Scandinavian crime dramas have captivated audiences worldwide with their dark, intricate, and gripping storylines.

These TV shows, hailing from countries like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, offer a unique blend of suspenseful narratives, well-developed characters, and visually stunning settings.

As the genre grows in popularity, more and more people are seeking out the best shows to sink their teeth into.

A great starting point for viewers new to Nordic Noir is The Bridge, a thrilling collaboration between Sweden and Denmark that spans across four seasons.

Other noteworthy series include the internationally acclaimed Danish production The Killing and Follow the Money, which delves into the world of financial crime.

For those who are fans of Finnish crime dramas, Yle TV1’s Piece of My Heart and Bordertown are must-watches.

Not only limited to these selections, the Scandinavian crime drama landscape offers a wealth of other gripping series such as The Valhalla Murders, Borderliner, Wallander, Those Who Kill, All the Sins, Arctic Circle, Midnight Sun, The Sandhamn Murders, Trapped, Warrior (miniseries), Quicksand, Deadwind, Eyewitness, Millennium (miniseries), Before We Die, and Caliphate.

Each of these shows brings its distinct flavor and style to the growing world of Nordic Noir, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Top Scandinavian Crime Drama Shows

The Bridge

The Bridge is a captivating Scandinavian crime drama that first premiered on SVT1/DR1.

It centers around a murder case that takes place on the border between Denmark and Sweden, which requires collaboration between Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish detective Saga Norén.

The show spans four seasons, running from 2011 to 2018.

This series stands out for its intriguing plot, complex characters, and the unique setting of the Oresund Bridge, which connects the two countries.

In all, The Bridge is a must-see for fans of the Nordic Noir genre.

The Bridge gained widespread acclaim for its impeccable storytelling, memorable characters, and gritty atmosphere.

Many view it as one of the best Nordic Noir shows ever created. Critics have praised its opening murder scene for being both gruesomely shocking and serving as the driving force behind the thematic series narrative.

The Killing

The Killing is a Danish crime drama series that originally aired on DR1 from 2007 to 2012.

The show is centered around detective Sarah Lund, who investigates complex murder cases while juggling her personal life and career advancement.

Known for its unique blend of crime investigation, political drama, and emotional depth, The Killing has become an international success with 12 accolades including BAFTA TV’s Best International Award.

The show’s structure typically follows one case per season, taking viewers on a suspenseful journey that unfolds over multiple episodes.

This innovative format has not only captivated audiences in Denmark but has also inspired remakes in other countries, such as the American adaptation produced by AMC.

The Killing’s enduring popularity has made a significant impact on the Scandinavian crime drama genre, often referred to as Nordic Noir.

It has paved the way for other successful series, such as The Bridge (SVT1/DR1), Follow the Money (DR1), and Piece of My Heart (Yle TV1).

Moreover, it has influenced international crime dramas and contributed to the widespread interest in Nordic Noir shows among global audiences.

Follow The Money

Follow the Money is a Danish crime drama series that debuted in 2016 on DR1.

Unlike other crime dramas, this series mainly focuses on cases within the world of finance.

The show takes viewers through a rollercoaster of twists and turns as it uncovers the dark side of economic crime and white-collar fraud.

The series revolves around several key characters who are part of the complex financial world.

Mads Justesen is a dedicated police officer dealing with cases related to economic crimes. Alf Rybjerg, another officer, joins Mads in tackling the financial challenges and solving cases.

Together, they take on the world of corporate greed, exposing corrupt business practices and illegal activities.

Other notable characters include Claudia Moreno, a talented lawyer who becomes entangled in the shady underbelly of the corporate world, and Nicky Rasmussen, a mechanic turned debt collector who navigates a dangerous criminal life.

Follow the Money succeeds in portraying its characters in a multi-dimensional manner, allowing viewers to engage and connect with their personal lives and struggles along with their professional duties.

The intricate plotlines and character relationships effectively demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of financial crimes.

Notable features of the show include its strong performances by the cast, its gripping storyline, and its insightful exploration of the dark side of finance.

With its unique focus on financial crime, Follow the Money sets itself apart as a thrilling and thought-provoking addition to the world of Scandinavian crime dramas.

Nordic Noir

Nordic Noir is a genre of Scandinavian crime dramas known for their dark themes, moody ambiance, and suspenseful stories. 

This section will explore the characteristics and influence of the genre through some of the best Scandinavian crime drama shows. Nordic Noir has had a significant impact on the global television landscape.

