These days, modern cinematography is the most dramatic way to be an armchair traveler. And while travel-specific shows like The Travel Channel are great, it’s even more fun to add literary elements and drama for storytelling. Foreign films with subtitles are also an excellent outlet for learning the language, culture, history, and politics of somewhere you’d love to travel to.
The Norwegian’s penchant for storytelling, stunning locations for filming, and competition that is driven by streaming services like Netflix are helping to make Norway the planet’s next Hollywood. Some of the best ones came along around the time of the global pandemic of 2020 when binge-watching became a way to cope during lockdowns.
Unexpected breaks between seasons caused delays in some cases. Others were lucky enough to finish filming before lockdown. Here are our favorite binge-worthy Norwegian TV shows.
Lykkeland is a dramatic series that tells the story of how the oil industry changed the lives and future of four young Norwegians. The setting is the small town of Stavanger in southwestern Norway. As the story opens in the summer of 1969, the town has been surviving on the fishing industry but is now in a crisis because the North Sea is emptying out.
For years, international oil companies have been test-drilling in Norway with no luck, and the companies are in the process of giving up and leaving. That all changes on Christmas Eve when, during a last-ditch effort, Philips Petroleum strikes oil after contracting to drill one final hole.
The Ocean Viking’s gas flare is lit after Phillips discovers the largest sub-sea oil basin in history. A whirlwind of opportunities awaits the main characters.
Lykkeland is a returning series. The first season features eight episodes and stars Pia Tjelta, Amund Harboe, Malene Wadel, and Bart Edwards. It’s available on Netflix, DVD, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
Oljefondet is a comedy-drama series centered around the Norwegian Pension Fund. The fund was established to invest a huge amount of revenue from taxing the Norwegian oil and gas industry. The funds support the socialist concept of free health care and other future costs of pensioners.
The storyline follows fictional investors who practice investing billions and billions while following Norwegian rules for ethical investments. The world of big business and following complex guidelines put in place by politicians creates hilarious complications.
Oljefondet features one season with 10 episodes. There are no plans for a second season, but the series could possibly be picked up by another network. Some of the main characters are played by Håkon T. Nielsen, Evelyn Rasmussen Osazuwa, Marit Andreassen, Thomas Gullestad, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen, and Elias Holmen Sørensen.
This work of fictional drama was inspired in part by the true story of a wartime friendship. The storyline is centered around Norway’s Crown Princess Martha, a courageous yet shy princess who flees her country for the United States after her country is invaded by Nazis.
After President Franklin D. Roosevelt takes her under his wing, she becomes a powerful advocate for her homeland. Set across eight episodes, Norwegian and American characters experience desire, diplomacy, and jealousy as they navigate a terrible war.
Atlantic Crossing was filmed in the Czech Republic and Norway. The World War II drama is a high-budget film and one of the biggest Scandinavian products so far. Kyle MacLachlan plays the indomitable FDR and Sofia Helin is cast as the shy yet courageous princess. Stream it on PBS’s Masterpiece.
The Norwegians’ penchant for folklore shines through in the Scandinavian noir film Ragnarok. According to Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a natural disaster that resulted in the world being submerged in water. This coming-of-age story centers around a teenage boy who lives with his mother and sister in the fictional town of Edda and was filmed in the actual town of Odda, a tiny port town in southern Norway.
The story is part fantasy with an environmental awareness theme. The ice caps are melting at an alarming rate bringing extreme weather. Something must be done before another Ragnarok occurs. The boy develops superhuman abilities and uses them against the family who owns a local factory that the town is economically dependent on.
The main characters are portrayed by David Stakston, Jonas Strand Gravli, and Herman Tommeraas. Ragnarok is the first Netflix original series filmed in the Norwegian language. Norway’s stunning scenery is an important feature of the two-season series.
Home for Christmas is a comedy-drama exclusively on Netflix with two seasons to binge and a third one slated for release in December of 2021. It follows the life and problems of Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse working in a hospital in Norway.
She grows tired of being the only one in her circle of family and friends without a partner. She sets out to find a boyfriend within the 24-day period before Christmas. Even when the world as she knows it falls apart, will she still believe in true love?
The story takes place in Oslo with idyllic winter scenes created in Røros, a copper mining town, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Johanne is played by Ida Elise Broch. Supporting cast members include Felix Sandman, Dennis Storhø, Anette Hoff, and Gabrielle Leithaug.
Norsk-ish is a drama series that immigrants will especially relate to. The story follows the lives of a family from Iran with three siblings who were born in Norway as they struggle with cultural changes and issues.
The show premiered on NRK, a state-owned broadcasting company in Norway in 2020. Norsk-ish received good reviews and was nominated for several awards during the Golden Route 2021 including Best Drama Series, Best Supporting Actress for Homza Agoshi, and Best Screenplay. It features one season with eight episodes.
Neste Sommer is a hilarious comedy series that has been around for a while. It follows the antics of a Norwegian family who, year after year, strives to have the perfect holiday at their summer home.
Something always happens, but there’s always neste sommer. The cast includes Trond Fausa Aurvag, Janne Formoe, Eivind Sander, Ellen Horn, John Nyutstumo, and Pia Tjelta. The show premiered in 2014 and runs for eight seasons. It’s available on Amazon Prime.
Heimebane is a drama series about Helena Mikkelsen, the first female trainer of a national soccer club. She gets a chance to coach the team when they lose their regular coach just before league season. She is chosen over another player who was promised the job. She must face challenging situations involving financial deals, negative press, and problems with her daughter and her ex-husband.
The show premiered in 2018 and ran for two seasons with 10 episodes each. Ana Dahl Torp is cast as Helena. Watch it on NKR in Norway or stream it on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.