Nordic dramas have a unique feel. The dark settings and stories, slow-building plots, and shocking conclusions are chilling in more ways that one. The cold of the austere landscapes seeps into your bones as deeply held secrets come to light. The veneer of normalcy is torn away to reveal sinister truths hiding beneath everyday life.
For fans of Nordic noir, nothing else will do.
Which is why we have collected the best Nordic dramas that you can stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime right now. So grab a blanket, turn off the lights, and settle down with one of these great movies or TV shows.
1. The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduced much of the world to Nordic noir. The books and movies in the series chilled audiences with their dark sets, moody characters, and shocking violence. The first series of movies, filmed in Swedish, is considered by many fans to be the better of the two that have been released.
If you aren’t already familiar with the story, here’s the short version: a journalist hires a young hacker to help him solve an old murder. The murder (as is always the case in Nordic crime dramas) is much more complicated than he expects, and he’s soon drawn into multiple webs of deceit. And the hacker, Lisbeth Salander, has her own disturbing world to navigate.
Be sure not to miss this one.
Another detective based on a literary character, Kurt Wallander typifies the Nordic noir protagonist: moody, intelligent, and obsessed. These are flawed characters we’re dealing with, and Wallander is no exception.
You can only stream the first season on Netflix, but each episode is around 90 minutes long. There are plenty of murders, abductions, disappearances, and personal drama (oh, the personal drama!) in that single season. Numerous seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray if and when you get hooked.
If you want more, you can also stream four seasons of the English-language version, starring Kenneth Branagh, on Netflix.
Sweden may look idyllic, but there’s a darkness seething beneath the surface, and there’s no way to tell who it’s taken hold of. Welcome to Wallander.
3. The Killing
Originally a Danish TV show, The Killing has been adapted as a dark mystery-thriller that takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The dreary landscapes and constant rain are perfect for the bleak plot. It begins with a murder mystery, but — as I’m sure you expect — nothing is as straightforward as it seems.
Both leads provide phenomenal performances, and the glimpse inside the families of the murder victims are heart-wrenching. Despite being an American show, this is Nordic noir at its finest.
Netflix produced the fourth and final season to conclude the series, so if you get into The Killing you don’t have to worry about waiting for new episodes to come out.
British TV has been producing a slew of great Nordic-style shows in the past few years, and Fortitude is one of them. A murder shocks a small, remote Norwegian town near the Arctic Circle, and, of course, everything starts unraveling after that.
Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Dormer, Sofie Gråbøl, and Dennis Quaid provide all-star backing to this show, but even the minor characters are well-crafted.
If you’re looking for a slow-burning, suspenseful trip into the deep Arctic snows, you can’t go wrong with Fortitude. There are two seasons available on Amazon Prime, and there are rumors of a potential third season in the works.
5. The Keeper of Lost Causes
A burned-out (and in-trouble) police officer, a cold case department, and a supposed suicide. All perfect ingredients for a thrilling Nordic noir. Adapted from the highly praised Danish novel, this is the first in a series of three films.
All three have been generally liked by critics and fans, though they haven’t shattered any records. But if you want all of the Nordic drama without having to commit to a full show, it’s worth watching.
And if you like it, there are two others in the same series on Netflix that you can dig into.
Another example of the Brits’ expertise in Scandinavian-like dramas, Broadchurch is an exquisitely paced, intricately plotted exploration of a small-town murder. David Tennant, as usual, is on form, and both Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker contribute phenomenal performances.
While the murder of a boy is the primary plot driver, there’s much more to this show. Viewers will see what suspicion, attention, grief, and rebuilding do to the town and its residents. It’s a multi-layered plot that draws you in and keeps you there.
The show is highly awarded, with Colman receiving Best Actress at the 2014 BAFTA awards. The dreary British backdrop — punctuated with gorgeous architecture and seaside vistas — are a perfect setting for this gripping story.
Iceland may be known for its remarkably low murder rate (less than two per year, on average), but it’s a perfect setting for a Nordic noir murder mystery. A limbless, headless corpse appears in the harbor, and a storm ensures that no one can leave the small Icelandic town. It’s up to the three-person police department to solve the crime.
Trapped was made especially poignant by the fact that it paralleled one of the few real murder mysteries in Icelandic history. (If you want true crime stories, there are plenty of those available, too.)
The conflicted and jaded detective, bleak backdrops, and horrible secrets held by seemingly mundane people make this a shining example of Nordic drama. The first season is available on Amazon Prime, and a second season is currently in the works.
Embrace the Darkness
Scandinavian noir is full of the darkness hiding behind the façade of everyday life. But there are glimpses of light, too. You just have to dig through the bodies to find them. These seven movies and TV shows are great examples of Nordic drama, and all can be streamed on Netflix or Amazon Prime as soon as you finish reading this article.
What are your favorite Nordic dramas? Please share your picks with us in the comments below! And if you can stream them, be sure to let us know where.
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