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Though the Icelandic film industry dates back to the early 1900s, you won’t find many Icelandic movies that made waves overseas until the 1980s. Children of Nature (1991) was the first (and, so far, the only) Icelandic film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Themes of ageing, death, and farming mixed with a zany sense of humour would be a through-line connecting most Iceland movies. Yes, including Icelandic horror movies and thrillers!
As tourism in Iceland increased sharply in the 2010s, the number of big-budget foreign productions wanting to utilise Iceland’s otherworldly and diverse landscapes did too. Today, we have a wonderful mix of local Icelandic films and glossy Hollywood movies filmed in Iceland. My list includes all of the best ones that will hopefully inspire you to take a trip to Iceland.
Unfortunately, some of the best Icelandic movies, and even the one film nominated for an Oscar, are almost impossible to find on streaming services. I like to include films on my lists that are accessible. Some of Iceland’s best films like Noi the Albino (2003) and one of my personal favourites, Cold Fever (1995), are also difficult to find. But I’ve included them in the ‘other’ section at the end of the post, so this list is as extensive as possible. Happy viewing!
Best Icelandic Movies and Movies Filmed in Iceland to Watch Before Your Trip
1. When the Raven Flies (1984)
Icelandic | 109m | 85% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch Free on YouTube
If we can’t start the list of Icelandic movies with Children of Nature, then let’s start it with the next best thing. A low-budget, off-kilter movie about Vikings. Created as a retaliation to Hollywood films about the Vikings, When the Raven Flies is set during the Viking Age in Iceland which is anywhere between 793 AD – 1066. Vikings kill the parents of a young boy so 20 years later he attempts to track down those responsible to get revenge.
Most of the filming locations were along the south coast of Iceland. Vík and Reynisfjara Beach appear and Drangshlíð features as a Viking farm. Most Icelandic movies are gritty dramas or thrillers, so if you like fantasy or history then When the Raven Flies might be one of the best movies set in Iceland you could watch!
2. A View To a Kill (1985)
English | 131m | 37% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
It’s unsurprising that a country-hopping series like James Bond was one of the first big-budget movies shot in Iceland. Partly, at least. This instalment of the suave super spy sees Bond (Roger Moore) go face-to-face with Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his glamorous henchwoman (Grace Jones). He recovers a powerful microchip that they want to use for nefarious purposes.
Director John Glen shot A View to a Kill in Iceland, England, France, and the USA. The James Bond Iceland location is the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lake near Höfn. It features during A View to a Kill‘s opening sequence in Siberia where Bond is chased on skis.
3. The Juniper Tree (1990)
English | 98m | 100% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
The Glasgow Film Festival 2020 first introduced me to The Juniper Tree so I’m glad I can do the same for you. Starring everyone’s favourite kooky Icelander Björk, The Juniper Tree is based on a Brothers Grimm fairytale of the same name. This adaptation follows a widowed farmer who remarries and attempts to win over her new stepson but with a medieval/fantasy edge.
Like When the Raven Flies, director Nietzchka Keene also used locations in southern Iceland that were secluded at the time but are now Instagram famous. These are locations like the basalt cliffs and caves on Reynisfjara Beach and the glacier-fed waterfall Seljalandsfoss. This black sand beach is actually one of the most dangerous places in Iceland and the waves have claimed the lives of many tourists. That’s why film and TV safety advisors are so important when filming in Iceland!
4. 101 Reykjavik (2000)
Icelandic, English | 88m | 89% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch Free on YouTube
Let’s jump ahead 10 years to 101 Reykjavík. It’s not dissimilar to other indie movies released in the late nineties/early noughties. Young adults living carefree lives, exploring different sexualities, lots of pop culture references, etc. I’m thinking of Trainspotting (1996), High Fidelity (2000), and even The Spanish Apartment (2002).
It follows an unemployed, unmotivated man who gets his mother’s queer flamenco teacher pregnant after a drunken one-night stand. As the title suggests, Baltasar Kormákur (one of the best Icelandic directors ever) shot this film all over Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, including many bars and clubs.
