Finnish cinema has a rich history of producing critically acclaimed and internationally recognized films.
The country’s cinematic output has been characterized by a distinctiveness and a willingness to explore challenging themes and subject matter. Here are some of the best Finnish movies worth watching.
Best Finnish Movies – Introduction
Finnish cinema has produced many exceptional films, often characterized by a unique sense of humor, a willingness to tackle difficult subject matter, and a distinctive visual style.
1. Ihmiset suviyössä (1948)
“Ihmiset suviyössä” (People in the Summer Night) is a Finnish drama film directed by Valentin Vaala and released in 1948.
The film is based on a novel by Frans Eemil Sillanpää and follows the story of a young woman named Aini, who returns to her family’s rural farm for the summer and falls in love with a visiting artist.
The film was praised for its poetic and nostalgic depiction of Finnish rural life, as well as its exploration of the tension between tradition and modernity in Finnish society.
It was also noted for its striking cinematography, which captured the beauty of the Finnish landscape and the changing seasons.
“Ihmiset suviyössä” was a critical and commercial success in Finland and helped to establish Valentin Vaala as one of the country’s leading filmmakers of the post-war era.
The film has since become a beloved classic of Finnish cinema and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential Finnish films of the 1940s.
- People in the Summer Night ( Ihmiset suviyss )
- People in the Summer Night
- Ihmiset suviyss
- Eila Pehkonen, Martti Katajisto, Emma Vnnen (Actors)
- Valentin Vaala (Director) - People in the Summer Night ( Ihmiset suviyss ) (Producer)
2. Inspector Palmu’s Error (1960)
“Inspector Palmu’s Error” (original title: “Komisario Palmun erehdys”) is a 1960 Finnish crime comedy film directed by Matti Kassila. The film is based on a novel by Mika Waltari and follows the investigations of Inspector Palmu, a detective in the Helsinki police department.
The film begins with the mysterious death of a wealthy businessman, who is found murdered in his own home. Inspector Palmu is assigned to the case, and he soon discovers that there are multiple suspects with motives for the murder.
As Palmu and his team investigate, they encounter a cast of eccentric characters, including the victim’s widow, his mistress, and a group of bohemian artists who may have been involved in the crime.
With his unconventional methods and sharp wit, Palmu navigates the complex case and eventually solves the mystery.
“Inspector Palmu’s Error” is known for its clever and witty script, as well as its excellent performances by the cast, particularly by Joel Rinne as Inspector Palmu.
The film has become a classic of Finnish cinema and has been praised for its unique blend of humor and suspense, as well as its portrayal of Helsinki in the 1960s.
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3. Gas, Inspector Palmu! (1961)
“Gas, Inspector Palmu!” (en finnois “Kaasua, Komisario Palmu!”) est un film policier finlandais réalisé par Matti Kassila en 1961. Il s’agit du troisième film de la série “Inspector Palmu”, basée sur les romans policiers du célèbre écrivain finlandais Mika Waltari.
Le film suit l’inspecteur Palmu, qui enquête sur un meurtre mystérieux dans une station-service. Les suspects sont nombreux, notamment un ancien boxeur, un propriétaire de bar et un employé de station-service.
L’enquête est compliquée par le fait que tous les témoins ont des histoires contradictoires et que personne ne semble dire la vérité.
Le film a été salué pour son intrigue complexe et bien construite, ainsi que pour ses personnages intéressants et bien développés. Il a également été loué pour sa direction créative et son atmosphère sombre et mystérieuse.
“Gas, Inspector Palmu!” est considéré comme l’un des meilleurs films policiers finlandais de tous les temps et est souvent comparé aux films de détective classiques tels que “Sherlock Holmes” et “Hercule Poirot”.
4. Here, Beneath the North Star (1968)
“Here, Beneath the North Star” is a 1968 Finnish film directed by Edvin Laine. The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Finnish author Väinö Linna, and tells the story of a family living in the rural north of Finland during the early 20th century.