The success of shows like Bordertown, Yle TV1, and Wallander, TV4 has paved the way for other crime dramas to adopt similar dark tones and complex narratives.

These series have also inspired international remakes and adaptations, further expanding the genre’s reach and influence.

Several streaming platforms have recognized the popularity of Nordic Noir and invested in producing original content within this genre.

Shows like Quicksand, Netflix and Deadwind, Yle TV2 are examples of Scandinavian crime dramas that have found global success through streaming services.

Piece Of My Heart

Piece of My Heart is a Finnish crime drama that originated on Yle TV1. This gripping series dives into the lives and interpersonal conflicts of its main characters while they unravel intricate criminal cases.

The show revolves around two primary characters, Hilkka Mäntymäki, played by the talented actress Laura Birn, and Detective Sergeant Hikkajoki, portrayed by Esko Salminen.

Hilkka is a skilled investigator in the Helsinki Crime Unit, while Hikkajoki is a seasoned detective. Together, they navigate the complexities of their cases and the evolving relationships within their team.

Set in the picturesque Finnish landscape, the series incorporates the beautiful scenery into its storylines, adding a touch of Nordic ambiance that is characteristic of Scandinavian crime dramas.

The dark and atmospheric nature of the show has been parallel with other Nordic Noir shows and has received praise from critics.

One of the show’s most captivating aspects is its ability to combine elements of mystery, thriller, and police procedural genres while maintaining a strong focus on the human emotions that drive the characters.

The show has been successful in creating a unique balance of suspense, drama, and complexity, drawing viewers into the stories and making them eager for more.

In addition to its gripping storyline and well-developed characters, Piece of My Heart also tackles various social issues.

The series provides insight into the struggles of the individual characters and their motivations, as well as shedding light on the broader societal challenges that are faced by many in modern Finland.

Ultimately, Piece of My Heart is a compelling addition to the Nordic Noir genre, combining complex characters, gripping storylines, and evocative landscapes. If you’re a fan of Scandinavian crime dramas, this series is a must-see.

The Valhalla Murders

The Valhalla Murders is a captivating Icelandic crime drama that captivates audiences with its intricate plot and chilling atmosphere.

The show was originally aired in 2019 and has since gained international attention after being released on Netflix in 2020.

Set in Iceland, this gripping series follows the story of police profiler Arnar as he returns from Oslo to his native homeland to investigate the country’s first serial killer case.

He teams up with local senior cop Kata to bring the killer to justice, while also confronting his painful past.

Featuring talented actors such as Aldís Amah Hamilton, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, and Björn Thors, the show boasts an exquisite cast that brings the story to life.

The eight-episode series has been praised for its superbly crafted storyline, haunting visuals, and gritty realism.

The cinematography effectively captures the stunning Icelandic landscape while maintaining a sense of dread and unease in each scene, providing a thrilling backdrop for the intense criminal investigation.

The show stands out as a top Scandinavian crime drama due to its engaging characters, immersive mystery, and uncompromising portrayal of the harsh realities faced by the police during the investigation. 

While it may be a more recent addition to the Scandinavian crime drama genre, The Valhalla Murders is sure to leave a lasting impression on audiences around the world, making it a worthy addition to the list of best Scandinavian crime drama shows.

Bordertown

Bordertown is a Finnish crime drama and Nordic noir television series created by Miikko Oikkonen. The show stars Ville Virtanen as Detective Inspector Kari Sorjonen.

The gripping series consists of three seasons, with the first season of 11 episodes premiering in Finland on 16 October 2016 on Yle TV1.

Set in the small town of Lappeenranta, the show follows talented detective, Kari Sorjonen, who takes up a new job with the Serious Crime Unit (SCO) after moving to the town for a quieter life.

The series focuses on various criminal cases, often entwining with Kari’s personal life, giving the show a unique depth of character. The show is praised for its captivating plotlines, impressive cinematography, and stellar performances by the cast.

If you are a fan of the crime drama genre and looking for a new show to dive into, then Bordertown is a great choice. With its engaging storyline and gripping character development, it is sure to keep you hooked till the end. Happy watching!

Borderliner

Borderliner, a Norwegian crime drama, premiered on TV 2 and is known for its intriguing plot and captivating characters.

The show revolves around the concept of boundaries, both personal and professional, as well as moral dilemmas, loyalty, and family ties.