5. Die Another Day (2002)
English | 133m | 55% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
Less than 20 years after his last visit, Bond is back in Iceland. But this time, he’s 20 years younger and has a different face. Die Another Day starts with Bond (Pierce Brosnan) in a North Korean prison where he eventually escapes and travels to Cuba and then Iceland on the tail of the person who betrayed him.
Director Lee Tamahori used locations in Iceland, Spain, England, Norway, and the USA. He filmed some of the Iceland scenes in Norway. But some authentic James Bond Iceland locations include Höfn for the location of the Ice Palace (which, unfortunately, doesn’t exist) and the Jökulsárlón glacier lake and the Vatnajokull Glacier for the icy car chase.
6. Batman Begins (2005)
English | 140m | 84% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
It’s mad to think that few had high hopes for another Batman film after the dismal performance of Batman & Robin (1997). But there’s no denying the impact The Dark Knight Trilogy created, and it all started with Batman Begins. This film follows a young Bruce Wayne whose travels lead him to Bhutan to learn martial arts from the League of Shadows. When the league tells him they want to destroy Gotham City, he flees to his hometown to find an alternative way to protect his loved ones.
Director Christopher Nolan filmed in Iceland, England, and the USA. Various Iceland locations stood in for the snowy mountains of Bhutan in several training scenes. These are locations like Svínafellsjökull Glacier and Skaftafell National Park. The mountain of Vestrahorn is even nicknamed ‘Batman Mountain’ by super fans.
7. Jar City (2006)
Icelandic | 91m | 95% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch Free on YouTube
Adapted from the Reykjavík Murder Mystery series by Arnaldur Indriðason, Jar City is an incredible Icelandic crime and thriller movie. It follows Detective Erlendur as he struggles to find out why there are so many links between the death of an elderly man and the mysterious death of a child in 1974.
Baltasar Kormákur is back in the director’s chair. He used locations in Reykjavík and some on the outskirts, including Hvalsneskirkja (the church in the photo below).
8. Stardust (2007)
English | 128m | 77% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
I absolutely love Stardust! I think it’s one of the best family-friendly fantasy films of all time and has some amazing filming locations. Tristan (Charlie Cox) lives in a quaint English called Wall which is separated from the magical kingdom of Stormhold by a literal stone wall. When he attempts to capture a fallen star (Claire Danes) in Stormhold to woo a woman from his village, Tristan becomes wrapped up in a world of evil witches, murderous kings, fairies, and pirates.
Director Matthew Vaughan filmed most of Stardust in England and Scotland. But there is one Iceland location, and it’s Stokksnes Headland in Stokksnesvegur. It features in the scene where Prince Septimus demands the Soothsayer to re-cast his runes and foretell where he needs to search for the royal ruby next. You can see Vestrahorn Mountain in the background.
Read next: Stardust Filming Locations in England, Scotland & Iceland
9. Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
English + Fictional | 73 Episodes | 89% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Now TV | Watch on Amazon Prime
Where better to film a fantastical place with a mysterious name like ‘Beyond the Wall’ where evil ice creatures and giants live than Iceland? Game of Thrones had those exact thoughts. If you’ve been in a coma for the last decade, Game of Thrones was an uber-successful HBO TV show. In a nutshell, it follows several noble families in the fictional land of Westeros as they fight for the throne and against an ancient, evil enemy.
There are many Game of Thrones locations in Iceland because the country features in at least five of the eight seasons. One of the main locations, Svínafellsjökull Glacier, has the nickname ‘Hollywood Glacier’ because it appears in tons of Hollywood movies filmed in Iceland. Myrdalsjokull Glacier features in Game of Thrones as The Fist of the First Men, Grótagjá Cave as Jon and Ygritte’s love nest, and Lake Myvatn and Þingvellir National Park also appear as different locations.
10. Volcano (2011)
Icelandic | 95m | 81% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
Ash clouds from Eyjafjallajökull’s volcanic eruptions in Iceland brought half of the world to a standstill in April 2010. A year later, Volcano hits Icelandic cinemas but it has almost nothing to do with actual volcanos. It’s about an elderly man (didn’t I say many Iceland films were about growing old?!) who attempts to reconnect with his estranged children when his wife gets ill.
