Total Recall: Mighty Viking Movies

With Thor hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's most memorable Norsemen.

Vikings

From the pantheon of ancient deities to the pages of Marvel Comics and finally to the silver screen, Thor has had quite the journey -- and judging from its robust Tomatometer, the hammer-wielding Asgardian is none the worse for wear. Arriving this weekend at theater near you (and on suitably massive IMAX 3D screens), Kenneth Branagh's action epic blends timeless mythology with cutting-edge special effects and a marquee-ready cast -- and in the process, it continues Hollywood's long love affair with all things Viking-related. Naturally, we decided to get in the spirit of things by smoking some cod, pouring a big cup of mead, and looking back at some of the more noteworthy examples of the genre. Hop into our longship, won't you?

Beowulf

71%

Historically speaking, Beowulf doesn't really belong on this list, because, well, Beowulf wasn't a Viking. For Hollywood's purposes, though, any tale taking place in ancient Scandinavia -- and containing characters with names like Hrothgar and Unferth -- can swim in the same goblet of mead as the rest of our list. Coating the Old English classic poem in a layer of shiny new mo-cap gloss (courtesy of director Robert Zemeckis), the 2007 edition of Beowulf follows the titular warrior (Ray Winstone) as he destroys the dreaded Grendel (Crispin Glover) and goes up against the monster's mother (Angelina Jolie). It took plenty of liberties with the source material, but most critics didn't mind; as Richard Corliss observed for TIME, "You want to read Beowulf? Get the book, I'm not stopping you. You want bloody adventure with a brain, see the movie."

Erik the Viking

47%

This 1989 comedy began life as a children's book that director Terry Jones wrote for his son -- and according to most critics, it should have stayed on the printed page. A critical flop and box office disaster, Erik the Viking reunited Jones with his fellow Monty Python vet John Cleese for the tale of an earnest young warrior (Tim Robbins) whose reluctance to rape and/or pillage leads him on a mystical quest to Asgard, with plenty of Norse mythology -- and historical references -- along the way. Sadly, it lacked enough Python-style laughs to earn a place alongside Holy Grail and Life of Brian, although it did earn praise from the Washington Post's Rita Kempley, who called it "a Wagnerian slapstick fantasy" and said it "has the feel of a grown-up bedtime comedy, a gross, sillier Princess Bride."

How to Train Your Dragon

98%

Blending the Hollywood tradition of cartoons about finding the strength to be true to your heart with the timeless legends of mighty Norsemen fighting mythical beasts, this $494 million DreamWorks Animation hit follows the adventures of a young Viking named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who discovers that the long-standing war his people have waged against dragons might not be everything it's cracked up to be. And okay, so How to Train Your Dragon isn't really about Vikings -- it takes place in another world -- but they're close enough to count for the purposes of our list; and anyway, with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating under its horned helmet, this is one of the best entries in the genre. As an appreciative A.O. Scott wrote for the New York Times, "Tenderness, beauty and exhilaration are the movie's great strengths."

The Long Ships

50%

The same year he won an Academy Award for his work in Lilies of the Field, Sidney Poitier toiled his way through this loose adaptation of the Frans G. Bengtsson novel The Long Ships, which pits a greedy Moorish king (Poitier) against an intrepid Norseman (Richard Widmark) in a quest to obtain a giant golden bell nicknamed the Mother of Voices. As far as quite a few critics were concerned, these Ships weren't exactly seaworthy -- Time Out's Trevor Johnston dismissed it as "awful" and Variety derided its "hodge-podge of a storyline" -- but others placed it squarely in the "so bad it's good" camp, including Film4's reviewer, who chuckled, "This is pure rubbish, but thoroughly enjoyable rubbish."

Outlander

37%

Here's one you can just hear coming together in the pitch meeting: "Vikings are awesome. Aliens are awesome. If we mix 'em together...double awesome!" Sadly, things didn't quite turn out that way for Outlander, which stars James Caviezel as an interstellar soldier who crash-lands in eighth-century Norway -- and is taken prisoner by King Rothgar (John Hurt), thus allowing his deadly alien cargo to scuttle off and start slaying Vikings. With a premise that daffy, this should have been a lot of fun, but most critics were let down -- with the notable exception of a few scribes like Richard Edwards of SFX, who called it "about as subtle as being punched in the face by an angry Norwegian," and said, "It delivers everything you could possibly want from a movie about Vikings and alien monsters."

Comments

THEREWOLF

Markus Arbutina

Great Odin's Raven, forget these other movies....THOR is going to be amazing.

