Finnish Cinema: Films and Cinematic History


Finnish cinema has a rich history dating back to the early 1900s. Despite being a small country in Northern Europe, Finland has produced several internationally acclaimed filmmakers and films. The country’s distinctive landscape and culture have contributed to its unique cinematic expressions. This article explores the history of Finnish cinema, notable filmmakers and films, and answers frequently asked questions about Finnish cinema.

Early Days of Finnish Cinema

The first motion picture screening in Finland took place in 1896, just a year after the Lumiere Brothers first presented their invention in Paris. The art of filmmaking spread quickly across Europe and reached the shores of Finland. The screening, organized by a travelling showman named Oskar Mesimäki, took place in Helsinki, the capital city.

The advent of cinema in Finland was a revolutionary development that rapidly expanded in the early 1900s. In 1913, the country’s first feature-length film, “Salaviinanpolttajat” (Moonshiners), was produced. It was directed by Teuvo Pakkala and released by Suomi-Filmi production company.

In the years that followed, Finnish filmmakers produced more silent films, including “Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha” (A Charming Mass Suicide) in 1919 and “Juha” in 1922. The latter film gained international recognition for its portrayal of rural life in Finland.

Golden Age of Finnish Cinema

The period between the 1930s and early 1960s is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of Finnish cinema. It was a time when films produced in Finland gained international acclaim for their unique artistic vision and storytelling.

One of the most notable filmmakers during this period was Väinö Kallio. He directed several films, including “Helmikuun manifesti” (Manifesto of February) in 1933, which portrayed the political struggles faced by the Finnish people during the early part of the 20th century.

Another prominent filmmaker was Edvin Laine. His film “The Unknown Soldier” in 1955 depicted the Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940. It gained popularity both locally and internationally and is now considered one of the most iconic Finnish films of all time.

Finnish Cinema in the 21st Century

In recent years, Finnish filmmakers have continued to produce globally recognized films. One of the most notable filmmakers is Aki Kaurismäki, who has directed several award-winning films, including “The Man Without a Past” in 2002. The film won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.

Other notable Finnish films of the 21st century include “Le Havre” (2011), directed by Aki Kaurismäki, “Concrete Night” (2013) directed by Pirjo Honkasalo, and “The Happiest Day of Olli Mäki” (2016), directed by Juho Kuosmanen. These films explore the complexities of human relationships and society, and have received critical acclaim globally.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What makes Finnish cinema unique?
Finnish cinema is unique due to the country’s distinct landscape and culture. The stunning Nordic landscapes have been showcased in several films and are integral to the storytelling. Additionally, Finnish cinema often explores the complexities of human relationships, society, and politics.

2. Who are some notable Finnish filmmakers?
Some notable Finnish filmmakers include Aki Kaurismäki, Edvin Laine, and Väinö Kallio. Their films have gained international recognition and have contributed to the development of Finnish cinema.

3. What are some iconic Finnish films?
Some iconic Finnish films include “The Unknown Soldier,” “Juha,” and “The Man Without a Past.” These films have received critical acclaim globally and are an essential part of Finnish cinematic history.

4. Are Finnish films available with English subtitles?
Yes, several Finnish films are available with English subtitles. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime showcase several Finnish films with English subtitles, making them accessible to a global audience.

5. Are there any Finnish films that have won international awards?
Yes, several Finnish films have won international awards. Aki Kaurismäki’s “The Man Without a Past” won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, and “The Happiest Day of Olli Mäki” won the Un Certain Regard Prize at the same festival.


Finnish cinema has a rich and diverse history that has contributed to the development of global cinema. From the early days of silent films to the modern-day productions, Finnish filmmakers have explored various themes and storytelling techniques unique to their culture. With the emergence of new talents and fresh perspectives, it is evident that Finnish cinema will continue to make its mark in the global film industry.