Side note: The idea of people holding grudges in a country as small, and with so few people, as Iceland is hilarious to me. Surely you’d bump into them all the time?!
I know that director Rúnar Rúnarsson shot the film in Iceland, but I’m not 100% where.
11. Black Mirror (2011 – )
English | 22 Episodes (so far) | 84% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Netflix
Black Mirror is a hugely successful British dark and dystopian TV series. Because it’s an anthology show, the plots and characters are (largely) different in every episode, so there is a huge mix of locations around the UK, USA, and beyond. Season four, episode three, ‘Crocodile’ was filmed in Iceland. It follows Mia, 15 years after she helped her friend cover up a hit-and-run and all of the crimes she’s committed to cover up her past.
They shot in lots of locations in and around Reykjavík, including the Grænavatn and Kleifarvatn Lakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula. And lots of roads in Iceland, of course, considering the story. Black Mirror was also filmed in the Harpa Concert Hall in the capital city’s harbour.
12. Prometheus (2012)
English | 124m | 73% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Disney+
The prequel to the Alien film series has a glittering Hollywood cast made up of Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, and Noomi Rapace. Prometheus follows a team of eager scientists on an expedition to the darkest, unexplored parts of the universe.
Director Ridley Scott filmed Prometheus in several locations around the world including England, Iceland, Scotland, Jordan and Spain. The location in the opening scene is Dettifoss, a waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park. The volcano Hekla also features.
13. The Deep (2012)
Icelandic | 95m | 94% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
The Deep is a phenomenal film that was almost nominated for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award if that counts for anything. It tells the true story of Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a fisherman whose boat capsized off the south coast of Iceland in 1984 and miraculously survived in the subzero temperatures.
Directed yet again by Baltasar Kormákur, he shot The Deep in Iceland but unfortunately, I don’t know where. Near lots of coastlines, I’m sure!
14. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
English | 112m | 66% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Disney+
It only makes logical sense that movies about Norse Gods (even superhero ones) should film at least some scenes in Nordic countries. Thor: The Dark World is the sequel to the 2011 film Thor, where the titular character (Chris Hemsworth) has to fight against the Dark Elves, an ancient foe who return to reclaim a weapon that would allow them to destroy the Nine Realms.
Thor: The Dark World has filming locations in England, Iceland, and Norway. The Iceland locations include the famous Skógarfoss waterfall, Landmannalaugar in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, and the Dettifoss waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park.
15. Of Horses and Men (2013)
Icelandic | 90m | 100% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
Yes, that’s 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, my friend. This is a good, tight 90-minute film and one of the best Icelandic movies in existence. Of Horses and Men is simply a film about horses, their owners and their attempts to understand each other in a remote valley in Iceland.
Which remote valley in Iceland? Honestly, I’m not sure. Wherever it is though, it looks absolutely stunning.
16. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
English | 114m | 52% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Disney+
This is it folks: one of the best movies about Iceland and movies filmed in Iceland by an overseas production company. I don’t care if other people don’t like this film, I personally think it’s one of the most wanderlust-inspiring movies out there. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty follows a quiet, unassuming man (Ben Stiller) who loves to daydream but is too timid to ‘draw closer’ as the movie suggests. Spurred by turmoil at work and an attractive woman (Kristin Wiig), Walter ends up travelling from New York City, USA to Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan (The Himalayas).
Well, Iceland’s landscape is so diverse that it stands in for all three countries in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Some of the most notable filming locations in the film include Garður fishing village, Stykkishólmur in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Vatnajökull Glacier, and Grundarfjörður with the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall nearby.
COMING SOON: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Iceland Filming Locations
17. Metalhead (2013)
Icelandic | 97m | 91% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch Free on YouTube
Metalhead is another film where Iceland embraces its outsider persona. In the summer of 1983, a young girl watches as her ‘metalhead’ brother dies in a farming accident and she grieves by adopting his love of heavy metal music.
I’m not totally sure of all of Metalhead‘s filming locations in Iceland, but the location of the brother’s funeral was Búðakirkja, the famous Black Church.
