This article will examine our favourite Irish movies, ranging from the classics to modern releases and everything in between. This list is composed of films that tell an Irish story or experience, are set on the emerald isle, or feature a noticeable Irish cast/director.
This movie list aims to be your ultimate guide to Irish movies! We have arranged our list by genres so you can easily find a movie that you’ll love. Before that, why not read a brief introduction to Ireland’s relationship with cinema.
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Irish Movies and Cinema
Ireland is a country that not only loves, but embraces the arts. We have always been an island of culture, but the fact that we are nestled on the edge of Europe and an ocean away from Hollywood hasn’t always made a career in film viable for most aspiring Irish creatives. However, today we are known for having some of the most talented and hardworking actors, directors, animators and producers in the world.
Aside from having so many great Irish actors praised for their skill, talent and charisma, Ireland is also a beautiful filming location. Some of the biggest movies, shows and franchises of all time have used Ireland as their backdrop. Check out the 20 biggest movies filmed in Ireland to find out more!
There is something almost ethereal about our little country, from charming fairytale-like villages to stunning natural landscapes such as the Burren and the Giants Causeway, as well as ancient castles and isolated woodland. This variety has helped to make Ireland a popular filming location for some of the biggest movie franchises in the world.
We also have filming studios in Bray and Animation studios in Kilkenny so for all our beautiful locations, there is plenty of suitable filming infrastructure available .
Which Irish movies do you think will feature on this list?
Modern Irish Movies – Recently released Irish films!
1. Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
Filmed on Achill which doubles as the fictional island of Inisherin, The Banshees of Inisherin follows two lifelong friends at a crossroads in their relationship. Colm (played by Brendan Gleeson) has abruptly decided to shun Padraic (Colin Farrell) for seemingly no reason other than the fact that he is ‘dull’. On an island as isolated as Inisherin, losing a friend can have dire consequences.
Alongside Gleeson and Farrell, Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon star, surely making this movie one of the best Irish ensemble casts in recent years.
The film sees the reunion of Gleeson and Farrell in a movie directed by Martin McDonagh, as the trio previously worked on ‘In Bruges’ in 2008. You can check out Banshees of Inisherin: the ultimate film guide if you want to explore the cast, film locations and more!
It’s hard to define a movie like this, it has been labelled as a dark tragi-comedy however as the Irish humour can lighten even the darkest of stories. That being said you shouldn’t underestimate the lengths Colm will go to when ending his friendship, nor the fallout that it will cause.
While there isn’t any traditional banshee spirit in this movie, you don’t have to worry as we have a full blog about banshees in Irish mythology. Both Farrell and Gleeson feature in our list of the best 20 Irish actors of all time. Who else do you think features?
2. The Wonder (2022)
Our next film is based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue (which features on our list of top 100 Irish historical fiction novels). Netflix’s psychological thriller follows the curious case of the fasting girl. English nurse Lib Wright (played by Florence Pugh) arrives in the midlands of County Wicklow to observe a young girl (Kíla Lord) who has not eaten in months, yet appears perfectly healthy, with talks of a ‘miracle’ in the works..
Set in the late 1800s in a rural religious village in Ireland, this psychological period drama will see Libby fight to discover the truth, figure out who she can trust, and battle to help the girl behind the ‘miracle’.
Did you know? Another film adaptation of Irish writer Emma Donoghue’s work is Room (2015) which stars Brie Larson.
3. Belfast (2021)
A young boy and his family experience life at a tumultuous time in Belfast in this semi autobiographical movie directed by Kenneth Branagh. Set in the late 1960’s, viewers can expect to see the beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the lens of a child in this coming of age drama.
Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench, Caitriona Balfe and Jude Hill star in this brilliant Irish movie.
Belfast surpassed Schindler’s list to become the highest grossing black and white film of the modern era.
4. Brooklyn (2015)
Brooklyn is a romantic period drama which tells the heart-breaking story of the Irish diaspora and in particular, one Eilis Lacey’s (played by Saoirse Ronan) immigration to New York. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson co-star as Eilis’s two potential lovers, symbolising the choice she has to make; return home to Ireland and accept her role in society, or stay in New York and try to achieve the American dream.
We can relate to Eilis’s struggles with homesickness, however Ireland in the 1950’s had very little to offer a young woman like our protagonist, apart from the prospect of marrying into wealth. In a twist of fate, once Eilis begins to acclimatise to life in Brooklyn a tragic incident forces her to decide on her future much sooner than she had expected.
This is one movie every Irish person should take the time to watch. So many people have experienced immigration first hand or stayed behind when a family member left home; many relatives moved abroad and never got to return again. Brooklyn shares a universal experience in a uniquely Irish way.
Oscar Winning Irish Movies:
5. My Left Foot (1989)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown, simply known as My Left Foot is a biographical drama by Irish director Jim Sheridan adapted from the 1959 memoir by Christy Brown. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Christy Brown, an Irish man born with cerebral palsy who could control only his left foot.
