Scandinavian Cinema – 8 Cinematic Treats
With the temperature dropping and the dark evenings rolling in, it is a perfect time to discover new cinematic masterpieces. Scandinavian cinema is a perfect avenue to explore for those looking for a new experience. With a wide array of genres and stories with a lilt of dark humour along the way there is something new to be discovered.
We have put together a list of the 8 most popular, interesting and varied Scandinavian films. This list will complement your language learning. The list includes films from Sweden, Denmark and Norway from the last 15 years!
Whether you’re into crime dramas, thrillers or comedies, there is always a great Scandinavian film waiting for you. Grab a mug of warm cocoa or you beverage of choice and curl up on the sofa. You are ready to explore the world of Scandinavian Cinema!
Scandinavian Cinema – 8 Cinematic Treats
1. Troll Hunter – Norway, 2010 – Dir. André Øvredal
This slice of ‘found-footage’ mockumentary horror from Norway explores the traditional Norwegian myth of trolls! However, don’t be expecting to see small plastic dolls with vibrant hair in this 2010 film. We are talking about the giant, tree smashing, boulder throwing trolls who have a taste for meat!
Following a group of students who are making a documentary about Hans, a suspected bear poacher in the Norwegian countryside. Their project takes an unexpected turn when they discover he is in fact a troll hunter. The students find themselves embroiled in Hans’ determination to hunt and kill the trolls who are terrorising the area.
The combination of ‘monster horror’ and comedy make Troll Hunter a fun and exciting film to watch. Though probably not one for the kids.
2. Force Majeure – Norway, Sweden, France, UK, 2014 – Dir. Ruben Östlund
The plot of Force Majeure may be familiar to some film fans who have seen the 2020 film Downhill starring Will Ferrell. As is the case with a number of Scandinavian films and TV series, Force Majeure was remade into the English language to attract a wider audience. However, this is usually a sign that the original film was so well conceived that it would flourish in English speaking countries after being remade.
The story follows a Swedish business man Tomas who, along with his Norwegian wife Ebba and their children, visit a ski resort in the French Alps for a vacation. During an avalanche which threatens the resort they are staying in, Tomas prioritises his safety over that of his family after which ensues marital tensions between himself and Ebba.
The film stitches together drama, turmoil and comedy with perfect effect as the couple begin to question their relationship and commitment to one and other.
3. The Hunt – Denmark, 2012 – Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
Set in a small Danish village, The Hunt stars world renowned actor Mads Mikkelsen in this psychological drama.
The Hunt follows the story of Mikkelsens character Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is divorced and attempting to raise a teenage son through joint custody with his ex-wife. His one saving grace is his job at the local school and popularity amongst the students.
His life is flipped upside down however when a student accuses Lucas of sexual assaulting her. He is ostracised from the community, loses his job and branded a paedophile. The film follows his desperate attempt to find out what the accusations were and to clear his name within the community and to the authorities.
The Hunt is a powerful piece of Scandinavian cinema with such a complex combination of emotions running throughout. Mads Mikkelsen is a brilliant choice for the role of Lucas and the cast throughout mean you never want to take your eyes off the screen.
4. Lords of Chaos – Sweden, UK, USA, 2018 – Dir. Jonas Åkerlund
While this film is not strictly a piece of Scandinavian Cinema, its subject matter and director are very much from the Nordic countries.
Lords of Chaos is a musical biography of the black metal, Norwegian band Mayhem. The band rose to popularity in Norway in the late 80’s and early 90’s due to their unique sound, stage presence and a dark history of the band.
The suicide of their lead singer Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin, otherwise known as ‘Dead’, is a main focal point of the film as well as the fallout from the event and the fate of the members of the band as they attempt to take over the metal genre.
Told from the point of view of guitarist Øystein Aarseth, AKA ‘Euronymous’, Lords of Chaos is visually haunting film whilst also showing the life of the ostracised youth in late 20th Century Norway.
Battling their passion for music, jealousy, in-fighting, a strong anti-religious stance all while attempting to make it big as musicians. The story of Mayhem is entrancing and visceral. Definitely one for heavy metal fans who may already be aware of the history of Mayhem.
5. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Sweden, France, Germany, 2013 – Dir. Felix Herngren
Based on the internationally acclaimed novel by the same title, the Hundred-Year Old Man is a comedy romp through time! This is a classic example of Scandinavian cinema comedy, a bit farcical and very tongue in cheek.
Allan is a 100 year old man living in a nursing home in Sweden. On the day of his centenary he climbs out of his bedroom window and disappears. What follows is a hysterical combination of the current day timeline combined with flashbacks to Allan’s youth.
In his younger years we find that Allan was at the centre of some of the worlds most historical moments from the 20th century. Similar in ways to the Oscar winning Forrest Gump, Allan’s interactions with prominent people impacted the rest of the world.
From fighting in wars across Europe to helping develop the first atomic bomb, the stories are endless. This combined with the present day storyline of him being ‘on the run’ from his nursing home, The Hundred-Year-Old Man is a fun ride, full of Swedish humour and explosions!
6. In Order of Disappearance – Norway, 2014 – Dir. Hans Petter Moland
Starring Stellan Skarsgård, In Order of Disappearance is a proper slice of crime, revenge Scandinavian Cinema. With action, suspense and, of course, a dash of dark comedy, this is one for fans of Tarantino and the Coen Brothers.
The film follows Nils Dickman (Skarsgård), an honourable citizen whose son has turned up dead from a suspected overdose. Not believing the police, Nils embarks on a journey to find the true cause of his sons death and get revenge on those who perpetrated it.
The action and suspense continues throughout the film. Slowly the bodies mount up, as Nils attempts to uncover the true reason behuind his sons death.
As with Force Majeure, In Order of Disappearance has been remade into an English language film in recent years. For those who have seen Cold Pursuit starring Liam Neeson, this film will seem very familiar. However, it is always worth watching the original in the story’s native language.
7. We Are The Best! – Sweden, 2013 – Dir. Lukas Moodysson
Adapted from director, Lukas Moodysson’s wife’s graphic novel Never Goodnight, We Are The Best! tells the story of a group on teenage girls in the early 80’s who form their own punk band.
Despite their lack of musical abilities, their passion drives them forward to carve out their own way in the local music scene. Combining teenage angst, friendship, passion and optimism, We Are The Best! is a heart warming coming of age film.
The love for each other and the punk lifestyle cannot help but bring a smile to the face of any viewer. This is definitely a piece of Scandinavian Cinema for almost anybody to sit and enjoy on a cold winters evening.
8. Kon Tiki – Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, UK, 2012 – Dir. Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
The final addition to our list of Scandinavian Cinema treats is a true collaborative effort from five countries. Kon Tiki is a dramatisation of the epic journey taken by Thor Heyerdahl and his crew aboard a raft as they travel from South America to the Polynesian Islands in 1947.
The film is a giant adventure telling Heyerdahl’s story as he and his crew battles storms, sharks and other perils. All in an attempt to prove the theory that people from South America settled the Polynesian Islands.
This is one for the whole family to watch and enjoy. You can visit the Kon Tiki museum in Oslo to discover more about the crossing. They even have the original raft on display!
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How to watch these 8 cinematic treats – Scandinavian Cinema
All eight of these films are available to watch on streaming platforms. Watching films in a foreign language with subtitles in your local dialect is an easy way to pick up a new language. With the boom of streaming services over recent years there is always something new to be discovered. Plenty of entertainment to explore from across the world!