If you are not a cinema enthusiast you may be wondering why you would watch Danish movies and shows. Apart from the obvious reason that you can practice your Danish vocabulary and listening skills, you might even feel closely connected to the Danish culture.
Until I actually started learning the language I had no interest whatsoever in watching anything in Danish... and I am quite a Netflix binge-watcher. Eventually I disregarded my prejudices and became curious about some shows people around me were recommending. And I was satisfied with the discovery.
Danish films seem rather different from the mainstream and they manage to creatively tackle dark, unconventional themes and topics. What I like the most, is how present the Danish culture and way of thinking is (especially in series). If you have lived in Denmark for some time, you can easily identify these cultural aspects and thus grasp the action’s context better. Otherwise, this is definitely an opportunity to get to know Danes and immerse yourself in their culture.
But let’s start with a few facts about the Danish cinema.
Danish cinema in brief
While Danish cinema has been around ever since the end of the 19th century, the film productions were mainly targeted at Danes only. This started to slowly change after the 2nd World War. In 1960, Denmark was the first country in the world which legalized the production of pornographic films, gaining international attention (wonder why? 😅). But one of the greatest key moments of Danish cinema happened in 1995, when four young directors (Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen) set grounds for a film manifesto: Dogme95. This consists of 10 rules (or “vows of chastity”) intended to “purify” Danish cinema with a minimalistic approach. If you are a cinema-geek, read more about the rules of Dogme95 here. Principles of this dogma can still be recognized in Danish contemporary films.
Where can you watch Danish films and shows?
There are 3 main online streaming services that are popular in Denmark, each with a selection of Danish productions.
Viaplay - starting from 119 kr./month, Viaplay has a vast selection of international and Danish movies and series, and is probably the streaming service most used by Danes. For more expensive subscriptions you can have access to Danish TV channels and sports channels. Its trial period is about 2 weeks. ViaPlay even offers the possibility to rent or buy films, with prices starting from 29 kr. However, English subtitles are not available for all the films.
HBO Nordic - With a monthly price of 99 kr., you can enjoy original HBO productions and others. Unlike ViaPlay, HBO Nordic does not offer a free trial period.
Depending on which films and shows you are interested in, you can also use other streaming services, such as YouTube Movies, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and so on.
If you don’t want to spend money on any of the above streaming services, but would still like to explore some Danish movies and shows, DR.dk offers a range of these for free. Pick what you would like to watch based on the available categories (film, series, documentaries etc).
If you are interested in the latest releases of Danish films, you can also consider going to the cinema. Whether these are open or not, depends on the COVID-19 restrictions at that time. However, pay attention that not all screenings offer subtitles in English, so make sure you check that before you book a ticket. You can find the screening schedule of all cinemas in Denmark on kino.dk.
Finally, we reach the more interesting part of this article: what to watch?
Below, you can find a few suggestions of films and series.
5 Danish films to watch
A fortunate man (Lykke-Per, 2018)
Directed by: Billie August
IMDb rating: 7.2/10
In Denmark available on: Netflix, Viaplay, YouTube Movies
Set in the late 19th century, Lykke Per tells the story of Peter Sidenius who leaves his father, a pious Christian from Jutland, to study engineering in Copenhagen, and thus become part of Copenhagen’s elite. His ambitious futuristic project- to harness wind power and water for energy- require however, money and connections, which Peter lacks. As such, he befriends a rich Jewish family who support him in his endeavors. Because romance knows no social status and religion, Peter falls in love with the elder daughter in the family, Jakobe. But Peter’s adventure gets more and more intense with family and romantic drama.
Another round (Druk, 2020)
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
In Denmark available on: Viaplay, YouTube Movies, Cinema
Winning the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, and starring Mads Mikkelsen, Druk revolves around 4 high school teachers who decide to test the theory that one can lead a better life if their blood alcohol content is 0,05. After having some success with the experiment they decide to increase the alcohol intake... because what can happen, right? This is where problems start popping up…
Druk is available on Viaplay, but unfortunately with no English subtitles. Of course, you can try searching for the movie on other online streaming services.
Some cinemas in Denmark are still screening the film, but not all of them offer English subtitles.
The Hunt (Jagten, 2012)
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
IMDb rating: 8,3/10
In Denmark available on: Viaplay, HBO Nordic, YouTube Movies
Mads Mikkelsen plays the role of Lucas, a divorced kindergarten teacher who tries to hold close ties with his teenage son. While he enjoys his job as a teacher, one of his pupils has a crush on him. After she is lectured about this, she feels rejected, her disappointment leading to her making unclear comments about her teacher’s supposed indecency. Therefore, Lucas becomes falsely accused of sexual abuse. This evolves into a mass hysteria, as the other pupils from his class also make such incriminatory allegations. Lucas goes through some hard times as a result.
A royal affair (En kongelig affære, 2012)
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
IMDb rating: 7,5/10
Genre: Drama, history
In Denmark available on: Netflix, HBO Nordic, YouTube Movies, Viaplay
Set in 18th century Denmark, A royal affair portrays a secret love story between the wife of the mentally ill king Christian VII of Denmark and the royal physician. As the king’s wife, princess Carolina Matilda of Great Britain, is unhappy in her marriage, she finds comfort in the physician’s arms, the German Johann Friedrich Struensee (played by Mads Mikkelsen), whom the king considers a friend. A series of political and romantic drama unfolds, changing the course of the Danish society and of its leaders.
The Celebration (Festen, 1998)
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
IMDb rating: 8,1/10
Genre: Drama, black-comedy
In Denmark available on: Viaplay
Remember the Dogme95 manifesto? Well, Festen is among the first films to follow the movement’s principles, such as no post production, no artificial sound editing, only hand-held cameras etc.