Top 10 Danish Movies of Modern Times

top ten movies from denmark


#10. Flickering Lights (IMDB Rating 7.5)

Flickering Lights
Flickering Lights (Blinkende lygter) is a popular action comedy Danish film written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam's Apples, The Green Butchers). It’s a story of four small-time gangsters from Copenhagen who decide to trick their gangster boss out of 4 million Danish Kroner and escape to Barcelona. On their way, they are forced to make a stop at a old dilapidated house by the countryside. During their stay, each of the characters gradually start to have a new perspective of life and we are taken through the painful memories of their childhood and the roots of their friendship.

Flickering Lights is superbly cast with Søren Pilmark as the tough-looking, but with a soft heart, leader of the gang, Ulrich Thomsen as a drug addict with a great love for television dramas, Mads Mikkelsen as a psychotic gunman and Lie-Kaas as a misfit gangster. The supporting cast also does a fine job especially the weapon-crazy farmer/hunter and a roaring comic alcoholic doctor. This multi-genre movie has elements of dark humor, human drama and action (with some really graphic scenes). The interesting cast and the great plot elements allowed the movie to become a deserving European box-office hit.

#9. The Bench (IMDB Rating 7.5)

The Bench - Danish MovieThe Bench (Bænken) is a masterpiece from the Dnish director Per Fly. The Bench was the most highly acclaimed movie of 2000 in Denmark. It won the Robert Awards and Bodil Awards across a number of categories including the Best Actor and Best Film. It is the first movie of the trilogy by Peter Fly, that portrayed situations dealing with the lower class (The Bench), middle class (Drabet,2005) and the upper-class (Arven, 2003) in Denmark.

The Bench deals with the struggles of a death-drunk alcoholic in suburban Copenhagen named Kaj, played to perfection by Jesper Christensen. Kaj's life revolved around spending most of the day drinking alcohol with his buddy Stig discussing the pointless existence of their lives. But Kaj's life finds a purpose as a young mother, Liv, moves into a building across the street with her 6 year old son, Jonas, in an attempt to escape her abusive father.

This is a movie about the powerful and moving themes of our existence such as hope, love, pain, decay and forgiveness. In The Bench, Per Fly's masterfully sad yet beautiful narration is complemented by the superlative performance of Jesper Christensen who makes his character come to life and marks his presence in the movie with remarkable intensity.

#8. Brothers (IMDB Rating 7.6)

brode aka brothers
Susanne Bier's Brothers (Brødre) is an intense and riveting drama of two brothers, one a respected Danish military officer Michael (powerhouse performance by the Danish star Ulrich Thomsen) presumed dead in the war in Afghanistan, and the younger punk brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), the black sheep of the family trying to mend his ways by taking care of his brother's family in his absence. Also playing a pivotal character in the movie is Michael's wife Sarah (brilliant played by the beautiful Danish-American Actress Connie Nielsen) who ends up being at the center of the conflict as Michael realizes that his younger brother Jannik has taken his place in the family in his absence. 

The movie is as much about the horrors of a war that could unleash demons in one's soul moved by traumatic experiences, as it is about second chances in life. The movie could've easily been a sappy melodrama but Susanne Bier's skillful direction, Anders Thomas Jensen's brilliant screenplay and powerful performances from the main cast make this a powerful statement on family relations and the effects of war.

The movie has also inspired a 2009 Hollywood remake by Jim Sheridan Brothers starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.

#7. Nightwatch (IMDB Rating 7.5)
Nightwatch is a psychotically horror-thriller that marked the directorial debut of the Danish Director Ole Bornedal, who also penned the script of the film. Ole Bornedal also directed the Hollywood reamke Nightwatch released in 1997 and starred Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte and Patricia Arquette in the lead.
The superior Danish original stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a college student Martin who takes the job as a night watchman at a mortuary to pay for the tution fees of his Law school. The mortuary becomes the place where the victims of a serial killer on the loose are deposited. As Martin places a wager with his friend that involves tampering with the dead bodies, he ends up as a suspect in the case. Ole Bornedal brilliantly captures the eeriness of a mortuary and emphasizes the creepy silence with the contrasting loud pop music that Martin uses to keep himself awake. All this imparts the morgue setting a character of it’s own.

This extremely popular Danish movie vowed the audiences with its tautness, plot twists that can genuinely surprise you along with a touch of dark humor. Though not groundbreaking by any means, this is definitely a interesting piece of film-making that will prove to be worth your time.

#6. King's Game (IMDB Rating 7.5)
King's Game
King’s Game (Kongekabale) is the highly successful and critical Danish hit of 2004. Written and Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, King’s Game became the highest grossing Danish movie of 2004 and also swept the Danish Roberts (Denmark's equivalent of the Academy Awards) with a impressive count of 8 wins, including that of the Best Picture and Best Director, and the Bodil award for the Best Danish Picture.

The movie stars Anders W. Berthelsen, and Nicolas Bro as two reporters working to uncover a Government conspiracy involving the Danish Prime-ministerial candidate and internal power struggle in the Center Party. Adapted from a novel by a real life political insider Niels Krause-Kjoer, the script lends itself a sense of authencity that works marvelously to the benefit of this masterfully executed political thriller with nail- biting suspense and brilliant performances by the lead cast, especially Nicholas Bro who manages to steal every scene he’s in. Highly recommended for the fans of political conspiracy thriller genre. 

