Swedish cinema has a rich and vibrant history, dating back to the early 20th century with the work of pioneers like Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller. Over the years, Swedish cinema has produced many acclaimed films, ranging from gritty dramas to quirky comedies and everything in between.

One of the most influential movements in Swedish cinema was the emergence of the “Swedish New Wave” in the 1960s and 70s, which brought a fresh, modern perspective to filmmaking. Directors like Ingmar Bergman, Vilgot Sjöman, and Bo Widerberg created films that tackled controversial themes and pushed the boundaries of traditional storytelling.

Today, Swedish cinema continues to thrive, with a new generation of filmmakers exploring a wide range of genres and styles.

Best Swedish Movies

From the gritty crime drama of “Easy Money” to the whimsical comedy of “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared,” there’s no shortage of great Swedish movies to discover.

1. Wild Strawberries (1957)

Wild Strawberries is a Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman and released in 1957. The film tells the story of an elderly professor named Isak Borg who is traveling from Stockholm to Lund to receive an honorary degree. During his journey, he is forced to confront the various regrets and disappointments of his life, including his failed marriage, his strained relationship with his son, and his own mortality.

As Isak travels through the Swedish countryside, he is haunted by a series of dreamlike visions and memories, which blend together with his present experiences in a seamless and often surreal way. He meets a range of characters along the way, including a young couple who remind him of his past, a group of carefree teenagers, and an old flame who invites him to spend the night at her summer house.

The film is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Swedish cinema, and is often cited as one of Bergman’s most personal and introspective works. It deals with themes of aging, regret, and the search for meaning in life, and features a powerful central performance from Victor Sjöström as Isak Borg. Wild Strawberries is considered a landmark in the history of European art cinema, and continues to be celebrated for its groundbreaking narrative techniques and emotional depth.

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Wild Strawberries (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin (Actors)
  • Ingmar Bergman (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

2. The Simple-Minded Murderer (1982)

“The Simple-Minded Murderer” is a Swedish drama film from 1982, directed by Hans Alfredson. The film is based on the novel “The Simple-Minded Murderer” by the Swedish author and playwright Hans Alfredson.

The film tells the story of Sven, a mentally disabled man who is exploited by his cruel and abusive boss. After a series of humiliations, Sven loses control and kills his boss. He is arrested and put on trial, but his mental condition leads to a complicated legal situation.

The film is a powerful and moving exploration of mental illness, societal oppression, and the nature of justice. It won several awards, including the Guldbagge Award for Best Film and the International Critics’ Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

“The Simple-Minded Murderer” is considered a classic of Swedish cinema, and it continues to be celebrated for its thought-provoking themes, strong performances, and sensitive treatment of a complex and difficult subject.

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3. The Emigrants (1971)

“The Emigrants” is a novel by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg, published in 1949. It is the first part of a four-book series called “The Emigrants Suite”, which tells the story of a group of Swedish peasants who emigrate to the United States in the 19th century.

The novel follows the lives of Karl-Oskar and Kristina Nilsson, a married couple who live in the province of Småland in southern Sweden. Faced with poverty, overpopulation, and political oppression, they decide to emigrate to America along with their children and a group of their neighbors.

The journey to America is long and arduous, with the emigrants facing many hardships and tragedies along the way. Once they arrive in Minnesota, they must build new lives for themselves on the harsh frontier, struggling to adapt to a new country, a new language, and a new way of life.

   

“The Emigrants” is a poignant and powerful novel that explores themes of love, loss, courage, and resilience. It is widely regarded as a classic of Swedish literature and has been adapted into several films and stage productions.

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The Emigrants / The New Land (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann (Actors)
  • Jan Troell (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

4. The Seventh Seal (1957)

 “The Seventh Seal” is a classic Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman and released in 1957. The film follows the story of a knight named Antonius Block, who returns to Sweden after fighting in the Crusades, and finds his homeland devastated by the plague.

Block challenges Death to a game of chess in order to buy himself time to complete a good deed and find some meaning in his life. The film deals with themes of faith, mortality, and the meaning of life, and is considered a masterpiece of world cinema. It has been highly influential and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

The Seventh Seal (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Max von Sydow, Inga Landgre, Gunnar Bjornstrand (Actors)
  • Ingmar Bergman (Director) - Ingmar Bergman (Writer) - Allan Ekelund (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

5. Raven’s End (1963)

Raven’s End is a Swedish drama film from 1963, directed by Bo Widerberg. The film tells the story of a young boy named Martin, who is sent to a sanatorium in the countryside to recover from tuberculosis. While at the sanatorium, Martin befriends the other patients, including a young girl named Gertrud.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATAioo50m_s

As Martin recovers, he becomes increasingly aware of the strict and often cruel rules enforced by the head nurse, Sister Edit. Martin and Gertrud form a plan to escape from the sanatorium, but their attempt is thwarted and Martin is punished severely.

Despite the challenges they face, Martin and Gertrud remain determined to find a way to leave Raven’s End and start a new life together. The film is known for its powerful portrayal of life in a sanatorium, as well as its exploration of themes such as isolation, friendship, and rebellion.

