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Nordic Noir

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A very different kind of cold case.
Nordic Noir or Scandinavian Noir is a genre of Crime Fiction from the Scandinavian countries, which broke through around the Turn of the Millennium and since.

They often, but not always, take the form of a Police Procedural. The Hero is often an Anti-Hero; typically a Defective Detective. Many of the series have been adapted to film, and then remade for other audiences. The genre arguably originated with Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall's Martin Beck novels, which introduced many of the concepts and conventions, such as deconstructing the clean surface of the welfare state, dealing with older, down on their luck cops and social commentary and social realism, set in deserted sceneries in an an unforgiving climate. However, it truly took off in the English-speaking world with the English publication of Henning Mankell's novels, most of which feature the depressive Inspector Kurt Wallander.

Compare with Giallo and Heroic Bloodshed, for other region specific crime thrillers.



Film — Live-Action


  • Backstrom
  • Harry Hole
  • Martin Beck series is an Ur-Example of the genre, and basically spawned all other titles mentioned here.
  • Millennium, one of the most famous literary examples.
  • Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow as a literary example that contains many central tropes and aesthetic trappings of the genre, while not exactly being a part of it. It is partially a detective story, albeit not in Police Procedural form, but, Peter Høeg being the writer that he is, is broader in genre, somewhat philosophical and multi-layered.

Live-Action TV

  • Arne Dahl
  • Backstrom, adaptation of the Backstrom novels. An American procedural that kept the original's cynical edge while softening down some of the protagonist's other flaws.
  • Bankenrot ("Broke") was essentially a Nordic version of Breaking Bad, changing down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher for down-on-his-luck chef. The attempt by AMC to adapt it to American audiences, Feed The Beast, unfortunately became an Audience-Alienating Premise and only lasted a single season.
  • Black Mirror has a couple episodes heavily inspired by this genre, though mixed with Black Mirror's trademark speculative science fiction.
  • The Break, a Franco-Belgian take on the genre.
  • Bron|Broen
  • Bullets
  • Cardinal, a Canadian take on the genre, which was positively critiqued throughout Canada.
  • Dark, a German science fiction take on the genre, can be described as the Nordic Noir version of Stranger Things.
  • Deadwind, as pictured above.
  • Fallet is a comedic take on the genre.
  • Forbrydelsen, arguably the Trope Codifier for people who don't read prose crime fiction.
  • Fortitude is what you get when a British TV channel decides to make its own Nordic Noir, still in a Scandinavian setting.
  • Gentlemen and its sequel Gangsters by Klas Östergren
  • Jordskott
  • Lilyhammer
  • Midnight Sun (2016) (Midnattssol / Nuit Polare), a French-Swedish coproduction playing in Kiruna, Sweden.
  • Øyevitne, a six-part Norwegian crime series that was also remade as Eyewitness (2016) for the US market.
  • Roland Hassel, a classic nordic-noir-crime-thriller from the 80's, famous in Sweden for the protagonist being more intelligent than cocky.
  • Shetland is a Scottish take on the genre, set in a region of Scotland that's very close to Norway.
  • Sorjonen, a Finnish take on the genre.
  • Trapped (Original title Ófærð), an Icelandic TV series in 10 parts.
  • Twin, which has many of the hallmarks of a Nordic Noir drama, with some police procedural aspects, but the detective is merely a side character and the focus of the story is on the victim's twin brother.
  • Der Usedom-Krimi is a German series set on the island of Usedom, which is far enough north to have a Scandinavian flavour.
  • Wallander, the other blockbuster literary example.
  • Y Gwyll, a Welsh take on the genre.

Video Games

  • Draugen is somewhat of a retro take on the genre, placing a missing person's case in a rural Norwegian village in the year of 1923.
  • Whispers of a Machine combines the genre with Cyberpunk.

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