The Best Shows and Movies to Watch

Nordic noir, also known as Scandinavian noir, is a genre of crime fiction usually written from a police point of view and set in Scandinavia or Nordic countries. Nordic dramas typically have a unique atmosphere, with dark and gloomy settings, captivating plots and shocking twists. The sinister truths that are revealed in the investigative path of these movies and shows are what has popularized the subgenre, making massive hits out of shows like The Killing and The Bridge.

Due to such popularity, Nordic Noir has exploded outside its Scandinavian context, and inspired acclaimed remakes internationally along with similar shows (Broadchurch being a prominent example), transcending the Nordic origins but keeping its icy, grim atmosphere. It is now recognized and widely favored amongst an array of cultures worldwide, but the original Nordic noirs are often the best. If you’re looking to sink your teeth into a dark, bleak, and very gritty Nordic crime movie or TV show to send you chills, let’s take a look at the ones that have captivated everyone.

7 The Chestnut Man

A body hangs upside down in the woods in The Chestnut Man

This Nordic Noir focuses on a serial killer in Copenhagen who leaves handmade figures made of chestnuts near each crime scene. The Chestnut Man is based on Søren Sveistrup’s book of the same name, who may also be recognized from screenwriting the popular Danish show, The Killing. Inspiration for the show, according to Sveistrup, is because creating chestnut dolls are actually an annual tradition in Denmark.

The Chestnut Man (or Chestnuts) opens with the murder of an entire family on a remote farm in 1987. The viewers are brought to present day Copenhagen, Denmark, 30 years later where a young woman is found murdered at a playground with one of her hands missing. As Detective Naia Thulin and her partner, Mark Hess, investigate The Chestnut Man, the fingerprint of a missing child, the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung, is soon discovered. With all the ingredients for a perfect Nordic noir, The Chestnut Man is dark and grizzly right from the opening sequence, chilling, with a captivating detective story and a trail of gruesome murders for the viewers to attempt to solve themselves.

6 The Valhalla Murders

The cast of The Valhalla Murders in forensics
Netflix / RUV

As an eight episode police procedural series, The Valhalla Murders (or Bread) was originally aired in Iceland in 2019 but caught viewers eyes and was brought to Netflix in 2020 and BBC Four in the UK A police profiler named Arnar is assigned (alongside local senior cop, Kata) to Iceland’s first ever serial murderer investigation after being transferred back to Iceland from Norway.

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As they find it difficult to find a link between the killings, they slowly begin to connect the murders to an abandoned boys’ home named Valhalla, where horrible crimes had happened 35 years previously. The series is reportedly loosely based on a real story from the late ’40s, where children between the ages of seven and 14 were horrifically beaten and abused by staff members of a state-run institution for troubled boys. Although, these events did not involve murder and this was a fictional addition in the series to create that extra gritty Nordic noir touch for viewers.

5 The Bridge

The cast of The Bridge

Nordic Noir crime television series The Bridge (or Broen) hooked audience immediately with its gripping narrative and unforgettable performances. The story opens with the discovery of a dead body in the middle of Øresund Bridge, the conduit between Sweden and Denmark. Two detectives, one from each country as they are assigned to the case, realize (as every great thriller goes) that not everything is what it seems. Within a few hours, the story accelerates in tension, becomes increasingly mysterious and has keeps the audience guessing as they are taken on a journey of mystery, murder and morbid storylines.

4 Wallander

Kenneth Branagh by a lake in Wallander

Wallander follows a motivated cop with a sensitive side, a character devoted to doing what’s right, even as he understands the damage it’s doing to his personal life. Even though he’s dealing with a slew of personal issues, he still manages to charm his way into our hearts. As Wallander solves a series of violent and terrifying murders in Skåne, southern Sweden, the viewers are presented a show that is filled with plenty of Nordic Noir characteristics – tense atmospheres, paranoia, themes of social disintegration, and an obsessed cop that often works alone and risks it all to solve violent crimes. The show was a smash hit in its own country, even spurring a British remake on BBC starring Kenneth Branagh.

3 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth and the man sit by the fireplace in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Nordic Film

There may be a great David Fincher Hollywood remake, but nothing beats the original Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tatto. Breaking the mold, this Swedish Nordic Noir is dark, mysterious, and completely intriguing. If its audience can handle the intensity, it rewards its viewers with an engaging, incredibly effective and exceptionally made thriller. The story follows two polar opposite people: Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker with an unhappy past.

Related: Here’s How Killing Eve Subverts the TV Police Procedural

The two are brought together when they become enthralled in a 40-year-old mystery. Hired to investigate the old mystery involving the disappearance of a young girl nearly four decades prior, Blomkvist becomes aware that a shadowy woman is following his every move. This movie captures axdcr5ft, offering the viewer to find something new and sinister with every watch. As such a classic Nordic noir, two sequels, The Girl Who Played with Fireand The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nestwere released later the very same year.

2 Deadwind

A woman points a gun in Deadwind
Yle TV2

Deadwind (or Karppi) is a Finnish crime series and modern murder mystery in the Nordic noir vein, following Sofia Karppi, a recently widowed detective of the Finnish police. She is assigned to the case of the murder of Anna Bergdahl. While it seemed like Anna had no enemies, Karppi quickly realizes that everyone has a lot to hide. So, who murdered Anna? In true Nordic noir style, the focus is as much on the detectives and their lives as the crime they are trying to solve. With the tension growing with each series, and plenty of gripping twists and turns that keep the viewers on their toes.

1 The Killing

The detective stands in the field in The Killing

Originally broadcast in 2007 in its native Denmark and 2011 in the UK (and then on AMC in America), The Killing (or The crime) can be seen as one of the most influential crime dramas of all time. Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund is supposed to be on her last day with the Copenhagen police force, but everything changes when 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen is found brutally murdered. Of course, The Killing was so loved because viewers became captivated by the compelling characters. We could not tear ourselves away from Sarah Lund, the appealingly dysfunctional detective and were blindsided by the shattering grief of Nanna’s parents. The series is noted for its paranoia and suspicion, plot twists within the storylines, dark tone, and emphasis to the stories of the murdered victim’s family and the effect on the detective.

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