:: The Vikings of Bjornstad
:: The Viking Movie
Whenever re-enactors gather,
online or around a fire, the discussion inevitably turns
to Viking-related movies that have entertained or
infuriated us. The following is a list
of the movies that we've seen - or avoided. The comments are by Jack
Garrett unless otherwise noted. If you have comments about our
comments, or know of a movie we've missed, let us know at
Beowulf with horned helmet and
repeating crossbow with telescopic sights
Scene from Grendel (2007) Image from foywonder.livejournal.com/70769.html
... And the Ugly
Decorative costume, but more
Frazetta or Tolkien than Viking
Scene from Pathfinder (2007) Image from
Bjornstad's Viking Movie List - By date of release
The Viking (1928)
Worth watching, if only to see how much movies - and
our perception of the Viking Age - have changed. Leif Ericson here
is an intrepid explorer who is determined to see what lies beyond
Greenland. As a Christian, he runs afoul of his father, Eric the
Red, who habitually murders Christians for abandoning the old gods.
Complicating their lives is a Viking princess who falls for a recently
acquired slave, formerly a prince from Northumberland. The
costumes are Wagnerian and hard to take seriously. Leif wears
string mail and carries swords ranging from a High Middle Ages blade to
a Roman Gladius. The climax is the discovery of the New World,
here explicitly stated to be Rhode Island; the
tower that still stands in Newport is attributed without waffling to
Leif Ericson. Unusual for being a silent movie in two-strip
Technicolor with music and sound effects. Worthy of note is that
the Native Americans Leif meets either speak Old Norse or he
instinctively speaks Algonquian - it's hard to tell which in a silent
Leif's long ship somehow has a captain's cabin that
Admiral Nelson would have envied - with eight foot ceilings.
That's Leif with the shield and winged helmet.
Helga is a typical Norse maiden, with a
helmet for all occasions. Alwin is a tad on the grumpy
side, not enjoying his new life as a slave.
Leif's men hanging around the longhall.
Screen captures from The Viking (1928)
Valiant (1954) Silly fun. If you're going to go with horned helmets and
furs for Vikings, you might as well go whole hog (to kind
of mix metaphors.) Robert Wagner has fun bouncing on
springboards and his Singing Sword would weigh about 25
pounds - if it were forged from steel.
In the days of King Arthur ... and Camelot.
Year-round Viking attire.
Prince Valiant delivers an accusation to the Round Table. Screen captures from Prince Valiant (1954)
Valiant fights to retrieve the Singing
The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to
the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957) Tracked it down and saw it. It's an early Roger Corman
effort with such a low budget that it's pointless to pick
it apart. The sea serpent is essentially a sock puppet.
Worth seeing only to check it off the list. Fun title,
Costume authenticity is a minor concern.
Ship authenticity is also a minor concern.
Screen captures from The Saga of the Viking
Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent
The Vikings (1958) Great adventure and the one against which all Viking
movies have to be compared. Costumes are too Hollywoodish
and the castle is off by centuries, but the setting and
depiction of the culture are reasonably accurate. Kirk
Douglas does a pretty good Viking. Worth watching to see
him run the oars of the long ship, without a stunt man or
CGI. See the "Making of ..." on the DVD to see
how much research they did. It's impressive for the time. To see
more about why it may be the best Viking movie ever made, click
The longship sails into a Norwegian fjord.
Einar returns home - with loot and a
Ragnar sailing through the fjords.
Assaulting Aella's castle.
Screen captures from The Vikings (1958)
Tales of the Vikings (1959-1960) In this case, a television series. It starred Jerome
Courtland as Eric and used scenes and props from the Kirk Douglas movie,
The Vikings. It lasted just one season and only a few of the 19-or-so
episodes are available. The transfers from original television
poor, if you can find them at all. The series is fondly, if dimly remembered by those
who got a chance to see it.
The Vikings battle villains in "The Merchants
A mystical weapon attacks their longships in
A rousing theme song: "They conquered the seas
in their dragon ships...."
Screen captures from Tales of the Vikings
Noggin The Nog
TV series from the UK,
from 1960 until the mid-1970's. An animated, fictional children's
series with Viking based story-lines and characters. (Art Newto)
Jungfrukällan, AKA The Virgin Spring (1960) I recall being rather shaken when I first saw The Virgin
Spring "Jungfrukällan" in about 1960 or 61. It
was an Ingmar Bergmann film in black & white and
portrayed life in rural Sweden in early medieval times.
No viking warriors or heroes with swords and shields, but
it showed with some clarity how plain (and hard) life was
in those days. Well worth digging it out from your local
classic video store. (Mike Smith)
Gli Invasori, AKA Erik the Conqueror (1961) The movie opens with a narrative scroll about how nasty the Vikings were, and then begins live action with
the slaughter of a Viking
village by an English villain named Sir Rutford. That's different.
Two Viking princes, Eron and Erik, are separated when their father, King Arald, is killed. One is raised by the English Queen Alice and the other becomes king of the Vikings (at least the Danes.) Twenty years later, they manage to fall in love with twin Viking lovelies while pitted against each other.
Sir Rutford has a castle from about the 15th century they eventually join forces to attack. Not a bad plot to work with.
This is a Viking-related movie. It's 786 AD. The ships have red and white-striped sails. Once in a while, someone yells, "Odin!"
Now for the non-Viking part… No one bothered to do
much research for this one. The Viking longships set a new low for
looking squat and sluggish. The boats have modern oarlocks and their steering boards are attached to
the port side. Iceland sends a representative to a Viking
leadership council while being pretty much unknown to Europe for another
70 or 80 years. The costumes and props include just about everything but
Viking, including heater shields, lances, horse chamfrons, medieval
tabards, zippers, string mail, Celtic swords, Roman shields, Jason and the Argonauts
clothing and an underground throne room left over from some Biblical
Philistine movie. The Viking village seems to have been constructed from
Lincoln logs. The helmets alone run the gamut: Mongol, Near Eastern, Middle Ages,
Flash Gordon, and some apparently designed by Robinson
Crusoe. About the only ones missing are Viking Age helmets - with or
without horns. Not as good as it sounds.
The English attack a Viking village - in England -
Now we know what triggered the Viking Age...
The Viking kings gather for a council.
With entertainment from the Vestal Virgins (seriously).
Erik adopts the yak hair vest look. A clear miss.
Queen Alice is fresh from her appearance in
Screen captures from Gli Invasori AKA Erik the Conqueror
L'ultimo dei Vikinghi, AKA The Last of the Vikings (1961) The dependable Cameron Mitchell stars as Harald, who returns home to Norway with his younger brother Guntar after being away for years
only to find their father murdered and King Sveno, played by the less-dependable Edmund Purdom, now ruling their lands.
More complications ensue, including falling in love with the woman betrothed to the king.
There are some vigorous battles including a siege on a later period castle, but the costumes are painful, Purdom's acting is bizarre and the DVD's film-transfer quality is terrible.
The ship's crew is nervous because they're only armored in knit
Harald wears a crypto-Celtic helmet; nothing else
in the movie is more authentic.
Screen captures from L'ultimo dei Vikinghi AKA The Last of the Vikings
I Normanni, AKA Attack of the Normans (1962) In this one, Cameron Mitchell plays an evil Saxon noble trying to take over the English throne and destroy a Norman named
D'Anglon, played by Ettore Manni. Comments anyone?
The Long Ships (1964) Fun to watch and exciting, but a Viking movie only
because there's a long ship and they have round shields.
Richard Widmark is a prodigal Viking son and Sidney
Poitier is a Moorish ruler. Memorable for the Moorish
execution device called "The Mare of Steel" and
a golden bell called "The Mother of Voices."
Given the size of the bell, and their ability to move it
at all, gold was apparently lighter centuries ago. Great
The Vikings defend against Moorish cavalry.
