Sometimes described as Nordic Noir, Scandi Noir first became well-known with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. Theses tv series have a unique feel to them with dark, often snowy settings, slow-building plots, shocking conclusions and dramatic cinematography over cold, austere, pine-filled landscapes. If you’re looking for things to watch on TV, here’s a range of true Scandi Noir dramas to keep you entertained.
Side Note: I’ve only included dramas from Finland, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands & Denmark and only those that include murders.
Finnish Scandi Noir Dramas
Featuring headstrong, female detective Karppi who is investigating the death of a woman with links to a global construction company. What unfolds are links to Germany, corruption, nuclear waste, abuse and a religious cult intertwining her own past and the new loss of her husband. A common feature is her struggle to manage her personal and professional life, juggling grief with childcare and a heavy workload. Sexism is rife and at times frustratingly blatant as Karppi battles internal politics.
You can stream this from Netflix
Based in Lappeenranta on Finland’s east, close to the border of Russia, the Finnish police seem to have a never-ending battle with Russian crime invading their town.
New to the area and police team, Detective Inspector Kari Sorjonen uses a distinct mental tactic to understand crime scenes while badly managing his personal life and the needs of his family. Interwoven into the storyline are the town’s political mayor and his many dodgy dealings which seem an ongoing feature. Kari is desperate to protect his family who is as traumatised and nestled into the crime as him. albeit from a different angle.
Now on season three, you can watch this on Netflix.
Danish Scandi Noir Dramas
Astrid is 9 when, in 1999, an entire class of 21 students disappears without a trace – including Astrid’s beloved sister. Understandably traumatised, Astrid suffers horrific nightmares of that incident. We meet Astrid in modern-day 2020 as a radio presenter, free from her past but soon to discover the unsettling truth.
This is due to be released on December 30th 2020.
Watch it on Netflix.
The Killing / Forbrydelsen
Set in Copenhagen, the first series is a massive 20 episodes each 50 minutes long, containing more plot twists than you could ever think possible. After the beaten body of a young lady is found in the woods a complex story of deceit and love involving a political party, her school, friends and family emerge. Female Detective, Sarah Lund, tries to lead a one person man-hunt which irritates her co-worker, boss and family who are in the process of moving to Sweden.
Grippingly fast-paced, we follow Victoria, a drone engineer in Sweden, who is taken hostage by terrorists alongside son, Oskar. The investigation, led by Danish agent Eva, try to prevent a cybercrime terrorist attack against her employer. We join her in the days before she is taken hostage and lured by her captor. The big plot twist sees Victoria being an undercover agent in this 10 episode drama.
Stream on Channel 4
Dicte – Crime Reporter
Based in the coastal city of Aarhus, this series follows Dicte, a divorced crime journalist who has recently moved back to the area with her teenage daughter. Whilst taking an outside pee, she stumbles over the body of a young Bosnian woman.
We follow Dicte and her traumatic flashbacks as police discover a baby in a river and a sordid set of murky crimes alongside. This program focuses heavily on its characters’ personal lives, including Dicte’s as she battles memories of her religious and estranged parents. There are three series of Dicte which become decidedly more sinister and twisted.
You can stream this on Channel 4
Department Q: The Keeper Of Lost Causes
Don’t expect any smiles from Carl Morck, a moody detective, who is assigned to the newly created `Department Q’. Located in a basement, Morck and his assistant, Assad, are filing cold cases following a botched investigation. They begin digging into the disappearance of a female politician who supposedly killed herself.
Believing the case to be unsolved, they embark on a dangerous journey that will uncover a shocking truth, leading to a thrilling and unforgettable climax. Unlike most of the above, this is a dry humorous film with some seriously dark twists.
Those Who Kill
Made in 2011 ‘Those Who Kill’ is now a little dated and everything since seems to have used it as a stepping stone.
On the base of it, this is another police force tracking down serial killers in Denmark. However, this time an eight-part series, each episode we follow presents a different narrative. The main character is a damaged, female detective joining forces with a criminal psychologist going through a divorce. It is a bit clichéd BUT, there are some sinister scenes that will get your blood pumping.
Perhaps the most famous of all the dramas here, The Bridge sees a joint investigation between Sweden and Denmark as two half, female bodies are found on the centre of the Øresund Bridge. The murder team investigating comprises a female cop from Sweden and male from Denmark.
With some personal twists, of course, no police series would be complete without poor social skills, difficulty empathising and an inability to channel emotions… It seems a regular feature in all of these dramas.
