Train to Busan (2016)

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Train to Busan (2016)

While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

Train to Busan (2016) Trailer


Train to Busan (2016)

Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” is the most purely entertaining zombie film in some time, finding echoes of George Romero’s and Danny Boyle’s work, but delivering something unique for an era in which kindness to others seems more essential than ever.For decades, movies about the undead have essentially been built on a foundation of fear of our fellow man—your neighbor may look and sound like you, but he wants to eat your brain—but “Train to Busan” takes that a step further by building on the idea that, even in our darkest days, we need to look out for each other, and it is those who climb over the weak to save themselves who will suffer.Social commentary aside, it’s also just a wildly fun action movie, beautifully paced and constructed, with just the right amount of character and horror. In many ways, it’s what “World War Z” should have been—a nightmarish vision of the end of the world, and a provocation to ask ourselves what it is that really makes us human in the first place.
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a divorced workaholic. He lives with his mother and barely spends any time with his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). He’s so distant from her that he buys her a Nintendo Wii for her birthday, ignoring that she has one already, and that he’s the one who bought it for her for Children’s Day.To make up for this rather-awkward moment, he agrees to give Su-an what she really wants—a trip to her mother’s home in Busan, 280 miles away. It’s just an hour train ride from Seoul. What could possibly go wrong? Even the set-up is a thematic beauty, as this is more than just a train ride for Seok-woo and Su-an—it’s a journey into the past as a father tries to mend bridges and fix that which may be dead. It’s a perfect setting for a zombie movie.Before they even get to their early-morning train ride, Seok-woo and Su-an see a convoy of emergency vehicles headed into Seoul. When they get to the train, Sang-ho beautifully sets up his cast of characters, giving us beats with the conductors, a pair of elderly sisters, a husband and his pregnant wife, an obnoxious businessman (a vision of Seok-woo in a couple decades), and even a baseball team.A woman who’s clearly not well gets on the train just before it departs, and just as something else disturbing but generally unseen is happening in the station above the platform. Before you know it, the woman is taking out the jugular of a conductor, who immediately becomes a similarly mindless killing machine. These are zombies of the “28 Days Later” variety—fast, focused, and violent. They replicate like a virus, turning whole cars of the train into dead-eyed flesh-eaters in a matter of seconds. They are rabid dogs. And you thought your Metra commute was bad.

The claustrophobic tension of “Train to Busan” is amplified after a brilliantly staged sequence in a train station in which our surviving travelers learn that the entire country has gone brain-hungry. They discover that the undead can’t quite figure out door handles and are mostly blind, so tunnels and lines of sight become essential. Sang-ho also keeps up his social commentary, giving us characters who want to do anything to survive, and others who will do what it takes to save others.

Early in the film, Seok-woo tells his daughter, “At a time like this, only watch out for yourself,” but he learns that this isn’t the advice we should live by or pass down to our children. Without spoiling anything, the survivors of “Train to Busan” are only so lucky because of the sacrifice of others. And the film is thematically stronger than your average zombie flick in the way it captures how panic can make monsters of us all, and it is our responsibility to overcome that base instinct in times of crisis.

After the near-perfect first hour of “Train to Busan,” the film slows its progress and makes a few stops that feel repetitive, but the journey recovers nicely for a memorable finale. You could call it “Train of the Living Dead” or “’Snowpiercer’ with Zombies.” Whatever you call it, if it’s playing in your city and you’ve ever been entertained by a zombie movie, it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t be entertained by this one.

  • Brian Tallerico –  Roger Ebert
  • Brian Tallerico is the Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.


Train to Busan (2016) Credits

Train to Busan movie poster

Train to Busan (2016)

Rated NR

118 minutes


Gong Yoo as Seok Woo

Ma Dong-Seok as Sang Hwa

Jung Yoo-mi as Sung Gyeong

Choi Woo-shik as Yeong Gook

Ahn So-hee as Jin Hee

Kim Soo-Ahn as Soo Ahn


  • Yeon Sang-Ho


  • Yeon Sang-Ho


Train to Busan (2016) Plot

Fund manager Seok-woo is a cynical workaholic and divorced father of his daughter Su-an, who wants to spend her birthday with her mother in Busan. Seok-woo sees a video of Su-an attempting to sing “Aloha ʻOe” at her singing recital and succumbing to stage fright as a result of his absence. Overcome with guilt, he decides to grant Su-an’s birthday wish.

The next day, they board the KTX 101 at Seoul Station, en route to Busan. Other passengers include Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, COO Yon-suk, a high school baseball team including player Yong-guk and his cheerleader girlfriend Jin-hee, elderly sisters In-gil and Jong-gil, train attendant Ki-chul, and a traumatized homeless stowaway hiding in the bathroom. As the train departs, an ill young woman runs onto the train unnoticed. She turns into a zombie and attacks a train attendant, who also turns. The infection spreads rapidly throughout the train.

The group escapes to another car and locks the doors. Internet reports and phone calls make it known that an epidemic is spreading southward across the country. After the train stops at Daejeon Station, the surviving passengers find the city overrun by zombies and hastily retreat back to the train, splitting up into different train cars in the ensuing chaos.