18. Land Ho! (2014)
English | 95m | 83% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
If The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the best movie about Iceland from a traveller’s perspective, Land Ho! is a close second. This film deserves a lot more love and attention than it gets. A pair of retired American brothers-in-law decide to travel across Iceland together in an attempt to recapture their youth.
As you can imagine, it features iconic locations all over Iceland. Some of them are nightclubs in Reykjavík, Skógar village, Jökulsárlón glacier lake, Landmannalaugar, Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geysers, and the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
19. Life in a Fishbowl (2014)
Icelandic | 130m | 80% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
The 2008 – 2011 financial collapse in Iceland was the largest systemic banking crisis experienced by any country in economic history. Life in a Fishbowl follows the lives of three people living in Reykjavík, Iceland around this time and how the recession impacted their lives.
I’m uncertain of the exact locations in Life in a Fishbowl, but they are authentic Reykjavík filming locations.
20. Interstellar (2014)
English | 169m | 73% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
If you need to shoot a movie in space, there seem to be two countries that pop up more than any other: Jordan and Iceland. Since Christopher Nolan’s dystopian, sci-fi epic wasn’t set on Mars, Iceland stepped in. Interstellar is set in a not-too-distant future where dust bowls and crop failure means the earth isn’t going to be habitable for much longer. Former NASA Pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his team travel through a wormhole to scout out new planets that could sustain human life.
Nolan shot most of the film in Canada. But the Svínafellsjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers and the Eldhraun lava field help shape the otherworldly landscapes.
21. Rams (2015)
Icelandic | 92m | 95% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
This is one of the most internationally-successful Icelandic movies of the last two decades, no doubt about it. Rams is about two elderly brothers who have not spoken in many decades despite living in two houses on the same family farm in Iceland. They must put aside their differences when outside authorities want to exterminate their flock.
There’s no wonder this film was so popular when it has all the ingredients of a perfect Icelandic film: old people (check!), a grudge (check!), a remote farm (check!), and a distrust of authority (check!). Director Grímur Hákonarson shot most of Rams in the Bárðardalur valley in northeastern Iceland which is possibly one of the most remote places out of all the remote places in Iceland.
22. Trapped (2015 – )
Icelandic, English, Danish | 28 Episodes (so far) | 87% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
People in countries across the world love Nordic Noir TV Shows like The Killing, The Bridge, and Borgen. Trapped is Iceland’s contribution to the genre and it’s up there with the best of them. This TV show follows a police unit in a remote Icelandic town as they attempt to solve crimes despite their many obstacles. The horrific stormy, winter weather is one of the main stumbling blocks.
Most of Trapped is filmed in Siglufjörður, a very small fishing village on Iceland’s northern coast.
23. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
English | 138m | 93% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Disney+
With Marvel and DC all having films shot on location in Iceland, it was only a matter of time before we were treated to some Star Wars Iceland filming locations too. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens was the much-anticipated sequel of the beloved film series. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) returned with some old friends and new ones to protect the galaxy against a new yet familiar foe, Kylo Ren and the First Order.
Director J. J. Abrams shot The Force Awakens in England, Abu Dhabi, Iceland, and Ireland. Apparently, Abrams is a bit of a daredevil as he chose to film at the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, the volcano which erupted and caused chaos in 2010. It stood in as the location for the icy Starkiller Base.
24. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
English | 134m | 84% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Disney+
One movie filmed in Iceland wasn’t enough for Star Wars, as they immediately returned the following year. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place between the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of the scientist forced to build the Death Star, the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. She teams up with a ragtag band to steal the Death Star’s plans and give them to the Rebel Alliance.
Director Gareth Edwards filmed Rogue One in England, the Maldives, Jordan, and Iceland. Iceland locations that stood in for the fictional planet of Eadu include the Mýrdalssandur plateau and the black sand coastline of Hjörleifshöfði near Vík.
