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Viking Movies: Norse Warriors on the Big Screen

A Viking ship approaching shore

The Vikings have been a constant source of cinematic storytelling since the dawn of cinema. Here’s our roundup of some of the better films you can catch on a rainy day.

HBO's Vikings has led the recent charge of hit Viking-themed TV shows. But how many movies featuring Scandinavia's historic warriors can you name? It's difficult, right?

Well, we've dug into the archives to bring you some of the very best Viking films—and some not so good ones, too. Many of these are sure to be new to you. Hopefully, you'll find a new favourite! So, grab your popcorn and turn off the lights, it's time for movie night, Viking style!

The Very Best Viking Movies

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007)

Vikings search for the fabled Vinland of Leif Erikson and it all goes horribly wrong when they encounter resistance from Native Americans. Two Vikings, Orn and Volnard, get separated from their group while exploring inland and must use all of their Viking smarts to stay alive!

Reasonably entertaining and much of the costuming is accurate, though there’s none of the blood and guts that Viking enthusiasts might be looking for.

Read more: The Best Norwegian Movies

The Littlest Viking (1989)

A kids movie, the Littlest Viking tells the story of Sigurd Drakedreper, a young Viking who is at odds with his Viking destiny. Rather than pillaging and enslaving, young Sigurd would rather just be a young boy.

Some nice scenery and filmed well. The Viking villages are pretty accurate. Although, you should expect nothing less from a movie made by Norwegians!

Movie poster for The Littlest Viking

The Viking Queen (1967)

This is included more to make a point about marketing than anything else. There are no Vikings in this film and yet the word is included right up in the title! The film centres on Queen Salina who shares the rule of Iceni (an ancient kingdom in England) with a Roman, must to the annoyance of both the Druids and the hardline Romans.

Owing more to Celtic history than Vikings, you might enjoy this movie but you won’t learn anything about Scandinavian history!

Read more: The Vikings in Norway

The Viking Sagas (1995)

Former Mr Universe, and general action hero Ralf Moeller plays Kjartan, a Norseman hellbent on revenge. Set in Iceland. After Ketil kills his father, Kjartan sets out to avenge his father’s death by destroying everything the evil Ketil holds dear.

Lots of fun, with some terrible acting but just enough mysticism and folklore to make it worth seeking out on a rainy day if you have nothing better to do!

Stara Baśń – The Old Fairy Tale: When the Sun was God (2003)

You might wonder what the Polish have to do with Vikings. I certainly did! But apparently Viking re-enactment is a big thing in Poland. As, too, is making decent movies about Vikings!

A combination of Viking and Slavic lore, this is certainly one of the most historically accurate depictions available on film. The 5.4 rating on IMDB might put you off but if you’re serious about accuracy then this is definitely a movie to check out.

Participants in a Viking time festival

Vicky the Viking (2009)

Young Vicky (Wickie) is a small but ingenious young viking lad, compared with the strength and brawn of his father. When all of the kids in the village are kidnapped, the Vikings must set out to rescue them.

If you’re like me and you grew up watching the cartoon series Vicky the Viking, then you’ll want to check this out. Like the cartoon, this is a German production and is made for kids. But if you’ve never seen the cartoon then I’d choose that over the movie!

Pathfinder (2007)

Starring Karl Urban and Moon Goodblood, this is a pretty terrible movie on the whole and it’s no surprise that it struggled to break even. It’s VERY loosely based on the Norwegian Academy Award Nominated film of the same name in which a Sami tribe is attacked by Chudes.

Read more: Fun Facts About the Vikings

In the Hollywood version, the Sami are now Vikings and the Chudes are now Native Americans. The outcome is similar – one of the Vikings is taken in by the enemy and agrees to help them only to trick them to their doom.

But if you’re going to check out one of these movies then definitely try the superior Norwegian version. It may have nothing to do with Vikings but, in reality, neither does this one!

Beowulf & Grendel (2005)

Film adaptations of the tale of Beowulf are nothing new. This one, starring Stellan Skarsgård and Gerard Butler, is among the better ones. Butler is great as the titular ‘hero’ who is not quite comfortable with the fame of his deeds.

The scenery is stunning, even if the desolate Icelandic vistas are hardly representative of Viking-era Denmark. But on the whole the costumes, culture and weapons are well done.

Valhalla Rising (2009)

I guess this is very loosely based on a version of the Erik the Red legend. It stars Mads Mikkelsen as One-Eye, a mute warrior and general killing machine. This movie really struggles with accuracy, choosing generic ‘dark ages’ costumes for example. But, if that's not something you care that much about, this is kinda watchable.

n stars in Valhalla Rising
Mads Mikkelsen stars in Valhalla Rising

So if you want to see everyone’s favourite crazy Dane Mikkelsen kill an entire tribe with a tomahawk then be sure to put this on your list.

The Long Ships (1964)

Another movie that barely has anything to do with Vikings, though this time it doesn’t matter cos it’s a great watch anyway. Sydney Poitier plays a Moorish ruler who competes with Richard Widmark as a kind of estranged Viking. The two are trying to find the legendary Golden Bell called the Mother of Voices.

There’s a long ship and some Vikings who have round shields as they should but otherwise this is just a watchable, fun film with a little Viking-lore sprinkled on it.

Outlander (2008)

What do you get if you cross Vikings, sci-fi and Jim Caviezel? Well in this case you get a decent watchable movie! Jim Caviezel plays a man who crash-lands on Earth during the Viking era, bringing him with him a fierce alien enemy. Supported by John Hurt and Ron Perlman, there’s a lot to enjoy here.

