Home > Blog > 11 Famous People From Iceland: Actors, Singers and Politicians

11 Famous People From Iceland: Actors, Singers and Politicians

05-06-2024

Famous People From Iceland

A country of just over 376,000 people, Iceland has made a significant cultural impact on the global stage. As well as the incredible landscapes to be found all across the Land of Ice and Fire, this Nordic nation boasts an impressive array of celebrities across various fields, from music and acting, to sports, politics and literature. 

For example, did you know that the famous children’s educational TV show Lazytown is, in fact, Icelandic? With world-renowned books, films, musical scores and more, the achievements of famous Icelanders highlight the unique creativity that characterizes this island nation, making it a notable artistic and intellectual hub. 

Ready to discover ten Icelandic celebrities who have captivated audiences worldwide with their talent and charisma in our guide to famous Icelanders? Let’s go!

Famous Icelanders: 11 Celebrities From Iceland 

Dive into our list of famous people from Iceland below.

1. Björk Guðmundsdóttir

The best-known of all famous Icelandic singers, no list of Icelandic celebrities would be complete without mentioning Björk. Born in Reykjavik in 1965, Björk Guðmundsdóttir is a multifaceted artist known for her unique voice, eclectic music and avant-garde style. Her career began in the early 1980s as the lead singer of the alternative rock band The Sugarcubes.

However, it was her solo career that catapulted her to international fame. Albums like Debut (1993), Post (1995), and Homogenic (1997) showcase her ability to blend electronic, classical and pop music. Björk is not only a musician but also an actress, having starred in the critically acclaimed film Dancer in the Dark (2000), for which she won the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival.

2. Jón Gnarr

Jón Gnarr is a man of many talents: comedian, writer, actor and former mayor of Reykjavik. Born in 1967, Gnarr began his career as a comedian, gaining popularity with his satirical performances and TV shows. In 2009, in a surprising turn of events, he founded the satirical political party Best Party (Besti flokkurinn) and won the Reykjavik mayoral election in 2010.

His tenure as mayor was marked by humor and unconventional approaches to politics, which drew international attention. Gnarr has also written several books, including his autobiography Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World (2014).

3. Halldór Laxness

Iceland has long been a nation shaped by its epic storytelling, with Icelandic sagas and legends passing from generation to generation. While the most famous contemporary Icelandic author is most probably Arnaldur Indriðason, a crime-fiction writer, Halldór Laxness is the most famous novelist in Iceland throughout history and the only Icelandic author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Iceland’s most celebrated author, Laxness was born in 1902 and wrote prolifically throughout the 20th century, with his works reflecting the social and economic changes in Iceland. His novel Independent People (1934-1935) depicts the struggles of Icelandic farmers and is considered a masterpiece, earning him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

4. Sigur Rós

Next up on our list of the most famous Icelandic singers and musicians is Sigur Rós, the iconic post-rock band from Reykjavik, who have enchanted listeners around the globe with their ethereal soundscapes. Formed in 1994, the band consists of Jón Þór ‘Jónsi’ Birgisson, Georg Hólm, and formerly Kjartan Sveinsson.

Their music is characterized by Jónsi’s falsetto vocals and the use of bowed guitar, which creates an otherworldly atmosphere. Albums like Ágætis byrjun (1999) and ( ) (2002) have garnered critical acclaim and a devoted international fan base.

5. Hildur Guðnadóttir

Hildur Guðnadóttir is a contemporary composer and cellist who has gained international recognition for her film and television scores. Born in 1982, Hildur’s work includes scores for films such as Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) and the critically acclaimed Joker (2019), for which she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.

She also composed the score for the HBO mini-series Chernobyl (2019), earning an Emmy Award. Hildur’s haunting and evocative music has established her as one of the leading composers in the industry.

6. Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson

Known to many as ‘the Mountain’ from the TV series Game of Thrones, the famous Icelander Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is a giant both in stature and in the world of strongman competitions. Born in Reykjavik in 1988, this Icelandic powerhouse has won numerous titles, including the World’s Strongest Man in 2018.

Standing at 6 feet 9 inches (just over 2 meters) and weighing around 195 kg, Björnsson’s physical presence and strength have made him a prominent figure in both sports and entertainment.

7. Ólafur Arnalds

Another famous Icelander with musical talent, Ólafur Arnalds is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose music blends classical, electronic and ambient elements. Born in 1986, Arnalds has released several solo albums and composed music for films, TV shows and ballets.

His work on the soundtrack for the British TV series Broadchurch (2013-2017) received widespread acclaim. Arnalds’ ability to create deeply emotional and atmospheric music has earned him a loyal following and numerous awards.

8. Ásgeir Trausti

Ásgeir Trausti, known simply as Ásgeir, is a singer-songwriter whose music seamlessly fuses folk and electronic elements. Born in 1992, Ásgeir’s debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn (2012) became a sensation in Iceland, with one in ten Icelanders owning a copy. The album was later translated into English as In the Silence (2014), allowing it to reach a broader international audience.

Ásgeir’s soulful voice and introspective lyrics have established him as a significant figure in contemporary music. A popular artist across Nordic music festivals, Ásgeir is one of the most famous Icelandic singers and songwriters of modern times.

9. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir made history as the world’s first democratically-elected female president, serving as President of Iceland from 1980 to 1996. Born in 1930, Vigdís was a trailblazer in politics and a strong advocate for women’s rights and environmental causes.

Her presidency was marked by her efforts to promote Icelandic culture and language, as well as her role in international diplomacy. The longest-serving elected female head of state in history, Vigdís remains an influential figure in Icelandic society and a symbol of progress in gender equality.

10. Baltasar Kormákur

Baltasar Kormákur is a renowned film director, producer and actor known for his work in both Iceland and Hollywood. Born in 1966, Kormákur has directed numerous films, including 101 Reykjavik (2000), The Deep (2012), and the Hollywood productions 2 Guns (2013) and Everest (2015).

His ability to blend Icelandic storytelling with international appeal has made him a prominent figure in the film industry. Kormákur continues to contribute to cinema, bringing Icelandic stories to a global audience.

11. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir holds a unique place in Icelandic and world history as the first openly gay head of government. Born in 1942, Jóhanna entered politics in 1978 and served in various capacities before becoming Prime Minister of Iceland in 2009, during a tumultuous time following the financial crisis.

Her leadership focused on economic recovery, social welfare and human rights. Jóhanna’s tenure was marked by her efforts to stabilize Iceland’s economy and her advocacy for gender equality and LGBT+ rights, leaving a lasting impact on Icelandic politics.

Icelandic Celebrities from the Land of Ice and Fire: A Continuing Legacy

Iceland, despite its small size, has produced a remarkable array of talent across various fields. From the ethereal music of Björk and Sigur Rós to the literary genius of Halldór Laxness and the cinematic vision of Baltasar Kormákur, Icelandic celebrities have made and continue to make significant contributions to global culture.

Want to explore the incredible island of Iceland for yourself? We can help you out with our fantastic range of affordable and reliable cars to rent in Iceland, so you can explore volcanoes, glaciers, mountains, geothermal lagoons and even more amazing landscapes across the country for yourself!