The Vikings raid a harem.
Someone will ride The Mare of Steel.
The Moors bring back the Mother of Voices.
Screen captures from The Long Ships
The War Lord (1965) Charlton Heston is a Norman war lord sent by "The
Duke" (?William perhaps?) to hold the land and
defend it from Frisian invaders. The Frisians looked a
lot like Vikings - not too unexpectedly since they
lived practically next door to the Danish Vikings
along the northern European coast - a lot
closer than the Rus people lived to the Swedish
Vikings. Weapons and armor looked pretty good, although
the film was made during the era when mail was made of
either knitted string or else cast from some material
that had a shiny and often blueblack surface
finish and had a surface texture that looked
like interlocked rings (Just like in
the contemporary era film El CID). Also stars Guy
Stockwell as his brother and Richard Boone as his
troop captain, Bors. (Henrik Olsgaard)
Of all the movies listed here, this is one of my top
candidates for a remake. Charlton Heston is perfect as
the solid, undemanding Warlord for his Duke who finally
finds something he wants for himself (Rosemary Forsyth.)
But ... the production suffers from looking like it was
filmed on a Hollywood backlot. Which it was - I've seen
the 2/3 scale tower while on the Universal Studios tour. One of the few films that touches on the
differences between the Christian Normans and the pagans
they ruled. (Jack Garrett)
Chrysagon de la Crue arrives to survey his bleak holdings.
The tower he is to hold. The Universal Studios backlot looks convincingly
authentic from this angle.
Screen captures from
The War Lord (1965)
Kommer Bärsärkarna (1965) The title means, roughly, Here Come the Berserkers.
From the short trailer I've seen, in Swedish, this
was intended to be a racy comedy. Let's hope the former turned out better than the latter
appears to have.
Screen captures from
Här Kommer Bärsärkarna (1965)
I Coltelli del Vendicatore, AKA Viking Massacre, AKA Knives of the Avenger (1966) Worst Viking Movie Ever! A spaghetti western style movie
set in the Viking age (complete with riding off into the
sunset at the end). The hero uses a crossbow and throwing
knives (a seemingly endless supply). We had so much fun
watching it as a group, making fun of it as it went
along. We were going to rate it against "The
Norseman" with Lee Majors but the tape got eaten and
the movie was never replaced. Hmmm... (Doug Erickson)
Hagbard and Signe, AKA The Red Mantle, AKA Den Røde Kappe (1967) A Danish film. It is a Romeo and Juliet story of
warring petty kings' families where the son of one loves
the daughter of the other and they both die in the end,
leaving the kings to grieve over the outcome. The red
mantle is that worn by the son who asks it to be hung up
first, before he himself is executed by hanging (for
killing his lover's brothers), so he can see what he'll
look like swinging in the breeze. His lover sees it from
far off and thinks it's him hanging dead and kills
herself in response. This was filmed in Iceland and the
director stated in interviews at the time that he
searched for the biggest Icelandic horses
available, to use for the cast to ride.
Unfortunately the props lacked a lot in this film. The
only armor worn was simulated mail hoods made from the
typical knitted string, painted grey. No helmets were
seen at all, nor was any body armor. Clothing for the
guys looked like machine sewn white, upper thigh length,
linen shirts with simple neck and cuff bands of
ribbon or tape decoration (great for wannabe Danish
"hippies" to wear after the filming was
through). Combat was only on horseback between the
King's sons wielding rather small looking
swords. (Henrik Olsgaard)
The movie is based on part of the Saxonis Grammatici Historia Danica
(Saxo’s chronicles of Denmark). The story plays out a bit like Romeo & Juliet, so we should have gotten a very exciting
story about betrayal and revenge. There is action, and pretty good action for the time, but the film seems dated, although it looks great. (Allan Loftager)
Court is in session.
At least knit mail keeps their ears warm...
Screen captures from
Hagbard and Signe (1967)
The Viking Queen (1967) Actually about Romans in Celtic Britain. Based on the
legend of Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe in around 60
AD. Apparently "Viking" in the title promised
better box-office than "The Celtic Queen". A
couple dozen white-robed druids make the most improbable
warriors you're likely to see.
Iceni queen Salina prepares her troops to rebel against
Druids, dread warriors of ancient Britain (!?!), attack the Roman legions.
Screen captures from
The Viking Queen (1967)
Alfred The Great (1969) David Hemmings as King Alfred and Michael York
as the Viking Chief Guthrum he defeats in the end. I
remember the armor was too uniform for all the Vikings
warriors and that Guthrum's kit looked great and unique
from all the rest. The use of the "Boar's
Snout" in battle was notable. (Henrik Olsgaard)
If you can get past the first ten minutes or so, this
movie picks up speed and becomes worth the effort. The
character of Alfred, who avoids being an active leader of
the English (Wessex, actually) for as long as he can, is
frustrating and fictional, as is the plot device of
surrendering his too-willing wife to the Danes. On the
positive side, as Henrik notes above, the film actually
shows a shield wall and the "Boar's Snout" in
action. A good candidate for a remake. (Jack Garrett)
Screen captures from Alfred the Great
Tarkan Viking Tani, AKA Tarkan versus the Vikings, AKA Tarkan and the Blood of the Vikings (1971)
A Turkish movie aspiring to the level of the Italian sword-and-sandal epics. This one is about an heroic Turk who fights villainous Vikings (decked out in 70's era Day-Glo furs)
and the god they worship: an inflatable pool toy monster octopus. A magnet passed among the props from the movie wouldn't collect anything. (Jack Garrett)
Tarkan is based on a Turkish comic book. The day glow fur at
its scariest is seen on the edges and bosses of the shields. The furry Viking clothes and unusual weapons are not at all accurate.
(Tory Parker) (Thanks to Richard Hanson for the addition to the list)
Screen captures from
Tarkan Viking Tani (1971)
Apparently this is a longship conversion.
Sometimes you just have mixed feelings...
Jules Verne would have thought this was a good idea.
The Island at the Top of the World (1974) A lesser Disney live-action Jules Verne-like adventure.
In 1907, an airship expedition into the Arctic encounters
a lost colony of Vikings (who speak Norwegian and
Swedish). Scenic, but the special effects and acting are
fair at best.
Normannerne AKA The Normans (1976) A tour through a museum fades into the Viking era. This 86 minute Danish film lists Saxo Grammaticus the Danish
historian (c. 1150 – 1220) as one of its writers. Ragnar Lodbrog and Rolf Krake are two of the main characters listed, further
suggesting Norse sagas as sources for the movie. Can anyone comment on it?
(Thanks to Allan Loftager for adding it to the list)
The Norseman (1978) I did see a few minutes of "The Norseman" starring Lee Majors. This was
probably more time than it deserved. The scene I saw featured a group of
bearded men in horned helmets and bearskins who had sailed south from
Vinland and discovered Florida. They were hiking down a wide white sand
beach and through a swamp. Nobody was sweating, and I repeat, they were
wrapped in bearskins. Anyone who has ever been to Florida knows that the
only rational response would be to lose the furs within about 30
seconds. I can't comment on the quality of the acting, as there
didn't seem to be any. (Jaye Stoen)
Lee Majors delivers Viking intensity.
The local inhabitants provide a warm welcome.
Screen captures from
The Norseman trailer (1978)
Útlaginn, AKA Outlaw, the Saga of Gisli (1981) Iceland. It's been a while since I saw it, but it's
fondly remembered. It's based on G¡sla saga, but it's so
condensed that if you haven't read the saga, you probably
won't be able to follow the movie. (William R. Short)
Hrafninn Flýgur, AKA The Raven Flies, AKA Revenge of the Barbarians (1985) One of a trilogy of Viking films by Icelandic director
Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. Self-advertised as the "Most
authentic Viking film ever." The director claims his
inspiration was Sergio Leone's Italian Westerns, and it
shows. There isn't an authentic weapon in sight: the bad
guy Vikings carry Khukri knives and the "hero"
wins by having more throwing knives than anyone else.
