11 Powerhouse Swedish Actresses Americans Adore

Admit it, you know the stereotype of the Swedish beauty: buxom, blonde, blue-eyed and clad in a fur-trimmed bikini. Perhaps there are many Scandinavian ladies who willingly embody this beer commercial image, but the reality is that a very different kind of import from the wintry European country has fascinated American cinephiles for generations. It's a tradition that goes back to Greta Garbo's silent movie days.

This year, Alicia Vikander has been making waves with her striking looks and impressive performances in movies like Testament of Youth and Ex Machina. Next, we'll see her play a genius East German mechanic in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Meanwhile, Rebecca Ferguson, the half-Swedish, half-British star of the mini-series The White Queen, is getting a lot of next-big-thing buzz from her turn in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.

What do these actresses have in common with Bond Girls, Oscar nominees, a Trophy Wife and the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? It's not all about their awesome cheekbones. We expect it must be something about surviving those harsh winters that enables them to swing from ice queens, and ingénues, to really intense heroines.

By the way, while we're focusing on the Swedish ladies in this list, we can't ignore that the country produces some mighty fine men, too. Hats off to Stellan and Alexander Skarsgård, Joel Kinnaman, Martin Wallström (Mr. Robot's creepy tech villain), and old-school hottie Dolph Lundgren. Now, back to your female counterparts.
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Greta Garbo (1905-1990)

Came to America: At the behest of MGM's Louis B. Mayer, who, depending on which story you read, either liked her look, or wanted to hire her mentor, who insisted she come along with the package.

Why We Love Her:
When young Greta Garbo (nee Gustafsson) made her way from Stockholm to Los Angeles in 1925, she didn't even speak English, which wasn't too much of a problem for silent films. Her piercing eyes and exquisite bone structure first helped her play a knowing seductress, but when she transitioned into sound, she was also able to expand her roles. Her accent meant she was cast as all kinds of regal beauties, from Russians in Anna Karenina, Ninotchka, and Grand Hotel, to the exotic (and actually Dutch) Mata Hari. Despite such success, she hated fame and the Hollywood system so much, she quit acting in 1941, and became even more famous for being a recluse in the middle of New York City.

Watch Grand Hotel on Amazon.
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Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)

Came to America:
Already a star in Sweden, she was hired in 1939 by famous producer David O. Selznick (Gone With the Wind) to remake her Swedish movie Intermezzo in English ... a language she didn't speak at the time.

Why We Love Her:
Well, in addition to her serious eyebrow game, she had the chops to hold her own against Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. She went on to give everyone chills in three Hitchcock films (Spellbound, Notorious, Under Capricorn). She was also pretty ballsy in her personal life, having a public affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini while still married to her first husband, which actually got her denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Watch Casablanca on Amazon.
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Anita Ekberg (1931-2015)

Came to America: In 1950, after winning Miss Sweden and becoming a finalist in Miss Universe, she was granted a "starlet" contract with Universal Studios.

Why We Love Her:
It's all about that part she got in War and Peace, right? Just kidding. No one remembers all the movies Ekberg made in the States. It was her bombshell performance cooing over a kitten and dancing in Rome's Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita that made her a sex symbol for the ages. "I'm very proud of my breasts, as every woman should be," she said of the stir she caused.

Watch La Dolce Vita on iTunes.
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Ann-Margret (1941- )

Came to America: At age 5, she and her mother followed their father to Chicago, where he was working.

Why We Love Her:
Despite her heritage, she grew up to be the perfect, perky, All-American Teenager in Bye Bye Birdie (1963). And after playing a girl swooning over an Elvis-like character in that musical, she landed the real deal in Viva Las Vegas the next year (and dated him IRL, too). Of course, for some of us, she is also the forever dance hall owner Medda Larkson from Newsies.

Watch Bye Bye Birdie on Amazon.
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Britt Ekland (1942- )

Came to America: First, she was an aspiring theater actress traveling through Europe, and after landing in London for a film, she met and married Peter Sellers in 1963. He, in turn, lent her the fame to get to Hollywood.

