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31 chilling Nordic noir thrillers that make for perfect cosy viewing

From snow-capped Swedish dramas to icy Danish murder mysteries, these Scandi noirs will have you gripped from the get-go

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Nordic noir or are yet to dip your toes in its frosty waters, this is the perfect time of year to get acquainted with the atmospheric genre. Having first burst onto the UK scene at the start of the last decade, instigated by critically acclaimed thrillers like The Killing and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Nordic noir thrillers have remained at the top of many must-watch lists thanks to their captivating plot lines, superb acting and spellbinding scenery. So, grab a blanket, get cosy and work your way through our list of the best Nordic noir TV shows to tune into this winter. 

A Nearly Normal Family
Sweden

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This limited Netflix series was adapted from a book of the same name – as many Nordic noirs are – which sold over half a million copies in Sweden. It centres around a priest and his lawyer wife, who head up a seemingly perfect family. But their lives are suddenly turned upside down when their daughter is accused of murder.

As they struggle to come to terms with the news, they begin to question how much they really know about each other and realise they’re willing to make desperate moves to protect their family. Above all, can they believe their daughter is telling the truth when she says she’s innocent? With a stellar cast including Lo Kauppi (Modus, Real humans) and Björn Bengtsson (The Last kingdom, Lust), it’s a must-watch. 

Streaming now on Netflix

Top Dog
Sweden

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Devoted Nordic noir fans were thrilled when this compelling Swedish drama finally landed on UK screens last year. Based on the novels of Jens Lapidus, the show revolves around an unlikely double act. When Philip Schale (Björn Elgerd), the son of one of the richest men in Sweden, is kidnapped, his father enlists the help of his lawyers, instead of the police, to find him. Emily Jansson (Josefin Asplund) is the ambitious young attorney who’s appointed to track him down.

Meanwhile, Teddy Maksumic (Alexej Manvelov) has just been released from prison after serving 10 years for kidnapping and murder. Despite living lives that are poles apart, Emily and Teddy’s worlds collide over the mysterious disappearance and they end up working together to solve the riddle. With plot twists aplenty, this one will keep you guessing until the end. 

Streaming now on Channel 4

Reindeer Mafia
Finland

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This new Finnish drama – which is also known as Poromafia – has been hotly anticipated ahead of its 11 February release date. When matriarch Brita Nelihanka, long-time ruler of the northern Finnish wasteland, dies, her family members arrive to gather whatever inheritance has been left to them. But naturally, things are not that simple, and soon the entire family finds itself embroiled in an internal power struggle.

The excellent cast features some familiar faces, including Anna-Maija Tuokko, who starred in Bordertown and Onnela, and Mikael Persbrandt, who you’ll recognise as Gillian Anderson’s handsome plumber boyfriend Jakob in Sex Education. With shades of Succession and The Sopranos, it’s one to add to your viewing calendar.  

Coming to Channel 4 on 11 February

Enemy of the People
Finland

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Walter Presents rarely puts a foot wrong when it comes to their expertly curated showcase of award-winning foreign language dramas. Case in point, their latest Nordic noir offering: Enemy of the People. The Finnish crime thriller follows Katya (Kreeta Salminen), a young journalist who causes a stir after she writes a scathing article about a local footballing hero.

That article takes on a whole new meaning when the footballer in question happens to turn up dead a few days later. As Katya begins to investigate the truth and learns the footballer may have been on the verge of uncovering a huge financial scam, she starts to realise it is more than just her reputation at stake – it’s her life.

Streaming now on Channel 4

Rig 45: Murder at Sea
Sweden

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When Rig 45 first aired in 2018, viewers were immediately gripped by the gritty Swedish thriller, centred around a group who became trapped on an isolated oil rig in the North Sea with unknown killers on the prowl. Now the show is back for a second season, with Rig 45: Murder at Sea picking up where the last series left off, with lead Petra (Lisa Henni) facing prison. 

But the more the police question her, the more they realise that Petra’s story doesn’t hold up. When a body is washed ashore, another excursion to the damaged rig is required. There, a hard drive is discovered, which may just hold some of the answers they’re looking for. Captivating from the offset, season two of this claustrophobic drama is just as compelling as the original. 

