Spotlight: Thai Drama/"Lakorn" Starter Pack
Updated: Jan 22
You can’t go into another country’s drama scene and expect that it will be like anything you’re used to, whether that’s k-drama or Chinese drama (c-drama), especially if you’re talking about the Thai lakorn. Lakorns are soap operas released on prime time tv across local channels in Thailand. They often air two to three times a week and showcase a complete story with a run time of about three months or so. They’re slowly gaining popularity across many different countries and they too are making their own mark with many of their actors and actresses hosting well-attended international fan meets. If you want to know whether you should venture into lakorns, our lakorn-watching noonas are ready to ease you into them.
What You Can Expect in Thai Lakorns
Think slow and over-dramatic and then multiply the dramatics by 100% and decrease the speed by half and you will have some semblance of how Thai lakorns play out. That’s not a criticism, just a description. To fully enjoy a lakorn you just have to accept the fact that the pace moves slower than a k-drama or a c-drama. One episode can run from about one hour to two hours and a big chunk of that is from close-ups of characters’ incredulous expressions. With anywhere from 10 to 20 episodes, these dramas can take up a lot of your time.
Subtlety is not their strong suit. Plots are complex and convoluted but characters are not always so deep. And that can be a good thing if you just want to do a bit of immersing yourself in a soap-opera-type-of-story without thinking about it too much. This also includes slapstick physical comedy, violence (with knives and other weapons blurred out), and sometimes non-woke representations of different sectors of society.
Not all kisses look consensual. Lakorns have a tendency to have their women resist advances at first and eventually capitulate to the more aggressive male. It’s reminiscent of those bodice-ripper romances from a long-gone era. While newer lakorns veer away from this type of romance, it’s generally still prevalent. So if this triggers you, you’ll have to stay away.
The stereotypes are not ashamed to be who they are—the wicked stepmother, the witchy ex-girlfriend, the underworld kingpin, the meddling grandmother, the kind Cinderella—all of these are part and parcel of a lakorn and quite frankly, we’re okay with that. Sometimes, you don’t always want ambiguity in your characters. You want to regress to the black and white world of fairytales because life is hard enough with its gray areas. In lakorns the good guys always win and the bad guys get what’s coming. Although sometimes, they’ll get some kind of redemption too.
If you’re okay with everything mentioned above, then you’ll find that lakorns can actually be highly entertaining and bingeable. Below we look at some of the ones you might want to start with:
Game Sanaeha, Game of Love, Game of Affection (2018)
Adapted from a novel, the story revolves around the marriage of convenience between Muanchanok “Nok” (Natapohn Tameeruks), who comes home to discover that her parents have decided to divorce. Hellbent on getting them back together, she agrees to marry Lakkhanai ("James" Jirayu Tangrisuk) whom she absolutely hates. But of course, this is a soap opera and hate eventually turns into love but when Nok finally realizes it, it may be too late. Filled with longing looks and repressed sexual tension, Game Sanaeha is a Mills and Boon novel come to life with a distinct Thai flavor.
14 episodes available on Netflix (some territories)
Voice in the Rain (2020)
Fashion designer Rarin “Rin” (Mashannoad Suvanamas) has a secret. Every time it rains, she hears a male voice in her head that she can have conversations with. One day, she discovers that the owner of the voice is actually Tanthai (Naphat Vikairungroj), a model and actor whom she has to work with. What is fate playing at by bringing these two together? If you like romances with a touch of fantasy, then you might enjoy this light drama.
16 episodes available on Viki and Viu
In the third adaptation of this popular historical lakorn set in the 1950s, Massaya (Mookda Narinrak) is brought into the wealthy household of the Rattanamahasarn family where she develops a friendship with the dashing heir Lak Rattanamahasarn (Mik Thongraya). This rags-to-riches story features scornful ladies of the house reminiscent of Cinderella’s stepsister and stepmother. Massaya is an absolute soap opera in the best sense of the word. Nasty villains, a heroine with a heart of gold, and a handsome male lead—all make for a very entertaining watch.
17 episodes available on other sites
Full House (2014)
If you loved the k-drama Full House starring Rain and Song Hye-kyo, then you will enjoy this nth adaptation into a lakorn about a woman who must cohabit with a man who bought her house without her knowledge. It’s tsundere (angsty, arrogant male lead with a heart of gold) at its peak for Mike (Mike Pirat Nitipaisalkul) whose tough exterior hides a wounded heart and who eventually falls for innocent and optimistic Aom (Sushar Manaying). Watch this one with a checklist for all the tropes of old-school dramas and revel in the guilty pleasure of enjoying it, even when it didn’t age well.
20 episodes available on Netflix (in some territories)
The Crown Princess (2018)
Yaya (Urassaya Sperbund) is one of Thailand’s biggest stars. In The Crown Princess, she stars as a princess in a fictional land who needs the protection of Dawin Samuthyakorn (Nadech Kugimiya, an equally successful movie star), a Lieutenant Commander from the Thai navy. And we can all probably guess what happens next when a crown princess shares close quarters with a handsome bodyguard. Thailand has a real monarchy and it’s not surprising that they would have many lakorns about royalty—all in a fictional land of course, because it’s illegal to defame, threaten, or insult the royal family.
12 episodes available on other sites
If you tried one of these and you liked it, then you're in for a whole new world of entertaining dramas. Now all you need is the time to watch them.