Cinematography ranges between Malmo & Copenhagen as the teams try to catch the ‘Truth Terrorist’.
Warrior / Kriger
A crime-drama featuring war veterans, bikers and the police force. The story revolves around community, loyalty and treachery with flashbacks to the battlefield of what we presume to be Afghanistan.
A returning soldier becomes caught in the middle of biker warfare, the police in their bid to take down the gang and his own feelings of guilt.
You can stream this on Netflix.
Darkness: Those Who Kill
A specialist Copenhagen-based team devoted to investigating serial killers discover that a woman who has gone missing is not the only one. Six months after she disappears with no clues as to her location, she is found dead wearing the earing of another newly missing woman.
After trawling cold cases & discovering a number of women and a range of MOs, the teamwork with a Profiler to look for patterns and meanings. What follows is an erratic display of sinister and twisted events that you will not have seen coming!
This season is much more graphically and physically violent than others and there’s a considerable amount of male on female violence although the actual murders are never seen.
Stream it on Amazon Prime.
Dutch Scandi Noir Dramas
Apparently, this series is inspired by true-life events. One of the largest ecstasy producers in the world, Ferry, has an amazing life in his villa on the Dutch-Belgian border. However when he is infiltrated on the campground where he spends his weekends, his seemingly perfect life takes a turn.
Watch as two undercover agents move into his territory and attempt to shut down his network.
You can stream this on Netflix.
Norwegian Scandi Noir Dramas
Set in a small town, south-west of Oslo in Norway, homicide detective William Wisting struggles to find an international serial killer and enlists the help of the FBI. Unable to balance his personal and professional life, this quite fast-paced series sees him cross paths with his quick-thinking journalist daughter who, unbeknown to both of them, is also covering the same story.
Unlike most of the other dramas, this is quick-paced and divided into 10 quite different episodes. The first 5 see Wisting try to catch the murderer whereas episodes 6-10 see him fighting for his innocence.
You can stream it from BBC 4.
The religious meaning of Mammon is commonly thought to mean money, material wealth and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. So it’s no surprise that the Mammon features a journalist claiming fraud from Norway’s elite.
In Season 1 which features 6 episodes, the journalist, who works at the most respected newspaper, makes a catastrophic mistake when he takes an anonymous tip involving his own brother. A search for the truth follows involving the media, high-ranking politicians as well as the financial elite. There’s also a ton of religious references with plenty of church scenes.
A Norwegian man returns to his home town 20-years after being acquitted of the murder of his high school sweetheart much to the chagrin of the locals. This unresolved murder revolves around Aksel; a spineless, well-dressed, businessman with a juxtaposing personality defect who has made his millions in Singapore. He returns to Norway for unknown reasons, intent of resurrecting his image.
Watch this online with Channel 4.
You can buy on Amazon
Although I don’t think this fits the perfect match, I’ve included Fortitude as it is based in Norway’s Arctic Circle, although spoken in English.
In a 12 episode series, the murder of a research scientists shocks a small, remote Norwegian town on the island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. It seems that almost everyone here has at least one buried secret.
While all of this is going on, above-average temperatures result in record ice melt resulting in secrets that have long been hidden underneath Fortitude’s frozen landscape.
Borderliner is a Norwegian noir crime drama series that involves Nikolai, an Oslo police detective, who becomes involved in a suspected suicide investigation while visiting his hometown. Local man Tommy is found hanging in a river but what uncovers are tales of drugs, women, corrupt officials and border crossings.
The investigation makes Nikolai question his family loyalties and he ends up planting evidence to protect his brother, a local cop. The story is slow to unfold but things shortly spiral out of control.
You can stream this on Netflix
Eyewitness / Øyevitne
This very slow-to-start drama starts in a forest where two teenagers secretly meet up after dirt biking and witness a number of murders. When one teenager hits the murderer over the head, they both manage to escape but agree never to tell anyone.
The story leads us from the rural forest to the city with links to organised crime, undercover cops and immigrant gangs.
Watch this on Netflix
Buy the DVD on Amazon UK.
Swedish Scandi Noir Dramas
Maja, a young student finishing her last year of school, is accused of shooting her best friend and classmates at an exclusive Stockholm school. The series is shot in present-day with flashbacks to what has occurred over the last year.
It is an intense and surprisingly jovial and quick storyline depicting her boyfriend Sebastian, wealth, class, segregation, abuse, partying, mental health, drug use and two young people trying to find their place in the world.