Streaming now on Channel 4

Copenhagen Cowboy
Denmark

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Created and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn of Drive fame, this Nordic noir was always going to look and feel a little different. Doing away with the bleak hyper-reality we’ve come to expect from this genre, Copenhagen Cowboy is a neon-saturated adventure that takes us through the Danish capital’s criminal underworld, blending the natural and the mystical. 

Angela Bundalovic takes on the role of enigmatic heroine Miu, who escapes a life of servitude to seek revenge against those who wronged her by using her mysterious supernatural abilities. Lola Corfixen joins as her nemesis, Rakel, in this bold female-driven six-part series, which was also co-written by a team of talented women.

Streaming now on Netflix

Lost: Those Who Kill
Denmark

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Fans will be delighted to discover there’s a third season for the popular Danish drama Those Who Kill, which originated with Darkness in 2019 and followed up with Blinded in 2021. The third instalment, Lost, picks up with criminal profiler Louise Bergstein (Natalie Madueño) once again, as she continues to help the national crime squad solve murders. When a middle-aged couple are brutally killed, she’s pulled into the investigation to assist detective Frederik Havgaard (Simon Sears).

As they follow their leads, suspicion falls on a troubled young man called Bjørn Jepsen (Alex Høgh Andersen), who goes to ground. As the manhunt for Bjørn continues, more blood is shed and Louise is forced to try to understand Bjørn’s disturbed mind. But is he the culprit, or is he also a victim? You’ll have to watch to find out. 

Streaming now on BBC iPlayer

The Investigation
Denmark

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This Scandi noir drama tells the real-life story of the Copenhagen police investigation into “the submarine case” – the killing of journalist Kim Wall, who disappeared in 2017 after going to interview a man who built a homemade vessel. Between them, head of homicide Jens Moller (Soren Malling) and chief prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (Pilou Asbæk) must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Wall was murdered.

Rather than being a gripping whodunnit, The Investigation feels more like an intriguing puzzle to be solved. Written and directed by the Oscar-nominated Tobias Lindholm (Borgen), the slowly drawn out six-parter goes to great lengths to make sure the crime is not glamorised, purposefully never naming Wall’s killer. Instead, it offers up a poetically shot look at one of the most famous cases of recent years. 

Streaming now on Amazon Prime

​​Woman of the Dead
Austria

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Despite only landing on Netflix at the beginning of 2023, this Austrian Nordic noir has already garnered a devoted fanbase, with social media alight with theories about the series and its twisty, turny plotline. Woman of the Dead centres around Brünhilde Blum, a funeral parlour director in a small ski resort town whose husband, local policeman Mark, is killed during a hit and run. Brünhilde is convinced this was no accident and sets out to uncover the truth.

Based on Bernhard Aichner’s novel of the same name, the six-part series follows Brünhilde as she digs deeper into the case, finding herself involved in increasingly dangerous situations as she uncovers the dark mysteries of her neighbours and colleagues. On the hunt for justice and revenge, she quickly realises that more than one person was out to silence her husband. The plotline will keep you guessing right up until the very end, while the show’s explosive finale will have you on the very edge of your seat.

Streaming now on Netflix

The Lost
Sweden

This gripping new Swedish Nordic noir has just landed on Walter Presents and has had viewers captivated right from the start. The series revolves around truck driver Erwin Linnas (Peter Viitanen), who truly believes he’s helping people when he smuggles refugees in the back of his truck. However, during one mission, things all go horribly wrong – with shocking consequences – after a fatal moment of distraction.

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The show can be a harrowing watch and it’s not for the faint of heart, but it does throw up some thought-provoking questions on the tragic issue of people smuggling. Erwin is a good man at heart, but one careless moment leads to disaster. Can he come to terms with his role in that calamity, or will he end up following a path of destruction? Tune in to find out. 

Streaming now on Channel 4

The Bridge
Sweden

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When a body is found on the bridge between Malmö in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark, two detectives from opposing sides are paired up to solve the murder: the socially awkward Swedish detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helin), and the more affable Danish detective Martin Rohde (played in the first two seasons by Kim Bodnia and by Henrik Sabroe in seasons three and four), who quickly becomes one of the few people who actually understands the obstinate Norén. 

