Irish cinema has a long and rich history, dating back to the early days of silent film. Over the years, Irish filmmakers have produced a diverse range of movies, from gritty social dramas to whimsical comedies and everything in between.
Some of the most iconic Irish films have explored themes such as identity, culture, history, and social issues, and have garnered critical acclaim and international recognition.
Irish cinema has also produced some of the world’s most talented filmmakers, actors, and actresses, including directors such as John Carney, Neil Jordan, and Jim Sheridan, and actors like Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell, and Cillian Murphy.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the best Irish movies ever made, exploring their themes, cultural significance, and impact on the wider world of cinema.
Best Irish Movies
From classic films of the past to more recent releases, we will examine the unique qualities that make Irish cinema so compelling and enduring.
1. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2007)
“The Wind That Shakes The Barley” is a 2006 historical drama film directed by Ken Loach. The film is set in rural Ireland during the early 1920s, and explores the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
The film follows the story of two brothers, Damien and Teddy O’Donovan, who join the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to fight against British rule in Ireland. As the conflict intensifies and political factions emerge, the brothers find themselves on opposing sides of the civil war.
The film received critical acclaim for its powerful portrayal of the complex political and social issues surrounding the Irish struggle for independence. The film’s depiction of the brutal tactics used by both the British forces and the IRA drew praise for its unflinching honesty, while the performances of actors Cillian Murphy and Liam Cunningham were also widely acclaimed.
Overall, “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” is a thought-provoking and emotional film that offers a compelling look at one of the most important periods in Irish history. Its themes of conflict, sacrifice, and the struggle for freedom and identity continue to resonate with audiences around the world.
- English (Subtitle)
2. My Left Foot (1990)
“My Left Foot” is a biographical drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and released in 1990. The film tells the story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who learns to paint and write using only his left foot, which becomes his way of expressing himself and communicating with the world.
The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. It also features Brenda Fricker, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Christy’s mother. The film was nominated for several other awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
“My Left Foot” is known for its powerful performances and emotional storytelling, which portray Christy’s struggles and triumphs with sensitivity and honesty. It is also praised for its portrayal of disability, highlighting the challenges faced by people with disabilities and the importance of their contributions to society.
- Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan (Actors)
- Jim Sheridan (Director) - Christy Brown (Writer)
- Spanish, French (Subtitles)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
3. In America (2003)
“In America” is a 2003 drama film directed by Jim Sheridan. The film follows an Irish family who immigrate to New York City in the 1980s, struggling to make ends meet and coping with the recent death of one of their children. The family consists of Johnny, a struggling actor; his wife Sarah, a homemaker; and their two daughters, Christy and Ariel. The film explores themes of grief, family, and the immigrant experience in America.
The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Samantha Morton, and Best Supporting Actor for Djimon Hounsou.
4. Bloody Sunday (2002)
“Bloody Sunday” is a 2002 British-Irish drama film directed by Paul Greengrass that depicts the events of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland. The film follows Ivan Cooper, a civil rights leader, and a group of peaceful protesters as they march through Derry on January 30, 1972, and are confronted by British soldiers, resulting in the deaths of 14 unarmed civilians.
The film is a powerful and harrowing depiction of the tragic events that took place that day, with a strong emphasis on realism and authenticity. Greengrass employs a handheld camera style and documentary-like approach, which gives the film a sense of immediacy and urgency.
The film was highly acclaimed upon its release, winning numerous awards, including the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It is widely considered one of the best films about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and is an important work in the history of British-Irish cinema.
- James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell (Actors)
- Paul Greengrass (Director) - Paul Greengrass (Writer) - Arthur Lappin (Producer)
- English (Subtitle)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
5. Sing Street (2016)
Sing Street is a 2016 musical comedy-drama film directed by John Carney. The film is set in Dublin in the 1980s and follows the story of a young boy named Conor, who starts a band in order to impress a girl named Raphina. As the band gains popularity, Conor begins to find his own voice and direction in life.
Sing Street received critical acclaim for its heartwarming story, catchy original songs, and nostalgic 80s setting. The film also features impressive performances from its young cast, particularly Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor and Lucy Boynton as Raphina.
Overall, Sing Street is a charming and uplifting film that celebrates the power of music and the courage it takes to chase your dreams. It is a must-watch for fans of coming-of-age stories and feel-good movies.
- Lucy Boynton, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Maria Doyle Kennedy (Actors)
- John Carney (Director) - John Carney (Producer)
- English (Publication Language)
- Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
6. The Guard (2011)
“The Guard” is a 2011 Irish black comedy film directed by John Michael McDonagh. The film stars Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a cynical and unconventional police officer in a small town in County Galway, Ireland.
When a group of drug smugglers arrives in town, Boyle is assigned to work with a straight-laced FBI agent, Wendell Everett (played by Don Cheadle), to investigate the case. The two men clash over their differing approaches to law enforcement, but as the investigation progresses, they begin to develop a grudging respect for each other.
The film received critical acclaim for its sharp humor, strong performances, and unique blend of genres. Gleeson’s performance in particular was praised for its nuance and complexity, and the film was hailed as a refreshing take on the buddy cop genre.
Overall, “The Guard” is a clever and entertaining film that showcases the talents of its cast and crew. Its mix of comedy, drama, and action makes it a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and its exploration of themes such as corruption, morality, and cultural identity adds depth to the story.
- Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned
- Portuguese (Subtitled), English (Subtitled), Spanish (Subtitled)
7. In The Name Of The Father (1993)
“In the Name of the Father” is a biographical drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and released in 1993. The film is based on the true story of the Guildford Four, a group of Irishmen wrongly convicted of a terrorist bombing in England in the 1970s.
The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon, one of the members of the Guildford Four, who is falsely accused and imprisoned for the bombing. The film also features Emma Thompson as Gareth Peirce, the lawyer who takes on Conlon’s case, and Pete Postlethwaite as Conlon’s father. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Day-Lewis.
“In the Name of the Father” is known for its powerful performances, particularly from Day-Lewis, who brings a raw intensity to the role of Conlon. The film is also praised for its exploration of themes such as injustice, prejudice, and the resilience of the human spirit. Through its portrayal of the Guildford Four’s ordeal, the film sheds light on the flawed nature of the criminal justice system and the impact of political tensions on individual lives.
8. Brooklyn (2015)
“Brooklyn” is a 2015 romantic drama film directed by John Crowley, based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín. The film tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn in the 1950s in search of a better life.
While there, she falls in love with an Italian-American man named Tony, but when tragedy strikes back in Ireland, she is forced to choose between her new life in America and her past in Ireland.
The film stars Saoirse Ronan in the lead role and received critical acclaim for its poignant portrayal of the immigrant experience, as well as its heartfelt performances and beautiful cinematography. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
9. Once (2007)
“Once” is a 2007 Irish musical film written and directed by John Carney. The film stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as unnamed musicians, known only as Guy and Girl, who meet and begin to collaborate on a series of songs.
Set in Dublin, the film tells a simple and intimate story of the characters’ journey towards creating and recording music together. Along the way, they develop a deep connection and a romantic relationship, despite the challenges they face in their personal lives.
The film’s soundtrack features original songs by Hansard and Irglová, which were written specifically for the film and are performed by the two actors. The music is an integral part of the film and adds to its emotional impact.
“Once” was highly acclaimed upon its release, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Original Song for the song “Falling Slowly.” The film’s raw and authentic portrayal of the music-making process and its characters’ relationships has made it a beloved work of Irish cinema.
- Once [DVD]
- Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Hugh Walsh (Actors)
- John Carney (Director) - John Carney (Writer) - David Collins (Producer)
- English (Subtitle)
10. The Snapper (1993)
“The Snapper” is a 1993 Irish comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears and written by Roddy Doyle, based on his own novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a young working-class woman named Sharon Rabbitte who becomes pregnant, and the impact it has on her family and the wider community in Dublin.
The film was a critical and commercial success, and is often regarded as one of the best Irish films of the 1990s. It features a strong ensemble cast of Irish actors, including Tina Kellegher, Colm Meaney, and Brendan Gleeson.
3 Characteristics of Irish Movies
Quirky sense of humor: Irish movies often have a unique and quirky sense of humor, often relying on dry wit and wordplay to deliver their punchlines. This is a reflection of the Irish culture, which is known for its sense of irony and self-deprecation.
Strong storytelling tradition: Irish movies often have a strong storytelling tradition, with a focus on character development and narrative structure. This is influenced by the rich literary history of Ireland, which includes authors such as James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett.
Emphasis on social issues: Many Irish movies also explore social issues such as poverty, political turmoil, and religious conflict. This is reflective of the country’s history of struggle and resilience, as well as its ongoing efforts to address societal challenges.
3 Reasons To Watch Irish Movies
Unique and Authentic Representation of Irish Culture: Irish movies provide an opportunity to experience the unique and authentic representation of Irish culture, customs, and traditions. Irish films showcase the breathtaking landscapes of Ireland, the Irish language, and the country’s rich history and mythology, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the culture and understand its nuances better.
Talented Irish Actors and Filmmakers: Irish movies are known for their talented actors and filmmakers who have made a significant contribution to the global film industry. Actors such as Saoirse Ronan, Liam Neeson, and Colin Farrell have established themselves as international stars, and Irish filmmakers such as Neil Jordan, Lenny Abrahamson, and John Carney have gained critical acclaim for their work.
Wide Range of Genres: Irish cinema has produced a diverse range of films across different genres, including dramas, comedies, thrillers, and historical epics. From award-winning dramas such as “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and “Once” to popular comedies like “The Commitments” and “Waking Ned Devine,” there is something for everyone in Irish cinema. Moreover, Irish films often tackle important social issues, providing insightful commentary on topics such as immigration, class, and identity.
Best Irish Movies – Wrap Up
Irish cinema, just like Ireland itself, is renowned for its rich storytelling tradition, rooted in a unique blend of history, culture, and character.
Over the years, the Irish film industry has given us some incredibly memorable movies that beautifully encapsulate the spirit of Ireland.
These movies cover a range of genres and themes, from musical comedy to historical dramas, showcasing the diversity of Irish cinema.
These films, each in their own way, capture the essence of the Irish spirit. They weave tales of struggle, joy, love, and resilience, deeply rooted in the cultural, historical, and social fabric of Ireland.
From stirring dramas to captivating animations, these Irish movies have left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape.