Only one non-English-speaking movie has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and that film is Parasite. In 2019, every film enthusiast was talking about Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece, and the dark comedy was soon a dark horse going into every awards show. It may have only come out less than two years ago, but it’s only grown more relevant as the class divide widens. Who’s really the parasite in society? Let’s dive into this heated question by analyzing the masterful Parasite screenplay, which should be required reading for anyone interested in pursuing a career in film.

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Bong Joon-ho Headshot - StudioBinder
Han Jin-won Headshot - StudioBinder

WHO WROTE parasite SCRIPT?

Written by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won

Based on a story by Bong Joon-ho.
Bong Joon-ho is a prolific writer and director who has worked on Memories of Murder, The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja.
 
Han Jin-won received his first writer credit for Parasite. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant director on Pandora, Okja, and season 2 of Sense8

STORY BREAKDOWN

STRUCTURE OF PARASITE SCREENPLAY

Here is a basic Parasite summary. 

Exposition

We learn everything we need to know about the Kim family within the first few minutes. Their living situation, their inability to hold down jobs, and their inability to have reliable internet paints a stark picture — they are destitute. 

Inciting Incident

Ki-woo’s friend, Min-hyuk, pays the Kim family a visit. While there, he offers Ki-woo a job tutoring a teenage girl, Da-hye, from a wealthy family. 

Plot Point One

After Ki-woo impresses the Park mother, Yeon-gyo, he sees an opportunity when she brings up wanting an art therapist for her son. The game is afoot...

Rising Action

Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, fakes having qualifications to be an art therapist and gets a job. They then plant the seeds to have the Parks’ driver fired to get the Kim father, Ki-taek, the position. It all leads to the greatest scheme of all to get the loyal housekeeper, Moon-gwang, fired so that the Kim mother, Chung-sook, can get the job. They succeed. 

Midpoint

The Parks go away for a camping trip, allowing the Kims to enjoy their massive house all to themselves. Then, the old housekeeper returns and reveals her husband, Geun-sae, has been living in the Parks’ subterranean basement for years in what has proven to be one of the best plot twists in recent memory. 

Plot Point Two

To maintain the ruse, the Kims get Geun-sae back in the basement before the Parks get back home early from the camping trip. They do the same with Moon-gwang to keep her quiet and inadvertently end up killing her. 

Build Up

The Kims are able to escape into the night while it’s raining out. When they get back home, they discover their home has flooded. 

Climax

The next day, the Parks have a birthday party for their son. Geun-sae gets out of the basement and attacks Ki-jung, killing her. Realizing he will never be on equal footing with people like the Parks, Ki-taek ends up murdering the Park father, Dong-ik. 

Finale

Ki-woo dreams of one day buying the Park house so that he can rescue his father, who fled into the basement after killing Dong-ik. However, the film brings us back to reality, showing Ki-woo, once again, in the subterranean apartment with little hope for the future. 

PARASITE SCRIPT TAKEAWAY #1

Parasite quotes, then repeats

Repetition is a powerful technique to get the audience to understand something’s significance. Naturally, you want this repetition to come naturally, without batting the audience over the head with whatever message you want to impart. The Parasite screenplay does this beautifully.

To take a better look at these Parasite quotes, we imported the script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software. For this first scene, let’s look at an exchange of dialogue early on that serves as a bit of foreshadowing for later on. 

Best Parasite Quotes  •  Parasite Screenplay English PDF

When the Kims lose their Wi-Fi, Chung-sook asks Ki-taek, “What’s the plan?” While it comes across as a throwaway line in the moment, it takes on greater significance later on after their apartment floods. 

They find shelter, and Ki-woo is the one now asking Ki-taek about a plan. It’s here now that Ki-taek reveals his entire philosophy around life, which is summed up with the line, “If you plan, something will always go wrong. That’s life.”

Parasite Rising Action  •  Parasite Movie Script English

It’s at this moment Ki-woo and Ki-taek’s worlds collide. Throughout the film, Ki-woo has remained an optimist; he genuinely believed he could one day climb the social ladder and be rich, too. Ki-taek knows the perils of capitalism all too well. We hear about the various jobs he’s held over the years, and one way or another, everything has gone belly-up. 

