With the growing popularity of Nordic Noir, Icelandic TV shows have garnered more and more attention in recent years. Most series are firmly set within the Nordic Noir genre. There have, of course, been Icelandic comedy shows as well, but very few, if any, have been released outside of Iceland.
Honorable mentions of comedy shows: Fangavaktin (Prison Shift), Næturvaktin (Night Shift), Dagvaktin (Day Shift), Fóstbræður (Blood brothers), Stelpurnar (The Girls) and Venjulegt Fólk (Ordinary People).
For Icelandic films, check out our post on Best Icelandic Films.
The first season of Trapped aired in 2015, the second in 2019, and the third in 2021. It is an Icelandic telecision mystery drama series, created by Baltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson. Among episode directors are Baltasar Kormákur, Baldvin Z, Óskar Thor Axelsson and Börkur Sigthorsson.
The series premised worldwide at the Toronto International Film Festival on 20 September 2015. It aired on BBC Four, NRK1, Yle Fem, RTÉ2, France 2, ZFD, SBS on Demand, Ale Kino+, DR2, and more.
The TV series falls into the Nordic Noir genre, a crime fiction genre usually written from the police point of view and set in Scandinavia or Nordic countries. The language is plain, avoids metaphors, and is set in bleak landscapes, resulting in a dark and morally complex mood. It depicts a tension between the apparently still and bland social surface and the murder, misogyny, misandry, rape, and racism it describes as lying underneath. Other famous Nordic Noir TV shows include The Killing, The Bridge, and Bordertown.
Synopsis: Police desperately try to solve a crime in a remote town in Iceland as a powerful storm descends upon the town.
Starring: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Baltasar Breki Samper and more.
The Icelandic Mystery Drama was created by Maltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson. The TV series is available on Netflix as it was produced for them.
Synopsis: One year after the violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla, the peace and tranquillity in the small town of Vik is dramatically disturbed.
Starring: Guðrún Eyfjörð, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Aliette Opheim, Valter Skarsgård, Aldis Amah Hamilton, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, Björn Thors, and more.
Brot – Valhalla Murders
The second Icelandic series to be aired on Netflix, this eight-episode police procedural TV series originally aired in 2019. It is based on a real-life incident, with the usual artistic license taken. “In the late 1940s, an almost similar event occurred in remote Iceland. A state-run institution … housed troubled young boys, aged between seven and 14, where they were beaten and abused by the staff. Although in reality there was no murder, per se, as shown in the series, it caused quite a noise, and the boys were eventually compensated in monetary terms.”
Synopsis: Police profiler Arnar is sent back home from Oslo to his native Iceland to investigate the country’s first serial killer case. He teams up with the local senior cop Kata.
Starring: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Björn Thors, Sigurður Skúlason, Bergur Ebbi Benediktsson, Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, Edda Björgvinsdóttir, Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir og Aldís Ama Hamilton.
Svörtu sandar – Black Sands
This Icelandic crime-drama series was created by Aldís Amah Hamilton, Andri Óttarsson, and author Ragnar Jónsson. Baldvin Z directed it.
Synopsis: A police officer takes a job in her hometown after being forced to resign in Reykjavík and finds herself in a strange situation while investigating the death of a tourist
Starring: Aldís Ama Hamilton, Þór Tilunius, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, Kolbeinn Arnbjörnsson, Ævar Þór Benediktsson, Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, Aron Már Ólafsson, Ania Powazka and more.
Verbúðin – Blackport
Verbúðin is an Icelandic drama miniseries written by Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson and author Mikael Torfason. It was produced by Vesturport in association with RÚV. The show’s events are based on actual events, with some artistic licenses.
Synopsis: Follows a young married couple who see their livelihoods threatened when the government starts enforcing restrictive fishing quotas after they build a small fishing empire in a village.
Starring: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Gísli Örn Garðarson, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Guðjón Davíð Karlsson, Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir, Anna Svava Knútsdóttir, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Selma Björnsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon, Steinunn Ólina Þorsteinsdóttir, and more.
Vitjanir – Fractures
This drama series was produced for RÚV and premiered in 2022.
Synopsis: The ER doctor, Kristin, in the wake of her divorce, moves to her home village with her teenage daughter. She is completely out of her comfort zone as she deals with her old lover and her psychic mother, forcing her to face the ghosts of her past.
Starring: Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir, Jói Jóhannsson, Baldur Einarsson, Katla Njálsdóttir, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, and more.
Ráðherrann – The Minister
8-part drama series produced by SagaFilm.
Synopsis: A look into the life of the newly elected Prime Minister of Iceland, who starts losing his grip on reality and the effect that has on his family and the Icelandic nation.
Starring: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Aníta Briem, Þuríður Blær Jóhannsdóttir, Logi Hrafn Jónsson, Thir Kristjansson, Elva Ósk Ólafsdóttir and more
Fangar – Prisoners
The mini-series was created by actresses Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir and Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir in 2017.
Synopsis: Linda is sent to serve time in Iceland’s only women’s prison for a vicious assault that leaves her father in a coma. But no one knows that she harbors a dark secret that could tear her family apart. A secret that could set her free.
Starring: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Aldís Amah Hamilton, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Katla Njálsdóttir, Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Gísi Örn Garðarson, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Björn Thors, Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir and more.
Do you feel we have missed any TV shows on our list of Best Icelandic TV Shows?
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