25. Heartstone (2016)
Icelandic | 129m | 84% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
Iceland’s swapped its ageing storylines for a coming-of-age plot instead. Heartstone follows two teenage best friends living in a small fishing village (where else, eh?). One of the boys pursues a young girl, while the other lad discovers that he has feelings for his pal.
It was director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s feature film debut, and he shot it in the minuscule villages of Borgarfjörður Eystri, Seyðisfjörður, Vopnafjörður, and the Dyrhólaey Peninsula.
26. Woman At War (2018)
Icelandic, Spanish, English, Ukrainian | 101m | 97% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
Icelandic women are not angry at climate change, they’re p*ssed and ready to wage war. Well, one woman is, anyway. Woman At War follows environmental activist Hella as she retaliates against the aluminium industry in Iceland. Her efforts get increasingly more dramatic when a long-forgotten application to adopt a child is approved. She has to decide whether she wants to be a mother or a rebel.
Beautiful remote locations around Iceland feature in Woman At War including Þingvellir National Park, Keflavík International Airport, Hotel Borg, and other places in Reykjavík.
27. And Breathe Normally (2018)
Icelandic | 95m | 93% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Netflix
This is one of the first Icelandic movies distributed by Netflix, and still one of the best Icelandic movies on Netflix so far. And Breathe Normally is a gritty social drama about an Icelandic single mother and a Guinea-Bissauan asylum seeker, and how their lives unexpectedly intertwine.
Director Ísold Uggadóttir (finally! A female Icelandic director!) mostly filmed And Breathe Normally in the Reykjanes Peninsula where you will find the capital city of Reykjavík. It stands out as being one of the only films to not highlight Iceland’s incredible countryside, but Iceland is so beautiful even its urban locations look gorgeous too.
28. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
English | 123m | 63% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Netflix
If I believed in having guilty pleasures, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga would be one of mine. Watching the Eurovision Song Contest every May is a new tradition of mine but this film really does the contest justice. It stars Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as two childhood friends-turned-bandmates from Iceland who dream of being Iceland’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Due to a wild turn of events, they are! But all is not as it seems and does not go according to plan…
The Story of Fire Saga is set in Iceland and Scotland. The film was shot in both countries with some minor filming locations in England and Israel. Director David Dobkin really did film a lot of the Iceland scenes in Husavík as well as Valahnúkamöl black beach, Skógafoss waterfall, the University of Iceland in Reykjavík, and Goðafoss waterfall.
Read next: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Locations in Scotland & Iceland
29. Lamb (2021)
Icelandic | 106m | 86% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Amazon Prime
This freaky Icelandic horror movie was distributed by one of the top Hollywood indie companies of the moment, A24. And it really is quite batshit. Lamb is about a couple who live on a farm in rural Iceland and discover a newborn lamb in their barn with, erm, unnatural abilities. They decide to raise the lamb as their own child but sinister forces attempt to thwart their good intentions.
Director Valdimar Jóhannsson filmed this folk horror movie just outside of the town of Akureyri.
30. Katla (2021)
Icelandic, Swedish, English | Eight Episodes | 100% Rotten Tomatoes | Watch on Netflix
Katla is an Icelandic limited series distributed on Netflix. It imagines a reality where the Katla volcano (one of Iceland’s most active real-life volcanoes) has been erupting for over a year. Only a few residents still live in the nearby town of Vík but the people presumed dead or missing start mysteriously showing up…
The King of the Icelandic film industry, Baltasar Kormákur, was one of the directors and creators of Katla. The crew shot in Vík as well as the small community of Hlíðardalsskóli. Luckily, any shots of the real-life Katla spewing lava were the result of CGI (for now…).
Other Icelandic Movies and TV Shows: Land and Sons (1980), Cold Fever (1995), Children of Nature (1991), Stormy Weather (2003), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2003), Noi the Albino (2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), Reykjavík-Rotterdam (2008), Tree of Life (2011), Oblivion (2013), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), The Fate of the Furious (2017), Noah (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Last and First Men (2020)
And those are my top Icelandic movies and TV shows! Have you visited Iceland or watched any of the films listed? Let me know in the comments below!
Read next: 5-Day Iceland Itinerary: Our Fabulous First-Timer’s Guide