Worth watching for the Icelandic horses.
Slaves are delivered to their new owners in
Gest, an Irish former slave, carries a secret.
Screen captures from
Hrafninn Flýgur, AKA The Raven
Flies, AKA Revenge of the Barbarians (1985)
I na kamnyakh
rastut derevya (And on the stone, the trees grow), AKA Dragens Fange (Dragon's
Captive) (1985) A Russian/Norwegian film. A young Slavic warrior (probably
from the area around Novgorod) is taken prisoner by marauding Vikings. In
time he becomes one of them. A love story and battles ensue. The video and screen shots at Cinemedioevo.net
look promising. Comments from someone who's seen it? (Thanks to esol777
for the addition to the list)
The long ship closes for battle.
After an exchange of arrows and spears, the boats are lashed together and the combat gets personal.
Screen captures from
I na kamnyakh rastut derevya (And on the stone, the trees grow) AKA Dragens Fange (Dragon's
Animated feature film from Denmark based on a popular Danish comic book series, which is based on the
old legends of the Nordic gods. Thor and Loki travel to Midgård and where they spend the night with
at human family. Due to Loki’s mischief, the two kids in the family end up going with the gods back to
Asgård. Here we follow the kids trying to fit in, in the daily lives of the gods, and the adventures they get into.
I’m not sure how the movie will hold up for new viewers, but it’s a childhood favourite of mine, so I
hold it in high regard. The animation looks good, while it’s clearly not a big budget Disney movie.
The movie spawned an animated tv-series focusing on Quark, a prominent character in the feature film. (Allan Loftager)
A low budget horror that centered around a group of young adults that take off into the woods
on a weekend camping trip. Around a bonfire the first night, someone
tells the story about a Berserker and makes him come alive. (Greg Maisonville)
Ofelas, AKA Pathfinder (1987) Not that horrible one that came out two years ago, but
the original 1987 Norwegian movie. It's the retelling of
a Sammi myth so not Viking but Sammi. However, the
costuming is somewhat accurate and it was filmed on
location. Don't watch it if you want to see swordplay and
tons of action, although there is archery and falling off
cliffs and a bear hunt going on. It's a peek into how the
Sammi lived at that time. Worth seeing just 'cause it's a
good story. (Grimm/Carol Norton)
Í Skugga Hrafnsins, AKA In the Shadow of the
Raven (1988) The BEST (Viking) movie I've seen. It was filmed in
Iceland, using all Icelandic cast. It had subtitles, of
course. The film was about a feud over a whale that had
washed up on disputed land between two neighbors who were
suing over ownership of the property, if I remember
correctly. I saw it in the theater, and it promptly
disappeared. (Al Boyle)
Second in the trilogy of Viking movies by Icelandic
director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. (Jack Garrett)
The Littlest Viking (1989) Sought this one out mainly because it was filmed in Norway
(and they ought to know about Vikings, right??) A
children's story - intentionally. It's the saga of the second son of
Jarl Haakon, derisively called Sigurd Dragonslayer for his frequent
daydreaming. His "modern" sensibilities aren't in tune with those
of his clan. It seems he's unhappy with slavery and the continuing
feud with the clan in the next fjord. Obviously a politically
correct Viking. Nice views of fjords and period-looking Norse
settlements. The box has two NFL
linemen (who aren't in the movie) wearing horned helmets and at the climax the boy
throws a Franklin Mint Charlemagne sword into the fjord
to end the feud. Ju-u-u-st this side of being "Disney's Littlest
Sigurd and his mother put on their best finery to
welcome the Jarl home.
Jarl Haakon and Sigurd's older brother Thorstein
sail home into the fjord.
Slaves are part of the expedition's booty.
Sigurd's home - in the year 1000 AD.
Screen captures from The Littlest Viking (1989)
Erik the Viking (1989) Monty Python takes on Norse Mythology. Neither one
really wins. I've tried to like this movie for two decades and haven't been
successful yet. Maybe it's Tim Robbins as a pillaging Viking who's suddenly
guilt-ridden over his career choice. Comes across as a whiner. Or maybe
it's the labored humor in the episode set in Hy-Brasil. Oh, well. Some good
bits as always in a Terry Jones movie.
Erik finds his heart isn't
into going a-Viking.
His crew sails the 'Golden
Dragon' from Norwegian waters...
... but it sinks off the
mystical island of Hy-Brasil...
... and is then eaten by Halfdan the Black's
... and refloated only
to have Hy-Brasil sink...
... and then it sails off the edge of the earth.
Erik's Vikings enter Valhalla
to seek the gods' aid in ending Ragnarok.
But they find the Norse gods not only act
Screen captures from Erik the Viking (1989)
Embla, AKA Hvíti V¡kingurinn, AKA The White Viking (1991) There's a good movie in
Embla, the Director's cut of
The White Viking, the third in director
Hrafn Gunnlaugsson's Viking film series. This version really isn't that
movie. The film opens in Norway with Askur, a bland dim bulb young man,
and Embla, his beautiful bride, who are no sooner married in a ceremony
dedicated to Odin than the Christian church arrives to impose its will
on the community. Complicating life further for Askur and Embla is
Volondur, a powerful Christian who falls for Embla. The plot centers on
Embla's efforts to remain pagan while fending off Volondur's increasingly
threatening efforts to take her for himself. His primary strategem is to
baptize then dispatch Askur to convert the Icelanders to Christianity.
So far, so good.
The main concern with the film is its editing.
Scenes stop at arbitrary points, leaving important events to happen
offscreen and interrupting continuity for no apparent purpose. Askur
sails to Iceland seemingly in the time it takes for characters in Norway
to cross the room. In one scene, a longship makes landfall while a
building burns. Volondur gets to the building, pulls Embla from it and
is outside before his military escorts manage to get off the boat at a
dead run. Later, Askur attempts a rescue of Embla that is so inept it
defies credibility. In broad daylight, he swims across the inlet to
Volundur's fortress, spending so much time lying in the shallows it's
amazing the most lax sentries couldn't have seen him. It's unclear why
he doesn't just walk around to the secret entrance after dark or how he
even knows there is a secret entrance. Having found Embla, the two
lovers are so oblivious to their surroundings they prepare to bed down
rather than make their escape. Forced to interrupt the coupling, Askur
gains one of the few swords in the film, yet casually walks away from it
when it could have made a sigificant difference in the escape. Later,
Embla wields it without an explanation of how she came to have it. And
at one crucial point, with a little tension finally built up, the film
abruptly cuts away to an unnecessary shot almost literally described as
"Meanwhile, back in Norway."
The music is bizarre, alternately
using a lone Ennio Morricone trumpet (the director has discussed his
love of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns), a medieval flute and a honky
tonk saloon piano. Not a coherent or successful approach, since the
music rarely supports the events onscreen.
The film has its good
features. It's interesting to see how incipient Christianity might have
affected the Norse culture, although Christians may want to demand equal
time. Uniformly, they are portrayed as cruel, snarling - and ugly. There
isn't a lot of subtlety here. Volondur's pursuit of Embla has potential,
as he shows some restraint and conflict in his desires. Sveinn M.
Eiðsson, who also appeared as the baddy in
The Raven Flies, the
first film in the series, provides the only watchable acting. Maria
Bonnevie as Embla is the other reason to watch the film; she's a
beautiful presence, but the fact that she was apparently somewhere
between fifteen and seventeen when the film was made makes the nudity
more than a little unsettling.
