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25 of the Best Irish Movies To Watch for St. Patrick's Day

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They say that the Irish are amongst the world's greatest storytellers, and nowhere is that more true than in films. Many fantastic stories of love, drama, humor, and life are told in Irish films, and you shouldn't miss them.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day (although these can and should be watched any time of year), we've gathered a list of just some of the best Irish films ever.

1. 'Belfast'

One of the newest entries on the list and nominated for numerous Academy Awards at the 2022 Oscars, Belfast, directed by Kenneth Branagh, tells the story of Buddy, a boy growing up in the middle of the height of the Troubles. The Troubles were a decades-long conflict between Catholics (who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland) and Protestants (who wished to remain in the United Kingdom) in Northern Ireland. The campaign saw thousands of people lose their lives in sectarian violence.

Belfast is loosely based on Branagh's own life growing up in the city, and he called it his most "personal film." Led by fantastic performances from its cast that includes Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and newcomer Jude Hill, Belfast is one of the best movies of the last few years.

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2. 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley'

The Wind That Shakes the Barley stars, in one of his earliest film roles, Cillian Murphy as a Freedom Fighter who goes to war against the British in the Irish War of Independence. He joins the conflict alongside his brother, played by Pádraic Delaney, and after years of fighting, helps Ireland win the war.

Unfortunately, their "independence" came at a price, as Ireland was only granted dominion status as the Irish Free State, not making it an entirely separate country. This sparks the Irish Civil War, which pits brother against brother leading to tragic consequences.

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3. 'Michael Collins'

Starring Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, and Julia Roberts, Michael Collins is a biopic based on the life of Irish revolutionary and politician Michael Collins. Played by Neeson, the film follows Collins' life from the Easter Rising in 1916 up until his assassination during the Irish Civil War in 1922.

As most biopics are, the film is not entirely historically accurate, which was a criticism of the movie upon release. However, Neeson's performance was universally praised, and the movie was also nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Original Score.

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4. 'Hunger'

How far would you go for your beliefs? That is the question at the center of Hunger, the directorial debut of future Oscar winner Steve McQueen. Starring Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, a Provisional Irish Republican Army member who was arrested and imprisoned for firearms possession.

While locked up in the infamous Maze prison, Sands leads various protests against the inhumane treatment of the prisoners there. Along with other prisoners, he began a hunger strike on March 1st, 1981, demanding that the inmates be treated as political prisoners rather than criminals.

The protests led to worldwide attention, and Sands was even elected to the British Parliament during the strike. Although the protests led to his death, Sands kept fighting for his beliefs and never gave up.

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5. 'The Quiet Man'

A classic Irish movie that hasn't aged all that well, but you can't talk films from Ireland without mentioning The Quiet Man.

Starring John Wayne as an Irish-born American boxer who returns to Ireland to purchase his family farm, he falls in love with Maureen O'Hara's character Mary Kate and the story kicks off from there.

Known for its cinematography of the Irish landscape and its original score, The Quiet Man is a classic.

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6. 'Brooklyn'

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as a young Irish woman who emigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s. While there, she becomes incredibly homesick, but things begin to change for her once she meets a young Italian plumber.

Torn between her new life in America and her old life in Ireland, she questions just what she wants and where life will lead her. The film earned Ronan an Academy Award nomination as well as nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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7. 'My Left Foot'

The film that saw Daniel Day-Lewis win his first Oscar for his performance, My Left Foot, follows the story of Christy Brown, a working-class Irishman who has cerebral palsy. Brown could only control his left foot but managed to overcome his disabilities to become a successful writer and artist.

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8. 'In the Name of the Father'

Another Daniel Day-Lewis classic, In the Name of the Father, follows a wrongfully imprisoned man named Gerry Conlon, accused of being a member of the IRA by the British.

He is jailed and subjected to harsh mistreatment at the hands of British security forces and forced to give a confession when they threaten his father.

Based on the true story of the Guilford Four, In the Name of the Father is one of Day-Lewis' best performances and saw him earn a Best Actor nomination, and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture.

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9. 'Once'

The story of a pair of struggling musicians in Dublin Once stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in the lead roles, whose names we never learn. Simply credited as "Guy" and "Girl," the two characters navigate the city as they attempt to earn a living as musicians.

A musical film, as much as it is a romantic drama, the movie is sprinkled with music throughout, with both Hansard and Irglová performing the songs.

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10. 'The Commitments'

One of the funniest Irish movies you'll ever watch, The Commitments is a story of a band of working-class Dubliners who form, of all things, a soul band. Led by their manager Jimmy, they begin to see some success, and if their infighting doesn't get in the way, they could be able to play their way out of some dire circumstances.

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11. 'Waking Ned Devine'

Another hilarious comedy, Waking Ned Devine, is basically an Irish version of Weekend at Bernie's. When the resident of a small Irish town (Ned Devine) wins the lottery and dies of shock before he can claim it, the other townspeople conspire to fool the Lottery office in order to win the prize for themselves.

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12. 'The Snapper'

A heartwarming and hilarious story about a woman who becomes pregnant unexpectedly and outside of marriage. As the family begins to deal with what this all means and how to react, Sharon (Tina Kellegher) refuses to say who the father is, and the story unfolds from there.