Brown went on to become a famous artist and writer and the film follows the story of his upbringing, growing up in an Irish family of 15. Brenda Fricker stars as his mother, Mrs. Brown.
My left foot saw both Irish actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker win Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively. The movie was mainly filmed in Admore Studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Irish Mob Movies
6. The Irish Man (2019)
The Irish Man is a gangster film directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. The story follows Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro) an elderly Irish American War Veteran who recounts his time as a hitman for the Mafia.
The Irish Man has an ensemble cast as De Niro is accompanied by fellow cinema legends Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. You can find this Irish movie on Netflix!
7. Gangs of New York (2002)
Another Irish gang movie directed by Scorsese is Gangs of New York. Set in 1862, the film introduces the audience to a long running Catholic-Protestant feud that has erupted into violence, Just as an Irish immigrant group is protesting against conscription.
Amsterdam Vallon returns to Five Points in New York City seeking revenge against his fathers killer, Bill the Butcher.
The ensemble cast includes Leonardo Dicaprio, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis, John C Reilly and Jim Broadbent.
Romantic Irish Movies / Irish Rom-Coms
8. PS I Love You (2007)
One of the most famous romantic drama movies filmed in Ireland is the next item on our list. An ensemble cast featuring Hillary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, James Marsters, Harry Conick Jr. and Jeffrey Dean Morgan came together for the film adaptation of Irish author Cecelia Ahern’s number one best seller debut novel, PS I Love You.
The movie follows newly-widowed Holly after she receives a message from her late husband Gerry on her 30th birthday. He has arranged for her and her friends to visit his home country of Ireland. This message is the first of many letters from her husband, each new one sends Holly further along her adventure and into a journey of self-discovery, learning how to process her grief along the way.
9. Leap Year (2010)
Leap Year is another Irish rom-com that stars Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. The story follows Anna Brady who flies to Ireland to surprise her boyfriend with a proposal. Traditionally on a leap year, a lady could propose to a man and he would have to say yes; Anna had waited years for a proposal and decided to take matters into her own hands, using obscure Irish traditions to her advantage!
Of course there are a number of obstacles that Anna has to overcome if she wants to propose before the Leap Year ends. A series of misfortunes mean that she arrives in Cork from Wales, over 150 miles from her boyfriend in Dublin. The race is on, but after meeting a local Irish man who agrees to drive her to Dublin, things start to get even more complicated and unexpected feelings arise. This movie is definitely based around an eccentric Irish wedding tradition, but would you believe we have many more wedding superstitions in Ireland?
Irish Musical Movies:
10. Once (2007):
With an Oscar winning soundtrack, the Irish romance drama ‘Once’ stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as two struggling street musicians in Dublin. The duo had performed together in the group ‘The Swell Seasons’ and wrote and composed all of the music in the film. Hansard and Irglová’s song “Falling Slowly” won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the soundtrack received a Grammy Award nomination.
Other movies strive to be as personal as this film. A romantic image is presented, yet the struggling characters add a realness to the story. Life hasn’t planned out exactly as they hoped, but they are still fighting to do what they love and navigating their messy connection.
The busking scenes were filmed on Grafton street, a popular shopping area where you will always find a singer or two performing. Did you know that the lead male role was originally supposed to go to Cillian Murphy, who also had a professional career in music as the lead singer of a rock band, ‘The Sons of Mr Greens Genes’.
11. Sing Street (2016):
Sing Street is a musical coming of age comedy-drama starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor and Kelly Thornton. Sing Street follows Conor Lawlor starting a band in 1980’s Ireland to impress a girl.
If you’re looking for a feel good optimistic film with a great soundtrack, Sing Street may be for you.
Rock music has a fascinating history in Ireland and this charming movie captures the dream of becoming a famous musician that inspired so many youngsters at the time.
Classic Irish Movies:
12. The Quiet Man (1952)
Our next Irish film is a classic by every standard. The Quiet Man stars the king of Westerns John Wayne and Irish actress Maureen O’Hara. Maureen O’Hara was the Queen of Technicolor who paved the way to Hollywood for many Irish actors who followed. The romantic drama was directed by the brilliant John Ford.
The film follows the story of a man (John Wayne) who returns to Ireland and finds love with Maureen O’Hara’s character. Much of the filming in Ireland took place in the West of Ireland, depicting the picturesque countryside in 1950’s Ireland, which ended up stealing the show.
An old but true classic film that is adored by many around the world, ‘The Quiet Man’ was one of the first coloured films to give the world a glimpse into the undeniable beauty that Ireland has to offer. The film includes two iconic stars, ‘The Duke’ John Wayne and Irish Born actress Maureen O’Hara who are both considered legends of the golden age of Hollywood.
Maureen O’Hara is fondly remembered as the Queen of technicolour, and was one of the greatest Irish actors of all time. She even features on our list of Irish people who made history in their lifetime!
13. The Field (1990)
Jim Sheridan’s The Field is an adaption of Irish playwright John B. Keane’s play of the same name. The film features Irish actors Richard Harris and Brenda Fricker as well as John Hurt and Sean Bean. The field is a classic Irish movie by all accounts and was filmed in the Connemara region.