The film is notable for its epic scale and its realistic depiction of Finnish life during a time of great change and upheaval. It explores themes such as family, love, war, and the struggle for independence, and features a large ensemble cast of talented Finnish actors.
“Here, Beneath the North Star” was a major critical and commercial success upon its release, and is now regarded as one of the most important works of Finnish cinema.
The film’s exploration of Finnish history and culture, and its portrayal of the resilience and strength of ordinary people in the face of adversity, continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless masterpiece of world cinema.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Väinö Linna (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 398 Pages - 09/15/2001 (Publication Date) - Aspasia Books, Inc (Publisher)
5. When the Heavens Fell (1972)
“When the Heavens Fell” (Kun taivas putoaa) is a Finnish drama film directed by Mikko Niskanen and released in 1972.
The film is based on a novel by Paavo Rintala and follows the story of a Finnish soldier who returns home from World War II and struggles to readjust to civilian life.
The film was praised for its nuanced portrayal of the emotional and psychological trauma experienced by soldiers returning from war. It was also noted for its stunning cinematography, which captured the natural beauty of the Finnish countryside.
“When the Heavens Fell” was a critical and commercial success in Finland and helped to establish Mikko Niskanen as one of the country’s leading filmmakers of the 1970s.
The film has since become a classic of Finnish cinema and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential Finnish films of the 1970s.
- Turner, Marc (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 736 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Tor Fantasy (Publisher)
6. The Year of the Hare (1977)
“The Year of the Hare” is a Finnish movie directed by Risto Jarva and based on the novel of the same name by Arto Paasilinna. The film follows the story of a disillusioned journalist who quits his job and sets out on a journey of self-discovery with a wild hare as his companion.
It is a humorous and insightful exploration of Finnish culture and society, as well as a commentary on the human condition.
“The Year of the Hare” is considered a classic of Finnish cinema, and has won several awards, including the Best Film award at the Jussi Awards (the Finnish equivalent of the Oscars) in 1978.
- Paasilinna, Arto (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 208 Pages - 12/28/2010 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)
7. The Worthless (1982)
“The Worthless” (Arvottomat in Finnish) is a 1982 Finnish film directed by Mika Kaurismäki. The film tells the story of a group of down-and-out people living on the streets of Helsinki, struggling to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world.
The film is notable for its raw and gritty portrayal of poverty and desperation, and for its powerful performances by its cast of largely unknown actors. The film explores themes such as social inequality, isolation, and the human need for connection and belonging.
“The Worthless” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and is now regarded as a classic of Finnish cinema.
The film’s unflinching examination of the harsh realities of life for the marginalized and forgotten members of society continues to resonate with audiences today, making it a powerful and unforgettable work of world cinema.
- The Worthless ( Arvottomat ) ( De Arvlsa )
- The Worthless
- De Arvlsa
- Matti Pellonp, Pirkko Hmlinen, Esko Nikkari (Actors)
8. Shadows in Paradise (1986)
“Shadows in Paradise” (Varjoja paratiisissa) is a Finnish drama film directed by Aki Kaurismäki and released in 1986. The film follows the story of a lonely night watchman named Nikander, who falls in love with a supermarket cashier named Ilona.
The film was praised for its minimalist style, deadpan humor, and existential themes. It was also noted for its understated performances by actors Matti Pellonpää and Kati Outinen, who would go on to become frequent collaborators with Kaurismäki.
“Shadows in Paradise” was a critical and commercial success in Finland and helped to establish Aki Kaurismäki as one of the country’s leading filmmakers of the 1980s. The film has since become a classic of Finnish cinema and is widely regarded as one of Kaurismäki’s best works.
- Shadows in Paradise (1986) ( Varjoja paratiisissa )
- Shadows in Paradise (1986)
- Varjoja paratiisissa
- Matti Pellonp, Kati Outinen, Sakari Kuosmanen (Actors)
- Aki Kaurismaki (Director) - Shadows in Paradise (1986) ( Varjoja paratiisissa ) (Producer)
9. The Wedding Waltz (1988 TV Movie)
The Wedding Waltz is a 1988 made-for-television romantic comedy film directed by Michael Gottlieb. The film follows the story of two strangers, Max and Elena, who meet at a wedding and fall in love.