Be prepared for grisly details – the first body we’re introduced to has been cut in half at the waist and placed exactly on the border line between the two countries – as well as plenty of moodily atmospheric shots of Malmö bridge encased in fog. While all the performances are superb, Helin stands out as the scene-stealer, and it’s largely due to her portrayal of the complicated Norén that The Bridge remains one of the best-loved Nordic noir TV shows. 

Streaming now on Apple TV+

White Sands
Denmark

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While Nordic noirs are usually set in gloomy, frost-bitten places, this Danish crime drama moves the action to the beach instead. When a young German man is murdered in the tourist haven of White Sands (or Hvide Sande), Danish undercover cop Helene Falck (Marie Bach Hansen) and Danish-German homicide detective Thomas Beckmann (Carsten Bjørnlund) are sent to the town to solve the mystery. But there’s a twist: they must do so undercover, while posing as a married couple.

It almost sounds more like a plotline for a rom-com than a Scandi drama, particularly when the two strong-headed characters seem to find it more difficult than some to slip into the happily married role. But the village is brimming with suspects, and there are enough potential villains and plausible motives here to keep you guessing throughout White Sands – and push the will-they-won’t-they love story to the background.

Streaming now on Topic

Millennium
(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Sweden

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No list of Nordic noir thrillers would be complete without The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first bestselling book from Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which was originally published in 2005 and effectively launched the popularity of Nordic noir novels in America. In 2009 the trilogy  was turned into a popular Swedish TV mini-series, Millennium, which catapulted Swedish actress Noomi Rapace into the mainstream. The first book was then given the Hollywood treatment in 2011, with a blockbuster film directed by David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first installment of the Millenium series and tells the story of goth hacker/private investigator Lisbeth Salander, who teams up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Mikael Nyqvist) to solve murders and take down corrupt politicians. Larsson died in 2004, but Swedish journalist David Lagercrantz picked up the mantle with three further books, and a third trilogy is on the way from Karin Smirnoff – the first book, The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons, has just been published in Swedish, with the English translation due next year.

Streaming now on BBC iPlayer

Trom
Faroe Islands

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The lesser-known Faroe Islands form the location for this Nordic noir, which follows a topical plot – the brutal slaughtering of wales and dolphins, which the isolated islands are particularly known for. In Trom, the body of a local animal activist is found amid a local whale hunt, piquing the interest of renowned Faroese journalist Hannis Martinsson (played by Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen). He soon becomes embroiled in the case, which is being led by the Islands’ police detective, Karla Mohr (Maria Rich).

Poignantly suspenseful, the tense atmosphere is only heightened by the dramatic cinematography, which makes the most of the Faroe Islands’ rugged and remote landscape. With its steep black cliffs, vibrant green moors, rolling mists and perilous one-track roads, the scenery practically becomes a character in its own right. 

Streaming now on BBC Four

The Killing
Denmark

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Many critics point to The Killing – or Forbrydelsen, as it’s known in Danish, which literally translates as ‘The Crime’ – as the show responsible for bringing the craze for Scandi noir to our shores. This is arguably the series that catapulted the genre into the mainstream – and even earnt itself an American remake in the process – so it’s no wonder it remains one of the best around. 

The show follows veteran detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) who, on the cusp of her retirement, is lured into the case of a murdered teenage girl. As Lund delves deeper into the mystery, she finds herself wading ever further into the political corruption that plagues chillingly gloomy Copenhagen. Tightly paced and packed with cliff-hangers, you’ll be hooked right from the offset. 

Streaming now on Topic

Arctic Circle
Finland

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This Finnish series first aired in 2018 but is having something of a resurgence right now, thanks to talk of an imminent second season and the fact that part of the story centres around the discovery of a deadly virus, which, in our post-pandemic world, has given the show a whole new dynamic. The series follows small-town cop Nina (Lina Kuustonen), who finds the remains of a prostitute in her snow-covered Lapland area near Finland’s Russian border – after further investigation, she goes on to uncover a full sex trafficking ring.

