The top Nordic Noir series to stream right now: Netflix, Prime & more

Suspense, thrills, intrigue, atmospheric locations and a carefully crafted plot – we all love settling down to a good Nordic Noir drama on Netflix on a cold winter’s evening. 

Bleak and brooding is a classic nordic noir location.
A classic Nordic Noir scene / Maria Eklind (CC)

There’s something very satisfying about getting your teeth into a Scandinavian crime series or film, with their bleak but beautiful backgrounds, tortured hero or heroine and twisty-turny plots. 

Whether you’re looking for a Swedish psychological thriller, a Norwegian Nordic Noir series, a fearsome film from Finland or an intriguing Icelandic drama, there are plenty of series out there to grip you and draw you in.

You can find some of the best Nordic Noir on Netflix, but there are other places to watch it too – streaming platforms such as Hulu and Amazon Prime often show a good selection of chilling Scandi crime shows.

Most of these shows are at their best in the native language, but you won’t need to start learning Swedish or another Scandi language just yet – unless you want to, of course; the streaming platforms have subtitles in English.

The Bridge, one of the best nordic noir shows
The Bridge / News Oresund (CC)

If you’re in the UK, or have access to a VPN, it’s also worth keeping an eye on BBC4 and Channel 4’s Walter Presents, which pick up on some of the best foreign language shows and Nordic Noir dramas.

You can catch them on the BBC’s iPlayer or Channel 4’s All 4 catch-up services – and they have the added bonus of being free to view.

So if you fancy cosying up with a gripping crime thriller, read on to find out about the best Nordic Noir film and series, and where you can view them.

The best Nordic Noir shows on Netflix

Netflix is probably your first port-of-call for a wide range of gripping Nordic Noir and political thrillers.

If you already subscribe, you’ll have access to a huge back catalogue of Scandi crime series and films, such as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Danish political thriller Borgen. 

That said, the shows on Netflix don’t quite compete as well with Amazon Prime’s offering, when you look at the overall popularity on IMDB (see our table below).

Here are some of our favourite Nordic Noir series that are currently on Netflix.

The Chestnut Man

IMDB rating: 7.7

Set in and around the Danish capital Copenhagen, the Chestnut Man is a chilling mystery show, where the killer leaves figures made from chestnuts by his victims.

This six-part series is a slow-burn thriller which has all the elements of a classic Scandi noir drama, from the mismatched detectives who eventually get along to grisly murders and an element of political and social intrigue.

Add moody, atmospheric scenery and dark discoveries from the past into the mix and we think you’ve got all the makings of a classic Nordic Noir thriller.

For more on Copenhagen, check out our guide to the city.

The Valhalla Murders 

IMDB rating: 7.1

Iceland offers rich pickings for Nordic Noir lovers, with the brooding, bleak, Icelandic landscape making an atmospheric backdrop for a gory crime drama.

The Valhalla Murders is  a gripping crime thriller set in and around the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. 

It features a series of gruesome murders which are investigated by a detective from Oslo who returns to his native Iceland to help solve the case of Iceland’s first ever serial killer.

And of course, this being Nordic Noir, the detective who returns to his homeland uncovers some uncomfortable secrets from the past that make him reassess his own life and family.

For a more upbeat view of Reykjavik, check out our posts on boat tours and cruises from Reykjavik and things to do in Reykjavik on a budget.

Bordertown

IMDB rating: 7.6

All three series of the Finnish crime mystery Bordertown are available on Netflix – and there are 10 episodes in each series plus a film Bordertown Mural Murders, so once you get gripped you’re in it for the long haul! 

Set in the small Finnish lakeside town of Lappeenranta, close to the Russian border, Bordertown is a gritty police series, that combines very gruesome crime scenes with the emotional drama of life in a remote small town.

Suspense, the claustrophobia of small town life and great cinematography make this a must-watch Nordic Noir in our view.

Entrapped 

IMDB rating: 7

If you’ve seen series 1 & 2 of Trapped on Amazon (see below), you’ll want to watch the follow-up Entrapped (Ófærð) on Netflix. 

Like series 1 & 2, it’s set in Iceland and features likeable detectives Andri and Hinrika, who investigate a land dispute between a mysterious cult and a gang of bikers in the remote far north of the island.

Seyðisfjörður, a location in Trapped / Erik Christensen (CC)

The usual dysfunctional family relationships and hidden secrets from the past combined with stunning snowy scenery make this a good watch, though not quite of the same calibre as the two original series (see below).

And if this whets your appetite for visiting the less touristy remote northern region of Iceland, see our guide to what to see and do in Northern Iceland.

The best Nordic Noir shows on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime has a huge back catalogue of Nordic Noir series, including the Swedish crime show Modus, the Danish murder mystery The Killing and the Swedish/Danish police drama The Bridge.

You’ll need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to get started, and some films and series also incur an extra charge – so check first how much it costs to download the full series.

These are some of our favourite Amazon Prime Scandinavian crime dramas and box sets. 

The Bridge

IMDB rating: 8.6

One of the original Nordic Noir dramas, and still one of the best, The Bridge is the series that kickstarted the Scandi Noir TV genre. All four series can be seen on Amazon Prime.

Series one starts with a body found exactly in the middle of the Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, setting up a classic Nordic Noir scenario of Danish and Swedish police forces working together.

Saga, a Swedish female detective with autism, has very different methods of crime-solving to the male Danish detective Martin.

And, of course, throughout the solving of the grisly case their differences are highlighted and resolved, to a background of plenty of driving back and forth across the atmospheric brooding bridge.