These comments are based on the
Region 2 (Europe) version. As far as we know, there is no Region 1
(North America) version available. (Comments by The Vikings of
Royal Deceit, AKA Prince of Jutland (1994)
Stars Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, Helen
Mirren, Kate Beckinsale and Brian Cox. Set in the 6th
Century, this is the story of Amled, a Danish prince
whose father, Hardvendel, has been assassinated by his
ambitious uncle, Fenge. Fenge takes the kingdom and the
queen Geruth. Amled feigns insanity while waiting for a
chance for revenge. Sound familiar? It's a low-budget
depiction of the legend behind Hamlet, stripped of
Shakespearean language and trappings. Filmed in Denmark,
the landscape, costumes and buildings are as accurate as
we're likely to see on film. The belts are wider than
they should be and the axes are high middle ages, but the
rarity of swords (and even spears) is probably accurate.
Everything is minimalist: the new king has a retinue of
about ten guys who look like they're being paid minimum
wage. No livery, no helmets and few swords. The king
rides a fjord horse and the others walk. The few battle
scenes are the "sword swings in silhouette, victim
groans and falls" variety. The dialogue is clunky on
occasion, the narration is annoying, the music is
cringe-worthy and the acting (despite the quality of the
cast) is a little forced. Given all that, it's still
worth watching; you can't beat the plot and the reality
of the Viking period must have looked very much like
this. The only version I've seen is the Region 1 (North
American) version, which runs 85 minutes; the European
version is 103 minutes. Pity.
Screen captures from Prince of
The Viking Sagas (1995) These comments are a revision, based on a second viewing of the movie; it benefits from having watched a lot worse lately... The Viking Sagas was filmed in Iceland and
is a pretty decent attempt at
depicting the Viking culture a thousand years ago. Ralf Moeller plays
Kjartan, who has recently returned from Norway, where his father Valgard the Wolf sent him to learn to be a
farmer. (And at 6' 5" he's the largest farmer you're ever likely to see.)
Unfortunately, the aggressive Ketil the Black has plans to extend his
family's power over the local Icelandic chieftains. In the effort he mortally wounds
Valgard, taking the Ghost Sword, mystical symbol of Valgard's
chieftainship. Kjartan escapes from captivity in Ketil's camp, taking the sword with him. Ketil's brother Mord has his own plans: marriage to the
beautiful Gudrun (Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir), who has recently developed an attraction to Kjartan. Untrained as a warrior, Kjartan manages to kill Mord but is wounded in the
There are some interesting lines throughout the movie,
including one heralding a medical breakthrough when Gudrun tells the
injured Kjartan, "A virgin's blood heals even mortal wounds". Good to
A life on the run ensues for Kjartan, while he learns to be
a warrior from the best: Gunnar the Easterner (and we're not told which
East that might be.) But we are in familiar movie territory when Gunnar
says to him, "Every drunken killer in Iceland will be looking for you."
The challenge in their part of Iceland is that there are no trees and only one rock per hillside to hide behind. Kjartan loses the Ghost Sword when one of Ketil's men shoots an arrow
into his back. Kjartan recovers from this wound also, but Gudrun is
forced to fall back on other treatments at this point in their relationship.
Ketil kills Gudrun's father, mother and brother, but plans to achieve Icelandic supremacy by installing Gudrun
as Lawspeaker, then controlling her using Gudrun's friend as hostage.
At the Council of Chieftains (the Althing?) Gudrun asserts her new authority anyway, announcing that she's
Kjartan's wife and bears his child. As it turns out, Kjartan needn't
have bothered learning to fight with the sword; he responds to the
hostage situation with a high-angle bow shot that would have impressed
In the final battle, Kjartan regains the Ghost Sword
and avenges his father. It's a victory for the farmers and chieftains, if not for diplomacy.
The Viking Sagas has a lot going for it: a magic sword,
an unseen ghost, a witch, a prophecy, family feuds, burned farmsteads,
Icelandic horses, Icelandic landscapes and Icelandic lore. The music is
effective. The combat is average for this type of film. The direction is
unexceptional, but gets the job done. The weaponry isn't bad, but is
scaled up to lend more impact (no pun intended). The costumes are more
generic Early Middle Ages peasant than Viking. For all the talk of
farming, we never see a sign
of any. But ... the overwhelming problem undermining the movie in every scene is the acting. To say
it's wooden is an insult to trees. It's possible to enjoy The Viking Sagas,
but it helps to be able to block out that part of a movie you usually pay most attention to.
'The Walk' around a runestone, aiding his son Kjartan's escape.
Mord forces Gudrun to marry him, but doesn't survive to enjoy the honeymoon.
Hrut the archer interrupts the geothermal festivities.
the Lawspeaker holds court on the Lawrock.
Ketil leads with the Ghost Sword's
undersized pommel against Kjartan's wallhanger shield, losing the weapon in the process.
Kjartan yells in triumph. Ketil doesn't object.
Screen captures from The Viking Sagas (1995)
Den Sidste Viking, AKA The Last Viking (1997) Danish movie filmed in Estonia. Set in a time of civil war in Denmark, we follow a young boy whose father
is at war with the king of Denmark. His father has to leave the village to build up an army strong enough to fight the king.
While the father is away the king’s soldiers take over the village, and the boy and the villagers have to figure out how to stay
alive in this uncertain time. The mixed scandinavian cast is pretty good, especially Kim Bodnia stands out with a great threatening
presence. The movie looks good, and it gets better with each viewing, but it’s still not a great movie. (Allan Loftager)
Prince Valiant (1997)
Image from imdb.com
Set in the days of King Arthur, this half-hearted movie tells the story of a Viking prince and squire to Sir Gawain of the Round Table who retrieves Excalibur from marauding Vikings. Stephen Moyer stars in this German/Irish/British production as the heir to a Viking throne who spends most of his screen time staring blankly ahead. Katherine Heigl is Princess Ilene, a better action hero than Moyer's Prince Valiant, but someone seems to have told her the film was a modern romantic comedy.
Except for matte paintings of Viking ships, an overly-decorated runestone and a few Viking age helmets, the movie wanders between the 6th century legend of Arthur and the castles and armor of 15th century Europe, with stops along the way to gather Roman statuary and Chinese fireworks.
Even the armor itself has similarly confused properties. Valiant has to be lifted onto his warhorse with a crane for a joust
(!), but later washes ashore on the tide in full gear. Weapons penetrate or don't penetrate the armor pretty randomly.
Ineffective is probably the single best description for the people and objects populating the movie. Armor doesn't armor. Guards don't guard. Castles are invaded in minutes. The primary figures in the plot are all captured and imprisoned by their opponents, some more than once. Only Thomas Kretschmann as Thagnar, the chief villain, seems to know what he's doing.
The one undeniable pleasure throughout the movie is watching the transitions between comic-strip drawings and live action. And wondering who bolted the armor plate on the
The 13th Warrior (1999) Well staged, but an unsatisfying plot. Antonio Banderas
portrays Ahmed ibn Fahdlan, based on a real Arab observer
of (Rus) Viking culture. Fascinating depiction of a
well-oiled and experienced Dark Age mercenary force. The
Norsemen, among them Buliwyf (the leader) and Herger the
Joyous, are unforgettable characters. Many good lines,
well-delivered. Here's one: the Arab poet is tossed a
huge sword. He complains, "I can't lift this."
The Viking responds, "Grow stronger." Another:
the Vikings position themselves to investigate a
farmstead. The Arab incautiously moves forward. Rethel
the Archer, bow half-drawn, warns, "Don't ... step
in front of me." The armor spans centuries before
and after the period. The swords are period-appropriate,
but scaled up to hand-and-a-half size. Some of the best
music in movie history. For a few reasons why this is one of the best Viking movies, click here.
