Nordic Noir opened up a whole new world of television for viewers who may not have watched international TV series with subtitles before. Just like Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous...
For viewers (who cannot speak the original language), having to read subtitles meant you had to fully engage with these shows. You cannot quickly check your Instagram or Twitter feed while watching because you might miss some vital information about the investigation and become confused down the line.
At SBS On Demand we like to think we are the home of Nordic Noir. We simply can’t get enough of the incredible icy landscapes, the intricate crimes that unravel over an entire season and of course the compelling characters portrayed by stellar actors who (at first) may have been completely new to us but have become fast favourites. Here are some of our favourite Nordic Noir essentials now streaming.
This series is really the one that made Nordic Noir a hit in the UK and Australia. Lead character Sarah Lund (who is brought to life by Sofie Gråbøl) quickly became iconic in her Fair isle knit jumper and even made an appearance in the Absolutely Fabulous 2011 Christmas Special.
Season 1 takes place over 20 gripping episodes and 20 days in Copenhagen. On what is supposed to be her last day in the homicide department, Lund is thrown into the murder investigation of a young woman, 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen. The Larsen family and their friends struggle to cope with the loss. Meanwhile a top politician is involved in a ruthless but promising election campaign. As the investigation unfolds, Copenhagen opens up like a Chinese box, full of secrets and power struggles and everyone becomes a part of the same story as the police follow the leads. Running for just 3 seasons, The Killing certainly left its mark as one of the best Nordic Noir series.
The Killing season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand. Season 2 will be available from 26 October and season 3 from 28 October.
Another Nordic Noir led by a complex and intriguing female lead, is the cross-country thriller The Bridge. Season 1 begins when a woman is found murdered in the middle of the Øresund Bridge – right on the border between Sweden and Denmark. What looks at first to be one murder, however, turns out to be two. The body has been cut off at the waist and joined together with another – half belongs to a Swedish politician and the other to a Danish sex worker. Inspectors from both countries join together in a desperate search for the killer.
With so many twists and turns, this series will keep you guessing, but what will keep you hooked is the incredible character of investigator Saga Norén portrayed by Sofia Helin. This series is so popular it’s been remade four times (France/England, America/Mexico, Russia/Estonia and Malaysia/Singapore) and inspired the German/Austrian series Pagan Peak (also streaming at SBS On Demand).
The complete series of The Bridge is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Midnight Sun is a high-concept thriller bathed in sunlight and directed by Mårlind & Stein, the team behind The Bridge. Leïla Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti), a French police officer, travels to Kiruna, a small mining community in remote northern Sweden, to investigate the brutal murder of a French citizen (the murder is an opening scene you won’t soon forget). With the help of Swedish DA Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten), Kahina is faced with new killings – the initial murder turns out to be the tip of the iceberg – and the pair come to realise that behind the killings is a 10-year-old secret conspiracy involving many of the town’s inhabitants. Kahina finds herself confronting a ruthless serial killer, always one step ahead, a macabre plan, and her own painful past.
Nordic Noir loves to team up detectives from different countries; what Midnight Sun does so well is beautifully explore the backgrounds and lives of the characters in line with the crimes. The show also places a spotlight on the Indigenous Sámi people, who are rarely mentioned in the media in Sweden.
Midnight Sun is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
In a small Icelandic fishing port, a ferry from Denmark docks. That same day a dismembered body is found in the river, sparking an investigation and a call to Reykjavik for detective reinforcements to assist the local police force. Meanwhile the weather is getting worse. To be able to leave town you have to drive over a heath. It’s now impassable as the snow begins to close off the town.
As sheriff Andri Ólafsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is waiting for the forensics team to arrive from the city, he has come to the conclusion this murder was recent – and the killer is most likely either on the ferry or in the town – and thanks to the weather no one can get in or out. As his investigation continues Andri realises how the power structure of this small town is more complex than he had ever imagined and that finding a dead torso is just the beginning.
Series lead Ólafur Darri Ólafsson stands at 6 foot 5 and has a mega beard – he is one of Iceland’s biggest stars and has become a sex symbol. Trapped also features music composed by Academy Award winners Hildur Guðnadóttir and Jóhann Jóhannsson and was filmed in the small and remarkably beautiful town of Seyðisfjörður. Every element makes this peak Nordic Noir excellence.
