joon-ho prevailed over Hollywood royalty Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, both of whom Joon-ho thanked in his speech for boosting his career and inspiring him from a young age, respectively, during his acknowledgement of all his fellow nominees.
Parasite (originally titled Gisaengchung) follows the Kim Family, all unemployed but rich in street smarts, who sense a golden opportunity when they cross paths with the Park Family, the picture of aspirational wealth, and soon a symbiotic relationship forms between the two households. The Kims provide “indispensable” luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper enters the picture, jeopardizing the Kims’ newfound life of comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and Parks.
Parasite stars an ensemble cast that includes frequent Bong Joon-ho collaborator, Kang-ho Song, as well as Hye-jin Jang, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Yeo-jeong Jo, and Seo-joon Park.
After bursting onto the scene with critically acclaimed, South Korean crime/horror-dramas such as Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), and Mother (2009), Bong Joon-ho made his English-language debut with the sci-fi action Snowpiercer (2013), starring Chris Evans. Bong Joon-ho returned to his homeland for his latest feature, the Korean-language Parasite. The movie won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, making Bong Joon-ho the first Korean director to do so and setting up a historic awards season run.
Parasite’s history-making Academy Award® win could prove to be a watershed moment for the industry, possibly ushering in opportunities for more international movies to earn top nominations and wins. Though Best Picture nominations for foreign-language movies were few and far between in the 20th century, 3 of its 12 total nominations have come in the last seven years.