Screen captures from The 13th Warrior
Beowulf (1999) Included here due only to the title. A futuristic version
of the story. Christopher Lambert can't act in this one
Stara Basn, AKA The Old Fairy Tale (2003) I am going
to rate Stara Basn as the best Viking movie. This is a recent Polish movie (Poles are good at
making historically accurate movies and their sense of history is much better than in
America or the rest of Europe-even if it's bit nationalistic). It's
made by Jerzy Hoffman, who is basically the John Ford of Poland. It
takes place in the 9th Century and tells the legend of the evil king
Popiel and how he was overthrown by Piastun and the Viking-raised
I don't want to give too much away but the Polish
Jomsviking group was used as Vikings. Viking Age re-enacting is very
big in Poland and they have a big following. With the exception of
one horned helmet, authenticity overall was good. Hoffman always goes
all-out for historical accuracy. If you saw his 17th Century flicks,
you would understand. The movie mixes the Viking and Slavic pagan
themes pretty well and the battle scenes are good. (Bruce Willis)
The villagers take the longships and
brace for the Viking attack.
Jarl Sigvald prepares to challenge Ziemowit.
Dziwa and Ziemowit sail into the sunset.
Screen captures from Stara Basn AKA The Old Fairy Tale
Screen captures from
Nope, it's not a Viking age movie. The reason
is included here is that well choreographed sword and shield battles are
rare in the movies. The climactic battle between Achilles (Brad Pitt)
and Hector (Eric Bana) may be the best on film. The actors use their weapons
well; this is deadly work and their characters are the best at what they
do. Thanks to the choreography and editing we get to see them do
it. Their armor is effective: Hector strikes Achilles and might
have killed him but for the armor. Their shields make a difference
in the duel and aren't discarded at the first opportunity to turn the
battle into a sword-on-sword battle as in other movies. Both
characters' use of the shield for both offense and defense is directly
applicable to Viking age combat. One specific movement to watch
for: several times when Achilles begins an attack, he is already
moving his legs out of the way of the anticipated counter-attack.
It's a small thing, but it shows that the fight choreographer knows how
to set up the kind of fighting Vikings would readily connect with.
Excavated skeletons of warriors apparently killed in similar combat
frequently exhibit damage caused by sword cuts aimed below the shield
(e.g., the battle of Visby, 1361.) As a further bonus in
the combatants fight with spears, another rarity in film. Achilles'
adept use of the spear is particularly fascinating to watch. Richard Ryan
is listed as the sword master in movie's credits, but no one is
identified as the fight choreographer. Whoever is responsible has
done an amazing job. A last point: Few movies provide a
satisfying justification for one warrior's victory over another.
Here Achilles is shown not only to be a superb athlete, but also a
warrior who trains constantly. His success and fame aren't the
result of magic, mystical parentage or the script's requirements; here
he has earned them by adding hard work to natural ability. (Jack
Since I like giving credit where it's due, here's a note from Mike
W., one of our web page visitors:
"Re: your accolades for the Achilles/Hector fight scene, Richard Ryan was in fact responsible for the fight choreography,
as he did for all sword work for Troy. That particular fight scene was nominated for a Taurus (stunt award) and
MTV Film award (ref: www.safd.org/user/18). Don't you just love that VERY memorable leaping/downward-thrust
"kill move" of Achilles??? He was asked to develop special fight moves for each of the main characters to help
reinforce their individual mythologies.
"You'll be happy to know that Richard Ryan was also the Swordmaster, Asst. Stunt Coordinator, and Gabriel Byrne's
stunt double for History's Vikings. How ironic, eh???
"You'll probably also be happy to know that he was stunt coordinator for
Hammer Of the Gods (2013), which you've also referenced.
"BTW, Richard has worked on quite a few highly memorable fight scenes since Troy, including winning a
Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the stunt ensemble for The Dark Knight. How about that very memorable fight scene
in Sherlock Holmes (2009), where Robert Downey Jr. is in a fight pit (slow-motion... Holmes analyzes his opponent to
develop his winning series of moves... "break cracked ribs, traumatize solar plexus, dislocate jaw entirely...").
Richard was fight coordinator there, too.
"Hope this was interesting!!" (Mike W.)
Yes, Mike, it was!! (Jack Garrett)
Berserker: Hell's Warrior (2004) Time traveling
immortal Viking vampires that wear sunglasses in discotheques... So
Directed by Paul Matthews and written by Paul Matthews who must take a double dose of the ‘credit’ for this film. I am always leery of films that are written and directed by one person, as this smacks of one person’s ‘vision’ being put to the screen without any artistic input from other sources. In this film, my trepidations are confirmed. Repeatedly.
Paul Johannson plays Barek and Craig Sheffer is in the role of Boar. Kari Wuhrer plays the roles of Anya and Brunhilda and she brings several redeeming aspects to the film, but more on this later.
Berserker was filmed in South Africa (?) which is about as far from Nordic scenery as you can get on this earth. I expected to see thousands of Zulus on the ridgelines, but was sadly disappointed. Go figure.
I counted two horny helmets, neither of which had horns that resembled anything from some known beast, rather they were of a dull plastic grey. In fact many of the other non horned helmets were made of plastic, Same for the armor too. I began to suspect that the production company used Toys R Us as their armory. (Here’s a bin of odd-lot stuff we can’t sell, pick what you want...) I loved the riveted pauldrons (riveted to what?) that reminded me of football armor. Aluminum swords that made scraping noises when picked up off of a table. Loved the folded beer can armor on the lower legs of some of the warriors, the shreds of chain mail draped over them was a nice touch. Much needed to protect the ankles if they ever encountered packs of hostile Viking Chihuahuas. In fact, there was lots of chain mail bits and pieces draped over various armor parts. Suspend your disbelief at the door and keep the location of that door in mind in case you want to leave in a hurry.
Nice touches that I liked... The Viking ship at the beginning of the film was well constructed and designed, even if the slight wind that rippled the sail was blowing counter to the direction that the ship was traveling. The small fires they had burning in the eyes of the dragons head on the prow of the ship was a great touch, considering that it was filmed at night, however when it appears that the fire had spread up the dragons nose (it is a wooden ship after all) I suspect making landfall was welcomed by crew. The several redeeming aspects of this film was getting to briefly see Kari Wuhrer’s bare breasts and butt, sadly not really worth having to slog through the film for the few seconds of reward. I liked the Valkyrie Vampires snarling and hissing like my cat does when she sees another cat in my back yard, however, sadly, no bare breasts or butts from them.
In the film you are suddenly transported to modern times, which comes as a confusing surprise, and yes, you see that some of the scenes were shot inside of a discotheque with way too much blue and pink lighting and day-glo paint. And yes, Paul Johannson does put on a pair of sunglasses. Time traveling
immortal Viking vampires that wear sunglasses in discotheques...you have been warned!
Barek and his father Thorsson lower sail in the South
The battle with the berserker army is shaping
Berserkers and vampire valkyries - just the way you've
always pictured them.
Barek and the berserkers fight the climactic
battle in a Stockholm disco. Where else?
Screen captures from Berserker: Hell's Warrior (2004)
Ring of the
Nibelungs, AKA Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, AKA a lot of other titles... (2004) Drawing on the Völsungasaga and the Poetic Edda, this
fair to middling TV movie uses the same source material as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Wagner's Ring Cycle operas.
It tells the story of Siegfried (played by Benno Fürmann) and Brunnhild (Kristanna Løken) and the
cursed treasure of the dragon Fafnir. There is a Viking connection: Brunnhild here is the warrior queen of Iceland.
Three hours long and I didn't get a chance to see the entire film, so I can't offer much more about it. Among other titles the movie (a primarily German production) has been known by:
Curse of the Ring and Sword of Xanten. (Thanks
to DD for the addition to the list.)
Beowulf and Grendel (2005) This version of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem is set in the 6th century AD, but is one of the best in its
depiction of near-Viking costumes, weapons and culture. It's one of our
favorites among the films listed here. Filmed in Iceland, its
landscapes are scenic, if desolate, and provide an effective setting
even if they're not really representative of the Danes' homeland.
