Since the advent of cinema and film back in the late 19th century, the Vikings have been popular on the big screen. Now, into the 21st century, that popularity continues via streaming and on-demand TV through the internet.
The earliest film – ‘The Viking’s Daughter: The Story of the Ancient Norsemen’ – dates back to 1908 and was a silent movie that told the story of Theckla, the daughter of Olaf, the Viking.
Up until the 1950s there was a series of Viking-age films all with a common trait – horned helmets! In 1958 Hollywood produced one of the most iconic films, ‘The Vikings’, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. This was closely followed by ‘The Long Ships’ that took the Vikings to Spain and North Africa in search of a legendary golden bell called the “Mother of all voices”.
Silver screen star Charlton Heston took up the role of a Norman knight in ‘The Warlord’, fighting the Frisians, who looked very similar to the Vikings (not surprisingly, since Frisia was the gateway to western Europe, especially for the Danish Vikings).
Away from Hollywood, filmmakers worldwide have produced countless films. These include ‘Hrafninn Flýgur’: one of a trilogy from Icelandic director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. These films are very authentic and the director took much inspiration from the Sergio Leone Westerns.
In more recent times, the Vikings have returned to our screens in some very realistic films such as ‘Stara Baśń / When the Sun was God’, by Polish director Jerzy Hoffman. The History Channel and Take Five productions have spearheaded the Vikings into the 21st century, with their series ‘Vikings’ following in the footsteps of Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons.
Catching onto the popularity of ‘Vikings’, the BBC and now Netflix produced ‘The Last Kingdom’ – an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series of books ‘The Saxon Stories’.
Not all the Viking films are for the adults. DreamWorks Animation has had enormous success with ‘Dragons’ and ‘How to Train your Dragon’: animated films set in the Viking age, and a revamp of the children’s story ‘Vickie the Viking’ has kept the Vikings at the heart of the next generation.
Finally, looking to the future, both Warner Bros Studios and ‘Lord of the Rings’ producer Barrie Osborne are planning big Hollywood films based on the life and true story of the legendary King Harald III (“Hardrada”) of Norway. The future certainly looks bright and also very bloody.