#5. Adam's Apple (IMDB Rating 7.8)
Adam's Apple
Scripted and Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, Adam’s apple is an allegorical tale of Adam (Ulrich Thomsen), a psychotic former leader of a Neo-Nazi gang, ironically sentenced to community service at a church. Made to live with a religious community around the church, he sees an ideological clash in the form of a priest Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen), the patriarchal leader of the community. 

When enquired by Ivan regarding a goal that Adam must accomplish during his stay, Adam sarcastically declares that he would like to bake an apple pie. The response prompts Ivan to place Adam in charge of the cherished apple tree in the church’s courtyard. During his stay, Adam encounters a string of interesting characters such as the reforming Pakistani terrorist, alcoholic former tennis player who suffers from kleptomania, a local doctor with a vulgar sense of humor mostly revolving around the unfortunate illnesses of his patients and Ivan’s son who has cerebral palsy.
The darkly comical tale smartly blends frivolity with violence, reality with absurdity, and profanity with humanity, and is spearheaded by a sly narrative from Jensen aided by impressive performances from the hugely popular Danish stars Mads Mikkelsen and Ulrich Thomsen.

#4. Open Hearts (IMDB Rating 7.7)
Open Hearts
Open Hearts is another highly acclaimed Danish movie from the brilliant Susanne Bier emplying the minimalist film-making techniques of Dogme 95 discipline. The movie won the best Picture nod at the Bodil Awards and Robert Awards(Danish equivalent of the Oscars) in 2003. In addition, the movie also won the prestigious International Critics Award at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival.

Susanne Bier adopts a gritty approach to the narration accentuated by the low-budgeted complexion of the film. The movie is an intelligent and carefully layered character study by Susanne Beir, who in her trademark style, lays bare the raw emotions of individuals caught in extreme situations and the exploration of basic humanity that lies in our core. This movie brutally and honestly deals with universal themes of romance, tragedy, betrayed, trust and love and is surely a notch above most of the other such melodramatic fares.

After the wedding
After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet) is the critically acclaimed and popular Danish Drama from the acclaimed Scandinavian director Susanne Bier, released in 2006. The movie was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, where it lost out to German classic, The Lives of Others. Susanne Bier tasted Oscar success eventually for her 2010 Danish movie, 'In a Better World'.
The Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, King Arthur and Clash of the titans) stars as Jacob Pederson, a Manager with a struggling orphanage in Bombay who is persuaded to return to Copenhagen as a pre-condition to a multi-million dollar donation to the charity by the Danish Businessman Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard). Upon his return, Jacob realizes that nothing is what it seems as he starts to realize the real intentions of Jorgen that brings Jacob face-to-face with the realities of his past. But this is not really a mystery movie but a powerful drama about raw emotions and human relationships.

In a Better World
 In a Better World (Hævnen) is Susanne Bier's brilliant follow up to the 2006 Oscar nominated film After the Wedding. This time she went all the way and the movie won the coveted Best Foreign Language Film of the Year Oscar in 2010 as well the Golden Globe in the same category, in addition to the numerous awards won at various International Film Festivals around the world.

The movie stars Mikael Persbrandt as Anton, a Swedish doctor working in the refugee camp in Africa. His son Elias (Markus Rygaard) is the target of a bully due to his Swedish roots back in Denmark. A meek young kid, Elias is also struggling with the separation of his parents, Anton and Marianne (Trine Dyrholm). Elias forms a strong friendship with a new troubled kid Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), who recently lost his mother to cancer and blames his father Claus (Ulrich Thomsen) for giving up, and unforgiving at the 'betrayal' of his father. 'In a Better World' is an engrossing tale of two Danish families, each grappling with their own personal tragedies, and the boys of the two families forming a strong friendship. This is a brilliant tale of conflicting moral choices, retribution, reconciliation and forgiveness in contrasting universes of a Sudanese refugee camp and a peaceful town in Denmark.

Anyone who has seen Susanne's brilliant previous efforts like After the Wedding and Brothers would be aware of her great skills at capturing powerful emotions and drama in normal human settings and creating interesting and realistic characters. In a Better World is another of Susanne's masterpiece, worthy of all the acclaim.

#1. Festen (IMDB Rating 8.1)

Festen (aka The Celebration), the winner of the Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival is regarded as arguably the greatest Danish movie of the recent era. The movie by Thomas Vinterberg is also notable as being the first Danish movie created using the Dogme-95 rules that stresses on a strong narrative, themes, actors and doesn't indulge in any special effects, technology or post production alterations or modifications to the movie. The movie deals with the controversial and taboo subject of incest that forms the backdrop of the movie. The movie takes place during the festivities of the 60th birthday of the patriarch of a family, Helge (Henning Moritzen), as they gather to celebrate it with a grand feast in a family-run hotel. During these celebrations, shocking revelations are made by Helge's son Christian (Ulrich Thomsen). In a speech, Christian accuses Helge of sexually abusing him and his late twin sister when they were young resulting in her sister committing suicide and psychologically scarring him for the rest of his life unable to commit himself to any intimate relationship. As the movie progresses, we start to realize the frailty of the family's relationships, and the flawed characters of the normal-appearing dysfunctional family are slowly revealed.  

Festen is undoubtedly one of the most impressive and unsettling movie about coming together of a dysfunctional family for a celebration where secrets are unraveled, relationships get redefined with each shocking revelation, and old rivalries re-ignited; but at the end of it all, being regarded as just another chapter in history of twisted family dynamics by everyone present.  A Dogme masterpiece, arguably the best.