You can watch it on Netflix
Innocently Convicted / Oskyldigt Dömd
This series follows a university professor who fights to overthrow convictions of those wrongly accused. After five years of research at Uppsala University, intertwined with years of alcohol abuse, he is asked to teach a criminal law course. Together with four students, Haglund starts to help free those innocently convicted through his course.
A group of people arrive on an isolated island to visit an abandoned ski resort in the far reaches of Sweden.
Remote and neglected, Black Lake has been closed for 20 years when Johan has the idea of opening the resort to the public. It turns out the resort was closed after a family were found strangled there. One by one the members of the group wake up with bloodshot eyes and have nightmares of being strangled. Sinister events occur alongside the bad weather!
Set in Sweden, this crime drama is heavy on the dialogue, cinematography and music which follows the return of a detective to a small town, seven years after her daughter’s disappearance.
Even though her daughter was said to have drowned, Eva believes that someone took her child. When a young boy goes missing in the same forest she begins to investigate. More children go missing over this 9 episode drama.
In December, Sweden’s bleakest month, a psychologist and ex-FBI profiler, Inger, investigates a killing in a hotel that her daughter has witnessed.
This case involves her autistic daughter, serious stalking and a number of disturbing deaths. The killer is revealed early on in the series, making it different to most other Scandi-dramas, although no details about him are released until the final episode. In fact, he remains fairly monosyllabic throughout making his identity more of a mystery.
You can stream this on AmazonPrime
Gentlemen & Gangsters / Gentlemen Och Gangsters
A bruised & beaten young writer, Klas, barricades himself in a Stockholm apartment writing a story of two brothers, his roommates, who have disappeared.
One of the brothers, Leo, previously dragged them all into a scandal involving weapons and gangsters and now he’s unwittingly and trapped in a dangerous plot, fearing for his life.
This was removed from Netflix in June 2020 and I’m trying to find it. Let me know if you do.
Midnight Sun / Midnattssol
This is interestingly a Swedish-French collaboration where a joint investigator tries to solve a gruesome homicide. Written by the same people as The Bridge, it follows the story of a French police officer who travels to a remote, northern Swedish, mining town.
With some help from a Sami investigator, they realise this is not a stand-alone murder. This show has great cinematography from a bleak landscape where it seems each character has a disturbing amount of personal baggage. Filmed with the ever daylight that the Arctic Circle presents, Midnight Sun takes you to a part of Sweden you’d probably not visit and introduces to an intimate part of Sami culture you’d not be able to get otherwise.
Icelandic Scandi Noir Dramas
The Lava Field
The Lava Field is set in Iceland and follows crime detective Helgi, another cop struggling to balance his work and life. He is called in to investigate a suicide case on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Of course, the incident turns out to be far from simple, and the bleak vastness of Iceland echoes the pain that lies within our heroic protagonist, Runarsson.
There’s no trailer in English sadly but this German preview gives you a taste.
Trapped / Ófærð
In Siglufjörður, a sleepy fjord north of Rjeckjavik a limbless body is found in the waters at the same time as an arrival ferry from Denmark. Marred by terrible weather, this isolated community is rocked by the story of deceit, arson, murder and human trafficking. The storyline is as slow as the town, which only has a police force of three, with some serious surprises along the way. The lead detective is a big gentle giant who struggles to balance his past demons with the current investigation and his family’s ties to the town.
You can stream this on AmazonPrimeVideo
Case / Réttur
Case is an Icelandic Scandi Noir, following the supposed suicide of a young and talented ballerina who is found hanged in the National Theatre’s main stage. It then evolves into a much deeper exploration of the exploitation of women and the corruption lurking beneath Scandi respectableness. A smart lawyer whose drinking and recklessness send him on a path of self-destruction finds new purpose investigating a teenager’s apparent suicide.
Buy this series on Wlext
The Valhalla Murders / Brot
An Icelandic detective, Arnar, working in Oslo is sent back to Iceland to help a dedicated cop hunt a serial killer with a link to a mysterious photo.
Based on true-life events, Arnar teams up with the local senior cop Kata in this 8 episode drama that features the concept of young boys from the 1940s who were institutionalised in Valhalla, beaten & abused by staff. Be prepared for cold & graphic scenes as the first man murdered is stabbed in the eyes.
Watch this on BBC Four.
Stream this on Netflix USA (you’ll need a VPN)
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