Stockholm is a beautiful city that has been the subject of many works of art. It has inspired paintings by artists like Kokoschka and many books and poems have been written about it. In both the 20th and 21st century, a number of films have been made both about and within the city. Here are eight of the best movies that you should watch before visiting Sweden’s capital in order to gain insight into the city. Filmmakers have rushed to Sweden’s capital to set their stories on Stockholm’s beautiful waterfront, in its gritty suburbs and around its stunning old town. The history and charm of the city make it the perfect filming location, featuring ultra-modern and exciting buildings as well as historical and breathtaking structures, making it ideal for both period dramas and sci-fi movies.
A film that is all about growing up and finding yourself, We Are the Best! is about two 13-year-olds who are left out by their peers because they have a love for all things punk rock. The film is set in Stockholm in 1982 and offers a glimpse of a Sweden that was confident and changing. It embodies a certain time in Sweden that was a real age of innocence in many ways, as the country was to be rocked four years later when beloved Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated. Sweden was not deeply involved in the Cold War and this projected a kind of calmness that was not present in many other parts of Europe. The film gives you an idea of what Stockholm was like in the 1980s, and how many people during that time were ‘finding themselves’.
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, The Square illustrates the best of current Swedish filmmaking and is set in prestigious Stockholm social circles. The story is about an art curator and gallery manager whose life seems to take a number of strange turns. The gallery is housed in Stockholm’s Royal Palace and much of the film is shot in the city. It puts a degree of focus on life among the cultural elite of Stockholm, as well as showcasing the Swedes’ sense of humour and their love of the absurd. In watching The Square, you’ll learn more about modern Swedish culture and Stockholm’s quirks.
One of the best-known films set in Stockholm, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is based on the book by Stieg Larsson, which gripped Sweden before becoming hugely popular across the world. There have been two films made, with the 2009 version in Swedish and the 2011 version filmed in English. The 2009 version arguably best captures Stockholm, showing a great deal of Sodermalm, the coolest and most vibrant neighbourhood in Stockholm. It is perhaps one of the best films for showing how and where many Stockholmers live.
Similarly to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Let the Right One In helps you see parts of the city where people live and spend time, with the city as a backdrop rather than a prop. Let the Right One In is based on a book and set in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm where many commuters live. It shows much of this area, including restaurants and its school. The story is about vampires, but in many ways reflects upon issues that affect many Stockholmers, including loneliness and the quest for friendship. Another movie illustrating how quality filmmaking is coming out of Sweden. Bear in mind, it is quite scary.
The Prize is based around one of Stockholm’s many gifts to the world and one that brings the crème de la crème of the scientific and literary world to Stockholm every year: the Nobel Prize. It features a number of stars, including Paul Newman and Elke Sommer, as they solve a spy mystery revolving around the Nobel Prize banquet. It’s a film that captures how important the Nobel Prize is to Stockholm while also being very entertaining. It will make you want to visit the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, which, like the film, is both fun and informative. You can even visit the farm where Gustav Nobel, the founder of the prize, perfected dynamite.
This film is essentially a love letter to the city of Stockholm. Unlike The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Let the Right One In, Stockholm My Love focuses on the city, rather than just using it as a backdrop. The film is about an academic who visits Stockholm to give a lecture but ends up silently walking around its streets, the camera panning out, offering beautiful views and allowing the city to speak in the main character’s stead. The city gleams and shines as the academic goes on her journey, which captures just how stunning the city is.
Another spy movie, set during the final year of World War I, exploring Stockholm’s status as a neutral country, as well as the role Sweden played during the war. The main story is about two spies falling in love in Sweden’s capital and, owing to the fact it was released in 1937, provides a rare insight into the way Stockholm was perceived in the 1930s. A fascinating film that captures Stockholm in a particularly interesting and intense historical time.
Winner of the 1949 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Symphony of a City explores both the city as well as the people who live in it. Its Swedish title, Manniskor i stad, means ‘people in the city’ and features a number of interviews with regular Stockholmers who talk about the city and give an amazing glimpse into what Sweden was like just after World War II. It also gives you the chance to see how much has changed in Stockholm since then, as well as what has stayed the same.