The story follows Nikolai Andreassen, a police officer who returns to his hometown to investigate a suspicious suicide. He soon gets entangled in a web of lies, secrets, and conspiracies that challenge his sense of duty.

With a bleak atmosphere, the series effortlessly delves into complex relationships and the tough choices one must make in the face of danger.

Wallander

Wallander is a Swedish crime drama series based on the popular novels by Henning Mankell. The show follows the titular character Kurt Wallander, a detective in the picturesque but crime-ridden town of Ystad.

Wallander, as a character, is deeply compelling. He’s brilliant at his job but struggles with his demons. The show often delves into his complicated relationships with his family and colleagues.

Wallander is known for its strong narratives and the excellent performance of Krister Henriksson in the lead role.

The series has gained international acclaim, with a British adaptation starring Kenneth Branagh.

Those Who Kill

Those Who Kill is a Danish crime thriller television series based on the novels by forensic psychologist Elsebeth Egholm. 

The show takes a deep dive into the world of homicidal maniacs and the detectives who tirelessly pursue them. 

The series originally aired on TV2 and has gained popularity for its gripping narrative and engaging plotlines.

The main character, Detective Katrina Ries Jensen, partners with Thomas Schaeffer, a forensic profiler, to solve a series of murder cases. 

Together, they face a multitude of challenges and suspenseful scenarios, delving deep into the dark world of serial killers.

The show’s cinematography and location choices highlight the gloomy atmosphere of the Nordic region, making it an ideal backdrop for a crime drama.

One of the notable features of Those Who Kill is its exploration of the psychological aspects behind the crimes committed by psychopathic killers.

The show draws attention to the killers’ motivations and the traumatic experiences that might have led to their descent into darkness. This makes it a compelling watch for fans of psychological thrillers and detective dramas.

All The Sins

All the Sins is a Finnish psychological crime drama that first aired in 2019 on Elisa Viihde. The captivating series is set in the small, highly religious town of Varjakka in the north of Finland.

The show revolves around a series of murders that are being investigated. These crimes appear to be interconnected with the town’s conservative roots and deep religious beliefs.

Creators Venla Aakko and Mika Ronkainen have skillfully crafted a story that features complex characters and intriguing narratives.

With an impressive cast including Matti Ristinen, Johannes Holopainen, Tuula Väänänen, and Risto Tuorila, All the Sins quickly gained a dedicated fan base.

The sense of atmosphere within the show is stunning, adding to the tense and moody nature of Scandinavian crime dramas.

By showcasing how the town’s beliefs and conservatism play a crucial role in the story, All the Sins remains engaging and thought-provoking.

Throughout its three-season run, All the Sins has contributed significantly to the genre of Nordic Noir and, in doing so, solidified its status as one of the best Scandinavian crime dramas.

The show effortlessly combines suspense, mystery, and dark realities of life in a small town, making it a must-watch for fans of the genre.

Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle is a captivating Finnish-German crime drama series, originally titled Ivalo. The show is set in the far north of Finland and revolves around a police officer named Nina Kautsalo.

When she is called to investigate a murder in a remote area, events take an unexpected turn upon discovering a deadly virus within the victim’s body.

The series premiered on the Finnish streaming service Elisa Viihde at Christmas 2018 and later aired on Yle.

The show offers a unique blend of crime investigation, drama, and thriller elements.

The talented cast includes Iina Kuustonen, Maximilian Brückner, Pihla Viitala, Clemens Schick, and Susanna Haavisto.

The collaboration between the Finnish and German teams presents a fresh take on the traditional Scandinavian crime drama genre.

What sets Arctic Circle apart from other crime drama shows is its foray into the world of virology.

Weaving elements of science and pandemics into the series adds tension and provides a credible threat, making the show more thrilling for viewers.

The storylines are thought-provoking and engaging, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.

Visually, the series is a treat for the eyes, making the most of the Arctic Circle’s stunning landscapes.

With its tundra and eerie quietude, the setting becomes a character of its own, enveloping the viewer in a chilling atmosphere perfect for the genre.

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun is a captivating Swedish-French collaboration that masterfully combines crime and suspense. Broadcasting on SVT, the series follows the investigation of a brutal murder in the remote town of Kiruna, Sweden.

Led by French homicide investigator Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti), the show’s protagonist, she partners with Swedish prosecutor Rutger Burlin (Peter Stormare) to uncover the chilling truth behind the crime.

What sets Midnight Sun apart from other Scandinavian crime dramas is its unique setting.