Max is a struggling musician who has never been able to commit to a relationship, while Elena is a successful businesswoman who is engaged to a wealthy businessman.
Despite their differences, Max and Elena are drawn to each other and must navigate the complications of their respective lives and relationships in order to be together.
The film is known for its light-hearted tone and its charming performances by its lead actors, Richard Paul and Valerie Bertinelli. It also features a memorable supporting performance by Lilia Skala as Max’s wise and eccentric grandmother.
The Wedding Waltz was well-received by audiences and critics and is considered a classic of 1980s romantic comedy. It was nominated for several awards, including a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Special.
Overall, The Wedding Waltz is a sweet and enjoyable film that has entertained audiences for decades.
- The Wedding Waltz ( Katsastus ) ( Besiktningen )
- The Wedding Waltz
- Vesa Vierikko, Sulevi Peltola, Tuula Nyman (Actors)
10. The Winter War (1989)
“The Winter War” (original title: “Talvisota”) is a 1989 Finnish war drama film directed by Pekka Parikka. The film is based on the events of the Winter War, which took place between Finland and the Soviet Union from November 1939 to March 1940.
The film follows the story of a group of Finnish soldiers who are fighting to defend their country against the invading Soviet army. The soldiers are ill-equipped and vastly outnumbered, but they are determined to fight for their homeland and their freedom.
As the war rages on, the soldiers face difficult choices and grueling conditions, and their loyalty and bravery are put to the test. The film explores themes of patriotism, sacrifice, and the human cost of war, and is a powerful tribute to the courage and resilience of the Finnish people.
“The Winter War” is known for its realistic and gritty depiction of combat, as well as its strong performances by the cast, particularly by Taneli Mäkelä as the main character, Martti Hakala.
The film has become a beloved classic in Finland and has been praised for its powerful storytelling and its portrayal of a defining moment in Finnish history.
11. The Match Factory Girl (1990)
“The Match Factory Girl” (en finnois “Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö”) est un film dramatique finlandais réalisé par Aki Kaurismäki en 1990. Le film suit la vie d’Iris, une jeune femme travaillant dans une usine d’allumettes et vivant une vie monotone avec sa famille.
Après avoir été séduite et abandonnée par un homme riche, Iris est poussée à bout et décide de se venger de sa famille et de sa condition de vie misérable. Elle commence à planifier sa vengeance avec calme et détermination, cherchant à se libérer de son existence étouffante.
Le film explore les thèmes de l’aliénation, de la violence domestique, de la classe sociale et de la condition féminine. Il présente des personnages réalistes et poignants, ainsi qu’une esthétique visuelle unique, caractéristique du style de réalisation de Kaurismäki.
“The Match Factory Girl” a été acclamé par la critique pour sa représentation réaliste et profonde de la vie quotidienne en Finlande et pour son exploration des thèmes sociaux et psychologiques.
Il est souvent considéré comme l’un des meilleurs films finlandais jamais réalisés et est souvent cité comme l’un des meilleurs exemples du style minimaliste et poétique de Kaurismäki.
- The Match Factory Girl (1990) ( Tulitikkutehtaan tytt )
- The Match Factory Girl (1990)
- Tulitikkutehtaan tytt
- Kati Outinen, Elina Salo, Esko Nikkari (Actors)
- Aki Kaurismaki (Director) - The Match Factory Girl (1990) ( Tulitikkutehtaan tytt ) (Producer)
12. Drifting Clouds (1996)
“Drifting Clouds” is a 1996 Finnish film directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film tells the story of a couple, Ilona and Lauri, who both lose their jobs during a recession in Helsinki.
They struggle to make ends meet and maintain their dignity, while facing the challenges of unemployment and economic hardship.
The film is notable for its understated yet profound exploration of themes such as the human cost of economic inequality, the resilience of the human spirit, and the importance of human connections in difficult times.
The film also features Kaurismäki’s trademark deadpan humor and minimalist style, with sparse dialogue and a focus on the characters’ subtle gestures and expressions.
