Danish Film History

From silent films to the talkies, from escapism to social realism, from family comedies to the Dogme film, from mainstream to avant-garde, from action flicks to documentaries – this short history of Danish film covers it all.

Billede fra filmen Ordet

Billede fra filmen Løvejagten

The first movie screens in Denmark 1896. Peter Elfelt shoots the first Danish film footage 1897. The first movie theatres open 1904. Ole Olsen establishes Nordisk Film 1906. Feature length films from 1910. The Golden Age of Danish cinema sees its beginning.

Billede fra filmen Balletdanserinden

The Golden Age of Danish silent movies. Asta Nielsen and Valdemar Psilander become international stars. Benjamin Christensen is the first film director of the era. Melodramatic and sensational films are on the assembly line.

Billede fra filmen La passion de Jeanne d'Arc

Nordisk Film's decline. Carl Th. Dreyer makes his debut. Palladium's success with Fyrtaarnet and Bivognen. Storm P. produces animated films. The first cinema legislation 1922.

Billede fra filmen Mille, Marie og mig

The breakthrough of the sound movie. Jovial folk-comedies and musical comedies. Poul Henningsen's film Danmark. New cinema legislation in 1933. Dansk Kulturfilm and the National Film Board of Denmark established.

Plakat fra filmen Soldaten & Jenny

The German occupation, film noir and national sentiment. Documentary flourishes. The beginnings of the experimental short film. Post war realism and the psychological problem film.

Plakat fra filmen De røde heste

The return of the folk comedy with Morten Korch and Father of Four. Problem-oriented film especially about young people. Dreyer's The Word. Danish documentary continues. American film blockade 1954-1958.

Plakat fra filmen Naboerne

Film Act 1964 includes government support to the art of film. The threat of television. International breakthrough and the new wave in Danish cinema. Adult censorship is abolished making way for the exposure of the porno-film. Documentary film engages in social issues.

Billede fra filmen Mig og Charly

The Film Act 1972: establishment of the Danish Film Institute, film support and the consultant scheme. The Thorsen scandal and avant-garde film. Social realism, the 'bedside' films, children and youth films. Balling and the Olsen Gang become a hit.

Billede fra filmen Pelle Erobreren

Oscars to Danish films. Nils Malmros and Lars von Trier, unique directors of the period. Realism with a human approach. Revision of the Film Act 1972: the 50/50 scheme is introduced.

Billede fra filmen Festen

Populistic comedies. The generational shift leads to a new wave of directors. Lars von Trier's international breakthrough. Dogme film, Zentropa and Filmbyen. The Film Act 1997: re-organization of the Film Institute, new Filmhouse, the abolishment of censorship.

Billede fra filmen Adams æbler

Dogme, sequels and action flicks. New Danish Screen is established, new documentary. The heyday of Danish television fiction. New form of documentary: the personal and the universal.


Danish Film History 1896-2009 (full length)

Danish Film History 1986-2009 on dfi.dk

Peter Schepelern 
Daniel Sanders
Produced for dfi.dk
Mariann Nederby Madsen


Danish Film History

Peter Schepelern
Daniel Sanders
Produced for dfi.dk
Mariann Nederby Madsen

Danish Film History 1896-2009 will be updated annually. Last update April 2010.

About Danish Film History

This history of Danish film is organized chronologically, decade for decade. It elaborates on the films of each decade, the tendencies and genres that dominate, the creative originators and the film political conditions and organizational structures under which these film were made.

About mid-year 2011 this history of Danish Film will contain links to an English interface of the National Filmography, hence the following will apply:

Individual film titles and the names of directors, producers, production companies and actors are marked with links to Denmark's National Filmography, which provides additional information, images, and clips from individual films.

The overview of Danish film history is illustrated with film posters and images, again with links to film clips and trailers on YouTube. From the 1980s onward, there are links to film trailers where possible, while for the earlier decades there are only links to trailers and clips on YouTube for films that are typical for the period and which can be seen as major works.

For the first decades, the existing poster-material is sparse. Where film posters are absent, film clips are shown. Film posters can be found through searching the National Filmography by title.



Lisbeth Richter Larsen
Research Librarian
National Filmography
Danish Film Institute
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