The continual bringing up of “What’s the plan” indicates all the pressure on Ki-taek to provide for his family. And he just can’t do it. The pressures of his life have worn him out, and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the same mindset could set into Ki-woo. 

Those aren’t the only parallels in the script. Here are some other lines that correlate to one another. 

  • “Most importantly, she never crossed a line.” / “But that smell. It definitely crosses the line.”
  • “This is so metaphorical.” / “Wow, this is so metaphorical. Look Dad, we’re eating in a driver’s cafeteria right now.”
  • “Anyhow, she’s a nice lady.” / “Not ‘rich but still nice. Nice because she’s rich.’”

Repetition is a powerful oratory tool, and when used correctly, you can develop thematic motifs. It’s no wonder why Bong Joon-ho uses it so frequently to powerful effect. 

Best Parasite Dialogue  •  No Plan at All Speech

Find ways to draw these kinds of connections within your own script. Think of it as scattering the bread crumbs for your audience to connect the dots themselves.

PARASITE SCRIPT TAKEAWAY #2

Parasite characters - Truly parasitic

The central question at the heart of Parasite is, “Who takes advantage of who in a capitalistic society?” Rather than espousing lofty morals, Bong Joon-ho purposely leaves the answer vague. He merely presents an entertaining story with characters who have strong points of view, and in a way, you can see how everyone is a parasite to a degree. 

We have the Kim family, who deceive the Parks into giving them jobs even though they lack the qualifications. Granted, it seems fairly easy to learn any skills they want online. 

There’s also Moon-gwang and her husband. Geun-sae literally comes across as parasitic in the way he hides in the Park home undetected while stealing what food he can at night. 

Then there are the Parks. They employ the Kims; they seem to pay them well. And yet, there’s a distinct disconnect between treating them as human and something lesser. Let’s take a look at a crucial moment during the hectic birthday party scene.

Parasite Characters  •  Parasite Movie Script

Ki-taek’s daughter has been fatally stabbed. His wife fights for her life to avoid the same fate, and all Dong-ik can do is yell at Ki-taek to toss him the car keys. 

You know how you’re supposed to give your boss two weeks notice before you leave, but your boss can just fire you and you have to leave immediately? It’s easy to become disillusioned at the machinations present within capitalism where workers are merely cogs in a machine. 

The Parks were nice to an extent, but they denied the Kims (and probably anyone else not in their socioeconomic class) basic humanity. And when your humanity is denied for too long, sometimes the only thing you can do is rise up in a violent revolution. 

Analyzing Parasite Characters  •  Parasite Film Script

Parasite defies an easy-to-classify theme, but ultimately, it seems as though Bong Joon-ho wants to show us how capitalism turns us all into parasites against each other. We feed off one another’s productivity, capital, and decency all to avoid falling to the wayside. But could there be a way to break the cycle? If Bong Joon-ho believes anything, it’s that it seems unlikely. 

PARASITE SCRIPT TAKEAWAY #3

Parasite ending leaves things dour

Similarly to how the Parasite screenplay defies conventional themes, it also defies genre. There are plenty of humorous moments throughout the film, which makes the downer ending so impactful, as StudioBinder has analyzed before.

Parasite Analysis  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Remember what we said earlier about parallels? That extends to visuals as well, and the very last shot of the film perfectly mirrors the first. What’s interesting is that this seemingly wasn’t always the plan if you look at the last page of the Parasite screenplay.

Parasite Ending  •  Parasite Movie Script PDF

Let’s compare this to what wound up in the finished product.

Parasite Plot  •  Parasite Movie Script English

The final moments perfectly mirror the opening scene where the camera starts at the window of the Kims’ underground apartment. In both cases, it pans down to Ki-woo. He’s ended up exactly where he began except now his sister is dead, his father is trapped, and his mental faculties are severely diminished due to his encounter with Geun-sae.

In most films, the protagonist accomplishes their goal. They get what they need, want, or both. In this instance, Ki-woo has not gained anything, and yet, he remains hopelessly optimistic that he’ll actually one day be able to be in the same social class as the Parks. 

We, as the audience, know this is impossible, and therein lies the dramatic irony. We’re forced to confront the reality that upward mobility is a pipe dream for this character, and that may very well be the case for all of us who weren’t born with golden spoons in our mouths. 

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