Scandinavian films: tips for the next film night

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Scandinavian cinema has a long history and has produced numerous stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Mads Mikkelsen and the entire Skarsgård family. Scandinavian films are often characterised by their melodrama – scandic noir is also a popular genre in the film industry. In this article, we have put together a selection of well-known and lesser-known film gems from the North!

Danish films

The Olsen Gang (1968-1998)

Olsen-banden (1968) - Officiel trailer

The Olsen Gang is a 14-part film series, most of which were made between 1968 and 1981 by director Erik Balling, about a gang of crooks of the same name. The films all have a similar plot: a trio of Copenhagen gangsters, consisting of the leader Egon Olsen, Benny Frandsen and Kjeld Jensen, repeatedly try to pull off a major coup and get rich, but fail each time in spectacular and humorous fashion.

💡 The films also enjoyed great popularity outside Denmark and today have cult status in some countries, for example Germany. The success of the films has led to numerous remakes and new adaptations being produced in various countries.

Nightwatch (1994)

Nightwatch (Nattevagten) - Trailer

The thriller Nightwatch by Ole Bornedal revolves around the student Martin, who takes a job as a night watchman at the Copenhagen coroner’s office. During a series of serial murders, strange incidents also occur at the coroner’s office – and Martin, who is haunted by fears and paranoia, is caught in the middle. Nightwatch became one of the most successful Danish films of all time and made Nikolaj Castor-Waldau a star in his home country.

💡 In 1997, Nightwatch received an American remake, which was also directed by Ole Bornedal. Ewan McGregor took on the leading role in Freeze – Nightwatch, but the remake was unable to match the success of the Danish original.

Brothers (2004)

Brothers / Brødre Trailer

Brothers is a moving war and family drama by Susanne Bier about the effects of war on the relationship between two brothers. When soldier Michael is captured and presumed dead, his brother Jannik, the complete opposite of Michael, takes care of his family. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and received several international awards. In 2009, it was remade in the USA with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman.

💡 In 2017, Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason wrote an opera based on Brothers. It was performed in Denmark, Iceland and Hungary.

After the Wedding (2006)

After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet) (2006) Official Trailer

After the Wedding is a Danish film drama by Susanne Bier. The film is about Jacob, a man who has been running an orphanage in India for years. When he travels to Copenhagen to collect donations, he is invited by a potential donor to attend his daughter’s wedding – at which Jacob’s life will fundamentally change. The emotionally gripping film starring Mads Mikkelsen received several international awards and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

💡 An American remake starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams was released in 2019.

The Hunt (2012)

The Hunt Official Trailer #1 (2013)

The film drama The Hunt by director Thomas Vinterberg is about kindergarten teacher Lucas, played magnificently by Mads Mikkelsen, who is falsely accused of abusing a child. Although Lucas is innocent, more and more people turn away from him, he is exposed to growing mistrust and violence and his career, private life and reputation are destroyed. The Hunt tells an intense story and has won numerous awards.

💡 Mikkelsen was honoured as best actor at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 for his performance in The Hunt.

Department Q series (since 2013)

Department Q Trilogy - Official Trailer

Since 2013, Danish bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen‘s crime novels about Carl Mørck and his colleagues in Copenhagen Police’s Special Department Q have been made into films. Over the course of the films, they investigate a series of cold cases, including kidnappings, murders and political intrigue, while also being confronted with personal problems. The film series comprises four films so far: Mercy (2013), Desecration (2014), Redemption (2016) and Contempt (2018).

💡 The book series on which the films are based now consists of ten volumes, which were published between 2007 and 2020. It is still uncertain whether the remaining books will also be made into films; the fifth part was filmed with a new cast in 2021.

Swedish films

Persona (1966)


When it comes to Swedish films, there is one director who cannot be left out: Ingmar Bergman. His film dramas have become known and awarded worldwide – in 1997 he was honoured as “Best Film Director of All Time” at the Cannes Film Festival. The drama Persona is about the relationship between the nurse Alma and her suddenly silenced patient Elisabet, an actress.

💡 Persona is inspired by the Swedish writer August Strindberg and his works A Dream Play, which has an open form, and The Stronger, which is about an argument between two actresses, one of whom remains silent.