Kiruna’s awe-inspiring landscapes and the perpetual daylight of the northern summer provide a stark contrast to the show’s dark undertones.

The series’ creators, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, effectively use this backdrop to heighten the suspense and keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

As with many other Scandinavian crime dramas on this list, Midnight Sun delves deep into the intricate motives behind each character’s actions, making for a multilayered and complex storyline.

The Sandhamn Murders

The Sandhamn Murders is a popular Swedish crime drama series that first aired on TV4 in 2010. Based on the successful book series by author Viveca Sten, the show masterfully combines elements of Nordic crime with the picturesque surroundings of the outer Stockholm archipelago.

The storyline revolves around a set of murder mysteries unfolding in Sandhamn, a small, idyllic island.

The lead character, Inspector Thomas Andreasson, alongside his childhood friend Nora Linde, works diligently to unravel these perplexing cases, demonstrating exceptional teamwork and dedication.

The show not only features a gripping plot but also delves into the personal lives of the characters, providing viewers with an immersive experience.

Some key aspects that make this series stand out are its stunning cinematography and remarkable portrayal of the Swedish landscape.

The Sandhamn Murders boasts a talented ensemble cast, including Alexandra Rapaport, Jonas Malmsjö, and Ping Mon H. Wallén, who effectively bring Viveca Sten’s literary creations to life.

With nine seasons under its belt, The Sandhamn Murders continues to gain traction and admiration within the realm of Scandinavian crime dramas.

Trapped

Trapped is a gripping Icelandic crime drama series that has captivated viewers with its intense storyline and captivating setting. Created by Baltasar Kormákur, the show first aired in 2015 on RÚV and has since gained a loyal fan base.

Set in a remote town in Iceland, the series follows the struggles of police chief Andri Ólafsson, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, as he tries to solve a gruesome crime amidst a powerful snowstorm that has trapped the town’s inhabitants.

The show’s isolated and chilling atmosphere adds an extra layer of suspense, making it an enthralling example of Scandinavian crime drama.

The series has been praised for its strong character development, engaging plot, and compelling mystery.

Its stunning visuals and Nordic noir style have also been applauded, giving viewers an unforgettable experience.

Multiple seasons of the show have been released, allowing fans to witness the continued growth of the characters and the unraveling of intricate mysteries.

One notable aspect of Trapped is its ability to delve into the complex relationships between the characters as they navigate the challenges of crime-solving.

Warrior (Miniseries)

The Warrior (miniseries) is a six-part 2018 Danish-language crime thriller set in the world of organized crime.

It is created by Christoffer Boe and stars Dar Salim, Danica Curcic, and Lars Ranthe.

The unique plot of the show revolves around war veterans, bikers, and the police force, creating an engaging blend of thrilling elements.

The story follows the lead character CC, a former military officer who returns home to Denmark after serving in the army.

Suffering from PTSD, he struggles to readjust to civilian life. His loyalty is tested when he becomes entwined with a dangerous biker gang, while also developing a romantic relationship with Louise, a police officer.

One key element that sets Warrior apart from other crime shows is the focus on war veterans and their challenges in reintegrating into society.

The series illustrates the fine line these veterans tread between loyalty towards friends from their past and the choices they make in their present lives.

Another strength of the series is its exploration of the dark and sometimes ruthless side of the criminal underworld, with the bikers serving as an ominous backdrop.

The tension between loyalty, morality, and power creates a deeply compelling narrative for viewers.

Quicksand

Quicksand is a Swedish psychological crime drama streaming television series, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Malin Persson Giolito.

The show features a gripping plot with captivating characters and intriguing twists. The first season, consisting of six episodes, was released on Netflix on April 5, 2019.

The series revolves around a high school student, Maja Norberg, who is accused of murder following a fatal school shooting in one of Stockholm’s wealthiest suburbs.

As the trial unfolds, the audience is taken on a journey through Maja’s relationship with her boyfriend Sebastian, a troubled young man from a wealthy family with deep-rooted problems.

Quicksand has received critical acclaim for its unique storytelling, stellar performances, and the way it deals with themes such as class, privilege, and the complexity of human nature.

Deadwind

Deadwind (Finnish: Karppi) is a Finnish crime drama and Nordic noir television series directed and created by Rike Jokela.

Premiering on Yle TV2 in Finland in March 2018 and on Netflix in August 2018, the show stars Pihla Viitala, Lauri Tilkanen, Jani Volanen, and Tommi Korpela.