There are some intriguing twists: it proposes a grounded and realistic
view of how the Grendel legend might have begun - with a minimum of fantasy in its depiction of Grendel and family. It also introduces a woman outcast from the rest of the
settlement whose mysterious involvement is gradually revealed.
As the film starts, Beowulf the Geat (i.e., from part of modern Sweden) is already well known for his exploits. Beowulf and Grendel is an ironic
and amusing view of how a hero sometimes struggles with his own legend. Gerard Butler plays Beowulf; he looks the part
and does a great job. As the well-known story unfolds with its wholesale slaughter, despair, battles with monsters and eventual triumph, this version adds the
mystery Beowulf feels compelled to solve and the growing discomfort he
finds in his role as monster hunter.
Beowulf and Grendel moves a little slowly. It takes its
time telling the story and showcases its beautiful Icelandic vistas as
it goes. This isn't an epic movie; it tells its story on a
smallish budget and concentrates on Beowulf and Hrothgar having to deal with others' expectations for them. It's
the setting that's epic. Add a few hundred years to the
swords and helmets and this is what a Viking movie
should look like.
The great Danish hall of Heorot is under siege.
The warriors leave their peaceful Geatland.
Hrothgar listens with skepticism to Beowulf's
pledge to save the Danes from the monster Grendel.
Beowulf and his men find the hunt for Grendel more challenging than they had expected.
Grendel taunts his pursuers.
The mysterious Selma may know more than she has told the locals.
Grendel attacks the hall, but has to deal with Beowulf.
There won't be peace until Grendel's mother is defeated,
with an ancient sword taken from her own treasure hoard.
Screen captures from Beowulf and Grendel (2005)
Beauty and the Beast AKA Blood of the Beast (2005)
Jane March plays Freya, a Viking princess on a quest to free her father, imprisoned in the castle of a beast punished by Odin. Filmed in South Africa.
Apparently not too many rand were spent on this production.
Has anyone seen it?
Screen captures from http://www.peakviewing.co.uk/trailers/
Astérix et les Vikings, AKA Asterix and the Vikings (2006)
In this animated film,
Asterix the Gaul has adventures with, and probably at the expense of, Vikings.
How he managed to import Vikings to the neighborhood of 50 BC will have to be explained by someone who's seen the movie.
Screen captures from Astérix et les Vikings (2006)
Grendel (2007) Don't forget the "based on the poem" version
(insert sarcasm here) Sci-Fi doozy "Grendel"
with a mad as a hatter Deanna Troi as the queen and a
Fred Flintstone Order of the Sacred Buffalo Grand Poobah
helmet wearing Beowulf ... and don't forget his fully
automatic exploding crossbow!! (Brian Gannaway)
This one is so
bad I took notes while I watched it. Extended really snarky
comments here. (Jack Garrett)
Beowulf (2007) Impressive animation, but over the top and very
strange in its choices of (lack of) costume for Beowulf, Hrothgar and
Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother. Some aspects of the movie, like
authentic period swords, some costumes and the dragon, are incredibly well done. Some images, like a horseman's
spear, are there only to show off the original 3D presentation. Most of the epic poem survives, but it's
overwhelmed by the marginally creepy facial animation and speculation as
director Robert Zemeckis chose to have animated characters spend so much time out of costume.
And then there's the matter of Angelina Jolie appearing barefoot and in
high heels at the same time ...
Beowulf and his men come to Hrothgar's aid as the bodies pile up
Beowulf and Grendel battle to a disarming conclusion.
Beowulf meets Grendel's mother. Since there's
no family resemblance, it's just possible Grendel was adopted.
The battle with the dragon is an impressive climax to
Screen captures from Beowulf (2007)
Pathfinder (2007) Couldn't sit through it. Very dark and the
"Vikings" would look right at home on Mount
Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America
(2007) In limited release. It is about the Viking discovery of
North America and has received good reviews. (viking3713)
Finished watching it last night and its sort of
strange. The cinematography reminds me of The
New Worldlots of walking through woods and
fields to the accompaniment of ethereal music. The
sound track is oddly entertaining with everything from
modern classical to heavy metal. One of the
Vikings is seen spinning his hair in true hair-band
fashion accompanied by a heavy metal instrumental.
Not sure what that was supposed to represent.
He was either drying his hair or worshiping the
gods. I am assuming he was not listening to his
Costumes should be evaluated by someone with more
expertise but I did notice the belts and baldrics were
too wide (about 2), and the Vikings wore a lot of
fur, even on warm days. Helmets and weapons were
good; all appear to be from Hanwei.
Still the movie was entertaining simply because you do
want to see what happens to these guys. (I
wont give it away) The North American scenery
is stunning and worth the price of the rental by
itself. There is no blood and guts at all, even in
the violent scenes which are done much more like movies
from the 30s and 40s. On the other hand, I really
didnt need to see the graphic depiction of a guy
taking a dump in the woods! (Fred Klink)
Vinland proves to be a hostile environment for the expedition. Screen captures from Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (2007)
Doing what Vikings do best.
Outlander (2008) Fairly successful blending of science fiction and Viking
adventure. Exciting, well-written and intriguing enough
to hold your interest. The setting and re-creation of a
Norse settlement (in 705 AD) are effective and
convincing. Clothing and weapons are only so-so. A lot of
leather armor with modern buckles and a double-bladed axe
demonstrate a wobbling concern for authenticity - which
could be a little nit picky since it's mostly a science
fiction film. It does leave the impression that forging a
sword takes three blows from a hammer and can be done in
under a hour. Oh, and a dozen people with wooden shovels
can excavate a ditch in an afternoon you could park a
semi-trailer in, and ring it with a stockade. Fight
choreography is irrelevant since most of the fighting is
filmed with quick-cut editing in near-total darkness. Jim
Caviezel is effective as the visiting farmer/soldier who
proves to be a better Viking than those who've done it
for life. The biggest problem is the moorwen, a monster
that only an art director could have created. I can't
image what environmental/ecological niche a beast with
its abilities could have evolved to fill. Since the
character John Hurt plays is named King Rothgar and the
"Shield Hall" he rules is called Heorot, this
qualifies as yet another remake of Beowulf.
The village in Outlander is impressively created.
Unfortunately, it is only seen in very brief shots.
Running the shields - a challenge for everyone involved. Screen captures
from Outlander (2008)
Facing the moorwen.
A Viking Saga: Son of Thor (2008) A Danish effort on a limited budget. Helgi is a
young boy whose family is slaughtered by marauding Vikings. Years
later he meets them in the Eastern forests. Complications ensue. The
settings look right - and there are ships... But the trailer shows re-enactors and the principal actors
fighting battles in alternating shots.
Apparently they weren't in the same place at the same time. (Jack
A basically sound story set in the eastern Viking area.
Weapons are kind of so-so, some fairly accurate and some obviously movie props. Most people are only in a single tunic and most necklines seem too big.
Machine sewn seams are noticeable. Helmets, pants and mid leg boots are acceptable as part of the eastern styles. Belly dancers, really? Why? There
is obvious reliance on re-enactors and about 20 re-enactment groups are credited along with historical locations from Ribe, Foteviken, and Trelleborg among others. (Tory Parker) (Thanks to Peter Ikin for the list addition.)
Battle is joined, minus the more accurately dressed re-enactors. There may be a penalty, since one of the warriors has apparently stepped out of bounds. Image
The celebration is enlivened by the well known Norse belly dancers.
Screen capture from A Viking Saga: Son of Thor (2008)/
Valhalla Rising (2009) It's set
near the end of the Viking Age and starts out in Scotland. The main
character, One Eye, is a mute human pit bull. He is basically chained
up and forced to fight slaves for the amusement of his captors. He is
sold to a Scotsman, kills the entire group (with a tomahawk!) and heads
out with a boy who would bring him meals. They join up with a group of
Christian Vikings going toward the Holy Land to convert the Muslims.