Series 2 cleverly continues the theme with a dead body found on an old tanker on the Öresund waterway – yes, you’ve guessed it, half-way between Denmark and Sweden!

For more on crossing the iconic Öresund Bridge, see our guide on Getting from Copenhagen to Malmö.

Mammon

IMDB rating: 6.8

One of the early Nordic Noir crime dramas dating from 2014–16, series one of Mammon is still available to view on Amazon Prime.

Set against a backdrop of  Oslo and the unfeasibly scenic fjord country of Bergen, this political crime thriller explores the dark side of Norwegian culture and politics.

Its protagonist is an investigative journalist, who becomes entangled in a seamy underworld of corruption, conspiracy, fraud, embezzlement and sibling rivalry.

If all that viewing inspires you to take a trip, check out our post on Norway’s best fjords.

Wallander

IMDB rating Swedish version: 7.8

IMDB rating English version: 7.3

Amazon Prime has all series of both the original Swedish version and the UK remake of the crime series Wallander, based on Henning Mankell’s tortured detective Kurt Wallander.

Ystad train station doubles as the police station in Swedish nordic noir series, Wallander
Ystad train station doubles as the police station in Wallander / Jorchr (CC)

A rare example of the English-language remake, starring Kenneth Branagh, being as good as the original, both versions are set in and around the town of Ystad in the south of Sweden. 

The wide-open brooding landscapes of the district of Skane add to the atmosphere and play almost as big a role in the drama as its thoughtful but ultimately flawed antihero.

We love the slow-burn and the gradual unravelling of the mysteries, but can sometimes lose a bit of patience with Wallander’s obsessive introspection.

If want to see more of the locations, check out this Wallander-themed audio walking tour of Ystad. Or stay in the building that was used as the location of Wallander’s police station, a former train station and now a B&B.

Trapped

IMDB rating: 8

Series one and two of the popular Icelandic crime drama have everything we love about a Nordic Noir drama. 

We love the quirky Icelandic characters: the unsmiling, warm-hearted Hinrika who is rarely seen without her trademark parka; her hippie husband; and the huge bear-like Andri, with his complicated personal life.

The contrast of the vast open scenery with the claustrophobic feel of the small communities on the island add to the menacing atmosphere.

If you only ever watch one Nordic Noir series, we suggest you pick Trapped season one.

Seasons one and two can be viewed on Amazon Prime.

And if looking at all the snowy scenery, fabulous fjords and majestic mountains on screen makes you want to visit, you can stay in a building that featured heavily in the series. 

The Siglo Hotel in Siglufjörður featured in the Nordic Noir drama Trapped.
The Siglo Hotel in Siglufjörður featured in Trapped

Although it looked foreboding in the series, in reality it’s the comfortable Siglo Hotel in Siglufjörður, with an outdoor hot tub on the jetty and a sea-view sauna.

Midnight Sun

IMDB rating: 7.4

Set in around Kiruna in northern Sweden, Midnight Sun (Midnattssol) is a police drama featuring a French detective who flies in to help the Swedish police investigate the murder of a French citizen in the Arctic Circle.

A familiar feature of Nordic Noir is a clash of cultures, with detectives from different countries attempting to solve crimes together, but with very different ways of working.  

In Midnight Sun, further murders take place amid a culture clash of French, Swedish and indigenous Sami backgrounds.

For more on the Lapland mining town of Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, click here.

What makes a Nordic Noir TV drama?

Gory murders, suspense, clash of cultures, hidden histories, dysfunctional families, complex plot lines and flawed but ultimately likeable characters are all features of a classic Nordic Noir crime drama.

Often, family secrets, the dark underbelly of small-town life and some Machiavellian politics are thrown into the mix too.

And the thing that ties all these together is a strong sense of place and great cinematography. The scenery and backdrop to the drama is key. 

Whether it’s the majestic mountains of Iceland, the wide flat landscapes of southern Sweden or brooding post-industrial docklands of a large Scandinavian city, long lingering shots and a strong sense of place all add to the atmosphere of a classic Nordic noir TV series. 

Top 10 Nordic Noir shows by IMDB rating

SeriesIMDB RatingWhere you can watch it
The Bridge8.6Amazon Prime
Borgen8.5Amazon Prime and Netflix
The Killing8.4Amazon Prime
Trapped (Seasons 1&2)8Amazon Prime
Wallander7.8 (Swedish version)Amazon Prime
Before We Die7.7Apple TV
The Chestnut Man7.7Netflix
Follow the Money7.6Amazon Prime
Bordertown7.6Amazon Prime
The Investigation7.6Amazon Prime

New Nordic Noir series

So, you’ve seen all the classic Nordic Noir series, what is new and coming up to satisfy your Scandi crime cravings? Here are a few of our favourites for 2023.

  • Dance Brothers. A Finnish series on Netflix about two brothers who run a seedy night club in order to pay for their dance tuition.
  • Riding in Darkness. A Swedish series on Viaplay about a manipulative murderer and his grip on three women.
  • Grow. A Danish thriller on Walter Presents about two brothers, one a policeman and the other involved in the seedy drugs underworld.
  • Copenhagen Cowboy. Danish thriller on Netflix that mixes supernatural elements with the grim life of illegal immigrants in Copenhagen.
  • Enemy of the People. A Finnish crime thriller on Walter Presents about the death of a famous former footballer, the power of social media and financial fraud.

See also:
Scandinavia’s best film locations
Best Swedish movies to stream right now
Film locations from The Snowman in Oslo

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