Millennium Series (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009 Trailer

The Millennium films from 2009 are based on the crime novels of the same name by Stieg Larsson and comprise three films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. The films tell the story of hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who become entangled in a series of conspiracies, murders and corruption in Sweden. The films, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and Daniel Alfredson, were among the most successful European films of 2009.

💡 Actress Noomi Rapace prepared intensively for the role – not only did she cut off her hair and get pierced, she also learnt kickboxing, taekwando and motorcycling for the film.

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence | official Trailer Venice 2014

The film A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence by Roy Andersson is about two novelty salesmen, Sam and Jonathan, who travel through the Swedish countryside in search of customers and meet a wide variety of eccentric and bizarre characters on their journey. The film was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival.

💡 The title of the film, which director Andersson worked on for four years and which was shot entirely in a single building, is inspired by the painting The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

A Man Called Ove (2015)

A Man Called Ove Official Trailer 1

The tragicomedy A Man Called Ove is based on the novel of the same name by Frederik Backman and tells the story of the grumpy widower Ove, who makes sure that the rules in his settlement are followed – but after losing his job, he no longer sees any point and tries to take his own life time and time again. This is prevented by his chaotic new neighbours, among others, who quickly integrate Ove into their lives.

💡 Following the international success of A Man Called Ove, an American remake starring Tom Hanks was released in cinemas in 2022 under the slightly different title A Man Called Otto.

Becoming Astrid (2018)

BECOMING ASTRID - Official U.S. Trailer

Becoming Astrid revolves around the early life of bestselling author Astrid Lindgren, perhaps the most famous children’s author in history. The film by Pernille Fischer Christensen is a free interpretation of the author’s moving life in her 20s and tells of her first steps in the world of books and publishing as well as her early pregnancy. Astrid Lindgren is played by Alba August, who is known from the series The Rain, for example.

💡 The older Astrid Lindgren can be seen in the film’s frame story. She is played by actress Maria Fahl Vikander. Alicia Vikander‘s mother plays one of her last roles; she died in 2022.

Pippi Longstocking (1969)

Swedish children’s book film adaptations are particularly popular – Astrid Lindgren’s stories in particular are known and loved worldwide, which is why they enjoy cult status today. Pippi Longstocking revolves around the cheeky girl with the red pigtails and freckles who lives in Villa Villekulla and has one adventure after another with her friends. The series and films made actress Inger Nilsson a global star. The films are clips from the series.

💡 The film, which was edited together for German-speaking audiences only, is still one of the 60 most popular films to have been shown in German cinemas since 1960. If you want to see the original film locations and props from the film, you can do so in the film village of Småland, not far from Lindgren’s home town of Vimmerby.

Norwegian films

Elling (2001)

Elling is a Norwegian Black comedy from 2001 and is based on a novel by Ingvar Ambjørnsen. It tells the story of two men who live in a flat after a stay in a psychiatric institution and have to get along with each other while finding their way back into everyday society. The film became a worldwide success and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

💡 Due to its great success, the prequel Mors Elling (Mother Elling) was filmed by Eva Isaksen in 2003. this was followed in 2005 by the sequel Elsk meg i morgen (Love me tomorrow), again directed by Petter Næss, who also directed the first film.

King of Devil’s Island (2010)

KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND - Official HD Trailer

The drama King of Devil’s Island is based on true events and is about the notorious prison island of Basøy, where juvenile offenders are interned. The main character Erling arrives on the island in 1915 and instigates a rebellion against the authorities surrounding the prison warden Håkon (played by Stellan Skarsgård) to protest against the inhumane conditions in prison.

💡 The reformatory for boys on Basøy existed from 1900 to 1970, the uprising featured in the film is based on the actual uprising of 1915. The film was mainly shot in Estonia.

Oslo, August 31st (2011)

Oslo August 31st Official Trailer #1 (2012) HD

Oslo, August 31st is a Norwegian film drama from 2011, focusing on a man named Anders who spends a day in Oslo after spending time in a drug rehabilitation facility. The film by Joachim Trier deals with numerous difficult topics such as addiction, loneliness and depression and shows the complex structure of the human psyche.

