The Vikings played an important role in world history. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Norsemen continue to fascinate today. Here are five Viking movies that no rowdy, axe-wielding wannabe Norse film fan should ever miss. On to Valhalla!
The Vikings (United Artists, 1958)
Kirk Douglas as Einar heads the cast of this thrilling saga that easily claims the top spot among Norse movies. The Vikings has it all: drunken beer blasts, raids on the English coast, a kidnapped Welsh princess, rad Norse mythology, ritualistic dancing on the oars, a sibling rivalry between two half-brothers, a climactic sword battle to the death and a fiery Viking funeral. Tony Curtis plays Einar's half-brother Eric, with Ernest Borgnine as a robust Ragnar, Janet Leigh as beautiful Morgana and James Donald as the English king Egbert. When that big Norse horn wails at the beginning of the picture and those magnificent Viking long ships appear in the harbor, every Viking movie fan knows that he or she has found cinematic Valhalla.
Director: Richard Fleischer
Great movie line (vowing revenge against Eric, whose trained falcon ripped out his eye): "The sun will cross the sky a thousand times before he dies, and you'll wish a thousand times that you were dead." - Kirk Douglas as Einar
On DVD: The Vikings (MGM, 2002)
Three sheet movie poster: The Vikings (1958)
The Long Ships (Columbia, 1964)
Richard Widmark as Rolfe clashes with Sidney Poitier's Aly Mansuh in this wild saga pitting Vikings versus Moors and the search for a giant bell made of solid gold. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, with Norsemen and Moors mixing it up in several fabulous battle scenes. The Moors, apparently no slackers when it comes to torture, threaten Rolfe with a courtesy ride down the infamous Mare of Steel after he refuses to aid Aly Mansuh in his quest for the bell – a.k.a. The Mother of Voices. Russ Tamblyn, Rosanna Schiaffino, Oskar Homolka, Edward Judd, Lionel Jeffries, Beba Loncar and Clifford Evans appear in wonderful support.
Director: Jack Cardiff
Great line (voiced in leading his troops against the Moors in their capital city): "Vikings, ho!" - Clifford Evans as King Harald
On DVD: The Long Ships (Columbia, 2003)
Half sheet movie poster: The Long Ships (1964)
The Norseman (American International, 1978)
Lee Majors stars as Thorvald, a Norse adventurer who with his cronies journey to the New World to find Dad, the missing King Eurich (Mel Ferrer). Here they battle insurmountable odds as the native Indians object to their presence on Vineland. The Norseman is so bad that it's good, complete with an adopted black Viking (ex-L.A. Ram David "Deacon" Jones), a fast-talking wizard named Death Dreamer (Jack Elam), an extremely hairy Ragnar (Cornel Wilde), a lovestruck native beauty (Susie Coelho), plastic armor, a total disregard for history and dialogue as wooden as the Vikings' own longboats. And are several Vikings actually sporting wristwatches? Oh, yeah, ex-Oakland Raider wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff is also in the cast, playing a Norseman. Apparently, no Minnesota Vikings were available. As an unintentional Norse comedy, The Norseman (and smile when you say that) is in a league of its own.
Director: Charles B. Pierce
Great line (to Jack Elam's Death Dreamer): "Wizard, what say your signs about this New Land?" - Lee Majors as Thorvald
On DVD: Not commercially available
One sheet movie poster: The Norseman (1978)
The Viking Sagas (Direct to Video, 1995)
Ralf Moeller stars as Kjartan, a mythical Norseman who is chosen to restore order among the Vikings in Iceland. Teaching Kjartan the ways of the Norse warrior is the old vet Gunnar (Sven-Ole Thorsen). There's plenty of action in this sword and snow saga, which some have hailed as a fairly accurate representation of Norse customs and practices.
Director: Michael Chapman
Great line (leading a one-man battle charge): " Slaves! Come earn your money! Yaaarh!" - Sven-Ole Thorsen as Gunnar
On DVD: The Viking Sagas (Image, 2006)
DVD: The Viking Sagas (1995)
The Island at the Top of the World (Buena Vista, 1974)
Based on the Ian Cameron novel The Lost Ones, this well-executed sci-fi/fantasy film is set in the year 1907 where an airship expedition to the Arctic yields a lost civilization of Vikings. Donald Sinden stars as Sir Anthony Ross, the mission's leader, with David Hartman, Jacques Marin, Mako, David Gwillim, Agneta Eckemyr and Gunnar Ohlund also on hand. Leave it to Walt Disney Pictures to yield a horde of wild Norsemen who still believe it's the Middle Ages.
Director: Robert Stevenson
Great line (upon being taken prisoner by men clad in Viking attire): "It's Norse. The old Norse of the sagas. Their weapons, their clothes, their whole appearance. They're Vikings." - David Hartman as Professor Ivarsson.
On DVD: The Island at the Top of the World 30th Anniversary Edition (Walt Disney, 2004)
British quad poster: The Island at the Top of the World (1974)
More Viking Movie Favorites
- Erik the Viking (1989)
- The 13th Warrior (1999)
- Pathfinder (2007)
- Erik the Conqueror (1961)
- The Last of the Vikings (1961)
One sheet poster: Erik the Conqueror (1961)
Images Credit & Further Reading
- All poster art images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Image at top: Movie pressbook, The Vikings (1958)
- The Ten Best Viking Movie Characters
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.