30 Irish Films You Need To Watch

If you want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, go ahead and get your green beer on. If you want to celebrate Ireland, well, it's going to take a bit more than a pair of shamrock undies and some outrageous flirting over Baileys with a guy named Seamus. 

This is a good place to start. Diving into Irish cinema is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with a rich culture that has so much more to it than binge-drinking and "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" buttons. By "Irish cinema," we don't mean Far and Away, or Patriot Games, or any other Hollywood production that merely features an Enya soundtrack. We're referring to films that actually explore the Irish experience, whether it be through mysticism, religion, The Troubles, or war. Irish cinema can be joyous and dealt with a gleam in the eye (Waking Ned Devine). It can also be bleak and haunting and overwhelmingly depressing (Angela's Ashes). And, yes, on occasion, there is an Enya song. 

Kick off your cinematic studies with this round-up of must-watch Irish films. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll walk away with a mad crush on Brendan Gleeson. T'er are worse things.
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Photo: Courtesy of Savoy Pictures.
Circle of Friends (1995)

Maeve Binchy's coming-of-age novel paired Minnie Driver and a brogue-affecting Chris O'Donnell as budding couple Benny and Jack. An affecting tale of first love, complicated friendships, and fighting the sexual mores of 1950s Ireland.
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Calvary (2014)

Brendan Gleeson is phenomenal as a priest whose life is threatened by a parishioner. The story tackles deep religious issues but manages to maintain a sense of humor up until its heart-wrenching final act.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.
Once (2006)

If you haven't watched this Oscar-winning love story between a Dublin busker and a Czech flower seller, drop everything and do so now. The soundtrack alone will slay you.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Ondine (2009)

Colin Farrell stars in this romantic drama about a fisherman who meets a bewitching woman.
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Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

Keep your eyes peeled for a pre-Bond Sean Connery in this Disney tale of an Irishman who is kidnapped by sneaky leprechauns.
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My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis won his first Oscar for playing Christy Brown, a real-life artist and writer with cerebral palsy. This is one of many Jim Sheridan-directed films on this list.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Classics.
Bloody Sunday (2002)

This account of the 1972 shootings in Derry is gut-wrenching and emotional, but needs to be watched. Former British soldiers and relatives of the shooting victims appear in the Paul Greengrass drama.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Family Films.
Into The West (1992)

'90s kids may remember this children's film about two young boys from a Traveller family on a magical journey to recover their horse. Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin star, but the boys steal the show.
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Michael Collins (1996)

Liam Neeson plays the title character, who helped establish the Irish Free State. Julia Roberts and Aidan Quinn provide a little love triangle plot to break up the history.
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War of the Buttons (1994)

County Cork plays background to this story of two warring factions of local boys in 1960s Ireland. As it happens, the film was actually inspired by a French novel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Angela's Ashes (1999)

Break out the hankies. Emily Watson stars in this bleak adaptation of Frank McCourt's autobiography.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Commitments (1991)

Meet "The World's Hardest-Working Band," and a soulful soundtrack you'll soon be playing on repeat.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.
The Crying Game (1992)

This Neil Jordan thriller is really about the IRA, but all anyone seems to remember is Jaye Davidson's big gender reveal.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
The Boxer (1997)

Yet another Jim Sheridan film, this time starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a boxer and IRA soldier putting his life back in order after being released from prison.
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Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
The Field (1990)

Richard Harris bagged an Oscar nomination for his turn as Irish farmer Bull McCabe, who finds himself embroiled in a property dispute.
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Albert Nobbs (2011)

Glenn Close plays a woman living as a man in this award-winning drama set in 19th-century Ireland.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
In America (2002)

So good, so depressing. Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine play young Irish immigrants who move with their family to New York City, where they befriend a Nigerian artist played by Djimon Hounsou.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magna Pacific.
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

Set in the 1960s, this film follows four young "wayward" women sent to live and work in a Catholic-run asylum.
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In the Name of the Father (1993)

Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite star in this gripping courtroom drama about the Guildford Four.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
The Guard (2011)

FBI agent Don Cheadle teams up with Irish policeman Brendan Gleeson in this fish-out-of-water buddy comedy.
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Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX USA.
About Adam (2000)

Stuart Townsend is the ultimate Dublin playboy, who manages to win over a group of sisters. Kate Hudson costars.
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Da (1989)

Basically the Irish-American version of Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle." Here, Barnard Hughes and Martin Sheen play father and son.
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Ryan's Daughter (1970)

A sweeping drama loosely inspired by Madame Bovary, this World War I-set classic focuses on the romance between a married Irish woman and a British officer. Needless to say, it's complicated.
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Waking Ned Devine (1998)

Though it was actually filmed on the Isle of Man, this beloved comedy sees two Irish old-timers stealing a winning lottery ticket from a dead man. Soon enough, the entire village is in on the trick.
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The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

Cillian Murphy plays one of two brothers who fights for Irish independence as a soldier for the IRA in this period drama.
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Photo: Republic Pictures.
The Quiet Man (1952)

John Wayne plays an Irish-American former boxer putting down roots in his homeland, but Maureen O'Hara is the one to really watch. As the fiercely independent Mary Kate, O'Hara plays a heroine we can all root for.
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Photo: Courtesy of BBC.
The Snapper (1993)

Hijinks ensue when a young Irish woman discovers she is pregnant, though the father's identity is kept a mystery.
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Man of Aran (1934)

Fictional documentaries go back further than you think. Scenes of traditional life on the Aran Islands were scripted and are historically inaccurate in parts, but it's still a fascinating watch.
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Photo: Icon Film Distribution/Rex USA.
The Hunger (2008)

Before Shame and 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender teamed up for this harrowing drama about Bobby Sands and his 1981 hunger strike.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
The General (1998)

Brendan Gleeson (yes, him again) brings the story of Dublin gangster Martin Cahill to life.
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