Raven's End: A Tale of the Canadian Rockies
  • Ben Gadd (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages - 09/27/2023 (Publication Date) - McClelland & Stewart Ltd (Publisher)

6. Fanny and Alexander (1982)

“Fanny and Alexander” is a 1982 Swedish drama film directed by Ingmar Bergman. The film tells the story of the Ekdahl family, a wealthy theatrical family living in Uppsala, Sweden in the early 20th century. The story is centered around the two youngest children, Fanny and Alexander, and their experiences growing up in a world of adults.

The film is notable for its richly detailed set design and cinematography, which captures the beauty and grandeur of the Ekdahl family’s home and surroundings. The story also explores themes of family, tradition, and the struggle between the natural world and the world of man.

“Fanny and Alexander” was a critical and commercial success, and won four Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. It is widely regarded as one of Bergman’s greatest works, and is considered a masterpiece of Swedish cinema.

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Fanny and Alexander (Theatrical Version) (The Criterion Collecton) [DVD]
  • Bertil Guve, Pernilla Allwin, Brje Ahlstedt (Actors)
  • Ingmar Bergman (Director) - Ingmar Bergman (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

7. Everlasting Moments (2008)

Everlasting Moments is a Swedish film directed by Jan Troell and released in 2008. The film is based on the true story of Maria Larsson, a working-class woman in early 20th-century Sweden who discovers a passion for photography.

The film takes place in a time of great social upheaval, with Sweden on the brink of World War I and Maria struggling to raise her children and maintain a stable home life amid poverty and domestic violence. When her husband gives her a camera as a gift, Maria begins to see the world in a new way, capturing images of her family and community that reveal the beauty and dignity of everyday life.

As Maria’s talent for photography grows, she becomes increasingly independent and self-assured, even as she faces opposition from her husband and the conservative attitudes of her community. Her photographs attract the attention of a local photography studio, where she begins to work and hone her craft.

The film is a powerful portrayal of a woman’s struggle for artistic and personal freedom in a society that values tradition and conformity. It features stunning cinematography that captures the beauty and harshness of life in early 20th-century Sweden, and a powerful performance by Maria Heiskanen as Maria Larsson. Everlasting Moments was widely acclaimed by critics, and was Sweden’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards.

Everlasting Moments [DVD] [2008]
  • Everlasting Moments ( Maria Larssons eviga gonblick ) ( Die ewigen Augenblicke der Maria Larsson )
  • Everlasting Moments
  • Maria Larssons eviga gonblick
  • Die ewigen Augenblicke der Maria Larsson
  • Mikael Persbrandt, Jesper Christensen, Ghita Nrby (Actors)

 

3 Characteristics of Swedish Movies

Realism: Swedish movies often prioritize a realistic and naturalistic approach to storytelling, focusing on the everyday lives and struggles of ordinary people. This often involves a minimalist approach to filmmaking, with a focus on character development and dialogue over spectacle or special effects.

Social Critique: Many Swedish movies engage with social and political issues, offering critiques of Swedish society and its institutions. These critiques may focus on issues such as class inequality, racism, and sexism, and may offer a progressive and left-leaning perspective.

Nature: The Swedish landscape and natural environment often play a prominent role in Swedish movies, with many films featuring stunning cinematography of the country’s forests, mountains, and lakes. This emphasis on nature may reflect a cultural emphasis on the importance of outdoor recreation and environmental conservation in Sweden.

3 Reasons To Watch Swedish Movies

Unique storytelling: Swedish cinema has a reputation for producing films with innovative and thought-provoking narratives. Swedish filmmakers are known for their ability to explore complex themes and ideas in a way that is both challenging and accessible to audiences.

Strong performances: Swedish actors are highly respected for their craft, and Swedish cinema is known for featuring some of the most talented actors in the world. From established veterans to up-and-coming stars, Swedish films offer a wealth of unforgettable performances.

Rich cultural heritage: Swedish cinema has a long and storied history, dating back to the early days of silent film. Over the years, Swedish filmmakers have produced a wealth of iconic films that have had a lasting impact on the world of cinema. Watching Swedish films offers a unique window into Swedish culture and history, providing a rich and rewarding cinematic experience.

Best Swedish Movies – Wrap Up

Swedish cinema has a rich history, and over the years, many films have gained international recognition and critical acclaim. From Ingmar Bergman’s introspective dramas to Lukas Moodysson’s gritty social commentary, Swedish films have tackled a wide range of themes and styles, from the personal to the political.

Some of the best-known Swedish films include “The Seventh Seal” (1957), “Persona” (1966), and “Fanny and Alexander” (1982), all directed by the legendary Ingmar Bergman. Other notable films include “Let the Right One In” (2008), a haunting vampire love story directed by Tomas Alfredson, and “My Life as a Dog” (1985), a coming-of-age story directed by Lasse Hallström.

More recent films that have gained international attention include “Force Majeure” (2014), a psychological drama directed by Ruben Östlund, and “The Square” (2017), a satirical commentary on the art world also directed by Östlund.

Other notable Swedish films include “Songs from the Second Floor” (2000) by Roy Andersson, “Together” (2000) by Lukas Moodysson, and “A Man Called Ove” (2015) by Hannes Holm.

Overall, Swedish cinema has a strong tradition of exploring complex themes with nuance and depth, and has produced many films that have left a lasting impact on international cinema.