10 Movies About Vikings To Check Out Before The Northman

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Ancient Scandinavians, known collectively these days as Vikings, were a fascinating group of people whose impact spread from Greenland to Russia. Best known for their prowess as warriors and violent rituals, the Vikings were explorers, conquerors, and settlers that lived from the 8th century CE to the late 11th century CE. They've captured the imaginations of filmmakers for decades, and there are Viking-inspired films in just about every genre, and for just about every audience.

Robert Eggers' "The Northman" is coming to theaters on April 22, 2022, and while it's a Viking adventure drama for adults only, there are plenty of other amazing Viking movies out there to check out as well. To get ready for "The Northman" or share a taste of Viking-inspired fun with younger family members, here are ten of the best Viking movies and where you can watch them. 

Valhalla Rising

Where to Watch: Streaming on AMC+

Before he played Hannibal Lecter on the NBC "Hannibal" series or starred in "Indiana Jones 5," Mads Mikkelsen did several films with director Nicolas Winding Refn, including the "Pusher" trilogy and a brutally violent Viking epic, "Valhalla Rising." "Valhalla Rising" is as close to a Viking art film as you'll find outside of "The Northman," following a one-eyed pagan warrior (Mikkelsen) who is forced to be a fighting slave, escapes, and ends up joining one of the Crusades in search of the holy land. Instead, they find themselves in some foreign, frightening land, and must battle to survive. "Valhalla Rising" was shot entirely in Scotland, and takes advantage of the rolling hills and foggy vistas, creating a world that's almost outside of time. The movie is one of very few that demonstrate the immense brutality of battle during the Middle Ages, with loads of blood and gore. While this film is much too violent for younger audiences and may prove to be too existential for some, it's a haunting and gorgeous tale that gives us insight into the harshness of Viking life. 

Erik the Viking

Where to Watch: Available to rent for $3.99 on AppleTV or GooglePlay.

If you're looking for something a little less dour, there's always "Erik the Viking," written and directed by Monty Python member Terry Jones. Tim Robbins stars as Erik, a Viking who isn't interested in warfare or pillaging but manages to get himself caught up in the end of the world, known as the Ragnarok. He consults with the mystical Freya (Eartha Kitt), who tells him he must travel to Asgard, the home of the gods, to end Ragnarok and save humanity. It's all very silly, of course, because this is a story from the man who brought us "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but it can also be quite a bit of fun. Fellow Python cast member John Cleese plays a warlord named Halfdan the Black and Mickey Rooney plays Erik's grandfather, filling this ancient tale with some familiar faces. 

The Last King

Where to Watch: Streaming on Prime Video, Tubi, and Kanopy

"Game of Thrones" star Kristofer Hivju spent plenty of time in the snow as the wilding Tormund Giantsbane, but it was nothing like what he would endure playing Torstein in "The Last King." Inspired by historical events, "The Last King" follows two men as they travel across Norway in order to bring an infant heir to the throne to his seat of power. While it takes place in 1206, just slightly after the Viking era, it's close enough to feel like a Viking film. Hivju even described the movie as being "Vikings on skis," and it represents an important moment in Norway's history. If Torstein had not succeeded in his mission, the crown would have fallen to Danish or British rulers, changing the course of the nation's history forever. "The Last King" isn't quite as violent or action-packed as some of the other movies on this list, but it does feature beautiful shots of the Norwegian landscape and plenty of Hivju's gorgeous ginger beard, so it's worth checking out. 


Where to Watch: Streaming on Disney+

Norse mythology is comprised of the stories of the many gods the Vikings worshiped, including Odin, Freya, Thor, and the rest of the Aesir. Marvel comics took those gods and their stories and turned them into the comic series "Thor," which was then in turn made into a movie directed by Kenneth Branagh during Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While "Thor" isn't particularly accurate to mythology or Viking history, it does have lots of great Viking-inspired imagery, characters based on Norse gods, and a deeply cool representation of the rainbow road to Asgard, which was first described in "The Ballad of Grimnir" in the Poetic Edda. The Eddas are the legends of Iceland, written down right at the end of the Viking era. The movie spawned several sequels, including "Thor: The Dark World," "Thor: Ragnarok," and the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder," and each have their own neat little Norse-inspired moments.