But the real cause for concern here is the virus they find in one of the surviving women, which is so rare and deadly that the Finns and Russians reach out to an eminent German virologist, Thomas Lorenz (Maximillion Brückner), who flies out to Lapland to work alongside the local police force. Much of the way the virus is handled will be familiar to viewers post-Covid, but Arctic Circle still makes for fascinating and chilling viewing, particularly set against the icily beautiful tundra of Lapland. 

Streaming now on Channel 4

Wisting
Norway

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This Scandi noir thriller is a bit more action-packed than some of the others on this list. Sven Nordin plays William Wisting, a weathered Norwegian detective who becomes embroiled in a case involving an American serial killer hiding in Norway. He teams up with an FBI agent sent over from the States – played by The Matrix’s Carrie-Anne Moss – as they try to track the killer down. 

Naturally, the case turns out to be more complicated than it first seemed, leading Wisting into a spiral of seemingly unconnected murders, conspiracies and a rising body count. What’s more, his daughter is covering the case for a local newspaper, and soon finds herself in danger. Season 2 of Wisting was shown on BBC 4 last year, and it’s only a matter of time until season 3 hits our screens, having already aired in Scandinavia. 

Streaming now on BBC iPlayer

Thin Blue Line
Sweden

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This Swedish drama is billed as an intimate portrayal of the daily life of four police officers working in crime-ridden Malmö, and bears all the hallmarks of a quintessential cop show: dogged police officers, unbearably taught silences and investigations ranging from domestic violence to a missing child. But the show’s creator and head writer Cilla Jackert has said the show is actually more concerned with how police officers seek to reconcile their personal and professional lives. 

The show revolves around the criss-crossing stories of Sara (Amanda Jansson), Magnus (Oscar Töringe, Leah (Gizem Erdogan) and Jesse (Per Lasson), as they each struggle to keep their personal lives on track while facing the daily hardships of their profession. With atmospheric cinematography filmed with a hand-held camera, Thin Blue Line is imbued with a level of gritty realism that at times makes it feels more like watching an intense documentary than a scripted series.

Streaming now on Viaplay

The Valhalla Murders
Iceland

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Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir stars as Katrin “Kata” Gunnarsdottir, a tough, no-nonsense-taking detective on the Reykjavik police force. Having just been overlooked for a deserved promotion, Kata isn’t in the best place when she’s forced to team up with her new Oslo-based partner, Arnar (Björn Thors) to investigate a series of ritual murders that are connected to a school for troubled boys on the outskirts of the city.

The two struggle to connect as they work together on the case, as it becomes increasingly clear that Arnar is a man racked with crippling secrets and shame. The tense atmosphere is only heightened by the eerily beautiful Icelandic scenery, which is played up to full effect in The Valhalla Murders, with captivating aerial shots of snow-covered landscapes taking centre stage.

Streaming now on Netflix

Occupied
Norway

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While most Nordic noir TV shows tend to focus on grisly murders as the central theme for their plot, a few of the most popular ones veer into the political realm instead. That’s certainly the case for this highly topical thriller, which is set in the ‘near future’, at a time where America is no longer dependent on foreign oil and the E.U. is embroiled in an energy crisis. As a result, Russia decides to ‘softly’ invade Norway to take over its oil production, installing a shadow government that controls the country. 

Occupied throws up all kinds of fascinating questions as it tackles controversial subjects such as global warming, Russian influence on Europe and national autonomy. Each of the characters is forced to wage a quiet personal conflict, deciding whether to resist the Russians or embrace them out of necessity. The scariest part? Just how plausible it all feels. 

Streaming now on Netflix

Bordertown
Finland

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This Finnish series takes a step back from the cold, grey cities that feature in so many Nordic noirs and moves the action just north of Helsinki, to Lappeenranta, a land of snowy mountains and spooky forests. The show revolves around detective Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen), another brilliant investigator with more than a touch of social awkwardness about him, who’s known for his photographic memory and unrivalled success at solving mysteries. 

