When the Raven Flies (1984)
"Hrafninn flýgur" (original title)

 |  Action, Drama  |  25 April 1985 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 1,896 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 3 critic

Ireland: Vikings pillage the land, seeking silver and slaves, slaying men and women in the process. A young boy is spared when a Viking takes pity on him instead of killing him. Iceland 20 ... See full summary »



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Follows the life of Gisli.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Edda Björgvinsdóttir ...
Gest's Sister
Egill Ólafsson ...
Thor's Brother
Flosi Ólafsson ...
Gotti Sigurdarson ...
(as Gottskálk D. Sigurdarson)
Helgi Skúlason ...
Jakob Þór Einarsson ...
Sveinn M. Eiðsson ...
Abba M. Jóhannsdóttir
Anna S. Karlsdóttir ...
(as Anna Karlsdóttir)
Anna Reynisdóttir
Arnaldur Friðgeirsson
Ármann Ingason
Birgir Guðjónsson
Birgir Mikaelsson
Bjarni Guðmarsson


Ireland: Vikings pillage the land, seeking silver and slaves, slaying men and women in the process. A young boy is spared when a Viking takes pity on him instead of killing him. Iceland 20 years later: The boy returns to take his revenge on the killers, the Norwegian foster brothers; Thord and Eirik, by cunning and hidden weapons. Written by Stle A. Olsen <sao@idt.unit.no>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama


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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

25 April 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Revenge of the Barbarians  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


SEK 1,477,673 (Sweden)

Company Credits

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Did You Know?


First in an unofficial Viking triology (remaining two being Í skugga hrafnsins & Hvíti víkingurinn). See more »


Gest: Heavy knife.
See more »


References Yojimbo (1961) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Outstanding film!
18 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The only Icelandic film I've ever come across. This and it's two (disappointing) sequels, that is. And what an OUTSTANDING film. Wow. The viking film to end all viking films. None of the others made since (Trees Grow on the Stones Too, 13 Warrior, The Pathfinder *yikes!*, the sequels to this film) have been up to much.

Five VIRTUES of When The Raven Flies:

1. Design wise: The viking clichés of (horned) helmets, shiny swords, dragon headed longboats, and the odd galloping stallions are replaced with an authentic, down-to-earth design: Fur caps, black/rusty cleavers/knives, small ocean going merchant vessels, and those curious Icelandic ponies. It is quite odd seeing the characters ride them. The viking warriors feet almost touch the ground, and they ride in a weird trotting style.

Which help bring us closer to what life could have been like back then.

And did I mention how the director has chosen memorable, gritty faces in almost every role? No tall blond semi-gods here, just dirty survivors in a harsh country/island.

2. Plot wise: An Icelandic film about vikings? A chance to show off Icelandic courage, virtue and heroism, right? Wrong. The hero is from IRELAND, rather, and his story is about a viking victim getting back at the perpetrators.

The plot requires minimum knowledge about Icelandic/Norwegian history. It's set during the late 800s AD. While the political power in Norway is being consolidated around one king, Iceland is being colonized by settlers, hunters, traders, political refugees...and Irish slaves. Iceland was considered a loose and distant part of the young kingdom.

The intrigue be a little hard to follow a first. Relax - it will all make sense later on (as characters dwindle in number).

3. Style wise: This gruesome and captivating story of revenge is - yes- a SPAGHETTI WESTERN. Every trick in the Spaghetti-Western handbook. And I mean it as a compliment.This is on par with Sergio Leone on a good day. And how suitable for the material. Talking is kept to a macho minimum. Closeups of frowning faces and steely eyes trying to penetrate the minds of opponents. Quiet. Sudden violent outbursts. Bittersweet ending. The main character, "Guest", isn't even presented with a proper name. Clint's nameless character in the Dollar movies, anyone?

This is an Arctic homage to Sergio Leone. Bravo!

4. Endurance: 24 years on and the film is still standing strong. Some bloods'n gore effects are little on the silly side, some sophomore editing. Some synth music and ditto drums upsets the mood a little at times. My DVD version has no stereo/surround sound. The picture is laser disc fine, not DVD or HD fine.

And those were all the flaws. I mean ALL the flaws. The\is film is so frikkin' strong none of the above really matters.

5. The director still hasn't made anything nearly as impressive as this film. The 1988 sequel, In the Shadow of the Raven, had a bigger budget/production. But lacks the Leone-ish sense of urgency. See for yourself. The last film in his trilogy, Den Kvite Viking, had moments of inspired casting/design/mood etc (a talking wooden Jesus effigy stands out), but is totally overwhelmed by a slow and unconvincing plot. Shame. The more reason to love and revere the original!

See it before they cast Nicholas Cage in a remake!

12 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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