May 4 - 04:55 PM

BlahBlahDoh

Michael Chousmer

Not really a great idea for a comic character, I always thought, but probably quite a good one for a movie. Given Branagh's treatment of Frankenstein a few years ago, there's reason to hope this will be beautifully composed then violently unhinged with the unreasoning hysteria inherent in all deities.

May 6 - 04:04 PM

amd9012

Aaron Dicken

who wants to see my dick?

May 4 - 05:03 PM

Dominic S.

Dominic Simard-Jean

HAHAHAHAHAHA, WTF

May 4 - 05:50 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

I don't get it.

May 4 - 07:22 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

wtf...why would u ask such a question on this site...

May 4 - 08:10 PM

Rusty Broomhandle

Jaco Gerber

Whaddya think this is, a microbiology site?

May 5 - 12:13 AM

The NewHampshire Database

Kirk McCarty

Ba-ZING!

May 5 - 09:50 AM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

Ok, I got that. lol

May 5 - 09:55 AM

Brantastic16

Brandon Williamson

I DO.

May 5 - 06:59 PM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

How To Train Your Dragon rocks.

May 4 - 05:06 PM

Murdoch

Murdoch +

"We're Vikings.....it's an occupational hazard!"

May 4 - 10:43 PM

TheAnimatorRator

Megan Gierasch

Best Freaking Movie ON THE LIST.

May 5 - 07:23 PM

Nick M.

Nick Miller

Much better the toy story 3, toy story 3 is just another toy story, HTTYD is something new and exciting

May 5 - 07:45 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Good movie, but missing what it takes to be a great movie. I think by trying to please both kids and adults (don't get me wrong, they did a great job hitting that middle ground) you can never be a classic to either.

May 7 - 08:53 PM

Alica L.

Alica Leo

I don't get the love for how to train your dragon. For me it's just a average animated movie.

May 4 - 05:09 PM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

Well I didn't love it but it was just an enjoyable movie.

May 4 - 05:18 PM

ToDandy

Todd Anderson

Don't worry, it's just because you have no soul.

May 4 - 09:11 PM

Steven S.

Steven Spisak

Right there with ya. It was good, but wasn't anything special or great.

May 5 - 09:04 AM

Mike McRae

Mike McRae

I AGREE- THE MAIN CHARACTER'S VOICE IS SOOOOO ANNOYING!!
(like writing in all caps!)

the fact that this movie got 98% makes me understand why that singing bass on the wall sold millions of times...

May 25 - 10:44 AM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

Well I didn't love it but it was just an enjoyable movie.

May 4 - 05:18 PM

Marissa Evans

Marissa Smith

Is it sad that my favourite of them all is 'How to Train Your Dragon'? Great picture, that one, both as an animated family film and a film in general. Then again, I haven't seen 'The Long Ships' or 'Erik the Viking'. Plus 'Thor' is welcome to become a new favourite once I see it. ;)

May 4 - 05:38 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

Not sad at all. It's a terrific movie.

May 4 - 05:50 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

I loved Erik the Viking, but I think I was 10 or 11 when I saw it. Somehow, I don't think it would hold up if I rewatched it now.

May 4 - 05:42 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Heh you're right. It was one of those things where if you were a kid, enamored with Monty Python - you were gonna like it. Hell I didn't even know who Tim Robbins was prior to that movie. I was just looking for more 'Holy Grail'. I suspect if I watched it now, I'd see it for the dreadful film it really is.

May 6 - 06:24 AM

MAMOVIES

Matheus Cassiano

Well I think Thor will be a normal super hero movie...Nothing that especial..

May 4 - 05:46 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

Not sad at all. It's a terrific movie.

May 4 - 05:50 PM

Dominic S.

Dominic Simard-Jean

HAHAHAHAHAHA, WTF

May 4 - 05:50 PM

iakobos

J Taylor

Thanks for the list RT. I made a few more additions to my Netflix queue. Can't wait for Thor. I have my tickets for 2:00PM Saturday. I really enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon in the theater. It was truly a 3D movie worth seeing on the big screen. Admittedly it looses a little something on a 2D TV screen.

May 4 - 06:13 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

Vikings are cool, but only about half of these movies are fresh. HTTYD is the best one of the lot, and my favorite of these movies.

May 4 - 07:21 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

I don't get it.

May 4 - 07:22 PM

Josh G.

imgonnaget STABBED

Valhalla Rising is wonderful, strange...very cool. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Braveheart mixed together.

May 4 - 07:55 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

wtf...why would u ask such a question on this site...

May 4 - 08:10 PM

doomzdavo

Doomz Davo

This list just made me realize how much I don't like Viking's movies. Good thing Thor is a comic book movie.

May 4 - 08:35 PM

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