The best of Nordic Noir from the big screen
The iconic detectives and criminal cases from Wallander to The Killing and continuing with The Bridge are prime examples of how the Nordic Noir television landscape has been defined since the millennium. However, the cinema screens have been cultivating the signature Scandi crime genre since the 1990s and are still going strong.
Take a look at our top 10 Nordic Noir movies which exemplify the thrilling tropes of the modern genre that has captivated audiences from its crime fiction roots.
The Millennium trilogy (2009)
Noomi Rapace’s starred as the antisocial yet brilliant, technically minded heroine Lisbeth Salander in the adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s internationally bestselling novels The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (originally titled Män som hatar kvinnor or ‘Men Who Hate Women’), The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These were originally broadcast on Swedish television and then shown as the six-part Millennium miniseries; each episode split into two 90 minute segments. Mimicking the success of the books, the first film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the only film destined for the cinema. However, due the bombastic reception, the rest of the made-for-television films were given a theatrical release.
Nominated for the Best Film not in the English Language at the 2013 BAFTA awards, Headhunters is based on the book by former Norwegian premiere league footballer and musician Jo Nesbø. This comic crime caper stars the internationally acclaimed Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, honing his villainous persona from the likes of HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011- ) as he hunts down the duplicitous head-hunter/ art thief played by Aksel Hennie (Pioneer, 2013) who chooses the wrong person to steal from. The explosive action thriller blends dark humour from BAFTA and Oscar nominated director of The Imitation Game (2014), Morten Tyldum.
Veteran Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård leads the investigation into the murder of young woman in Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Insomnia and soon finds the volatile environment in Norway has disastrous effects. Whilst discovering the identity of a serial killer, Jonas Engström (Skarsgård) becomes a victim himself due to the debilitating lack of darkness during the perpetual 24 hours cycle of the ‘midnight sun’. What begins as a routine police procedural dramatically turns into a blurred moral narrative as Engström struggles to retain his grip on his own sanity. The harsh Scandinavian setting is spotlighted in this atmospheric thriller which went on to be remade in Christopher Nolan’s Alaskan set movie in 2002.
Insomnia is available from Amazon on DVD here
Easy Money trilogy (2010-2013)
Jens Lapidus’ ‘Stockholm Noir trilogy’ stars Joel Kinnaman, who notably played a re-imagined version of Søren Mallings’s character in the American remake of The Killing (2011-2014) and Matias Varela, from the series of TV movies Arne Dahl (2011- ). The trilogy begins with Easy Money (2010) centring round Johan Westlund or ‘JW’ (Kinnaman) and Jorge (Varela) who become entangled in the Swedish criminal underworld. Student JW sets his sights on fulfilling his business model dream and endeavours to become part of Sweden’s elite, which leads him to a lucrative drug deal in which he crosses paths with Jorge; an ex-con who is eager to make a life for himself outside of the prison walls. The sequels Easy Money II: Hard to Kill (2012) and Easy Money III: Life Deluxe (2013) continue the incendiary stories ending in a cataclysmic conclusion.
Waking up in a river in France with amnesia, an abdominal scar and 2 million euros in her possession, we are thrown into the mystery of Aliena / Ida, played by Tuva Novotny, who fans will recognise as the curious amateur sleuth Puck from Crimes of Passion (2013). In this Danish Nordic Noir, we follow Aliena / Ida as she pieces together her true identity from memories and flashbacks, while being pursued by a group of menacing men. ID:A received three Robert Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Editor, and Best Special Effects. The Legacy’s Carsten Bjørnlund co-stars.
ID:A is available from Amazon on DVD here
The Hunters (1996) & False Trail (2011)
Originally the face of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander, Rolf Lassgård followed up Wallander’s Faceless Murderer (1995) TV miniseries as an out of his depth detective Erik Bäckström who goes back to his hometown of Norrland in The Hunters to find there an unsettling spate of crimes being carried out by a hunting collective. In the sequel False Trail, Bäckström is once again forced to return to the rural village to solve a murder. In the second instalment, Bäckström must battle with the local policeman Torsten (Peter Stormare) to uncover the truth which the perpetrators will do anything to keep hidden.
The Hunters is available from Amazon on DVD here
False Trail is available from Amazon on DVD here
The Hypnotist (2012)
Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström is known for his epic English-language, beautifully shot dramas such as Chocolat (2000) and The Cider House Rules (1999). However, Hallström brings Alexander Ahndoril best-seller to life in his native language with Mikael Persbrandt (Beck, 1997- ) and Lena Olin (Romeo is Bleeding, 1993) as a couple traumatised by their son’s abduction. When Erik Bark (Persbrandt) is brought in to help a comatose survivor of a multiple killing, the Bark family are thrust into the horror as the murderer targets Erik to avoid getting caught in The Hypnotist.
The Hypnotist is available from Amazon on DVD here
In Order of Disappearance (2014)
In this black comedy of criminal errors, Stellan Skarsgård is joined by Peter Andersson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2009 and Jordskott, 2015- ), Jakob Oftebro (1864, 2014) and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Borgen, 2010-2013). When Nils Dickman (Skarsgård), a snow ploughing Swede living in Norway seeks revenge for the brutal murder of his son, his campaign pits a local gangster against the Serbian Mafia as he fulfils his bloody mission.
In Order of Disappearance is available from Amazon on DVD here
The Pusher trilogy (1996-2005)
Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, 2008 and Drive, 2011) directs the Danish crime trilogy which links together Frank (Kim Bodnia, The Bridge, 2011-2013), Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt, 2012 and The Salvation, 2014) and Milo (Zlatko Burić) in a Bodil Award-winning role. Pusher (1996) introduces the infamous characters and focuses on drug dealer Frank, with his side-kick Tonny at the centre of the narrative in Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004) and drug lord Milo in Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death (2005). The distinctive music and visual flair associated with Refn’s Hollywood films are evident in these gritty depictions of Denmark’s criminal underbelly.
The Pusher trilogy is available from Amazon on DVD here
The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)
Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares are unlikely partners in the first big-screen adaptation of the Department Q novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen. In the same vein as popular Nordic Noir dramas The Killing (2007-2012) and The Bridge (2011- ), this feature-length detective thriller launches investigators Carl Mørck (Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares) into a race-against-time to thwart the taunting homicidal plans of psychopath Uffe Lynggaard, played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (The Legacy, 2014- ). A second adaptation – Fasandræberne – was released in 2014, while a third is currently being filmed under the title A Conspiracy of Faith.