So, Iceland is a pretty small country. With a population of just under 340,000 people, our numbers are dwarfed by many cities around the world. Nevertheless, we have our fair share of talent, athletic excellence, and artistic minds. Maybe it’s the cold weather, fresh Nordic air, and the fact that we have elves living among us, but there’s something about Iceland that breeds creativity and imagination. So how many famous Icelanders can you name? Other than Björk, there are some famous people from Iceland that perhaps you did not know were Icelandic.
Famous People from Iceland #1: Actor Stefán Karl Stefánsson aka Robbie Rotten
Stefán Karl Stefánsson was a stage and screen actor best known for his portrayal of Robbie Rotten on the Nick Jr. series LazyTown. Robbie was always getting up to no good by encouraging the other characters to eat junk food and not exercise. I personally don’t see how this makes him a villain as I do much of the same. But I guess in the grand scheme of things, eating well and exercising are technically things that we should strive for. Sadly, he passed away due to cancer in August of 2018 at the young age of 43.
Famous People From Iceland #2: Musical Group Of Monsters and Men
Formed in 2010, this Reykjavik band is best known for the single Little Talks off of their 2011 album My Head is an Animal. The infectious, indie pop tune, with its brassy riff, is sure to bring back fond memories to all who hear it. The mostly black and white video is evocative of the Smashing Pumpkins ode Tonight, Tonight, which itself is inspired by the Georges Méliès classic A Trip to the Moon.
Famous People From Iceland #3: Musical Group Kaleo
This blues/rock quartet was founded in the town of Mosfellsbær (close to Reykjavik) in 2012 and has released two studio albums. Their 2016 hit Way Down We Go peaked at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart as well as the Top US Airplay chart. You might recognize the song from the movie Collateral Beauty and the trailers for the movie Logan or Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black.
Famous People from Iceland #4: Strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson aka The Mountain from Game of Thrones
That’s right, not only is Game of Thrones shot in Iceland but one of its bigger, scarier characters also hails from here. In addition to being an actor, the man who plays Gregor Clegane is also a professional strongman and currently holds the title of the World’s Strongest Man. Who knew? He also had a brief career as a professional basketball player.
Famous People from Iceland #5 Singer Björk
You know we had to include Björk! Iceland’s most famous singer-songwriter is usually top-of-mind when people talk about our small island. She got her start in an Icelandic band called the Sugarcubes, but it wasn’t until she launched her solo career in 1993 with hits like Human Behavior that things really took off. And no one can forget the outlandishly iconic swan dress that the artist wore to the 2001 Academy Awards. Lady Gaga who?
Famous People from Iceland #6 Former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Speaking of famous Icelandic ladies, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is one you may not know but definitely should. She holds the distinction of being the first democratically elected female president in the world. She joined other female trailblazers such as Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Eva Peron, Margaret Thatcher when she became head of state in 1980. After serving for 16 years, she paved the way for future female Icelandic politicians such as former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and current Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
Famous People from Iceland #7 Footballer Aron Gunnarsson
Much of the world got swept up in the would-be Cinderella story that was Iceland’s bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Captain Aron Gunnarsson became the public face of the underdog squad and though he’s back playing for Cardiff City in the English Premier League, many will remember cheering for his team in the summer of 2018. Other famous Icelandic footballers include Gylfi Sigurðsson who plays for Swansea City in the English Premier League and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, the striker for the French team Nantes.
Famous People from Iceland #8 Astronaut and Scientist Bjarni Tryggvason
Did you know Iceland had an astronaut? Bjarni Tryggvason is an engineer who later became an astronaut based out of Canada. He flew on a 12-day mission in 1997 as a payload specialist on a Space Shuttle mission to study Earth’s atmosphere. He now teaches and trains astronauts at Houston’s NASA Space Center.
Famous People from Iceland #9 Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness
Iceland’s only Nobel Prize Winner won for Literature back in 1955. Halldór Laxness wrote poetry, short stories, plays, novels, and newspaper articles.
Famous Singers, Musicians, Actors, and Athletes from Iceland
So now you know a little bit more about Iceland and some of its more famous sons and daughters. Can you believe that such a tiny country has produced so many notable people? Now, you’ll finally be able to yell more than just “Björk!” at your next trivia night when somebody asks you to name a famous person from Iceland.
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