It’s not too hot on accuracy when it comes to costumes, but then the ‘crashing to Earth from space’ isn’t exactly Viking-lore either!

Read more: Viking Funerals & Burial Rituals

Beowulf (2007)

Another telling of the Beowulf tale, this time Robert Zemeckis directs this hybrid CGI-live action version. Meanwhile we have Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother and Sir Anthony Hopkins as the King.

All of the pieces are there but somehow, despite being visually stunning and moderately faithful to the epic poem, this falls short. It’s a nice watch, but there are better versions.

Prince Valiant (1954)

In the category of ‘silly fun’, this time we have Robert Wagner in the titular role. A young Viking prince seeks to become a knight in King Arthur’s Court and restore his father’s rightful claim on the throne.

With horned helmets and furs, this shows off all of the typical Viking stereotypes. But it manages to be an enjoyable watch, which is more than can be said of the 1997 remake!

Viking ship in the ocean

The Island at the Top of the World (1974)

In 1907, a British millionaire sets out to search for his son who was lost on a whaling expedition. He seeks the help of Captain Brieux and his airship and they end up encountering Astragard, a Viking civilisation that has been cut-off from the rest of the world for centuries.

As Disney movies go, this is one of the least known and memorable. That being said, it’s a fun watch if you want something Vikingy to entertain the kids!

Erik the Conqueror (1961)

Two estranged brothers confront each other as rivals when war breaks out between Britain and the Vikings for control of England. The two fall in love with twin Viking women and eventually they join forces to attack Sir Rutford’s very anachronistic castle!

It’s not great on accuracy and it pays passing regard to true Viking lore but it’s a decent, watchable film.

Alfred the Great (1969)

England is being ravaged by the Danes and Alfred, wanting to join the priesthood, decides he must fight for his land. He takes up arms and conquers the invading Vikings and afterwards must decide between returning to his religious calling or following his newly-awakened blood lust.

This is not bad, and could certainly benefit from a remake. Much of the detail in the film is accurate and, on the whole, makes for a worthwhile watch.

Erik the Viking (1989)

Erik, played by Tim Robbins, is a reluctant Viking who has to sail to Valhalla to ask the Gods to stop the Age of Ragnarok. On the surface a ‘Monty Python does Vikings’ movie could have been amazing but instead its simply ‘fine’.

Part of the problem is that it’s not as good as the other Python films and the other part is that the character of Erik isn’t all that great. Worth watching, but only just.

The 13th Warrior (1999)

Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, Antonio Banderas is a Moorish man sent as an ambassador to a faraway land. Stopping for supplies at a Viking village, he soon finds himself embroiled in a battle to rid the land of a dark and mysterious force.

Toy Viking ship

There are some great bits of this movie and it’s well worth watching. The plot isn’t great but it moves along reasonably well. The accuracy of costumes and armour is rather poor but on the whole this is a great Viking movie.

Killian's Chronicle (1994)

An Irishman is enslaved by Vikings and forced to travel with them on a voyage beyond Greenland. His possession of the Sunstone – a navigation aid – makes him very useful but also puts his life in danger.

This is a good movie, made on a shoestring budget, that shows what first contact between the Vikings and the Native Americans might have looked like. Worth 95 minutes of anyone’s time.

The Viking (1928)

This is one of, if not the, first movies about Vikings. From 1928, this is a silent movie and shows the story of Leif Erikson and his quarrels with his father about religion. It shows mostly how our understanding of the Vikings has changed over the past 90 years.

Accuracy is, as you might imagine, not that great but for the time this is a good movie about Leif Erikson culminating in his discovery of North America.

Hrafninn Flýgur (1985)

Also known as When the Raven Flies and Revenge of the Barbarians, this is part of a trilogy of Viking films made by Icelandic director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. It doesn’t live up to its self-styled billing as ‘the most authentic Viking film ever’ but it’s well made.

Accuracy is terrible but that doesn’t really detract too much.

The Vikings (1958)

With Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and Janet Leigh, it’s not surprising that this film has a lot of love from Viking movie enthusiasts. Most other Viking films are compared to this one and come up wanting.

It’s a very ‘Hollywood’ movie, along the lines of other epics like Clash of the Titans but it’s a fun ride. Perhaps above all others it’s a proper Viking story, based on real Viking lore and it’s told in rip-roaring fashion.

Honourable Mentions

Vikings TV Series: If you’d rather a longer form viewing experience, the TV series from the History Channel is very highly rated coming in at 8.6. Starring Gustaf Skarsgård and Katheryn Winnick, the series touches on some of the most important events in Viking history.

Thor (Marvel, various): Everyone’s favourite Asgardian might not be a Viking per se but he’s certainly based in part on Norse mythology. The seven Marvel movies starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor are all rated 6.9 or above, with Endgame and Infinity War both scoring 8.5 on IMDB.

There are many more Viking movies out there, but these are some of the best. Are there any we’ve missed off the list? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: Andrew McKay

3 Comments

  1. Shouldn’t The Ring of the Nibelungs be included in this list, at least as honorable mention? After all, although the story originates in Germany, Snorri incorporated it in the Edda. And what’s more: Kristanna Loken plays an outstanding Icelandic warrior queen.

  2. There was a TV series in the early 60s based loosely on a couple of characters from The Long Ships (my personal favorite). I think one of the stars portrayed Lucas McCain’s brother-in-law in one of the first episodes of The Rifleman.

    I’m glad you did not include The Norseman with Lee Majors. Horrible movie about Vikings versus Indians.

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