💡 The film is loosely based on the French novel Will O’ the Wisp by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, which was made into a film in 1961 (The Fire Within). The film was shot at many original locations in Oslo.

Her er Harold (2014)

Her er Harold | Trailer | Mer Film

The comedy Her er Harold by Gunnar Vikene is about Harold, who has run a successful furniture shop in Norway for 40 years. However, after IKEA opens a branch right next to his shop, the number of customers plummets as the residents now prefer to shop at the cheap furniture giant. Harald comes up with a desperate and crazy plan – to kidnap Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, as revenge.

💡 Lead actor Bjørn Sundquist was honoured with the Norwegian film prize Amanda for his role. Her er Harold is based on the novel An Honest Offer by Frode Grytten, published in 2011.

Troll (2022)

TROLL | Official Trailer | Netflix

Troll is a fantasy film by director Roar Uthaug in which modern Norway, centred around palaeontologist Nora Tiedemann, is suddenly threatened by a relic of Norse mythology – after blasting work in the mountains, an ancient troll awakens, now bent on revenge against mankind. In an exciting way, the film shows the relationship between man and nature as well as the past and modernity.

💡 The monster film plays with elements of Norwegian history. It deals with motifs from mythology, the Viking Age and the Christianisation of the country.

Finnish films

The Man Without a Past (2002)

The Man Without a Past (2002) Trailer

The Man Without a Past is an award-winning Finnish drama by director Aki Kaurismäki from 2002 about a man who is found without memory in Helsinki and begins a new life in a container settlement without a name or any possessions.

💡 The Man Without a Past is part of Aki Kaurismäki’s Trilogy of Losers, in which the director criticises society. Other films in the series are Drifting Clouds (1996) and Lights in the Dusk (2006).

Rare Exports – A Christmas Tale (2010)

Rare Exports : A Christmas Tale | trailer #1 US (2010)

The horror comedy film Rare Exports – A Christmas Tale by Jalmari Helander deals with the mythical figure of Santa Claus and focuses on the darker side of the myth. There is no cosy Christmas atmosphere here, but the battle between Santa and his elves against humans is not lacking in action – plus, there is also plenty of humour.

💡 Director Jalmari Helander filmed the short film Rare Exports Inc. for a Finnish advertising company in 2003. The film became very popular, which is why Helander made another short film in 2005 before turning his attention to his feature film project.

Lapland Odyssey (2010)

Lapland Odyssey | Official Trailer

The comedy film Lapland Odyssey is about three listless friends who set off together to the land of Santa Claus to get a present for protagonist Janne’s ex-girlfriend. On their journey through Lapland, they not only have to contend with the forces of nature, but also deal with all kinds of bizarre characters. The road movie tells of the situation and problems of people in Lapland in a humorous way.

💡 The film was shot under authentic conditions in northern Finland, which is why the cast and crew had to deal with temperatures as low as -20° Celsius. A transportable sauna was brought along to keep everyone happy.

Icelandic films

Rams (2015)

RAMS - Official HD Trailer (2015)

The comedy Rams by Grímur Hakonarson is about two brothers, Gummi and Kiddi, who raise sheep side by side in a picturesque valley in Iceland, but haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years. When an epidemic suddenly breaks out and the authorities plan to kill all the sheep in the region, the two brothers must suddenly work together to save their beloved and prize-winning animals. The film is a humorous portrayal of rural life in one of the most remote regions in the world.

💡 The film has received awards and nominations at numerous national and international film festivals and award ceremonies. An Australian remake starring Sam Neill was released in cinemas in 2020.

Under the Tree (2017)

Under The Tree - Trailer

Under the Tree is a black tragicomedy film by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurđsson that revolves around a neighbourhood feud. On the outskirts of Reykjavik, a dispute breaks out between two families over a tree, which escalates and leads to bizarre conflicts and situations.

💡 The film also deals with difficult topics in an unusual and satirical way. The characters are often absurd and exaggerated versions of themselves, making the audience laugh and think at the same time.

Whether on Netflix, Prime Video, other streaming services or simply in the DVD & Blu-ray section – Scandinavian films are available in a wide variety. We hope you enjoy browsing and watching!

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