The only person to wear (close to) correct kit through the movie is
the Boy. Everyone else seems to wear something closer to the stereotype
"Dark Age Warrior," even if they don't have horned helms and bunny fur.
One Eye wears, of course, biker's leather. The swords, for the most
part, look like Deepeeka or Hanwei.
The movie is barely
watchable, combining (the worst parts of) Erik the Red's Saga with weird
"dreams" and a Crusading passion that wouldn't start for a few more
years after the last Pagan Viking had been dead for 50 years.
you've spent more than a day or two researching the Viking Age, this
movie is painful to watch. If you like movies for the story, this movie
is painful to watch as it jumps and starts between times, places, and
ideas. The only saving grace was the ship crossing to the "Holy Land."
The characters are grumpy, cramped, dehydrated, and generally not in
good spirits; the way you would expect to be if you were lost at sea
for a month. The ship didn't look too bad either.
One Eye the slave is a mute killing machine.
Religious fervor and and out-and-out madness figure largely in Valhalla Rising.
Screen captures from Valhalla Rising (2009)
1066, AKA 1066: The Battle for Middle
Earth (2009) This two-part UK television mini-series depicts
the three momentous battles of 1066 from the viewpoint of the lower
eschelons of the three warring armies: Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman.
For those interested in historical re-enactment, the film is a must,
although greater attention to William of Normandy, Harold Godwinson and
Harald Hardrada would have made a better educational experience.
Extras were provided by Regia Anglorum and the battle scenes have a
different look than other films that rely on CGI or generic stunt
players to fill the frame. The budget is limited, but the
screenplay and acting are both well beyond most similar efforts.
An attempt to tap into the success of the Lord of the Rings movies is
unfortunate and undermines the substantial lengths taken for historical
authenticity. Extended comments and screen shots are here, since the film
isn't generally available in the US. These comments are based on
the DVD Region 2 (Europe) version.
The Normans. Screen captures
from 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth (2009)
Hammer of the Gods, AKA Thor: Hammer of the Gods(2009) A Viking warrior named Thor searches for a mythical hammer from his visions.
Runs into werewolves. An abysmal TV movie.
The Secret of Kells (2009) This Academy Award® nominated animated movie tells
the story of the creation of the Book of Kells, arguably Ireland's
finest national treasure. The movie is visually stunning, with the complex, sinuous and geometrical forms of Celtic art in constant motion throughout its 75-minute length.
Life at the Kells abbey, about 800 AD, is portrayed as the abbott feverishly prepares for
a threatened attack of the dread Vikings by building
a wall around the community. Escaping from an earlier Viking attack on Iona with an unfinished Gospel manuscript is Aidan, a master illuminator.
He gets help from the abbott's nephew, Brendan, who turns out to be a talented illuminator, and Aisling, a mystical forest creature. When the devastating Viking attack occurs,
they are forced to flee, but years later Brendan completes the masterwork and brings it back to the abbey.
Initially, the characterization of the Vikings as inhuman snarling beasts was annoying and a very, very tired stereotyping.
But, during the course of the movie, this approach began to make sense to me - from the point of view of the abbey's
residents. Unfair? Yes. A balanced view of Viking culture? No. But an accurate depiction of how the Viking threat would have been seen by many of their victims? Probably pretty close.
Aidan teaches Brendan how to make ink from berries
The Vikings. What horned helmets?
Brendan and Aidan search for a place to complete the book. Screen captures
from The Secret of Kells (2009)
Pages from the Book of Kells are presented in full, layered, animated glory.
Every component is shown in independent motion.
Wickie und die starken Männer, AKA Vicky the Viking (2009) Live action movie about a young Viking boy and his
adventures. It follows a great animated series from the 70s, that spawned around 78
episodes broadcast in Germany. The series is highly recommended and one of
my personal favorites. The cartoon drawing style of the series was simply amazing and a source of
inspiration for later classics, including manga cartoons. Followed by Wickie auf großer Fahrt AKA Vicky and the Treasure of the Gods (2011). (Davide Ramos)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010) There are a couple of reasons to see this movie that have nothing to do
with Vikings. The first is
the quality of the animation, especially in 3D. It’s impressive and the texturing of the various surfaces (like
skin and wood) is great to see. Water has always been a challenge to animators and here it is
beautifully rendered. The
second reason is how the flight sequences are handled. The soaring and dives are exhilarating and fun to experience. A third,
is how great the longships look sailing through the CGI seas with their
sails fluttering in animated wind. Only a few very brief shots, though. That’s the good part.
If they weren't wearing horned helmets, how
would we know they were Vikings? (Full irony
The fleet sails. Screen captures
from How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Now the not-so-good. Apparently Viking children gain about 300 pounds and a Scottish
accent upon reaching maturity. And have a horned helmet forced on them.
Although the swords and shields
are pretty effectively realized, the axes are all double-edged and from
another era. The story
itself is hardly original and you’ve seen it before. A crucial part of the film is the existence of different races of
dragons. Unfortunately, the
designs for the races vary so wildly, they look like they're from
different movies (or cultures.) The more the movie focuses on dragons beyond the one called
Toothless and the humans, the less entertaining and the more confused it
One odd note. Apparently a decision was made to include a severe injury that
occurs late in the film that wasn’t in the book. The injury instantly jerks you out of the movie, pulling you back into our world of modern warfare and how similar injuries are dealt
with. It’s an unfortunate
decision to inject some “substance” into a mild entertainment.
Another reason for wanting to see HTTYD, unique to Bjornstad, is
that Henrik Olsgaard and I spent a few hours at Lucas' SkyWalker
Ranch helping their sound department with some of the sound pick-ups
for that film. A shield rolling across an arena... We did that.
The sound of an arm load of swords and spears being dropped into a
Viking boat... We did that. There was a host of other clanks and
rattles also. (Brian Agron)
Hetjur Valhallar -
Þór, AKA Legends of Valhalla: Thor (2011) This animated feature is a fun romp. The official website description is, “An over confident
teen with a magical weapon and a handful of imperfect gods join forces against an evil queen and her army of giants.”
Don’t expect historical accuracy or much similarity to any of the standard mythologies of the Norse Gods.
A German/Icelandic/Irish production. (Tory Parker) Thor (2011) Thor works. It's an entertaining movie with interesting characters
and, considering it's derived from a comic book universe, it has a
reasonably involving plot. The story has some nice character development
as Thor Odinsson learns lessons that will serve him well when he succeeds his father
as king. A central idea is that magic, science and religion are all
different ways of perceiving the same phenomena. It even refers to,
without quoting, my favorite Arthur C. Clarke observation: "Any
sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
Image from imdb.com
Probably as important as the movie's story line is the person
chosen to portray the title character. Chris
Hemsworth plays Thor and he seems an ideal choice for the role. He certainly looks the part and
handles the acting requirements pretty well. Considering the fact he
shares the screen with Anthony Hopkins, that is not a mean feat.
Hemsworth even does comedy; there a couple of occasions when Thor's
inflated sense of his own worth suffers some deflation and he manages
them very well. On the other hand, the actor playing the pivotal role of
Loki never achieves much of an impact. A real missed opportunity. As
we know from the Batman movies, the villain makes all the difference.
Keeping in mind that we discuss Viking movies on
this site, I should note there is a shot of a Norwegian village
around 954 AD. For about four seconds. In the dark. And the movie
uses the names of a dozen Norse gods, locations and artifacts. That's
about it for the Viking content.
