Six North Korea-themed movies that beat Rogen and Franco to the punch

North Korea is rattling its saber over Seth Rogen and James Franco’s upcoming comedy, “The Interview,” about a plot to assassinate the country’s real-life leader, Kim Jong Un. A spokesperson for the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the film on Wednesday as an “act of war.”

Although it’s not every day a Hollywood movie prompts threats of “a decisive and merciless countermeasure,” “The Interview” isn’t the first film to cast North Korea in an unfavorable light. Here are six more examples.

“Die Another Day” (2002): Kim Jong Un’s late father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, was said to have been an avid fan and collector of western movies, particularly the James Bond series. But the dictator couldn’t have been pleased by Pierce Brosnan’s fourth and final outing as 007. In “Die Another Day,” Bond battles North Korean bad guys and at one point is taken prisoner and tortured for 14 months, ultimately emerging as a darker and more dangerous man.

Indeed, the state-run Korean Central News Agency denounced the movie as a “dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander” North Korea and “insult the Korean nation.” The agency also said the film was evidence that the U.S. is “the root cause of all disasters and misfortune of the Korean nation” and the real “empire of evil.”


“Team America: World Police” (2004): Kim Jong Il was personally lampooned in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s action-comedy satire featuring a cast of marionettes. “Team America” portrayed Kim as a profane, insecure madman with a plot to rule the world. Oh, and — spoiler alert — he was also secretly an alien cockroach.

North Korean diplomats lobbied unsuccessfully to get the film banned in the Czech Republic, saying, “It harms the image of our country,” and adding, “Such behavior is not part of our country’s political culture.”

“Salt” (2010): James Bond wasn’t the only movie hero to land in a North Korean prison. Angelina Jolie‘s spy Evelyn Salt was stuck in the same predicament at the beginning of this Phillip Noyce thriller. Like 007, she was freed and went on to save the day.

While promoting the film in Seoul, Jolie — a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees — said she had been educated about the plight of the North Korean people by the U.N. and was “very concerned” about them.


“The Red Chapel” (2010): In this head-spinning high-wire documentary, Danish filmmaker Mads Brugger traveled to North Korea with a pair of Danish-Korean comedians under the pretense of a cultural exchange program, crafting a subversive examination of the rogue nation right under the noses of the authorities.

Hilarious and outrageous, the film feels genuinely dangerous and packs a surprising emotional wallop as the pressure-cooker atmosphere in which the prankster trio created the film gradually wears them down.

Brugger told Filmmaker magazine that officials in Pyongyang “were not happy” about the movie. According to Brugger, the North Korean ambassador in Stockholm sent a fax to the Danish Broadcasting Corp. that said, “The difference between man and animal is that man has a conscience, and that [Brugger] has no conscience, and therefore must be an animal.”

“Red Dawn” (2012) and “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013): In these two action movies, North Korean villains took the fight to American soil. The “Red Dawn” reboot portrayed North Korean invaders parachuting into the U.S. only to be beaten back by scrappy teenagers. In “Olympus,” North Korean terrorists took over the White House but were foiled by Gerard Butler.

Butler, in an interview with British GQ, said “Olympus” wasn’t about North Korea per se. “We were very careful to make it not necessarily about North Korea, but a very focused radical organisation with their own complex motivations,” he said. “In the movie we present North Korea as it is: It’s a dangerous opponent, and it is aggressive, but it doesn’t instigate this attack.”

Times staff writer Mark Olsen contributed to this report.

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