best icelandic film, angels of the universe, englar alheimsins
From Angel of the Universe.

Watching foreign films can be a great way to understand each country’s culture or just to discover new films.

Choosing the right film can be hard, so we put together a list of the best Icelandic films. We have also added other recommendations, which are worth checking out. When you have finished all the movies on the list, you can then check out our blogs on film locations in Iceland: South, East, North, and West Iceland.

As you probably know, Iceland has a very small population, so many films have the same actors. But that’s ok because they’re all great actors!

Börn náttúrunnar – Children of Nature

Children of Nature is the only Icelandic feature film nominated for an Oscar.

Synopsis: The drama film follows Þorgeir, an older man living in the Icelandic countryside. He has grown too old to continue running his farm and is made to feel unwelcome in his daughter and son-in-law’s urban dwelling. Finally, they dump him in a home for the elderly in Reykjavik, where he meets an old girlfriend from his youth. They are both equally unhappy in the home and decide to elope to her old home in northwestern Iceland.

Director: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson

Other noteworthy films by the director: Cold Fever, Angels of the Universe, Devil’s Island, Movie Days

Starring: Gísli Halldórsson, Sigríður Hagalín, Baldvin Halldórsson, Björn Karlsson

Nói Albinói – Noi the Albino

This 2003 drama film stars Thomas Lemarquis, who you might know from X-Men: Apocalypse and Bladerunner 2049.

Synopsis: 17-year-old Noi drifts through life on a remote fjord in the Westfjords. During the winter, the fjord is cut off from the outside world, surrounded by high mountains, and buried under a shroud of snow. Noi dreams of escaping the town with Íris, a girl from Reykjavik who works at the local gas station. His plans end up in a complete failure. Only a natural disaster will shatter Noi’s universe and offer him a window into a better world.

Director: Dagur Kári

Other noteworthy films by the director: Virgin Mountain

Starring: Thomas Lemarquis, Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson, Elín Hansdóttir

Málmhaus – Metalhead

Metalhead is a drama film from 2013 and was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Synopsis: A girl is caught between the life that took her brother and her own inability to strike out on her own. In her grief, she finds solace in the dark music of Black Metal and dreams of becoming a rock star.

Director: Ragnar Bragason

Other noteworthy films by the director: Fangar (TV drama show), Parents (film), Children (film)

Starring: Thora Björg Helga, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir

Á köldum klaka – Cold Fever

This 1995 film by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson was his first in English. It was jokingly promoted as the best Icelandic-Japanese Road movie of 1995.

Synopsis: A Japanese businessman travels to Iceland and has a series of misadventures while venturing to a remote area to perform a traditional burial ritual where his parents died several years back.

Director: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson

Other noteworthy films by the director: Angels of the Universe, Children of Nature, Devil’s Island, Movie Days

Starring: Masatoshi Nagase, Lili Taylor, Fisher Stevens

Englar Alheimsins – Angels of the Universe

This film from 2000 is based on a book by the same name by noteworthy Icelandic author Einar Már Guðmundsson. But the story is semi-fictional about the author’s brother. Lead actor Ingvar E Sigurðsson was nominated for the European Film Awards for best acting.

Synopsis: Páll is an artistic and sensitive young man. Getting dumped by his girlfriend, Dagny triggers his descent into madness. We follow him on his way to what seems like inevitable doom; at home with his parents, who finally can’t cope, and in the mental institution, Kleppur.

Director: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson

Other noteworthy films by the director: Cold fever, Children of Nature, Devil’s Island, Movie Days

Starring: Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Baltasar Kormákur, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Jörundur Friðbjörnsson

Foreldrar – Parents

This 2007 film won five Edda Awards (the highest film honor in Iceland). It is an independent second part of a twin feature. The film Children was released the year before.

Synopsis: The dentist Oscar has been married for five years and lives with his wife and adopted children. On the surface, everything seems to be fine, but Oscar is not a happy man. He wants his own baby, but it’s not working out. When he finds out that his wife has been deceiving him all these years, he decides it’s time for a change.

Einar is a stockbroker who is very successful at work but not in his personal life. For the last couple of months, Einar has been living at a hotel, waiting for his wife to realize her terrible mistake by throwing him out.

Katrin Rose returns from Sweden, where she has lived for eight years. In Iceland, Katrin has an eleven-year-old son brought up by his grandmother, and now Katrin wants him back. Katrin gets a job as a dentist’s assistant, intending to make a fresh start, but her troubled past catches up with her. 