Trapped seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
We travel to the very snowy fields of Norway with Wisting, which also teams up detectives from different countries, except this time there is a US twist. Homicide detective William Wisting (Sven Nordin) discovers a corpse among the spruces at a Norwegian Christmas tree farm. Evidence leads him to discover a link to a notorious American serial killer who has been living among them. FBI agents Maggie Griffin (Carrie-Anne Moss) and John Bantham (Richie Campbell) arrive to help track down the killer and of course there is a little bit of a culture clash. Meanwhile Wisting’s daughter Line who is a journalist is investigating a story that may just lead her into the path of the killer.
Based on the best-selling crime novels by Jørn Lier Horst, Sven Nordin is perfectly cast as Wisting, the empathetic, likeable and relentless detective.
Wisting is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
We are back in Copenhagen and Malmo for The Lawyer which blends Nordic Noir crime with a bit of law procedural. Frank Nordling (Alexander Karim) is a young and exceptionally promising defence lawyer. When Frank learns the truth behind his adoptive parents’ deaths, his whole world unravels. They were murdered by one of the leaders in Copenhagen’s criminal underworld, Thomas Waldman (Thomas Bo Larsen). To Frank’s horror, Waldman also happens to be one of the law firm’s most prominent clients – a man that the firm has helped escape justice on numerous occasions. To avenge his parents’ deaths, Frank must infiltrate Waldman’s organisation and become his personal lawyer and trusted confidant. To avoid putting those close to him in danger, Frank must keep up appearances and play the game. But can he handle it? Is it worth the price? And who’s really tricking whom?
The Lawyer seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.
The Danes are at it again with the addictive crime drama DNA. It comes with some strong credentials: Torleif Hoppe, co-creator of The Killing was inspired by a real event in Denmark for his latest series – an error in the National Police’s DNA records central registry. This glitch in the system meant that piles of cases were never recorded, something that seems unfathomable – and perfect fodder for a crime thriller.
The series follows detective Rolf Larsen (Anders W. Berthelsen), whose life falls apart after his baby daughter goes missing without a trace. Five years later a case he happens upon in a small town uncovers a flaw in the DNA database, a discovery which might finally help him find his daughter. The investigation leads the team across crimes in Denmark, France and Poland, but how do they all link together? DNA is quintessential and addictive Nordic Noir. Be prepared because it’s hard to watch just one episode at a time.
DNA is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Kristofer Hivju (who you may recognise as Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones) stars in and is one of the creators of this intriguing modern folk-tale/crime drama. Erik and Adam (both played by Hivju) are identical twin brothers, living completely different lives. Erik is a broke surfer bum, Adam is a successful family and businessman. When Erik seeks out his brother for the first time in 15 years, a quarrel ends with Erik and Adam’s wife, Ingrid, accidentally killing Adam. To avoid Ingrid being arrested for murder and to save his brother’s family, Erik takes over Adam’s identity. It soon turns out that the biggest challenge is not avoiding getting caught – it’s pretending to be someone you’re not. As always with great Nordic Noir the location is key and Twin is set in one of the most beautiful locations in the world – Norway’s Lofoten Islands.
Twin is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
This 2005 Swedish television series is adapted from Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, with each movie-length episode (it’s like 2 for the price of 1) presenting a new crime to be solved. One of the first in the Nordic Noir phenomenon, the series’ success is down to the title character himself (played incredibly by Krister Henriksson) – a driven cop with a vulnerable side and a man committed to doing what’s right, even as he knows the damage it’s doing to his life. He’s flawed but charming and has a relentless desire for justice.
Every episode/movie of Wallander is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Before We Die
Hanna Svensson (Marie Richardson) is a police officer with high moral standards and strong principles. It’s been two years since she sent her own son Christian (Adam Pålsson) to jail for selling narcotics. Hanna no longer belongs to the elite group within the Department of Organised Crime, but her colleague and lover Sven does. When Sven is kidnapped, his role in the investigation of a notorious biker gang surfaces. Hanna finds out something no one else knows: Sven has been handling an informant. She can’t figure out what organisation this informant belongs to, and just knows the name: Inez. The only way for Hanna not to lose this critical informant is by continuing the dialogue by text messaging Inez – without knowing he is actually her own son, Christian.
The frantic tempo, the plot twists and the jaw-dropping revelations take us on an emotional edge-of-your-seat journey. Before We Die is not the typical crime series. It’s a heartbreaking family drama, centred on a mother and son – a police detective and an infiltrator. The raw visual feel of Before We Die grabs our attention and never lets go.
Before We Die seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming at SBS On Demand.