Narvik just took the No. 1 Netflix movie spot out of nowhere — stream or skip?

Carl Martin Eggesbø as Korporal Gunnar Tofte in Narvik on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Netflix Top 10 lists rarely surprise as much as they have today. Narvik, a Norwegian World War II movie, has found a bit of success only two days after it hit the battlefield. And, no, Narvik is not the name of any character in the film. 

Narvik, you can impress your friends by explaining, is a town in the Nordland county area of Norway. It's on a peninsula, and its importance here is something your history buff friends are ready to explain. 

Either way, Narvik is new on Netflix, arriving on Monday (Jan. 23), and today (Wednesday, Jan. 25) is its first day on the top of the Movies chart. And, yes, we're not just talking about the international charts. Narvik is at the top of the U.S. charts on Netflix (which has 3 of the best Oscar movies to stream with 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes) too. 

It's an impressive feat, considering that the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation site only has two reviews (which are positive, we should note) tied to the film at the time of publication. But none of this answers the question on your mind: should you watch Narvik tonight? Let's find out. 

What is Netflix's Narvik about?

The battles of Narvik took place in June 1940, as Adolf Hitler's army invaded neutral Norway. And the Narvik film focuses on a personal story nestled within the larger geopolitical one: that of Korporal Gunnar Tofte (Carl Martin Eggesbø), who goes to fight the Nazis.

At the same time, his wife Ingrid (Kristine Hartgen) is forced to work for the Nazis as a translator. They have other family present, a young boy named Ole (Christoph Gelfert Mathiesen), who is cared for by Aslak (Stig Henrik Hoff), Gunnar's father. Narvik, as we realized, is a surprising No. 1 movie on U.S. Netflix because there isn't even an official trailer with English-language subtitles.

But while Ingrid is working for the Germans, she's also betraying them when helping the British consul with intel and other important help. 

Narvik reviews: What critics are saying

As noted above, Narvik has basically emerged under the cover of night, with few reviews to explain its merits. That said, we have found some — and they're not uniform in their sentiment.

ReadySteadyCut's M.N. Miller writes "Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film is a stunning-looking war film that’s naturally gripping and does an above-average job playing up the moral dilemmas. Along with solid turns by Eggesbø, Hartin, and the magnetic Henrik Mestad, Narvik is a war film worth streaming."

At Decider, John Serba praises Hartgen, writing that her performanc is "terrific," before crediting her as "fully capable of holding Narvik together, and maintaining our emotional involvement."

Kristine Hartgen in Narvik on Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

The other reports we've found come from outlets that don't have as much of a proven track record.

Sourav Chakraborty at Sportskeeda wasn't pleased with the film, writing that "Although the film aimed to be realistic and composed, the director fell short in his execution by neglecting to place equal emphasis on the film's characters and plot, leaving the audience without the emotional investment that elevates even the most average war film to something truly memorable."

Roger Moore of the blog Movie Nation is positive about the film, writing "Skjoldbjærg, who directed the Norwegian thrillers 'Pioneer' and 'Pyromaniac,' gets maximum suspense out of the stand-offs and visceral action out of the firefights and a tense attempt to dynamite a bridge. The measure of a combat thriller director is how she or he stages the harrowing business of “taking out that machine gun nest,” and Skjoldbjærg passes that with ease."

Narvik outlook: Should you watch on Netflix?

Narvik's success on stateside-Netflix proves that the love of war movies and dramas is stronger than our decreasing resistance to watching movies with subtitles. Based on the reviews we've found, we recommend that war movie lovers should watch Narvik, but consider bowing out if its characters don't connect. 

Also, I've watched a little bit of Narvik myself, and can tell you one thing for sure: watch Narvik in its original Norwegian. The dubbed English is a bit wooden and rough around the edges, and it doesn't match the video that well either. At this point, though, I'm unsure if it's going to be one of the best Netflix movies.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.