Ever since the Nordic Noir boom began several years ago, people have had their eyes on Scandinavia as an entertainment producer. Before that uptick in interest in Northern European television and film, people might have come across television programs and films from the Nordic countries, but far fewer people were actively searching it out. Nowadays, everyone’s favorite streaming service, Netflix, is full of shows produced here in the North. These are the eleven best to explore right away.
Arguably one of the best television programs Sweden has ever produced, The Bridge is a part Swedish and part Danish crime drama that has gripped people across the world. It highlights a number of interesting Swedish cultural quirks as well as illustrates the differences between the Danes and the Swedes. The show is set in both Copenhagen and Malmo, giving an interesting insight into the closeness between those two cities. A great deal of Swedish television is set in Stockholm so the chance to see another city is unusual. It recently aired its final episode in Sweden but the fourth season will be released to the rest of the world very soon.
Welcome to Sweden
This is a comedy made by Amy Poehler’s brother, Greg, who is a regular at the Stockholm Comedy Club. It is not the best-reviewed show but is not short on laughs and does give some genuinely notable contributions for people looking to learn more about Sweden. It is based on Poehler’s real-life experience when he moved to Sweden from the United States to live with his then-girlfriend (now wife) and what it was like to learn about Sweden. It was the first English language show produced by the Swedish TV channel TV4. It is only two seasons so it’s very easy to binge watch.
A show that came along at a similar time to The Bridge and shared many of its Nordic Noir characteristics, Arne Dahl is based on a novel by Jan Arnald, whose books about a group of crime-fighting detectives who investigate important and large-scale crimes gripped Sweden—so it was no surprise they were made into a TV show. Arne Dahl was Arnald’s pen name, hence the name of the series, which ran for two seasons and was shown in the UK by the BBC.
Bamse is a beloved children’s comic book character in Sweden who has been delighting young Swedes since 1966. Bamse is “the world’s stronger bear” who, similarly to Popeye and spinach, gets his strength from eating thunder honey. The show has long been loved because it is willing to tackle tough issues and teach children about contributing to creating a happy, kind, and healthy society. Bamse comic books have covered everything from why paying tax is important, to what it means to have a disability, as Bamse’s fourth child has Asperger’s syndrome. The TV show was as much as a hit with adults as children and is well worth watching.
Thicker than Water
This is a superb family drama set in Aland, a very popular summer holiday destination, which is technically part of Finland but is Swedish speaking. When the matriarch of a family dies, three siblings are told that they have to run the guesthouse their mother owned, together, for a year, in order to gain their inheritance. It is a deeply sad, gripping, and exciting show which includes the siblings fighting, making shocking discoveries, and working together—both for the sake of their mother and for their inheritance. Some of the shots of Aland, a collection of islands around a seven-hour boat ride from Stockholm, are stunning.
Kann Ingen Sorg
It is impossible to underestimate the popularity and importance of Swedish musician Hakan Hellstrom in Sweden. He is a superstar in the country and is arguably the most popular Swedish language artist to emerge from Sweden. When he played at Grona Lund, a theme park in Stockholm, people slept outside on the street overnight so they could see him the next day. This film is based on, and soundtracked by Hellstrom and explores a boy’s dreams of becoming a musician. Hellstrom himself has a small cameo in the film.
Alongside Bamse, Sune is one of the most popular children’s characters in Sweden, with books featuring the character first being published in 1986. Sune lives in a fictional Swedish town and is, in essence, meant to represent the classic Swedish pre-teen. He gets involved in a variety of different capers and adventures with his friends, and has been delighting children of all ages in Sweden since he first appeared. There have been four different Swedish films featuring Sune and his family—with 1993’s Sune’s Summer arguably the best—but they are all great family films to watch.
It is no secret that Sweden loves football, with many of its stars being near-deified when they have success. Despite this, there are very few television programs or films about Swedish football on Netflix—with Offside being the pick of the bunch. Outside of the Allsvenskan, the top division of Swedish football, there are a number of small, passionate clubs playing at semi-professional level. Offside tells the story of fictional club Stenfors BK, who have dropped into Sweden’s lowest division. In order to get up the table, they bring in former English professional Duncan Miller with hilarious results.
The Millennium series
Perhaps the most popular series of films to have come out of Sweden in recent years, The Millennium series of books written by Stieg Larsson and published posthumously in 2005 gripped both Sweden and the world. All three of the original trilogy of books have been made into Swedish language films, with the first of those books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, made into an English language film with Daniel Craig. The Swedish language films are excellent and well worth your time.
Sound of Noise
This is a unique and very exciting cult film about a group of anarchists who make music using typically non-musical items. During the film, this includes feeding banknotes into a shredder to make bass noise and thumping the ground with a bulldozer to create a drum-like sound. They are chased down by a tone-deaf policeman who hates music. It is a comedy caper that is funny without being a clichè. It is an excellent example of Swedish humor.
This is a slight cheat as it is yet to be released but it has already caused a great deal of excitement in Sweden. Netflix has decided that it wants to get into Nordic Noir by commissioning its own show, which will be called Quicksand. It will be adapted from a popular novel written by Malin Persson Giolito, which was voted as the Nordic Crime Novel of the year in 2016. Perhaps most excitingly, the script will be written by one of the original writers of The Bridge. As that show has now finished, many will be hoping Quicksand can fill the gap it has left.