It is set in the 1930’s and follows the Bull McCabe and the lengths he will go to to keep the field he rented for many years and developed from a useless plot of land to a prosperous field. The film explores a dark take on rural Ireland and questions how much the Bull McCabe is willing to sacrifice to keep the field that has acted as a steady constant in the many eventful and tragic moments of his life.
14. Waking Ned Devine (1998)
Waking Ned Devine or simply Waking Ned is an Irish comedy film starring David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan and Ian Banann. The story is set in Ireland but was actually filmed on the Isle of Man.
The film follows two elderly best friends Jackie and Michael, and Jackie’s wife Annie who discover someone in their small village of 52 people has won the Irish National Lottery. When the town starts gossiping and realise only one person has yet to be seen since the announcement they pay a visit to Mr Ned Devine, only to find out that he has died from shock with the lottery ticket still clutched in his hand.
Will the village of Tulaigh Mhór be able to convince the lottery that Ned is still alive so they can retain the fortune, or will someone rat them out? One thing is certain, you’ll get a good laugh out of this Irish comedy!
15. The Barrytown Trilogy
The Barrytown Trilogy consists of three movies based on Roddy Doyle’s famous novels The Commitments (1991), The Snapper (1993) and The Van (1996). The cult classic film series follows the Rabbitte family in Dublin as they navigate their way through life.
Colm Meaney stars as Mr Rabitte the patriarch of the family The first film follows young Jimmy Rabitte (Robert Arkins) as he attempts to create and manage an Irish soul band. The second entry follows Sharon Rabittes unplanned pregnancy and the response she receives as an unmarried woman in a conservative Irish society. The final movie in the series explores unemployment and friendship as Meaney’s character and his best mate experience the highs and lows of running a business together.
Historical Irish Movies
16. Michael Collins (1996)
Michael Collins is a biographical period drama starring Liam Neeson as the title character, and a leading figure in the struggle for Irish Independence in early 20th century Ireland. Alan Rickman and Julia Roberts star as Éamon de Valera and Kitty Kiernan respectively.
The movie was a critical and commercial success and was seen as an important watch for its historical importance, so much so that the Irish Film Censor reduced the rating of the movie from over 15’s to PG to encourage young people to learn about Irish history. As expected with any adaption of a real life event, certain details of a film may not be 100% historically accurate, but using real life locations in the movie such as Kilmainham Jail enriches the experience and reminds us of the importance of learning about our past.
There’s not much else I can say about this movie except that it is well worth a watch, its tense, thrilling, emotional, heartbreaking and a rewarding experience all at once.
17. The Wind That Shakes the Barely (2006)
The Wind That Shakes the Barlemy is a War drama film set during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). The movie follows two fictional brothers Damien and Teddy O’Donovan played by Cillian Murphy and Pádraic Delaney respectively, who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish Independence from the United Kingdom.
When the Peace Treaty is signed the two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the war and the strength of their familial bond is tested at its limits.
18. Black ’47 (2018)
Black ’47 is a fictional film set during the Great Famine which took place in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. The film explores the devastating reality of living in Ireland at this time, surrounded by unjust death and little to no hope.
The film extensively uses the Irish language when holding conversations between natives of Ireland which is rare to see represented in cinema. While there are a few historical inaccuracies, the film itself successfully portrays the cruel reality of life in Ireland during this time.
Irish Biopic Movies
19. Hunger (2008)
Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the Provisional Irish Republican Army member who led the second IRA Hunger strike. The story revolves around the 1981 Hunger Strike in Maze Prison as Irish republican prisoners strike to regain political status.
The film explores the 66 days that Sands spent on hunger strike as well as the aftermath of his death and the other deaths of prisoners and prison officers that occurred during this time. It is not an easy watch, but it is one that has been praised for how it handled the difficult subject matter.
20. Philomena (2013)
Philomena is a tragicomedy based on the 2009 book ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ by Martin Sixsmith and the real life story of Annie Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who spent 50 years searching for her son. Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star as Philomena and Martin Sixsmith respectively and the movie follows the journalists effort to reunite a mother and her son.
After becoming pregnant in 1951, Philomena was sent to a Magdalene laundry because she was unmarried. The movie recounts the abuse survivors suffered at the laundries. Philomena spent four years working at the laundry with little contact with her son. Her child was given up for adoption and Philomena never got the chance to say goodbye.
Against all odds the unlikely pair attempt to trace Philomena’s son’s whereabouts after 50 years of no results, with the convent continuing to hinder their search all these years later. Philomena is a heartbreaking but true story that highlights how much young unmarried women and their children suffered at the hands of the Church in Ireland, and how it is still so difficult to get justice all of these years later.
Thanks for reading this article, we hope one of these brilliant Irish movies will feature in your next film night. With so much variety, there is really something for everyone to enjoy! Do you think we missed out on any great Irish movies that deserve a spot on our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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