Ahhh, the Vikings. Who doesn’t love a romping good television show about everyone’s favorite barbarians? They’re a fascinating people, from the mists of our past, and we just can’t get enough of them. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best (and in one case, worst) Viking films ever to grace the big or small screen.
No mention of Vikings in film would be complete without mentioning one of the latest, and possibly most interesting additions to this sub-genre - the History Channel’s show, named after the mighty people it portrays.
Starring Travis Fimmel in the role of the main character Ragnar Lothbrok, we follow Ragnar’s rise from a simple farmer and summertime raider to eventually becoming the King of Norway and scourge of both England and France. Now in its fourth season, the program shows no signs of slowing down, and only seems to get better with each new season. Filled with an even mix of blood and intrigue, if you haven’t seen it yet, and you love all things Viking, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. (And for the ladies, Ragnar definitely has the “wow”factor!)
Released in 1999, and starring Antonio Bandaras as Ahmed ibn Fahdlan, who was, in fact, an actual historical figure and Royal Observer, here, we see Fahdlan fall into the company of a dozen well-trained Viking mercenaries, dispatched to help rid a neighboring Kingdom of dark forces.
The dark forces in question are reminiscent of Pictish warriors, and they’re led by a witch-queen who seems not of this world. It’s a heavily stylized retelling of the classic Beowulf tale, with some of the best music you’ll find in the genre, and some genuinely good acting. Not to be missed. Note that although the weapons are highly accurate, the armor and clothing is rather hit or miss, but this is a small nit-pick that won’t detract from your enjoyment of the film in the least.
Another retelling of the Beowulf story, this one released in 2005 and starring none other than Gerard Butler. When the movie opens, we see an already famous Beowulf, struggling to come to grips with his own legend. The acting is first rate, and the thing that stands out most about this movie is that the costumes are period, and highly accurate, which is something that even the Vikings show on the history channel we mentioned at the start doesn’t get quite right. If you’re looking for a romping good Viking movie, that accurately depicts the clothing and armor of the era, then this is the one you want.
Released in 2011, this movie follows a small group of Knights Templar as they engage in a desperate struggle to defend Rochester Castle against a very upset King John, who was less than thrilled at having been forced to sign the Magna Carta. To get his revenge, King John hires a group of mercenaries, who are…you guessed it, Vikings!
While the plot holds great promise, the movie doesn’t deliver as well as I’d hoped. Even so, it’s highly entertaining, and the Viking fight scenes, while not 100% authentic in either form or armor and weapons, is nonetheless highly entertaining, making this one well worth watching.
This one was released in 2014, making it one of the more recent entrants in the field. It’s interesting and entertaining, but not what one would call historically accurate. The basic premise is, a group of Vikings set sail to raid against England, got caught in a storm, and their boat foundered off the Scottish coast.
Stranded and behind enemy lines, they must fight their way to the Danelaw Viking fortress, but – the locals know they’re there, and why they have come, and will stop at nothing to kill them before they reach the safety of the fortress.
If you’ve ever seen the movie about New York gangs called “The Warriors” (either the original, or the recent remake), you’ll recognize this story immediately. It’s essentially, “The Warriors,” set in ancient times. Well worth watching and entertaining, but as mentioned, don’t get your hopes up for historical accuracy.
We have to give this one an honorable mention, mostly because it’s so bad. No, “bad” doesn’t even begin to describe it. This movie, released in 1978, nearly destroyed the genre. It really must be seen to be believed. From wooden dialog to unlikely plotting, this movie is so awful that it’s almost good, if that makes sense. You can actually see it in all of its “glory” on Youtube, here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu8Ji8BXP34 ). If you love cheesy B-movies, you’re going to absolutely adore this film. If you’re looking for something historically accurate – well, as one disgruntled reviewer put it, “this movie is about as historically accurate as Abe Lincoln defeating the Vikings while riding a T-Rex.” I don’t think it’s possible to offer a better summation!