The serial killers Sorjonen hunts are some of the darkest we’ve come across – one likes to lock his victims in ice-fishing cages, while another tries to poison an entire city’s water system – and the show is full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There are three seasons of Bordertown to enjoy, with the first two being hailed as the strongest thanks to Sorjonen’s fiery deputy, Lena, a former secret-police operative based in Russia played by Anu Sinisalo.

Streaming now on Netflix

Cry Wolf
Denmark

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Nordic noir favourite Bjarne Henriksen – who lovers of the genre will recognise from such hits as The Killing, Borgen and Trapped – plays Lars, a popular and experienced social worker asked to investigate the case of Holly, a 14-year-old girl who accuses her stepfather of abusing her and her seven-year-old brother, Theo. Worried for their safety, Lars removes the children to a foster home. But how much of Holly’s story is true, and how much of it is just the overactive imagination of a teenage girl?

Cry Wolf is a superb drama driven by its high calibre cast, most notably Henriksen but also Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl as Holly and Noah Storm Otto as Theo, who both put in exceptional performances far beyond their tender years. Has Lars been tricked by the fragile Holly? Or is she truly the victim of horrific abuse? You’ll have to watch to find out. 

Streaming now on Channel 4

Trapped
Iceland

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Trapped is dark and moody Nordic noir at its finest. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson plays the newly divorced, slightly bedraggled detective Andri Olafssun, while Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir plays his scathing and sarcastic partner Hinrika. When a mutilated and dismembered body washes up on the shore, the pair realise a killer has descended into their small town. And while both actors put in complex, multi-layered performances as they try to solve the case, the real scene-stealer in this show is the Icelandic weather, which is elevated to become a character in its own right.

The first season features a blizzard that rages so fiercely it causes an avalanche, which keeps the townspeople – and the killer – trapped (hence the show’s title) and forces the small local police squad to fend for themselves when reinforcements from the capital aren’t able to reach them. Add into that the brutal Arctic tundra and very little daylight, and you’re onto a haunting winner. 

Streaming now on Amazon Prime

Entrapped
Iceland

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The sequel to the award-winning Trapped aired in 2021 and is just as delightfully dark as the original. Likeable detectives Andri (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and Hinrika (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir) return in Entrapped, this time digging into the murder of a cult member linked to a biker gang’s land dispute in the remote far north of the island, as well as a woman’s disappearance in 2013.

As with the first two seasons, hidden secrets from the past combine with dysfunctional family relationships to make for captivating viewing, but once again the real scene-stealer here is the stunning Icelandic landscape, showcased in all its snow-capped glory. 

Streaming now on Netflix

The Chestnut Man
Denmark

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This series was penned by the creators of The Killing, so it’s no surprise that it immediately garnered rave reviews when it was released last year. Set in Copenhagen, The Chestnut Man plunges us straight into a harrowing murder investigation – a body has been found in a children’s playground, with one of its hands missing. Hanging above the body is the killer’s calling card: a “chestnut man” doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts.

The case is assigned to ambitious young detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and her new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). While the pair examine the doll, they make a shocking discovery – one which connects it to the missing and presumed dead daughter of politician Rosa Hartung (Iben Dorner). Gloriously tense, dark and twisted, this one will have you gripped from the very first episode.  

Streaming now on Netflix

Borgen
Denmark

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One of the originals of the Nordic noir drama, Borgen has long been a firm favourite among Scandi connoisseurs, with a plotline that eschews murders in favour of politics. Chronicling the scheming ascent of Copenhagen politician Birgitte Nyborg, (Sidse Babette Knudsen), it’s been dubbed House of Cards for the hygge set. It was also known for being eerily prophetic – like the fact that Nyborg unexpectedly became Denmark’s first female Statsminister (prime minister), a year before Helle Thorning-Schmidt stepped into that position for real.  

After a nine-year break, the show returned to Netflix earlier this year to similarly rave reviews. The latest offering revisits the back-stabbing world of Danish politics, following Nyborg’s story after she’s unseated as prime minister and tackling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Full of knife-edge tension and plot twists, it’s a must-watch.