Why We Love Her:
She looks like a proto Scarlett Johansson with her big, innocent eyes, pouty lips, and, of course, the kind of body that made it somehow appropriate that she spend most of her time in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) in a bikini. After their divorce, Sellers snarkily called her "a professional girlfriend and an amateur actress." And while she was known to have dated a lot of famous men (Warren Beatty, Rod Stewart), she's absolutely adorable in 1968's The Night They Raided Minksy's as an Amish girl who winds up in a burlesque show, where she invents the striptease in 1925. Also, we need to hunt down the aerobics video she made at age 51.

Watch The Night They Raided Minksy's on Youtube.
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Maud Adams (1945- )

Came to America: Already a model, 21-year-old Maud Wikström married British ad exec Roy Adams and moved to New York City, where she joined Ford Models.

Why We Love Her:
She went from sad girlfriend of the bad guy in the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun (1974, along with countrywoman Britt Ekland) to the gloriously named titular bad girl herself in Octopussy, with whom Roger Moore's Bond has to join forces to defeat a Russian mad man. Actually she was even in a third Bond movie, according to serious 007 fans, who spotted her for a brief cameo in A View to a Kill (1985). Also, there are brains behind those perfect cheekbones — according to her 1980 profile in People, she speaks five languages.

Watch Octopussy on Amazon.
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Lena Olin (1955- )

Came to America:
Well, she's never really left Sweden, but her first English-speaking role was opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Why We Love Her:
With her serious theater background, actor parents, and early start in Ingmar Bergman films, she's kind of the opposite of all those Swedish bombshells of the '60s and '70s. She earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod for playing a Holocaust survivor in Enemies: A Love Story. And yet, our generation might forever revere Olin as Irina Derevko, Sydney Bristow's (Jennifer Garner) Russian spy mama in Alias.

Watch Alias on Amazon.
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Malin Akerman (1978- )

Came to America:
At age 2, she moved with her parents from Stockholm to Ontario, Canada, and she still calls both countries home.

Why We Love Her:
Even when her role seems to call for her just to be the hot girl, she's never just the hot girl — she's also hilarious. Witness her turns in Adult Swim's Children's Hospital, her short-lived sitcom Trophy Wife, and the underrated comedy Wanderlust. Even back when she was the bubbly ingénue stealing the spotlight from Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) in season one of The Comeback, we couldn't hate her.

Watch Wanderlust on Amazon.
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Noomi Rapace (1979- )

Came to America: Actually, she first left Sweden for Iceland as a child, giving her even more deep, dark winter cred. Her first big English-language role, though, was in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Why We Love Her:
Though she's since made her mark in movies like Prometheus and The Drop, we still can't stop seeing her as the original Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptations of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. Her intensity is just that unforgettable.

Watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix.
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Alicia Vikander (1988- )

Came to America: The whirlwind speed at which Vikander's star has risen makes this one hard to pinpoint — up until The Man From U.N.C.L.E. all her movies have been European or British, and even that one was shot in the U.K. It could be that the upcoming Bourne movie will be her first film made in the U.S.A.

Why We Love Her:
Her delicate, unusual face looks like it could burst into tears or break out into a brilliant smile at any moment. A former ballerina who got into law school but never went, she's become quite the busy actress in the past few years, with eight movies coming out this year alone. She was seductive and scary as robot Ava in Ex Machina earlier this spring, and we can't wait to see what she does as a spy in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Watch Ex Machina on Amazon.
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Rebecca Ferguson (1983- )

Came to America:
The story is that Tom Cruise saw her Golden Globe-nominated turn as the titular embattled royal in the Starz series The White Queen and wanted her to join the cast of Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.

Why We Love Her: She kicks a lot of butt in M:I V and still manages to look like the classy, long-lost daughter of Ingrid Bergman. She's earning all sorts of "show-stealer" reviews from this movie, making her move to the top of the list as a candidate for the female lead in Gambit.

Watch The White Queen on Amazon.
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