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The Reykjavík International Film Festival

If you are a cinema buff and are in Reykjavík between September 29th to October 9th, you should check out the Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF). This festival has been running every fall since 2004, highlighting international independent filmmaking. There are several different categories, including Documentaries, Icelandic Panorama, International Shorts, Horror Highlights & Arctic Chills, to name a few.

While awards are given in six different categories, the Golden Puffin is the most coveted. This main prize is awarded to up-and-coming directors whose first or second film is in the “New Visions” category.

drawing of "Moomins"

RIFF offers some unconventional venues for viewing films. There is the swim-in cinema at Sundhöllin indoor swimming pool. This year they will be showing The Truman Show, a psychological science fiction drama/comedy from 1998. How about going to a Cave Cinema in Raufarhólshellir/The Lava Tunnel, only 30 minutes from Reykjavík? There will be two different films shown at Raufarhólshellir: For families, there is the 2021 animated film, The Exploits of Moominpappa — Adventures of a Young Moomin, based on the beloved classic books by Tove Jansson about the Moomins, a troll family who vaguely resemble hippopotamus.

Photo showing ice tunnel In the depths of Langjökull
In the depths of Langjökull

For adults only, there is the 2005 British horror film, The Descent, about a group of six women who descend into an unknown cave system and must survive after they are trapped with deadly creatures. Then there is the RIFF Ice Cave Cinema (Jöklabío). You are driven to Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland, to watch a new documentary, Into the Ice. The director, Lars Ostenfeld, descends a record-setting 200 meters into Greenland’s ice sheet to explore how fast the glacier is melting.

What makes this a unique film festival is its public outreach. There is RIFF Around Town, which takes films to public libraries, nursing homes, and prisons. Youth RIFF offers movies for children and teens, workshops, and educational activities around the country with the goal of building film literacy, critical thinking, and awareness of social issues. They have offered Reykjavík Talent Lab, Cinema Bus, and Girls Film! programs. To see a catalog of the more than 100 films that will be shown, along with an opportunity to learn more about RIFF, go to their website,

Since most of us cannot attend this innovative film festival, here are some Icelandic movies and television series for you to consider and where you might find them available for viewing. Thank you to Laura Hackney for this list of Icelandic movies and television shows.

TV Shows

  • Fractures (Vitjanir), A medical, female-led eight-part series about ER doctor Kristín (45), who moves back to her childhood village with her teenage daughter while going through a divorce. Available on MhZ Choice

  • Blackport (Verbuðin), This one seems to be only available in Iceland, so if you can connect through a VPN, Rúv has a version with English subtitles.

  • Trapped (Ófærð), A mystery drama that follows Andri Ólafsson, the chief of police in a remote town in Iceland. Season 1 and 2 are on Amazon Prime and Season 3 (Entrapped) is on Netflix

  • Valhalla Murders (Brot), An eight-part police procedural series loosely based on a 1940’s real-life incident. Netflix

  • Stella Blomkvist (Stella Blomkvíst) - A crime drama featuring a tough young lawyer, Stella. Sundance

  • Katla, The eruption of the Katla volcano creates mysteries that emerge from the volcano and disrupt a nearby community. Netflix

  • Down to Earth, Zac Efron looks at renewable energy and views the natural wonders while traveling around Iceland. Episode 1, Netflix

  • Case (Réttur), A crime drama that just ended on October 1st on Netflix.

  • The Minister (Ráðherrann) - The newly elected Prime Minister must deal with political rivals, family politics, and a personal secret. Amazon Prime

  • The Cliff (Hamarinn) - A Reykjavík detective is sent to help a policewoman in a small rural community investigate a suspicious accident. Amazon Prime


  • And Breath Normally - An Icelandic single mother and an asylum seeker find their lives intertwined. (Andið Eðlilega), Netflix

  • Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð)- A woman, Halla, declares war on the aluminum industry before becoming a mother and plots a crippling blow to the aluminum industry. Amazon Prime

  • A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur)- A widowed former police chief becomes obsessed with finding out the truth after discovering his late wife was having an affair. Amazon Prime

  • Rams (Hrútar)- Two brothers who have not spoken to each other in 40 years come together to save their sheep. Amazon Prime or Tubi

  • Heartstone (Hjartasteinn) - A coming-of-age story for two teens during one summer. Amazon Prime

  • Lamb - An unnatural newborn is discovered in the barn of a childless couple. They want to raise her, but sinister forces intervene. Amazon Prime or Hulu

  • Eurovision: Fire Saga - A comedy about two Husavík singers pursuing their dreams of competing in the Eurovision Song Contest. Netflix

  • Ari Eldrárn - Pardon My Icelandic - Ari Eldrárn, an Icelandic comedian, pokes fun at Nordic rivalries, toddler whims, and Hollywood’s view of Thor. Netflix

  • Children of Nature (Börn náttúrunnar) - The only Icelandic film to have ever been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. A story about an elderly farmer who is put into a nursing home in Reykjavík and reunites with an old girlfriend with whom he elopes to the countryside to die together. Not available at this time outside of Iceland.

  • 101 Reykjavik - 30-year-old unemployed man lives with his mother, who invites her lover to live with them. DVD is available on Amazon but otherwise not available outside of Iceland.

Photo credits:

Photo of Langjökull by Matt Kochar on Unsplash

Image of Moomins By Comic book cover, Fair use,


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