The series follows Helsinki police detective Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala), who faces her first assignment months after losing her husband.

Tasked with investigating the murder of a young woman found at a construction site, Karppi discovers a complex web of events that threaten to destroy her life once again.

The show’s gripping plot, strong character development, and authentic representation of Finnish culture have contributed to its success.

Deadwind has managed to capture the essence of Nordic noir, showcasing a haunting atmosphere, intricate plots, and dark elements that are often associated with Scandinavian crime fiction.

Deadwind’s third season recently premiered on Netflix and offers a suspenseful journey where Karppi continues to unravel even more murders, ultimately risking her career and personal relationships.

Fans of Scandinavian crime dramas and Nordic noir will find Deadwind to be a captivating show that pushes the boundaries of the genre while providing a unique insight into Finnish culture and life.

Eyewitness

Eyewitness, a Norwegian crime thriller series, premiered on NRK in 2014.

The show revolves around two teenage boys, Henrik and Philip, who witness a brutal gang-related murder while spending time in a secret hideout.

Fearing for their safety and the potential consequences of revealing their secret, they decide not to report the crime.

As the police launch an investigation, led by detective Helen Sikkeland, Henrik and Philip navigate their strained relationship and deal with the aftermath of the murder.

The series effectively explores themes such as family dynamics, trust, and loyalty, while incorporating elements of the Scandinavian crime drama genre.

Eyewitness stands out for its unique approach to crime storytelling.

Instead of focusing solely on the police investigation, the show delves into the psychological effects of witnessing a crime on its young protagonists.

The atmospheric setting of the Norwegian countryside adds to the show’s dark, moody tone, which is common among Scandinavian crime dramas. Fans of the genre will appreciate the mystery and tension building throughout the series.

The series received positive reviews for its gripping plot, well-developed characters, and stunning cinematography.

I would recommend giving Eyewitness a watch if you’re interested in a fresh take on the Scandinavian crime drama genre.

Millennium (Miniseries)

Millennium is a Scandinavian crime drama miniseries based on Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium novels.

It originally aired on SVT1 and consists of six episodes, each correlating to a specific part of the original three books: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

The series follows the story of the unconventional and talented computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, and the seasoned journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, as they team up to solve a series of crimes that involve murder, conspiracy, and abuse of women in Swedish society.

The show has received critical acclaim for its gripping storylines, strong character development, and thrilling twists and turns.

Millennium‘s dynamic duo of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist is portrayed by the talented actors, Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, respectively.

Both actors have received high praise for their compelling performances, making them synonymous with their characters.

Before We Die

Before We Die is a Swedish crime drama that continues to wow viewers with its intense undercover operation and nail-biting plot twists.

The show follows police officer Hanna Svensson, who delves into a risky mission to take down a dangerous criminal organization.

This thrilling crime series successfully combines elements of suspense, action, and personal drama to create an immersive viewing experience.

One of the ways Before We Die keeps audiences engaged is by focusing on the personal lives of its characters, adding depth and complexity to their stories and making viewers genuinely care about their fates.

The storyline moves at a steady pace, giving the audience just enough answers to keep them wanting more while maintaining a sense of mystery.

Before We Die has all the hallmark traits of a top-notch Scandinavian crime drama: high stakes, intricate plots, and relatable characters. If you’re a fan of the genre, this show is one not to be missed.

Caliphate

Caliphate is a gripping Swedish crime drama series that premiered on SVT1.

The show revolves around the complex and interconnected lives of five women, whose paths cross when they are affected by terrorism and espionage.

Caliphate takes a hard look at the impact of extremism and the lives it touches.

The storyline is set in two timelines: one based in Sweden where agent Fatima attempts to prevent a terrorist attack, and the second in Syria where a young girl, Pervin, is trying to escape ISIS.

The narrative shifts back and forth between these two locations, creating a tense atmosphere as the stakes continue to rise.

Caliphate has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by women in both situations, as well as its ability to showcase the intricate and often overlooked aspects of life under ISIS rule.

The series has been praised for its strong acting performances, particularly by the actresses playing the complex female characters, and the well-balanced storytelling that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

A key component of the show’s success is its ability to humanize the often vilified and misunderstood subjects involved in terrorism and radicalism.

It goes beyond the headlines, shedding light on the nuances of these difficult topics and bringing them into focus for viewers.

If you are looking for a thought-provoking and intense crime drama, Caliphate is worth your time.

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