Mads Mikkelsen is the biggest icon that Danish cinema produced since its thin success in the 90s and 2000s. Starting as a dancer and gymnast, Mikkelsen quickly drew attention and reached fame in Denmark, performing vigorously in the “Pusher” trilogy and in a few other independent flicks as well.
Nowadays, Mikkelsen is considered one of the hottest names of quality cinema, which is quite strange, as he wasn’t involved in many blockbuster projects. Fortunately for his wallet, that’s about to change.
The year of 2016 marks his entrance in Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” and Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. This could be an opportunity for Mikkelsen to achieve the same pride of place in Hollywood that he enjoys in his native country, as now he’s considered just an interesting and competent actor in Hollywood, and he’s the king in Denmark.
Although Mikkelsen has some status in the industry, he could definitely enjoy more international acclaim. The fact that he wasn’t involved in overly famous films shows that he climbed in the business and won important awards because of his unique and special talent of acting and nothing more. On this list, you can find the best and most important performances Mikkelsen offered to date.
10. Prague (2006)
Reminiscent of “Journey to Italy” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “Prague” tells the dramatic story of Christoffer and Maja. The couple plans a trip to Prague, hoping to increase their boundaries, but the effect was the opposite. The story is seasoned with cold humor, mainly because of the pair’s communication, or lack thereof. While 14 years of marriage can’t be easily erased, Christoffer and Maja struggle to “move on”, something that’s very hard to do at that point.
Unlike some other Danish films, “Prague” delivers a truly European vibe, putting Mikkelsen in unknown territory. The actor is known mainly for his action roles and in “Prague”, he is a brokenhearted man worried about his relationship, and he builds a very sweet performance. That wasn’t unprecedented in his career, but it’s in this film that Mikkelsen offers the best performance of this kind. That’s why “Prague” is on this list.
9. Flickering Lights (2000)
Starting as a typical gangster film, “Flickering Lights” is a picture that mixes action, violence and dark humor, mocking many of the clichés used in American films and making everything more Danish oriented.
Perhaps this was why the film was highly praised in Denmark, but was misunderstood outside the country, mainly in the United States, and it’s not a very popular film for many major audiences. Even if you get lost in translation, there’s plenty of good things you can enjoy while watching this Scandinavian effort.
First, “Flickering Lights” shows a bit of a Danish feeling, which is always good for someone who isn’t from Denmark and likes to learn about different mores and behaviors. Second, sometimes in comedies the acting is not quite good, but that is not the case here.
Mikkelsen and Soren Pilmark excel from the rest of the cast because they show how well one can act in a comedy flick, and that’s something you don’t find in general American comedy blockbusters. This was also one of the first times Mikkelsen showed the capacity to become a serious case in cinema, ironically in humor, a genre he isn’t well connected with.
8. Flame & Citron (2008)
“Flame & Citron” is what happens when you have a story with two protagonists, two great actors on stage, and exquisite acting direction. Mikkelsen and Thure Lindhardt are in the epicenter of the storm as Flammen and Citronen, respectively, two assassins who work in a “one drives, the other shoots” partnership.
The plot aggregates the distrustful climate between the Danish and the Germans with a trustable friendship, while people are murdered, traitors arise, and doubt is imminent in every corner.
Sharing chemistry and protagonism with Lindhardt, Mikkelsen does a terrific job as Citronen, a very peculiar and energetic man who seems to be nervous and impulsive all the time, always looking ready to get into the action.
“Flame & Citron” worked also as the perfect opportunity for Mikkelsen to hold strong and relevant roles after his egregious but always ungrateful performance as Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale”.
7. Pusher I & II (1996 & 2004)
In “Pusher”, Mikkelsen was a supporting actor, but he immediately brought attention to his good figure and talent. The impact was so big that he was promoted to main character in the sequel, where he rocked in the skin of Tonny, a gangster released from prison who is trying to improve his broken life. “Pusher II” is a much more anti-crime film than its predecessor, and is quite emotional when compared to the first effort of the trilogy.
Nicolas Winding Refn was close to bankruptcy after directing “Fear X” in 2003, so he decided to make another episode of “Pusher”, going through the path of money and proving that it isn’t always a bad thing.
The film was an expected success because Refn knew how to develop a very good preliminary story, as he showed again in “Pusher III”, the last chapter. The other reason was the exquisite performance from Mikkelsen.
6. Open Hearts (2002)
“Open Hearts” is a top class dramatic film that is a successful example of the fascination with Dogme 95, and where everything is in the right place. The story is quite emotional, engaging and impactful, as drama should be (especially when love is the topic), while the soundtrack is another piece with a beautiful score, having a kind of systematic connection with the tone of the film.
The plot deals with suffering and mixed feelings, which eventually turn into a very strong mind confusion, and it’s in this concept where the actors make a sublime and credible effort in a sort of love triangle.
This film also marks the debut of Mikkelsen into completely serious roles. The Danish star was involved in gangster, action and some comedy efforts in his earlier acting days, while “Open Hearts” demanded a completely different insight. The truth is, Mikkelsen is amazing as Niels, showing versatility in his abilities. The role also marks a 100 percent dramatic facet of Mikkelsen, which is totally clear in his films “The Hunt” and “After the Wedding”.