The realm of Asgard as shown
in the movie deserves some comment. I never imagined that the home of
the Norse gods might suffer from urban sprawl. Or at least I think it
does, since the "cityscape" we see might be office towers, apartment
buildings, cell phone antennas, space ports or maybe discarded egg
crates. And they may be connected by streets or canals or bike paths or
... nothing. We just never see any of it close-up. As far as we know,
the "Asgardians" (the movie's term), just get together in a large hall
for Odin's occasional pronouncements. Other than that we never learn
anything about them. There are a LOT of them, though.
The bridge between the realms, Bifrost, is conceived with middling results.
It looks like it would be more at home in the Flash Gordon
movie from 1980. But then, so would Thor's costumes and
most of the characters.
Thor suffers from the continuing
problem CGI-intensive movies seem unwilling to resolve. When
computer-generated entities fight, there is simply no sense of jeopardy
created. Characters in Thor are battered, impaled and
frozen, all with no lasting damage. Without being told what would
actually damage or kill the combatants, we have to assume that nothing
we see is going to hurt them. This prevents the most intense battles
from generating any suspense, reducing them to an exercise in how many
ways animators can batter a hero before bringing the increasingly
pointless combat to a conclusion. In the movie, Thor even compounds the
problem by telling us how effortless an epic battle against the frost
giants is for him.
It's interesting to note that in the early
days of monster movies, filmmakers always found a way to explain to the
audience what would kill the vampire, werewolf, mummy or whatever. One
way or another, we would learn what kind of wooden stake, silver
bullet or holy water weapon to be on the lookout for. Otherwise, the
death of a combatant can only appear to be at the whim of the script. We
may get a surprise, but there certainly won't be any suspense leading up
to it. We're cheated of much of the nerve-wracking excitement a well
choreographed battle should bring.
A second flaw
Thor (the movie) has is the minion problem. The gods of Asgard
slaughter dozens (hundreds?) of frost giants who are never even
mentioned as losses - by either side. Even the ruler of the frost giants
later discusses an end to the hostilities without the slightest mention
of how many of his kind were lost. Those sent into battle should matter
- to someone. It cheats us of the emotions that should rise out of the
loss of a real person/entity, even an enemy. These vanquished frost
giants are given no more reality than a kill counter in a video game.
In the end, it's just a movie made about a comic book hero. Not much
more, and no less.
Click here to see Bjornstad interviewed about
the movie for the Electric Company media web site. The Saga of Biorn (2011)
Screen capture from The Saga of Biorn (2011)
Short animated movie about an old viking, who wants to die with honour, so he can go to Valhalla. The story is pretty entertaining
and the twist at the end is great. The animation looks great, I highly recommend it – and if you don’t like it, it’s very short.
Here's the link: http://vimeo.com/18011143 (Allan Loftager)
Vikings is a
series from the History Channel, following the adventures of
The series begins in 793 AD and draws heavily from an actual
historical figure, celebrated in Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum, the Icelandic poem Krákumál and Ragnars saga loðbrokar,
all set in the late 8th to the mid 9th century. The series tells
the story of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family,
as he rises to become king of the Viking tribes.
As a Viking
re-enactor and sometime historian, I'm impressed. The clothing
is unlikely, but we've seen much, much worse elsewhere. The
hairstyles apparently borrow from the Bayeux Tapestry's Normans
and ... Mohawks??? Having said that, the list of "accurate"
Viking cultural references is pretty impressive. We've seen a
warp-weighted loom, a sun compass, a sunstone, a Thing, a trial,
a judicial punishment, raiding as a seasonal event, the taking of slaves, a longship
under construction, the effort needed for tracking / hunting / preparing food,
the limitations of food-stores during winter, villagers engaged in trades
and crafts, oral transmission of history and myth, the negotiation of a
bride-price, ravens, a spectral
Valkyrie and even guest appearances from Odin, complete with
floppy hat. One could quibble with something about the depiction
of every one of these, but the filmmakers fearlessly put the
results of their considerable research front and center. As an
example, the raid on the abbey at Lindesfarne is filmed in an
unspectacular and unflinching manner - the historical event
could have happened and looked exactly like this. The writing for the series is excellent,
as is the acting from Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Gabriel Byrne and the others in the cast.
It's a creditable effort by the History Channel.
Now could someone explain why the longship has its steering board on the left side?
from the History Channel
Hammer of the Gods (2013)
Now in post-production
and due to be released in 2013, this UK production tells the story of Steinar,
a Viking warrior who is sent by his father, King Bagsecg, an ally of Halfdan Ragnarsson, to find his long-lost older brother Hakan. Charlie Bewley of the Twilight movies stars as Steinar.
The movie is set in 871 AD, in the time of Alfred the Great, The
Great Army and the Battle of Ashdown. It was
filmed in London and Wales. Here's a trailer I came across
from a German movie review web site:
Bjornstad was asked to provide historical background for the movie. We'll
see if our research was used to good effect.
Image from www.movieweb.com
Image from www.movieweb.com
Cowboy Ninja Viking (2013?) From Time magazine, 12 March 2012:
"Universal has acquired the rights to the comic Cowboy Ninja Viking."
Uh, let's see if we can guess what the demographic for that title is
From MSN.com: "Charlize Theron developing Viking drama -- yes, that's right -- with ABC
Oct. 23, 2012, 8:30 PM EST
By Tim Kenneally, TheWrap
"Charlize Theron tackled futuristic topics this year's sci-fi epic "Prometheus." Now she's going old-school -- very old-school -- for a new project at ABC.
Theron is working with the network to develop "The Clan," a drama set in the Highlands of medieval Scotland. And because, when one thinks Charlize Theron, one's mind naturally drifts to Vikings, yes -- there are Vikings involved.
"The project will follow the various clans of medieval Scotland as they battle each other, while simultaneously fending off Viking invaders.
"Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George will write and direct the project, as well as serve as an executive producer.
Theron's Denver and Delilah production company will executive-produce the project in conjunction with ABC Studios.
Earlier this year, Theron sold a modern-day version of the Hatfields and McCoys saga to NBC.
Hollywood Reporter first reported news of the "Clan" development."
If Charlize Theron appears in it, beyond just developing it, it will be worth watching. Thanks
to Bruce B for the heads up.
Image from http://1066themovie.biz
British director Robin Jacob (mainly historical documentaries) and
his production team have
been working on this for over five years. It's hard to tell
if the project is gaining momentum, though. The materials available about
the movie (e.g., a trailer and some shots of a 2008 re-enactor
event) are of wobbly quality and aren't completely encouraging that
the movie will actually be filmed and released. The trailer
shows a single spear-wielding Norman charging at the home-movie
video camera from across a field. In slow motion. That's
They have a script,
based on "Harold the King - The Story of the Battle of Hastings" by
Helen Hollick. They have a list of actors who have signed on
and an intention to rely more on re-enactors than CGI
for the battle scenes. They have an interview with the
director about the movie. (He wears sunglasses throughout,
even though it's filmed indoors. Annoying.)
them well. 1066 as a significant date in history needs a
well-made large-scale movie.
Nice poster. But then, the
Wenceslas helmet always looks good.
Viking Movie, Untitled (2014?) Mel Gibson is working on a Viking movie on the scale of
Braveheart or Apocalypto. Leonardo Di Caprio
was involved at one point in its development. According to Gibson in April, 2012, the script
was being written by Randall Wallace, the writer of
Just as a guess, there will be blood.
The Vanguard (2014?) A rumored movie, so
this is just a placeholder.
Alexander Skarsgård, the Viking
vampire Eric Northman from True Blood, is expected to play
one of two brothers banished to North America trying to get back to
Sweden during the Viking Age. We'll watch the progress with
interest. (Thanks to Carol Withnolastname and Thomas Paton for
the heads up.)
Alexander Skarsgård gets practice portraying a Viking in a
True Blood flashback.
His family killed, Eric waits a thousand years for revenge. Screen captures
from True Blood (2011)