Thankfully, the family learns to embrace whatever happens next and come together to support her on the road to motherhood.

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13. 'The Van'

Another adaptation of a Roddy Doyle novel, The Van stars Colm Meaney as one of two friends that opens a food truck and sells fish and chips. Similar to The Commitments, once they start to see success, the friendship goes downhill.

The Van might not be on the same level as The Commitments or The Snapper; this one is an absolute must-watch for anyone looking for a good laugh.

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14. 'In Bruges'

Not strictly an Irish movie, but In Bruges follows two Irish hitmen as they flee to Bruges, Belgium, after a job gone wrong. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges, is a dark comedy that explores the morality of one's actions and what awaits us after death.

This is one of my favorite films and is hilarious, introspective, and has some great thrills along the way. All three leads give fantastic performances, and it might just be the best one of Farrell's career.

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15. 'The Crying Game'

A classic Irish thriller, The Crying Game stars Stephen Rea as an Irish terrorist who forms a partnership with a British prisoner played by Forest Whitaker.

The film is notable for its diverse cast as well as its tackling of both race and gender issues. It also helped begin conversations around transgender representation on screen.

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16. 'Veronica Guerin'

Following the true story of Veronica Guerin, an Irish journalist who was best known for her investigation into the drug trade in Dublin, this film stars Cate Blanchett as Guerin. She ran afoul of the local gang leaders which unfortunately led to her murder.

While the movie received mixed reviews, Blanchet's performance was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Director Joel Schumacher helmed this film, and many critics agreed that his vision for the film was one of its biggest shortcomings.

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17. 'The Secret of Kells'

The first animated film on this list, The Secret of Kells follows the creation of The Book of Kells, a ninth-century Christian manuscript. While you might think that animation isn't the best medium for such a story, you'd be wrong.

This film's animation and fantasy elements help bring an otherwise forgotten story to life in interesting ways. The movie stars Brendan Gleeson and Evan McGuire in voice roles and is a film that should be watched by anyone interested in Irish history.

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18. 'Sing Street'

Like Once, Sing Street is a musical film with comedic and dramatic elements that serve as a great coming of age story.

Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor, and Kelly Thornton, Sing Street follows a boy (Walsh-Peelo) who starts a band to impress a girl. Taking place in 1980s Ireland, the movie was extremely well received with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and also received numerous nominations, including an Irish Film & Television Award win for Reynor.

19. 'The Secret of Roan Inish'

Based on the 1957 novel Secret of the Ron Mor Skerr, this film centers on the Irish folklore of "selkies," who are seals that can transform into humans.

Now I know that sounds a little "out there" even for the Irish, but this movie is actually a great story of family, fantasy, and how far one will go to protect those you love.

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20. 'Intermission'

Intermission is a black crime comedy film in the same vein as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, which also has a great cast that features Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Kelly Macdonald.

Much like those other two films, Intermission has a variety of intersecting storylines centered around a bank heist gone wrong. It also explores one's search for true love, and the journey one goes on to find it.

Filmed in a documentary-like style, Intermission is a great movie that should be seen by anyone who's a fan of the actors in the cast.

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21. 'The Field'

The Field is about as classic of an Irish story as you're going to get. I mean, it's got all the themes you'd expect from a film set in Ireland: Family drama, the struggles of farming in the countryside, and issues surrounding death.

It leans in the direction of a tragic sort of film, but Richard Harris and Sean Bean help make this story one everyone should see. It was well-received upon release and even earned Harris an Academy Award nomination.

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22. 'Bad Day for the Cut'

In the mood for a good old-fashioned revenge thriller? Allow me to introduce Bad Day for the Cut.

After his mother is murdered, an Irish farmer (Nigel O'Neill) sets out to find who is responsible for the killings, no matter the cost.

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23. 'The Guard'

Part buddy-cop comedy, part fish out of the water story, The Guard stars Brendan Gleeson as an Irish cop who teams up with an FBI agent played by Don Cheadle to stop a group of dealers.

Cheadle reluctantly works with Gleeson's character, and as he is forced to deal with Gleeson's prejudices and preconceived notions of Black Americans, he tries to figure out the crime before he loses it.

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24. 'Bloody Sunday'

Bloody Sunday tells the story of one of the most infamous incidents of the Troubles when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians in Derry, Northern Ireland. The shooting resulted in 14 deaths and 12 injuries.

Some of the people killed were shot in the back, and others were trying to help those wounded as they died. The film, directed by Paul Greengrass, was critically acclaimed as one of the best movies of 2002.

For those unfamiliar with the events of that day, this is a film that needs to be seen.

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25. 'Black '47'

Set during the worst year of the Irish Potato Famine, Black '47 is a revenge thriller that follows a war veteran who returns home to Ireland and abandons his post to care for his family. His brother had been hanged, and his mother died of starvation while he was away.

Martin Feeney, played by James Frecheville, goes up against the British authorities who aim to terrorize the populace and contribute towards the extermination of innocent Irish civilians.

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