“Drifting Clouds” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and is now regarded as one of the greatest Finnish films ever made.
The film’s poignant and humanistic portrayal of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances continues to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless masterpiece of world cinema.
- Drifting Clouds (1996) ( Kauas pilvet karkaavat ) ( Far Away the Clouds Escape )
- Drifting Clouds (1996)
- Kauas pilvet karkaavat
- Far Away the Clouds Escape
- Kati Outinen, Kari Vnnen, Elina Salo (Actors)
13. The Man Without a Past (2002)
“The Man Without a Past” (Mies vailla menneisyyttä) is a Finnish comedy-drama film directed by Aki Kaurismäki and released in 2002. The film tells the story of a man who loses his memory after being beaten and left for dead in a Helsinki park.
He is taken in by a group of eccentric characters who help him rebuild his life.
The film was praised for its deadpan humor, unique style, and touching portrayal of human connection and resilience.
It was also noted for its stunning cinematography and iconic soundtrack, featuring music by Finnish tango musician Toivo Kärki.
“The Man Without a Past” was a critical and commercial success in Finland and internationally, winning numerous awards including the Grand Prix at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
The film helped to solidify Aki Kaurismäki’s reputation as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in contemporary Finnish cinema.
- Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Juhani Niemelä (Actors)
- Aki Kaurismäki (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- Finnish (Publication Language)
- Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
3 Characteristics of Finnish Movies
Realism: Finnish movies are known for their realistic and unflinching depictions of life in Finland. They often explore social issues and the struggles of ordinary people, portraying their experiences with a gritty and unvarnished realism.
Dark humor: Finnish movies also often feature a unique brand of dark humor that is sometimes referred to as “Finnish irony.” This humor is characterized by a dry wit and a willingness to confront uncomfortable or taboo topics.
Strong visual style: Finnish movies are known for their distinctive visual style, which often features stark and minimalist cinematography.
Many Finnish directors use long takes and static camera shots to create a sense of stillness and contemplation, while others use bold, saturated colors and striking compositions to create a sense of visual impact.
3 Reasons To Watch Finnish Movies
Unique storytelling: Finnish cinema is known for its unique and distinctive storytelling, often featuring minimalist plots and deadpan humor.
Many Finnish films also explore existential themes, such as the search for identity and the human condition.
Strong performances: Finnish actors are renowned for their nuanced and understated performances, often conveying emotion through subtle gestures and expressions.
Many Finnish films feature performances by some of the country’s most talented actors, such as Kati Outinen, Matti Pellonpää, and Vesa-Matti Loiri.
Natural beauty: Finland is known for its stunning natural landscapes, and many Finnish films make use of the country’s beautiful scenery to create visually striking and immersive cinematic experiences.
From the frozen tundra of Lapland to the lush forests of southern Finland, Finnish cinema offers a unique and breathtaking glimpse into the natural beauty of the country.
Best Finnish Movies – Wrap Up
Finnish cinema has a rich history, with a diverse range of films that have gained recognition both nationally and internationally. Some of the best Finnish movies include:
The Unknown Soldier (1955) – A war drama film that is widely regarded as a classic of Finnish cinema.
The Year of the Hare (1977) – A drama film that explores themes of personal freedom and the search for meaning in life.
Ariel (1988) – A crime drama film directed by Aki Kaurismäki, which tells the story of a young man who tries to escape his troubled life.
The Match Factory Girl (1990) – Another film directed by Aki Kaurismäki, which is a dark comedy about a young woman who seeks revenge on those who have mistreated her.
Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy (1986-1990) – A series of films by Aki Kaurismäki that deal with the lives of working-class people in Finland.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – A horror-comedy film that takes a unique and twisted approach to the legend of Santa Claus.
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016) – A biographical sports drama film that tells the story of a Finnish boxer and his rise to fame.
These films represent only a small selection of the best that Finnish cinema has to offer. Overall, Finnish cinema is marked by its unique and distinct style, as well as its ability to explore complex themes with both depth and humor.