Director: Ragnar Bragason

Other noteworthy films or TV shows by the director: Metalhead, Fangar (TV drama show), Children (film)

Starring: Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Edda Arnljótsdóttir, Reine Brynjolfsson, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir

101 Reykjavík

This comedy film from 2000 was directed by Baltasar Kormákur; it is based on a novel by Hallgrímur Helgason by the same name. It won the Discovery Film Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Synopsis: Will the 30 y.o. Hlynur ever move out of his mother’s apartment in Reykjavík? Social welfare keeps him passive, but things change when his mother’s Spanish friend, Lola, arrives and stays through Xmas and New Year’s Eve.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Other noteworthy films or TV shows by the director: Trapped (TV show), Katla (TV show), Everest, Contraband, Jar City, The Oath

Starring: Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Victoria Abril, Hanna María Karlsdóttir

Hross í oss – Of Horses and Men

Benedikt Erlingsson directed and wrote this 2013 romantic comedy. It was produced by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. The film won the 2014 Nordic Council Film Price and the audience award at the Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.

Synopsis: A country romance about the human streak in the horse and the horse in the human. Love and death become interlaced and with immense consequences. The fortunes of the people in the country through the horses’ perception.

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Other noteworthy films or TV shows by the director: Woman at war

Starring: Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Charlotte Böving, Johann Pall Oddsson, Kristjbörg Kjeld

Eiðurinn – The Oath

This 2016 thriller stars Baltasar Kormákur, who directed the film as well as co-wrote it. It was screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

Synopsis: A troubled father working as a doctor decides to take extreme measures to save his daughter from the devastating influence of her drug-dealer boyfriend.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Other noteworthy films or TV shows by the director: Trapped (TV show), Katla (TV show), Everest, Contraband, Jar City, 101 Reykjavík

Starring: Baltasar Kormákur, Hera Hilmar, Gísli Örn Garðarsson

Rokland – Stormland

This 2011 comedy is based on Hallgrímur Helgason’s novel of the same name.

Synopsis: The tragicomic story of lone rebel Boddi Steingrimsson who lives in a small town in Northern Iceland. Boddi hates modern materialistic society, and on his blog page, he comically criticizes everything and everyone. Before long, he has become an outlaw in his hometown, just like his Viking hero, Grettir. After several dramatic mishaps, he snaps and then rides south to the big city on his sturdy steed Nietzsche. He’s got a gun in his pocket. He’s ready for the revolution.

Director: Marteinn Thorsson

Other noteworthy films by the director: Backyard Village

Vonarstræti – Life in a Fishbowl

This 2014 drama film was screened in the Discovery section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Synopsis: A Reykjavik pre-school teacher struggles to raise her daughter while selling casual sex to help make ends meet.

Director: Baldvin Z

Other noteworthy films and TV shows by the director: Let me fall (film), and Black sands (TV show).

Starring: Hera Hilmar, Thor Kristjansson, Ingvar Þórðarson, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann

Hvítur hvítur dagur – A White White Day

The film was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Synopsis: An off-duty police officer suspects a local man has had an affair with his recently dead wife. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth accumulates and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones.

Director: Hlynur Pálmason

Starring: Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason

Hrútar – Rams

This Icelandic drama film was screened at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prix Un Certain Regard. The story is based on a tale the director’s father told him about two brothers who shared the same land and had a falling out over a woman. They then stopped speaking to each other for 40 years. The director used anamorphic lenses to impart a feeling of a western. He was partially inspired by There Will Be Blood (2007). The film was remade in Australia in 2020, starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton.

Director: Grímur Hákonarson

Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theódór Júlíusson.

Bonus recommendation:

Sódóma Reykjavík – Remote Control.

This 1992 farce revolves around the young car mechanic Axel and his adventure in the Reykjavík underworld, which starts when his mother insists that he must recover the remote control to her TV. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.

Director: Óskar Jónasson

Other noteworthy films by the director: Reykjavik Rotterdam (starring Baltasar Kormákur, who later remade it as Contraband, starring Mark Whalberg).

Starring: Björn Jörundur Friðbjörnsson, Helgi Björnsson, Eggert Þorleifsson, Sóley Elíasdóttir, Margrét Hugrún Gústavsdóttir, Sigurjón Kjartansson

This is our list of the Best Icelandic Films. Do you think we have forgotten any films that should be on the list?

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