Seok-woo learns by phone that his company is indirectly involved in the disaster. The military establishes a quarantine zone near Busan, to which the engineer sets a course. Seok-woo, Sang-hwa and Yong-guk – who have become separated from their loved ones – fight their way to where Su-an and Seong-kyeong are hiding with In-gil and the homeless man. Once regrouped, they struggle through the zombie horde to the front train car – where the rest of the passengers are sheltered.

At the prompting of Yon-suk and Ki-chul, the passengers prevent the survivors from entering, fearing that they are infected. Sang-hwa sacrifices himself to give the others time to force open the door and enter the car, but In-gil is killed. Yon-suk and the passengers demand that the survivors isolate themselves in the front vestibule. However, Jong-gil – disgusted at the passengers and despairing for the loss of her sister – deliberately opens the other door and allows the zombies to enter and kill the rest of the car’s passengers. Yon-suk and Ki-chul escape by hiding in the bathroom.

A blocked track at the East Daegu train station forces the survivors to stop and search for another train. Yon-suk escapes after pushing Ki-chul into the zombies, then later does the same with Jin-hee when they run into each other on the tracks. Heartbroken, Yong-guk stays with Jin-hee until she turns and kills him. The train conductor starts a locomotive on another track, but is also thrown to the zombies while trying to save an injured Yon-suk. A flaming locomotive derails and traps the remaining survivors, but Seok-woo finds a way out. The rest of the group is trapped again by falling debris.

The homeless man sacrifices himself to buy time for Seok-woo to clear the debris and Su-an and Seong-kyeong to escape onto the new locomotive. After fighting off zombies hanging onto the locomotive, they encounter Yon-suk, who is on the verge of turning into a zombie and is begging for help, having been bitten when the conductor saved him. Seok-woo manages to throw him off, but is bitten.

He puts Su-an and Seong-kyeong inside the engine room, teaches Seong-kyeong how to operate the train, and says goodbye to his daughter before throwing himself off the locomotive. Due to another train blockage, Su-an and Seong-kyeong are forced to stop the train at a tunnel just prior to Busan.

The two exit the train and continue following the tracks on foot through the tunnel. Snipers are stationed on the other side of the tunnel and are prepared to shoot at what they believe to be zombies, but they lower their weapons and rush towards them to help them when they hear Su-an singing “Aloha ʻOe”.


Train to Busan (2016) Box office

Train to Busan grossed $80.5 million in South Korea, $2.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $98.5 million.

It became the highest-grossing Korean film in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In South Korea, it recorded more than 11 million moviegoers and was the highest grossing film of the year.


Train to Busan (2016) Critical Response

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 94% of 118 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website’s critics consensus states: “Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique — and purely entertaining — take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action.” Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, assigned the film an average score of 72 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”

Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the film “borrows heavily from World War Z in its depiction of the fast-moving undead masses while also boasting an emotional core the Brad Pitt-starring extravaganza often lacked,” adding that “the result is first-class throughout.” At The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis selected the film as her “Critic’s Pick” and took notice of its subtle class warfare. 

In a negative review, David Ehrlich of IndieWire comments that “as the characters whittle away into archetypes (and start making senseless decisions), the spectacle also sheds its unique personality.” Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist wrote: “[Train to Busan] doesn’t add anything significant to the zombie genre, nor has anything perceptive to say about humanity in the face of crisis. Sure, it lacks brains, and that’s the easy quip to make, but what Train To Busan truly needs, and disappointingly lacks, is heart.”

British filmmaker Edgar Wright highly applauds the film, personally recommending it on Twitter and calling it the “best zombie movie I’ve seen in forever.”


Train to Busan (2016) Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Asian Film Awards 21 March 2017 Best Actor Gong Yoo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ma Dong-seok Nominated
Best Editor Yang Jin-mo Nominated
Best Visual Effects Jung Hwang-su Nominated
Best Costume Designer Kwon Yoo-jin and Rim Seung-hee Nominated
Blue Dragon Film Awards 25 November 2016 Best Film Train to Busan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Kim Eui-sung Nominated
Ma Dong-seok Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jung Yu-mi Nominated
Best New Director Yeon Sang-ho Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Mok-won Nominated
Best Screenplay Park Joo-seok Nominated
Best Editing Yang Jin-mo Nominated
Best Cinematography Lee Hyeong-deok Nominated
Best Lighting Park Jeong-woo Nominated
Technical Award Kwak Tae-yong and Hwang Hyo-gyoon (special make-up) Won
Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Film Train to Busan Won
Buil Film Awards 7 October 2016 Best Film Train to Busan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Kim Eui-sung Won
Best Supporting Actress Jung Yu-mi Nominated
Best Cinematography Lee Hyeong-deok Nominated
Best Art Direction Lee Mok-won Nominated
Yu Hyun-mok Film Arts Award Yeon Sang-ho Won
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards N/A Best Foreign-Language Film Train to Busan Won
Best Actor Gong Yoo Nominated
Korean Association of Film Critics Awards 24 November 2016 Technical Award Train to Busan Won
Saturn Awards 28 June 2017 Best Horror Film Nominated
Baeksang Arts Awards 3 May 2017 Best Film Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Kim Eui-sung Won
Ma Dong-seok Nominated
Best New Director Yeon Sang-ho Won
Chunsa Film Awards May 24, 2017 Technical Award Kwak Tae-yong Won
Special Audience Awardfor Best Film Train to Busan Won


Train to Busan (2016) Movie Info

A man (Gong Yoo), his estranged daughter and other passengers become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak in South Korea.


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