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The Best Mads Mikkelsen Movies and TV Shows

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal in Hannibal

As Shakespeare once said, “Something is sexy in the state of Denmark”. And he was right. Because that’s where Mads Mikkelsen is from. The first time I ever saw the Danish daddy was in a little show called Hannibal. He played the titular character, Hannibal Lecter. And I was smitten. He’s like some sort of Norse panther, is he not? Sleek, powerful, and just the right amount of an “I might murder you” vibe. To celebrate the thirst (or just my thirst) for Mads, I’ve put together a list of the best Mikkelsen movies and TV shows available.

There’s something so refreshingly un-Hollywood about Mikkelsen. He isn’t a brawny, square-jawed superhero type. And he isn’t a celebrity personality who you can just point a camera at and say, “go!” This man is an ACTOR. In every role he plays, he is transformative. When you’re watching a Mads Mikkelsen film, you can tell that he’s leading with the character rather than with himself. And perhaps that’s what makes him so interesting to watch. There always seems to be something going on underneath his performance—some subtle thing that’s left unsaid. It’s what makes him so enticing as an actor and so weirdly attractive as a human being. And that’s the perfect segue for my first pick.

Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal
(NBC)

Aside from the fact that Mads Mikkelsen is in it, Hannibal is an incredible series. It takes place before The Silence of the Lambs, back when Hannibal was still a celebrated psychologist. Unlike Anthony Hopkins, whose tongue-flicking Hannibal is less sexy than gingivitis, Mads Mikkelsen’s interpretation of the character makes for a much more suave and understated performance. Hannibal helps an FBI agent named Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) profile serial killers, but Will soon finds out why Hannibal is able to provide such intimate insights into their psyches. Spoiler: he’s one too.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
(Disney)

Rogue One is the greatest Star Wars movie ever made. That is my personal hot take, and no, I will not be taking any questions or comments. This movie is the first actual risk the Star Wars franchise ever took (besides existing in the first place). I won’t spoil the ending, but it is a doozy because it’s so antithetical to the “good guys win” Star Wars model. Mads Mikkelsen as one of the main characters is only the cherry on top.

Casino Royale

(sony pictures releasing)

Okay, remember when I said that Hannibal was the first thing I ever saw Mads Mikkelsen in? Well, I just realized I lied. He was in Casino Royale! He plays Le Chiffre, and I remember being so enthralled by the character that I forgot that an actor was playing him in the first place. Mads Mikkelsen so perfectly embodies the larger-than-life James Bond villain that I thought the casting director just found a real-life Le Chiffre on the street. How do you make a high-stakes poker player who cries blood grounded and realistic? Ask Mads—he’ll tell you.

Pusher II

(Nordisk Film)

This might be Mads Mikkelsen’s best film of all. In the sequel to director Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 debut, Mads plays a grizzled ex-con who has just been released from a 13-year stint in prison. However, his troubles are far from over, as he owes money to the biggest gangster in all of Copenhagen: his own father. And these aren’t the only daddy issues he has! He soon finds out that he is a father himself, and struggles to come to grips with his newfound parenthood.

The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt
(Nordisk Film)

Another of Mads Mikkelsen’s finest performances, The Hunt casts Mads in the most unlikely role of all: a kindergarten teacher. “What fool of a casting director thought that would be a good idea?” you might be asking. A very clever casting director, that’s who. Some people think Mads looks a little creepy. He can’t help it. It’s what makes him so good. This film uses that fact to great effect, as his character is subject to mass hysteria after being wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a child in his kindergarten class. Fair warning, this movie is heavy but excellent.

Open Hearts

Mads Mikkelsen and Sonja Richter in Open Hearts
(Nordisk Film)

This Danish drama is about a woman whose fiancé is paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash. While visiting her fiancé in the hospital, the woman strikes up a friendship with his doctor, played by—you guessed it—Mads Mikkelsen. The two begin an affair, which is made all the more complicated by the fact that the doctor’s wife was the driver of the other car in the accident. DRAMA!!!!!

A Royal Affair

Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in A Royal Affair
(Nordisk Film)

A princess is married off to a young Danish king but soon finds out that he is exceedingly mentally ill. Luckily for her, the king is in the care of a hot doctor, played by Mads Mikkelsen. Duh. She begins an illicit affair with the king’s doctor, and the two struggle to keep their relationship clandestine. If you want to see Mads looking dashing in 18th-century attire, this is the film for you.

Doctor Strange

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange
(Marvel)

Not even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is safe from Mads Mikkelsen’s charms! In this film, he is the villainous foil to the far-less-hot Benedict Cumberbatch. There, I said it. Sue me. We all know that Mads is magical, but this movie takes it to a whole other level. Also, we get to see what MM looks like as an emo boy. Just LOOK at that flawless magical eyeshadow!

Valhalla Rising

Mads Mikkelsen as One-Eye in Valhalla Rising
(Scanbox Entertainment)

Have you ever wanted to see Mads Mikkelsen as a Viking? WELL HAVE I GOT A MOVIE FOR YOU. This weird little number (and the second Refn-Mikkelsen joint on this list) is about a laconic warrior named One-Eye who has prophetic dreams. He mostly uses those dreams to figure out how to kill people who are trying to kill him, but he also takes up the call to adventure to journey to the Holy Land with a group of Christian zealots. They end up getting lost. Really lost. This film might be the strangest tale on this list, but also one of the best.

Another Round

Mads Mikkelsen getting drunk in Another Round
(Nordisk Film)

Mads Mikkelsen finds himself cast as a school teacher, again. However, unlike his character in The Hunt, this guy actually does end up engaging in some sketchy behavior. In a bizarre effort to combat depression, he and his friends make a pact to live their lives drunk—all the time. At home. At work. At social gatherings. ALL THE TIME. Needless to say, things get VERY MESSY and they get that way VERY QUICKLY. This is one of Mads Mikkelsen’s finest performances, as we see him struggle through the very pits of depression and alcoholism.

(featured image: NBC)

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