North America held a fascination for the Vikings long before Viking movies captured our imaginations. Thorfinn Karlsefni journeyed to Newfoundland and beyond around a thousand years ago. His grandson, Snorri, may have been the first European born in this new world.
Norse legends and history are all about adventure and power. It’s no wonder why there are so many popular Viking movies. Read on to check out the 10 best ones ever made.
1. The Vikings
Kirk Douglas produced and stared in the classic movie about Vikings. Edison Marshall’s book “The Vikings”, was based on the Ragnar Lodbrok sagas. It’s swashbuckling Hollywood entertainment rather than a historically accurate documentary.
Ragnar is played by Ernest Borgnine. He kills the King of Northumberland and rapes his widow. The child of this rape is Eric.
Eric, played by Tony Curtis, ends up as a slave among the Vikings. A rivalry develops between him and Ragnars son, Einar. Einar, played by Kirk Douglas and Eric are rivals for the love of Christian Princess Morgana.
Twists and turns in the plot are peppered with a love interest and Viking ax throwing. Well worth watching just for the final sword fight between the love rivals.
The Norse sagas inspire many of the best Viking movies. Beowulf is no exception. The 2007 animated movie has Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich among the star-studded cast of voices.
The plot features the warrior Beowulf who travels from Sweden to Denmark where he meets King Hrothgar. Beowulf does him the favor of ridding him of a monster who has been killing Hrothgar’s warriors. He does this impressive feat naked and unarmed.
In return, Beowulf is given a golden drinking horn. The story continues with revenge, passion, triumph, and tragedy.
3. The Long Ships
The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson inspired this 1964 movie. The movie bears little relation to the novel except the title. It was hoped the movie would ride the wave of the recent success of The Vikings and El Cid, hence the combination of Viking and Moorish themes.
Sidney Poitier plays a Moorish King, Aly Mansuh who searches for a golden bell. Rolfe, played by Richard Widmark, engages in a rival bid to discover the location of the bell. The movie ends with a battle between Vikings and Moors.
4. Erik the Viking
Comedy in movies about Vikings is a rare thing. Erik the Viking is an exception. The Monty Python member Terry Jones is behind this Norse adventure.
Terry Jones based the movie on his children’s book but changed the story completely. His lead character Erik is not comfortable with the Viking habits of raping and pillaging. It’s this kindly character trait that is the source of much of the comedy.
Erik is played by Tim Robbins. His adventured lead him to fall in love with Princess Aud played by Imogen Stubbs the daughter of King Arnulf, played by Terry Jones himself. Look out for Eartha Kitt as Freya and Mickey Rooney as Erik’s grandfather.
Outlander is a surprising Viking movie. It starts with a spacecraft crash. The only survivor is briefed by a computer and the Norse language is downloaded into his brain.
This unpromising start for a movie about Vikings soon develops along more conventional Viking movie lines. There are rival leaders, predatory monsters, and a desirable Princess.
Would you be surprised if the space traveler, played by Jim Caviezel, ends up marrying the King’s beautiful daughter and staying on as King?
6. How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks Animation made their contribution to the Viking movie list with an animated adaptation of the books by Cressida Cowell. The movie was released in 2010 and is computer-animated. The directors of Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders, and Dean DeBlois brought their skills to this fantasy Viking world.
Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup, the lead character. Baruchel has also appeared in Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and This is the End. He went on to reprise his role as Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon 2.
7. Valhalla Rising
If violent killing and weird tattoos are your ideas of Viking movie fun then Valhalla Rising is for you. One-Eye, played by Mads Mikkelsen is a fighting machine. Despite this, he has a soft spot for a young boy who has looked after him.
One-Eye is made to fight to the death by a Norwegian chief. After escaping, he and the boy, travel with Christian Norsemen to fight in a crusade but are lost at sea. Eventually, they make shore in North America.
There are fights, killing, and adventure. The tragic end is poignant. One-Eye has a noble Viking death.
8. Northmen – A Viking Saga
Being stranded in enemy territory after their Viking ship sinks a band of Vikings has to cross hostile country. The King of Alba tries to have then killed. When a Christian monk becomes their ally, their fortunes change.
The Vikings turn the tables on their pursuers with suitably deadly effect. Ingenious traps and deadly sword fighting follow. The triumphant endgame is a satisfying conclusion to the Viking saga.
9. The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent
A 1957 example of female Vikings in the movies. Enjoy the movie as much for what it gets wrong as what it gets right. Most telling of all, despite the tough female Vikings who feature, it has to be a guy who kills the sea serpent.
Unfortunately for the leading lady, she tried to get more money on her first day on set. She got fired. Her co-star Abby Dalton got promoted and got to carry a Viking shield and sword.
10. The 13th Warrior
Michael Crichton’s novel, Eaters of the Dead, spawned this action movie. The box office failure made huge losses. This is difficult to credit because any movie with Antonio Banderas and Omar Sharif has to be a must-see movie.
It’s another Beowulf inspired Viking story. The Norsemen and the poet of the Caliph of Bagdad strike up an unlikely friendship. There is plenty of Viking fighting, monsters and dreams of Valhalla before the poet returns safely to his homeland.
Viking Movies Are Fun
Whether blood and guts or comedy characters are your thing, movies about Vikings cover all the bases. These ancient fables have stood the test of time. Viking movies still have something to say today.
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