Norse mythology is on a bit of a high at the moment. Movies like the Thor Trilogy, the new release called The Northman, and shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom have catapulted the world of the Vikings into our consciousness.
Shows with a similar theme that have been big hits on television and streaming platforms are Game of Thrones and House of Dragons.
The Best Non-Marvel Norse Mythology Movies
1. The Vikings (1958)
The Vikings is a 1958 film directed by Richard Fleischer, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, his then-wife Janet Leigh, and 1955 Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine.
Although called a “Norse Opera” by the New York Time movie critic Bosley Crowther, the film had complimentary reviews and was well received by the public.
It was based on Edison Marshall’s 1951 novel The Viking, which told the tale of Ragnar Lodbrok. The film was action-packed and looked great, even if it followed a slightly formulaic plot of a brother pitted against an (unknowing) half-brother.
The film inspired many Viking age-related movies in the late 50s and early 60s, such as Erik The Conqueror and The Longships.
Twenty-one reviews on Rotten Tomatoes give this film a good rating of 76%.
2. The Northman (2022)
The Northman is a 2022 Viking saga directed by Robert Eggers. It stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Anna Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk and Willem Dafoe.
Although performing disappointingly at the box office, it has received critical acclaim, particularly the performance of Danish actor Claes Bang.
The story finds its inspiration in the legend of Amleth, on whom Shakespeare based the character of Prince Hamlet. Amleth, an ulfheðnar (or berserker), sets out on a quest to avenge his father, King Aurvandill, who has been killed by the villainous uncle Fjölnir.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.
3. Mortal (2020)
The 2020 movie Mortal is an English-language Norwegian production directed and co-written by André Øvredal. The film stars Nat Wolff, who is also an accomplished musician.
Wolff plays Eric, who spends the first part of the film slowly revealing magical powers such as pyrokinesis and telekinesis. However, he eventually becomes entirely godlike and assumes the identity of Thor. He even uses the Norse god’s magical hammer (Mjölnir), belt, and glove toward the movie’s end.
Mortal has a rating of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Valhalla Rising (2009)
Valhalla Rising is an excellent Viking-influenced movie starring the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. Made in 2009 and directed by fellow Dane Nicolas Winding Refn, the film tells the story of Norse warrior One Eye (Mikkelsen) and his journey with a group of Christian Crusaders as they seek out the Holy Lands.
Things get strange when they land after a sea journey, and local tribesmen attack them. Unexplained and disjointed events follow, with the whole atmosphere sometimes seeming to be a drug-induced hallucination.
The cinematography is top-notch, and the off-beat story is worth a couple of hours of your time.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%.
Other Notable NorseMythology-Inspired Movies
The Troll Hunter is a 2010 comedy-supernatural thriller about a group of Norwegian students who stumble on a government cover-up of Trolls inhabiting an area of Northern Norway.
Erik The Viking is a 1989 British comedy-fantasy film starring Tim Robbins as a gentle Viking. It was written and directed by Monty Python’s Terry Jones.
The Ritual is set in modern-day Sweden. It involves a group of British hunters who become lost in the forests and are hunted by a “Jötunn” (or giant), an offspring of Loki. The film is very creepy and worth a watch.
The Best & Worst Marvel Cinematic Universe Norse Mythology Movies
The quartet of MCU Thor movies, all starring Chris Hemsworth as the eponymous character, vary in quality from the exceptionally good to the mundane.
Thor’s first installment was an enjoyable journey through various tales of Norse mythology, admittedly adapted to make the film more accessible.
A talented cast, vivid cinematography, and excellent set design and costume gave Thor a unique look and feel.
2. Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World was a disappointing follow-up to the first movie. The plot was a little underwhelming and over-complicated, although there was some entertaining interplay between Thor and the god of mischief, Loki.
3. Thor: Ragnorok
The New Zealander Taika Waititi came on board to direct the next movie, Thor: Ragnarok. The film has an entirely fresh feel to it and is enjoyable throughout.
Hollywood put its rather annoying stamp on film by wrongly depicting Hel (called Hela in the movie) as Odin’s daughter and Thor and Loki’s brother.
The movie is hilarious and attractively quirky, with some dazzling visual effects. The public loved it; it grossed over $850 million at the box office.
4. Thor: Love And Thunder
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Thor battles Gorr (Christian Bale), the god killer, who is on a quest to achieve supreme universal power. The Asgardian’s allies, including “King” Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Doctor Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and Korg (director Taika Waititi), help him through adventures in New Asgard, Omnipotence City, and Eternity.
After the high bar of the previous chapter, it is a letdown in terms of script and general interest.
*Also, make sure to check my article titled What Did Marvel Get Right About Norse Mythology?
The Best TV Shows Inspired By Norse Mythology
Vikings is a top-rated streaming TV series about the farmer Ragnar Lothbrok and his quest to become a Viking king. His wife, Lagertha, plays a massive part in his journey and becomes a shield maiden and later a queen.
You can watch Vikings on Hulu or Netflix.
*Also, make sure to check my article titled Which Parts of the Vikings TV Series Are True?
2. Vikings: Valhalla
The follow-up to Vikings is called Vikings: Valhalla and chronicles the journey of Leif Erikson and his companions from Kattegat to the British Isles, ending up at the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.
Vikings: Valhalla is currently available on Netflix.
Loki is a six-part fantasy series describing the exploits of the god Loki after escaping from custody in an alternative version of the events following the battle of New York in The Avengers.
Starring Tom Hiddleston, the actor who plays Loki in the MCU films, the show is an enjoyable romp through all sorts of weird and wonderful adventures, including his meeting several of his alternative selves.
You can watch Loki on the Disney channel.
Norsemen is an irreverent look at Norse history. It is noteworthy that each scene was filmed in Norwegian and English.
Set in 790 in a small village in Norway, it describes its inhabitants’ day-to-day lives, conflicts with rival tribes, and eventual occupation by the Romans.
Even though Game of Thrones is not Norse mythology, there are apparent similarities between aspects of its canon and that of the Vikings.