The 13th Warrior

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hoopla

The Anglo-Saxon epic poem "Beowulf" is hugely important to the study of English-language literature because it was the longest work ever written in Old English, and it tells the tale of a Scandinavian ruler named Beowulf who must fight against a series of monsters before eventually being slain by a dragon. Author Michael Crichton imagined a more realistic version of the story with his 1976 novel "Eaters of the Dead," which follows an Arab diplomat who ends up joining a group of Vikings as they battle against feral cave people. The 1999 movie "The 13th Warrior" was in turn based on Crichton's novel, and starred Antonio Banderas as Ahmad ibn Fadlan, a lone Muslim among an entire clan of pagans. "The 13th Warrior" has some brutal action sequences and an interesting take on the monster Grendel, but its most interesting sequence comes early on when Ahmad slowly learns the Old Norse language by listening to chatter around the campfire night after night. 

Audiences at the time weren't enthralled with "The 13th Warrior," but time has been kind to this delightfully dorky little action film. It's probably the best "Beowulf" movie that exists, though it's not the only one on our list. 

How to Train Your Dragon

Where to Watch: Streaming on Netflix

Viking life is a little intense, and movies about it tend to be too much for younger audiences, but DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon" series gives kids a taste of the Viking fun without all of the blood and guts. "How to Train Your Dragon" follows Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a Norse teenager who is raised to fight dragons alongside his Viking king father, Stoik (Gerard Butler). He ends up befriending a rare dragon, a Night Fury that he names Toothless, ushering in an era where dragons and humans work together towards their common goals. The whole franchise is cute and has lots of fun Viking imagery, but the first movie is where everyone should start on their magical journey into the isle of Berk. Thankfully, if you enjoy the first one, the entire franchise is also available on Netflix, so you can make a day of it. 

The Vikings

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hoopla

The 1958 movie "The Vikings," directed by Richard Fleischer, is one of the earliest films about Vikings, and it's a vivid, violent period piece with performances by some of the era's biggest stars. Half brothers Einar (Kirk Douglas) and Eric (Tony Curtis) don't know one another but both end up vying for the throne of Northumbria and the associated prize of the captured princess Morgana (Janet Leigh). Ernest Borgnine plays Ragnar, Einar's father, who cheers him on from the sidelines. There are some deeply problematic elements with traditional customs and a fair amount of rape and pillaging, but if you want to see Old Hollywood's take on Vikings, this is your best shot. On the upside, the sets and costumes are incredible, and the film was shot on location in Norway, so there are some beautiful backgrounds to gaze upon. 


Where to Watch: Available to rent for $3.99 on AppleTV and GooglePlay.

Speaking of gorgeous things to gaze upon ... Karl Urban ("Dredd") makes being an abandoned Viking warrior look good in the 2007 action-adventure film "Pathfinder." The movie follows Urban as Ghost, who was left behind during a Viking raid and was raised by members of an Indigenous tribe. When the Vikings return, he's a huge help in protecting his new family and homeland from the people he once called kin. While the white savior aspect of "Pathfinder" is definitely worth mentioning and not the greatest thing in the world, watching Urban kick butt with guyliner and a sweet horned helmet does at least make for some fun no-brainer, shallow entertainment. It also features character actor Clancy Brown in Viking garb, and any movie is automatically a little better once you add in some Clancy Brown. 


Where to Watch: Streaming on Hoopla and PlutoTV.

The 2008 sci-fi/action film "Pathfinder" is very loosely based on "Beowulf," though I'm pretty sure that the scribes who copied it down from the oral tradition all those years ago would have included an alien crash-landing from outer space and bringing advanced technology with him. Co-written and directed by Howard McCain ("Underworld: Rise of the Lycans"), "Outlander" is a hot mess of a movie, but it still has a lot of great Viking action, some fun costumes, and great production design that helps bring the early Viking era to life. Jim Caviezel ("Passion of the Christ") stars as the alien who finds himself in ancient Scandinavia, and is joined by a cast that includes Sophia Myles ("Thunderbirds"), Jack Huston ("Ben-Hur"), John Hurt ("1984"), and Ron Perlman ("Hellboy"). Instead of the white savior problem of "Pathfinder," "Outlander" got itself an alien savior, so that's gotta count for something. 

Beowulf & Grendel

Where to Watch: Streaming on Prime Video

Gerard Butler must really dig historical dramas and Viking-based stories, because this is his second appearance on our list. He plays Beowulf in "Beowulf & Grendel," a 2005 adaptation of the ancient epic from director Sturla Gunnarsson. While it's significantly grittier and more low-budget than the 2007 3D animated "Beowulf" directed by Robert Zemeckis, that actually helps make it a more authentic Viking movie. The cast is excellent, with Stellan Skarsgård ("Thor") as King Hrothgar, Rory McCann ("Game of Thrones") as Breca, and Sarah Polley ("Splice") as Selma, a woman who has surprising compassion for the monstrous Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson). "Beowulf & Grendel" has some problematic elements, but overall is an interesting adaptation of the oldest piece of English literature.