Streaming now on Netflix

Caliphate
Swedish

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Swedish series Caliphate begins in Syria with the story of Pervin (Gizem Erdogan), a Muslim Swede who is married to Raqqa-based IS member Hasum and gets wind of an impending terrorist attack planned for Sweden. In return for safe passage out of Syria, Pervin is tasked by ambitious Swedish Intelligence Service agent Fatima with finding out more – whatever the cost to her personal safety.

As she desperately attempts to do so – and puts herself in constant risk of discovery – Pervin’s life becomes a living nightmare. Alongside her plight, the show interweaves the stories of The Traveller, a charming students’ assistant in Sweden, who recruits a team there with backup from IS in Syria, including two students, 15-year-old Sulle and friend Kerima. Shot in Stockholm and Jordan, this eight-part thriller makes for real edge-of-the-seat viewing. 

Streaming now on Netflix

Chosen
Denmark

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Picture the scene: Middelbro is a mundane provincial town on the outskirts of Denmark, and 17-year-old Emma (played by Malaika Mosendane) one of its bored teenage inhabitants. The only exciting thing to have happened in the sleepy shipping town was a meteor crash that took place 17 years earlier, but Emma – who happens to be a tour guide at the crater site – soon discovers that even that isn’t what it seems. Emma is determined to find out the real answers, and when she meets a group of local teens it seems they might have them: according to them, the meteor was in fact an alien spacecraft.

While it might not seem like the two main genres in Chosen – the awkward coming-of-age teen drama and the sci-fi alien invasion – would immediately go together, this atmospheric Netflix series manages to meld them both fairly seamlessly, with a convincing cast of characters, a pacey script and a wry sense of humour.

Streaming now on Netflix

Deadwind
Finland

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There are three seasons of this excellent Finnish drama to enjoy, and each one centres around Helsinki police detective Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala), who, upon her first assignment mere months after losing her husband, must investigate the murder of Anna Bergdahl, whose body was found on a construction site. She is reluctantly joined by her new partner, detective Sakari Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen), freshly transferred to the homicide unit.

Season two of Deadwind sees the detectives team up again to work on a sensitive case, after two bodies are found, and the police chief is killed, leaving a cryptic message for the detectives to decipher. While in season three, the pair dive into a case involving a mysterious symbol, pharmaceutical promises and a deeply disturbed murderer. Each season is more gripping than the last, making it the perfect show to binge watch this winter. 

Streaming now on Netflix

Outlier
Norway

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Set in the fictional town of Nerbygd in the far north of Norway, Outlier revolves around the murder of a young woman. The police are quick to convict a local reprobate, even getting a confession out of him. Case closed, it would seem. But in London, Maja Angell (Hanne Mathisen Haga) is working on a doctoral thesis in criminology – and following events in her hometown of Nerbygd from afar, she thinks the police have the wrong man. 

As Maja continues to investigate, she uncovers the possibility that other women who have gone missing from the Nerbygd-Bardufoss area were taken by the same killer and that he’s still at large. The trouble is, not everyone in the community wants to hear this news. Things aren’t quite right around Nerdbygd, and they haven’t been for a while – but can Maja get to the bottom of it all? 

Streaming now on Channel 4

Clark
Sweden

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You’ve probably heard of the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, but it’s less likely you’ll know where that phrase hails from. It turns out it’s connected to Sweden’s most notorious bank robber and gangster, Clark Olofsson, and his infamous crimes, all of which form the basis of this dynamic six-part Netflix series. Bill Skarsgård plays the charismatic career criminal, who splits his life between committing various crimes, prison sentences and being on the run.

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund with an inventive visual style that reflects the lead character’s unorthodox path, and told through Clark’s perspective, Clark starts with his birth in 1947 and ends in the late 1980s, when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated drug trafficking. But the key moment happens somewhere in the middle, in 1973, when Clark is involved in a notorious bank heist in Stockholm. It is the experience of the hostages taken during the heist,  and their surprising affection for the larger-than-life Clark, that went on to give rise to the now well-known phrase. Fast-paced and darkly comedic, with a star turn from Skarsgård, it’s not hard to see why the Swedish people fell for his charms.

Streaming now on Netflix

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