The 6 Best Films For Learning Danish

Break out the open-faced sandwiches and grab a seat.
VHS tapes of Danish films on a pink background

The movie buffs among you may have already had Danish films on your radar — perhaps even well before you decided to learn the language. Denmark’s film industry achieved global notoriety in the 1990s, and today, directors like Lars von Trier and Carl Theodor Dreyer are recognized names all over the world.

All of this is to say that watching Danish films will not only be a helpful supplement to your language studies (this is true regardless of the language you’re learning) — but also that you’ll probably stumble into some high-quality cinema in the process.

Here are six films we recommend for Danish students, ranging from beginners to more advanced learners.

1. Olsen Banden (The Olsen Gang)

This is an old series of movies directed by Erik Balling, involving a cabal of characters with big dreams of becoming millionaires. They fumble their way through a couple attempted robberies, and slapstick humor results.

If you’re looking to pinpoint a style of humor that is quintessentially Danish, this is a great place to start. And because the diction in this movie is very clear, it’s an excellent choice for beginners.

2. Når mor kommer hjem (On Our Own)

Another great choice for beginner learners is this funny and heartwarming family movie about three siblings who try to avoid being sent to a children’s home while their mother is serving a prison sentence. Their solution? Inventing a fictional father.

Når mor kommer hjem is directed by Lone Scherfig, who also directed the movie An Education.

3. Valhalla

This animated children’s movie, directed by cartoonist Peter Madsen and Disney animator Jeffrey James Varab, is based on a comic book series of the same name about the Norse Gods. You’ll see cameos from the likes of Thor, Loki, and Odin, as well as ordinary Vikings just trying to mind their own business. This is another good choice for beginners.

4. Drengene fra Sankt Petri (The Boys from St. Petri)

This drama, directed by Søren Kragh Jacobsen and based on the eponymous book written by Bjarne Reuter, was screened at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

The story follows a group of high schoolers who fight against the Nazis in occupied Denmark. The plot is fictional, but it’s loosely inspired by the Churchill Club, a group of teenagers who carried out a resistance effort against the Germans during World War II. We recommend this for intermediate learners.

5. Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights)

This is a more intermediate-level black comedy by Anders Thomas Jensen that follows a group of criminal misfits as they attempt to open a restaurant in Barcelona and start a new life, while fleeing a mob boss they stole money from. Be forewarned, though: this is a very dark comedy!

6. Adams Æbler (Adam’s Apples)

Also by Anders Thomas Jensen, this is a great Danish drama and black comedy about Adam, a neo-Nazi who’s serving community service at a church. The priest, who insists on seeing the good in everyone, isn’t deterred by Adam’s past and gives him the simple task of baking an apple pie. The only caveat is that he has to get the apples from a troublesome tree in the churchyard.

This movie has some fairly obvious Biblical themes, and it’s recommended for learners at an intermediate to advanced level.

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