Ten movies and TV series that helped me learn what Swedishness means

Tomas Spragg Nilsson
Tomas Spragg Nilsson - [email protected]
Ten movies and TV series that helped me learn what Swedishness means

Tomas Spragg Nilsson has completed his quest for Swedish citizenship and his crowdsourced bucket list 'Becoming Swedish'. Here's his full review of the Swedish TV series and movies he watched to get to know his new home country.


Forget the legal requirements for citizenship. What are the films to watch, books to read or places to visit to become one of the locals? Scroll down for excerpts from Tomas Spragg Nilsson's new book Falukorv och andra fasor (Fear and Falukorv, available for pre-order in Swedish and English via publisher Lys Förlag):

Tomas Spragg Nilsson speaking to Swedish television about his #BecomingSwedish project. Photo: SVT

The five films and tv series that I have enjoyed the most and will almost certainly be rewatching again in the future:


If you've never seen a Swedish film or TV series before, I would recommend you start with this list. Varied, gripping, impeccably put together and unforgettable. Once you've seen these, it's time to move on to more advanced (and sometimes surreal) viewing:


It's impossible to even begin to summarise the ins-and-outs of this enormous series. Still, if you've ever seen any other soap opera, then you can imagine the average plotline: struggles for power, love, loss, unwanted relatives, the reappearance of people you thought were dead -- all mixed up with the occasional murder, theft or drugs.

Just imagine Dallas, but on a boat.

Rederiet was a Swedish soap opera that ran from 1992 to 2002, set on a ferry to Finland. Photo: SVT

Nile City

Nile City was a six-part TV comedy series in the mid-90s. It centres around a low-budget, not-particularly-successful radio station that is housed in a Stockholm fire station.

Storylines are surreal, and each character has a pretty unique backstory: a scheming station manager, a blue-collar worker from Gothenburg, a counsellor in a velour tracksuit. Oh, and each episode begins with a bare-chested fireman introducing himself.

Confused? So was I.

Swedish comedian Robert Gustafsson in an episode of Nile City. Photo: SVT




The films are silly, play on stereotypes and contain terrible jokes. I think a lot of Swedes cringe at the thought of these dated films -- but I love them!

I think I enjoy them because they were the first experiences I had of understanding any form of comedy in Swedish. It felt like a big language step being able to understand a joke or word pun in Swedish, however bad it was.

But after the first few times I watched the films, I also enjoyed being able to quote some of the more favourable lines of dialogue back to friends and family. Being able to draw on some of these memorable cultural references feels like a proud badge of cultural integration.


After watching just two of the films, they started to remind me of the A Team series. In that, every episode, or film in this case, contains the same small set of recurring elements. For the A Team it was having to build some kind of machine out of scrap parts, or having to feed Mr T a drugged hamburger to knock him out whenever plane travel was required. In the Jönssonligan films, it's always Sickan hatching a plan after hitting his head or the fact that they always lose the loot in the end, usually managing to save just a bit of it.

Gösta Ekman as criminal mastermind Sickan. Photo: SVT

Read more about Tomas Spragg Nilsson's #BecomingSwedish project on The Local.


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